A Report from the History Games

Week 1 Roundup

Bureaucratic tip:
“You are #31 on the wait list,” I email back to yet another student hoping to add the class. Sadly, the cap is 50 and it’s staying there. At my institution, students can try to “crash” a course. They need an add code and it gets tricky. One student is a senior and needs the class to graduate. Another is a sophomore and this course fits her schedule just right. I highly recommend getting to know your university’s policies for adding classes and have your own ethical system that works for you. I go by the “first come, first serve” principle and I keep the cap at what the university determines. Others go by seniority. What did NOT work for me (what I did earlier in my career) was to take anyone who wanted the class. That became a grading nightmare and it lessened the experience for the original group. And, if I didn’t have enough seats, then it became a fire hazard (thankfully that never happened).

Discussion of the Discussion:
This History Games were a hit. In groups of 5, the students were asked to select from our time period (1865-present):
1 president
2 inventions
1 book
1 movie
1 media star
1 non-president person (anyone else)

From their list, they would tell me what their society would be like, how it would function, and how it would interact with other districts in the class. For example, one group had JFK and MLK, the film Crash, and the book To Kill a Mockingbird. Obviously, this society would be willing to confront racism in various ways. They also had Marilyn Monroe, “for shock appeal,” as one put it. Another group had cell phones and atomic bombs so they were ready to take resources from others, while the district with penicilin and microwaves was hoping to barter their medicines and food preparation abilities to others for protection.

The most selected president was FDR – for one obvious reason: he got elected 4 times! (and I think the economic recession influences my students more than in previous years, even my first year students). Oprah and MLK kept coming up too. And computers were the #1 invention selected. 1984 and Harry Potter were the main book selections (which led me to think their knowledge of books by American authors was limited). I ended the discussion asking if my students wondered if their children would even know the word “computer” 20 years from now.

For me, the discussion was a smashing success. The groups were active and engaged. We got to talk about a number of people, inventions, books, and films that we will address over the semester (although Oprah’s never come up in my lectures before … that’ll have to change now). And I got to see a glimpse of what they knew from the past.

Can you help me out for next time? What other things would you ask them to take from the past to their new society: people, technologies, events, etc.?

Next week, we’ll wade knee deep into the bloody ground that was the Civil War and Reconstruction, and we’ll start discussing the documents from Major Problems. Until then, it’s over and out from the History Games!

One thought on “A Report from the History Games

  1. For next time: 1 music artist

    I like hearing what music other people have been listening to these days. So maybe other students may find this fun. This way, we’ll be able to discover if college students still know who Justin “MTV 2010 Best New Artist” Bieber is. I mean, is Aaron Carter still relevant in music these days? He was also a young teen-pop sensation, but has gradually faded away. For Justin Bieber to still be heard, he may have to change his music as he “grows up.” Teens aren’t teens forever–they get old, and perhaps less cuter.

    And maybe next year maybe we will find out how many people listen to a controversial upcoming new artist named Tyler, the Creator. (look him up, “Yonkers” is what brought him to fame) He recently won “MTV 2011 Best New Artist.” His lyrics and profanity is one to shove away many listeners, but very original in content. I could actually go deeper into his material, but I’ll cut it here.

    Or you may see Kanye West and Lady GaGa every year. Who knows?

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