Student Blogging as a Teaching and Learning Tool

Even though I’m teaching the Ancient World instead of my usual US courses this semester, I’ve found that both my philosophy and general approach toward the survey course have remained consistent, despite the vast chronological and geographical distance. I remain committed to active learning approaches, though I find that occasional nuggets of expository lecture (5-6…

A Foray into Ancient History

The spring semester is going to be weird. I have a half-time course release from directing my university’s teaching center, as well as another course release funded by a grant project, so I’m only teaching one course–and it’s the first part of our World History survey, “The Ancient World.” What this means is that, for the…

On Banning Laptops….Again. (Sigh)

I’m hesitant to wade into this issue again, as I’ve done so before and watched my Twitter mentions and email catch fire as a result. But a week or so ago, the New York Times published yet another installment in the tired debate over whether laptops (or, by extension, any digital devices) are helpful or…

Getting Reconstruction Right

This semester, I’m teaching my Civil War and Reconstruction course; it’s one of my favorite courses to teach, but it’s also a course that I always finish with a feeling of vague dissatisfaction. It’s not that the course doesn’t go well, or that my students don’t do good work or engage with the material and…

Teaching Imperialism, Past and Present

Over the last couple of weeks, two things in particular have gotten me thinking about the ways in which I approach one of the most enduring themes of United States history in my classes. First, Hurricane Maria and its aftermath produced what’s become an absolute cataclysm in Puerto Rico. Second, as the awful news from…

Creating the Space for Engaged Discussions

It’s a new academic year, and optimism and energy are in abundant supply. There are new ideas for class, new ways to engage students, and great questions to wrestle with as the intersections between past and present have rarely been so obvious. And it all goes swimmingly, it seems, until the first time we actually…

Summer Reading: Teaching and Learning

One of the perks of working at my institution is a somewhat unusual academic calendar in which our graduation occurs the last Saturday in April. We may start our spring semester alarmingly soon after New Year’s, but it’s all worth it come May and nearly four months of open time beckons. This longer summer recess…

Teaching US History in the Long Nineteenth Century

A few years ago, as part of a general curricular revision, my department moved to a three-semester sequence for both our World and US History surveys. There were several reasons we made the move: we wanted more room to focus on the particular outcomes these courses embodied as part of our university’s core curriculum (particularly…

Teaching US History Online: Some Reflections

Next semester, I’ll be offering an online version of my Civil War and Reconstruction course. This is the third time I’ll be teaching this upper-level, reading- and writing-intensive course in a fully online environment. Thanks to being a part of the initial cohort of the Council of Independent Colleges’ Consortium for Online Humanities Instruction, I’ve…

Frederick Douglass and an “Unfit” Education

This week in my U.S. survey, we’re discussing Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of an American Slave. It’s a venerable text, and used so often in the survey that it almost feels like a cliche’ when I assign it. But Douglass is, you might have heard, doing a terrific job that’s being recognized by…