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Considering technology in pedagogy

September 10, 2010 Leave a comment

One of the things that has taken getting used to for me as I teach my course this semester is the increased use of technology as teaching tools. Whether it is an ELMO document camera (sometimes I think the little red guy might be more useful), Power Point, Blackboard, or clickers (I am still trying to figure these out), technology is playing an increasing role in today’s college classroom. This is a significant departure from what I knew as an undergraduate student at Illinois College. To my recollection, only four of my classes ever used some type of technology beyond a VHS or DVD player. One was chemistry, where we used some Power Point, while in my macroeconomics class we used the new smart classroom technology (this was new stuff in ’03) to draw graphs. The most logical class for using technology was my computer science class on visual basic, where we simply used the projector to view the program we were discussing, while my statistics class used the projector so we could follow the instructor on Excel, while we worked on it in the computer lab the class was held in. All my classes in the arts and humanities were traditional with no use of technology, just the professor lecturing and the board for key terms.

I know that my experience is similar to most faculty in our department, as many of us are at varying stages of accepting and incorporating such tools into our teaching. While many departments in the academy are embracing new technology, history is behind the curve. I believe a lot of this has to do with most of us learning in the traditional lecture style with little to no reliance on such tools. The result is that we are not used to using such technology and are hesitant to try it because of unfamiliarity. I have heard great arguments for using technology, as well as frustrations over it, but I will at least give technology a try. Though it involves a bit more work on my part, I do hope that using technological tools helps my students get a better experience from my course and enhances the accessibility of my lectures. In closing, I would love to hear about your experiences with technology and teaching, the good and bad, to gain a better understanding of how such tools are used in today’s classroom, so please comment and share.

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Reflections on the start of the semester and teaching

September 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Well, it is good to be back in the game again. I know the content has been lacking for a long time, but with summer, there’s not much to write about. I am in the classroom this fall, teaching a section of History 103, the United States to 1877, as well as taking a readings course on the Anglo-Atlantic World, and a research seminar. In addition to that, I am still blogging and reviewing books, and have begun a foray into Civil War reenacting. My colleague Stuart Lawrence and I began a Civil War Round Table in April and are trying to get it off the ground. Needless to say, I am busy.

Having done a couple lectures so far, I am slowly starting to get into a nice groove. The one thing I still have trouble with is using Power Point for my lectures, as none of my professors at Illinois College used it. Despite that, the students are a great group and seem attentive. I am starting to get them to come out of their shells and talk in class a little more. It seems that they are getting what I am presenting in lecture. I am trying to use a little humor to get them to open up with varying success.

I will say that the biggest challenge is preparing for each class, as I always have in the back in my mind the issue of whether or not I am presenting the material right and to an appropriate level. I have gotten some positive feedback from a couple students on the textbook I chose. The class is also reading Joseph Plumb Martin’s memoir as well, which I hope they enjoy and will gain something from reading it.

Overall, I am finding teaching rewarding and look forward to working with and getting to know the students. I hope to get posting here more in the coming weeks, as I am back in the groove and will possibly have some fellow doctoral students from the department involved as well to broaden the view. Until next time, keep researching and working.

A new semester

It is that time of year again, the beginning of the new semester. This semester will be a great one, as I will be taking courses dealing with the American West, a research seminar that will allow me to complete a chapter of the dissertation, and a Public History project dealing with oral history, where I will interview local World War II veterans who participated in the Honor Flights to visit the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC, to understand their experiences in the conflict and how visiting the memorial affected them.

I will also be returning to North Dakota History, with a new group of students and an additional teaching assistant, which will lighten the workload for me. I will also devote some time to preparing for my class in the fall, which will be exciting and challenging. When that time arrives, I will devote many posts to examining the interesting angles of teaching my own class for the first time, with some of them appearing on Teaching Thursday, so stay tuned to this site. It’s good to be back in the swing of things and I look forward to sharing the fun with you.

End of the semester

December 22, 2009 Leave a comment

Sorry folks for not posting lately, but I have been quite busy finishing work for my classes and for North Dakota History. We ended Hist. 220 around 1960, with students being responsible for readings dealing with post-1960 North Dakota history. Overall, it was a good class and I feel much better prepared to handle my own class in the fall. I will be working with Dr. Porter again this spring and we will be joined with another TA, which will be great and help me with the workload.

I enjoyed my class on Coyote Culture, which I did not post much about here, but the subject was quite interesting and I was able to read works that opened up an area of history that I was only vaguely aware of. The added advantage was the online nature of the course. My other class is done and that is all I will say about that right now.

I am enjoying the warmer weather in southern Illinois visiting my folks. I am also looking forward to catching up on some pleasure reading and a little personal reading for my blogs, as there are reviews to finish. I may post a couple items up while I am here, especially any reviews. I will return back to Grand Forks in early January and look forward to getting back to the stuff of history again. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year if I do not post this next week or so.

Thinking about online teaching

November 13, 2009 2 comments

First, sorry to everyone for not posting lately, but I had a crazy last couple of days, as my laptop crapped out on me with a malicious software attack and had to be restored. On Tuesday, we discussed online teaching with Josh Reidy from Online and Distance Education. It was an interesting discussion, as online teaching is quickly becoming the method of choice for instruction in higher education among students. While more students are taking online courses, many faculty in traditional departments are reluctant. I can not really blame them, as it does represent a possible threat to job security. However, computers have increasingly become a larger force in our everyday lives and education must adapt to this.

I do think that, at least for History, online education is a viable option for delivery of some course content. Upper-division courses would be good for online instruction, as if survey courses and mid-range classes are offered via traditional classroom, where students meet face-to-face with faculty, the more independent nature of upper-division classes could be handled via students doing the readings on their own and contributing to online discussions both textual based, as well as based on audio or video, if technology allows. For graduate programs, many classes could be done online, exclusive of specific methods courses and thesis preparations, which would require some face time with faculty. I will have more to think about this, as I continue with the paper for the class on online and distance education. It will be interesting to see how online education will shape the historical profession and my future career.

By the way, please check out the interesting post by Joan Hawthorne at Teaching Thursday. If you are not checking out this blog, you really should.

Thinking about assessment, textbooks, and Dakota Territory

In Tuesday’s class, we had a visit from Dr. Joan Hawthorne, Assistant Provost for Assessment and Achievement at UND. I must admit that while we learned a great deal about assessment, I am not completely convinced of the value of it. Dr. Iseminger posed a question to us about our future in teaching, whether or not we chose this profession to fill out paperwork. I will say that I did not decide to go into the historical profession and teaching to fill out paperwork most of the time.

We also handed in our textbook evaluation assignment. I feel that the assignment was a worthwhile one, albeit a little long in pagination. We examined several textbooks, considering aspects of attitudes on race, gender, events covered, ideology, and prose, to name a few areas. Textbooks have increased their focus towards women and minority groups and have increased space devoted to images and graphics. This makes them less usable to instructors, but there are options. Brief editions of textbooks are a good option, as they are smaller in size, have a better prose, and are often cheaper, which is great students. My choice would be to use a brief edition.

On Wednesday in North Dakota History, we finished our discussion on homesteading, with Dr. Porter and I “building” a twelve foot by fourteen foot shack and using students to represent five people, a calf, and twenty-four chickens, which resulted in a very cramped place. We then turned our attention to Dakota Territory, including mention of William Jayne from my alma mater Illinois College, who was the first territorial governor. We also learned about the idea that almost prevented North Dakota from becoming a state, as there was a plan to divide the territory between Minnesota and give the rest to other states, with the dividing line along the Missouri River. Fortunately that did not happen, otherwise I would be Minnesotan, which comes with having an SNL alum as a Senator and being in Gopher country for hockey (shudders). It will be a fun Friday, as we will finish our discussion of the territory and I will then head to Des Moines, Iowa for the North Central Region Conference for Civil Air Patrol.

An exciting last few days

The last several days since my last post have been quite interesting and enjoyable. On Friday, October 16, I lectured for Dr. Porter, who was attending the Northern Great Plains History Conference. The experience was interesting, but I survived, as I was able to deal with notes that were fairly light and hard to read. In class we discussed the creation of the Great Northern railroad and then began discussion on the various groups that immigrated to North Dakota.

Later that afternoon, I live-blogged the colloquium on Teaching and Learning in the Memorial Union for the blog Teaching Thursday. It was a unique experience and one I hope to do again, but it does have its frustrations, as in attempting to record details of sessions the best for the blog while a presenter is speaking. You can read my posts on the speech during lunch, afternoon session one, and session two at the blog. Also, be sure to check out there interesting post regarding cheating this week.

On Tuesday, Dr. Mochoruk visited HIST 551 and we learned about the procedures and committees behind tenure, retention, and promotion among faculty. It was an interesting lecture that provided a great amount of helpful information as far as planning a career in academia.

Wednesday, we handed back exams in North Dakota History and then discussed the first part of the sources of North Dakota population. I finished the lecture today and it went much better. My copies of the notes were darker and easier to read, plus Dr. Porter and I took the time to go over the notes so that I knew what she was writing. Things went smoothly, though the class is shy about engagement with questions and one young lady decided texting was better, but I simply ignored her and moved on.

On a whole the week has been good, but I have to finish an assignment for class, which is always somewhat depressing, but it is what I do. My mother is visiting town this weekend, as my grandmother’s birthday is Sunday and my cousin just had her first child on Tuesday, and despite various complications with the birth and other family members, the week is good. Several of us are going to deflate and laugh by going to see Larry the Cable Guy tonight, which will be therapuetic given the last couple of days. Until next time, keep researching and teaching.