Write a blog post that lists three or four questions about teaching history (in whatever venue you do or might teach) that you hope to answer as the semester proceeds, and then offer some tentative answers to those questions.
- How to move beyond memory history in teaching?
- While facts like dates, places, and names are important, I want to encourage students to engage more with the material. This means leading students through evaluating the sources and critical thinking.
- Possibly incorporate active learning assignments like “think-pair-share” where I act as the facilitator.
- How to effectively combine substantive and procedural knowledge?
- Incorporate pre and post assessment tests to evaluate understanding of the material.
- How to incorporate these approaches in both an in-person and online environment?
- Create interactive learning objects that provide prompts in the online environment. The prompts will take visitors through a series of questions to spark inquiry.
The selection of readings of Module 8 confirmed that the I really want to attend the Museums and the Web conference. It also reinforced that I should have attended the 2003 conference in Charlotte when I was in graduate school at UNC-Chapel Hill. Lessons learned!
The presentation “Beyond the Screen: Creating interactives that are location, time, preference, and skill responsive” by Baer, Fry, and Davis brought up an interesting point that reminded me of Nicholas Carr’s article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” and his argument that Google is changing the way are brains work. The 2014 presentation points out that the average attention span at the time was estimated to be five seconds, a significant drop from twelve seconds tens years earlier. Cultural institutions like museums, universities, and libraries are trying to adapt to this change to change and maintain people’s attention as long as possible. Carr contends that the overwhelming information provided by Google and easy access to this information had negatively affected how we write and read. Nicholas Carr goes into detail on how he struggles to stay on topic. He explains how he feels that he is always dragging his attention back to the text. Carr blames the internet for his lack of focus.
The article “Listening to the City: Oral History and Place in the Digital Era” by Mark Tebeau reminds me of a conversion with a library colleague last year. She mentioned a study that showed that most college students were doing the bulk of their work on their smart phones. This included more casual reasons like social media and shopping, but it also included research (e.g. reading books online to searching library databases to find articles). This transition has changed how academic libraries market and deliver their resources. While e-books are still bought for content and how it benefits academic departments, the online platform is an important consideration because students are reading them on their phones and not just laptops/desktops. This change has also affected cultural organizations like museums, archives, and historical societies. While creating websites and web-based tools for smart phones opens up this information to a much broader audience and even helps with the economic disparity gap, it also creates a new set of challenges. Tebeau points out that oral histories no longer have the safe distance created by transcriptions or interpretations. Oral histories are easier to edit, but they now have a raw quality.
Reading the articles for this module, reinforces that I need to include strong, attention-grabbing visuals to catch people’s attention. However, the question then becomes keeping their attention for as along as possible. I need to make sure that the text is clean and readable and that there are enough interactive components to involved to engage viewers.
Reading about the Occupational Folklore Project from the American Folklore Center at the Library of Congress seemed like appropriate timing given a recent conversation with an established architect who has been practicing in Charlotte, NC, for the last 40 years. While in the process of discussing a potential donation to the library, he remarked that history has shifted to tell the stories of “everyday” people and that he thought we were better for this shift. To paraphrase slightly, he said that the stories of those riding the bus were being told and not just the stories of those driving the bus.
Granted, this project is tied to the earlier work of the Library’s American Life Histories from 1936 to 1940 through the Federal Writers’ Project for the U.S. Works Progress/Projects Administration (WPA). This connection is also fascinating because we can see how the “pre-digital” history of the Library has led to this new project following current technology trends.
The details of the project address many of the issues that results from community-based projects (e.g. inconsistencies, extensive processing, complicated technology, daunting or off-putting policies). The idea of creating an easy-to-use but regulated interface creates amazing potential for similar large-scale projects, especially considering the increasing lack of funding resources (and seeing that this was funded by the IMLS made it all the more disheartening since this resource is being de-funded). Years ago, I remember looking through LOC photographs on Flickr and having problems reading the images because of the abundance of social tags that appeared when hovering the mouse over the image. As a result, I found it interested that they used the term “social cataloging” here instead and base this vocabulary on the LOC subject headings. This addresses the inconsistency often seen in user-submitted and unregulated tagging projects. Adapting technology to allow for this control has hopefully helped the project avoid problems like StoryCorp (as discussed in our earlier reading) which requires extensive processing to make the files accessible. Even considerations like only accepting one audio type and requiring that contributors use their file naming conventions helps.
Looking at the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer in comparison provides an interesting contrast. The article “OHMS: Enhancing Access to Oral History for Free” addresses two topical issues right now: open source and access. Its user-focused approach also made ease of use an important goal. They wanted a tool that was simple to use and simple to implement. By focusing on how the tool can be used by those outside their institution, they are also trying to move away from the many silos that have been created in this technology-focused environment.
It’s fascinating to see the different iterations of local history in the chapter “Community Exhibition: History, Identity, and Dialogue.” Examples ranged from the more expected house museums to galleries in churches like the Second Church of Newton, Massachusetts. For many of these smaller museums, an engaged and friendly staff is almost as important as the exhibits themselves. These museums provide a human connection as seen in the 2006 survey of small museums.
[It] confirmed the reasons visitors like learning history in these settings...Many cited services that appealed to more basic human needs: connection to other people. "Friendly staff members and volunteers," "staff friendliness and knowledge," and the "small size, friendly volunteers and staff" are what appeal to visitors in these settings.
The question then becomes how to translate this appeal to the online setting. While it is “easy” to think about digitizing local history objects (artifacts, oral histories), it it harder to capture this personal appeal.
Oddly enough, reading about the history of local history also made an episode of the British television mystery Midsomer Murders make more sense. One character looked down on another because he was studying ancient history while she was “merely” studying local history. I am pretty sure the word Victorian was used as a derogatory term in his description.
The importance and value of Outhistory.org is reflected in the growing focus on LGBTQ history. This can be seen commercially with the 2014 film Pride about the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign in the UK in the 1980s and the new ABC mini-series When We Rise tracking key LGBTQ activists from the 1960s til today. It is especially impressive that founder Jonathan Ned Katz was able to build this project without the institutional support of a college or university. It is also interesting to see a history project for whom “history” is rapidly changing. The project is essentially a combination of history and current events.