February 1, 2014

Towards a More Practical History Pedagogy

“Any use of digital media for teaching and learning that does not take into account this shift from consumer to creator is problematic from the start.” – T. Mills Kelly

As someone with limited teaching experience, I feel particularly under-qualified to make any grand pronouncements about which pedagogical methods work best in the 2014 history classroom. That said, I have collaborated on a number of digital projects as a graduate assistant and public historian in recent years. Each has emphasized online research, writing, interpretation, and project management, while forcing me to think critically about how the public engages with, creates, and modifies a range of online media content. Consequently, I believe I have gained an understanding of how this current generation of history students is making sense of and actively learning about the past as it delves further into an increasingly networked digital environment.

The big question remains, according to Mills Kelly in his new (e)book, Teaching History in the Digital Age, are history professors doing enough to guide their undergraduate students “through the ways digital technology might be used to understand and represent the past”?

I am inclined to agree with our colleague’s general assertion, that professors are not paying close enough attention to how their students are actually learning in online environments. Essentially, they are acquiring knowledge through doing. Hardly passive consumers of digital media, young people today are, as Kelly affirms, “aggressive creators” of online content. Many are digital natives, who regularly inhabit virtual spaces that not only encourage interactivity, but structurally rely on their willingness to create, connect, and collaborate in public. Such venues include, but are not limited to social networking sites, like Facebook and Linked In; blogging platforms, such as WordPress and Tumblr; media sharing sites, including YouTube and Flickr; and reference tools, like Wikipedia and Google Scholar.

While undergraduate history students are better equipped to navigate the digital landscape than ever before, they still need direction when it comes to making good online history. It’s our job as instructors to guarantee that they know where to start, how to properly conduct research, and produce original digital content that pushes the boundaries of historical argumentation.

More to come on building a digital historical skill set…

Check out Mills’ edwired blog for regular posts on digital technology and history: edwired.org

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By Will Tchakirides | RSS | © 2012 under a CC BY 3.0 license


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