Department of History
Old Horticulture
506 E. Circle Dr
Room 256
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
Main: 517.355.7500
Fax: 517.353.5599
Email: history [at] msu [dot] edu
Hours: 8:00-5:00 M-F

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In collaboration with H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online, the Department of History is presenting an occasional series of informal lunchtime conversations about how to teach, and how students learn, history.  These sessions are offered as a way to encourage history educators to share ideas and try new concepts in their classes, both face to face and online.  Each session in the series features a convener or facilitator who launches discussion around an issue or subject.  Participants are encouraged to join in the conversation; these generally are not formal presentations, papers, or workshops.  We will post documents here from those sessions that produce interesting materials.  Although RSVP is not required, we do request that you confirm attendance with Anita Anthony so that we have a fair count for lunch orders.   For more information about the sessions, contact Prof. Peter Knupfer.

Fall 2010: Unless otherwise indicated, sessions are in Morrill Hall 340.

September 22, 2010, Peter Knupfer: “Rubrics Cubed: Or, I Still Don’t Know How to Grade My Students’ Work.”  What do we want students to learn and how do we measure their learning?  This conversation continues a discussion begun last semester about ways that we try to measure student performance.  For many historians and for humanists in general, even the idea of “measuring” is anathema because it implies a numerical yardstick for knowledge that defies quantification. And it also suggests that the past can be reduced to measurable bits of skills and information.  Knupfer will bring in some rubrics and frameworks of historical understanding that might help address this problem.  Participants are encouraged to bring a sample grading scheme, rubric, or other framework to share and discuss as well.”

October 7, 2010:  Richard Bellon, History/Lyman Briggs, on “Powerpoint: Friend or Foe”:  PowerPoint is now ubiquitous in the classroom, but, if used poorly, it dampens the vitality of our lectures and muddies our arguments. I will talk briefly about my approach to PowerPoint — both technical and pedagogical — as a prelude to a discussion of the program’s promises and pitfalls.

November 3, 2010, Alan Fisher, of the History Department, will be discussing the two online courses he’s been doing for several years now, especially designing ways to require the students to work at “a steady pace” throughout the semester, with frequent writing assignments which can be done effectively only with careful reading of the assignments, in books and those which he provides online.   Alan has also developed ways of providing quite a bit of comment along with grades, but without requiring hours and hours of work on his part, or that of the TAs. Alan has also designed the courses to have no video-taped lectures, but rather “lectures” which he calls modules and sub-modules which require the students to do “research” throughout, not just sit passively and take notes, or not. The two courses are also designed so that virtually anyone in the department could teach them, with complete revision of organization and content, but without a lot of technical skill or time. With 140, Alan is especially hopeful that some other members of the department will pitch in, now that it along with 150 will be part of one of our major programs.  Ben Smith and other online course instructors are also expected to come by and add their observations and experiences to the conversation, so this will be a very interesting and informative session.

December 1, 2010, Dr. Malcolm Magee and History Graduate Student Jesse Draper will co-present and lead discussion on: “Constructive Chaos: Challenging Students to Think Outside of the Bubble Sheet.” Standardized testing in Public Schools has conditioned our students to think in “bubble sheet”. A challenge we have in teaching is to get them to break out of that mode and rekindle curiosity in the classroom. One way of doing that is using “constructive chaos” in teaching to force them to re create their approach to learning. Using antinomy in teaching and working with technology to give classrooms a more “seminar feel” is one way to help rekindle the curiosity about learning that has been conditioned out of them. Working within a similar theoretical context as represented by Dr. Malcom Magee’s notion of “creative chaos,” Jesse intends to demonstrate how technology such as the Omeka digital archiving software can be used, even by someone completely new to the program, to enhance active student participation and learning through the hands-on collecting, organizing, and digital archiving of primary sources.

Spring Semester 2011

January 27, 2011, Alex Galarza, History Department Graduate Student, workshop on using Zotero.

Thursday, February 10–Lawrence Bruce, Union City Community Schools and doctoral student in the MSU College of Education’s hybrid Educational Psychology and Educational Technology (EPET) program, will demonstrate and instruct on the uses of Wikispaces in the history classroom. He has created and continues to develop an innovative teaching platform for his classes that uses the easy and accessible features of as a collaborative work space where students, instructors, and parents share class work. He will demonstrate the site; indicate how its features can be adapted to adult learners at the college level; and provide some basics on how to set up accounts, create pages, and launch your own site as an alternative or supplement to Angel. Larry worked with MSU historians on a Teaching American History professional development program in the Battle Creek Area Schools; the teachers in that program were so impressed with his project that they adopted wikispaces for their own classes and for TAH project work. View Larry’s presentation here.

Wednesday, March 2–Thomas Summerhill, Associate Dean for the College of Social Sciences and Professor of History at MSU; Juan Pescador, Professor of History at MSU, and Jose Moreno: on Student-Centered Pedagogy in ISS.

Thursday, March 24–Randy Schaetzl, Professor of Geography at MSU: on Implementing Geography into History Teaching.

Wednesday, April 6–Peter Knupfer, Professor of History at MSU