Teaching History Using Emerging Technologies: The Roanoke College iTouch Project

Saturday, January 8, 2011: 2:50 PM
New Hampshire Room (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Whitney Leeson , Roanoke College, Salem, VA
In the fall of 2009, Roanoke College’s Information Technology staff selected forty professors, with a wide range of experience in handling personal computing devices to participate in the iTouch Project.  In exchange for an iTouch, participants agreed to do two things:  first, experiment with ways of using the devices to augment their individual lectures, classroom materials, or assignments; and second, periodically gather together to share their favorite “apps” with the iTouch group and discuss their successes and setbacks implementing digital technology into the curriculum.  As a self-rated technological “novice” quite comfortably housed in the humanities division, I had low expectations regarding the pedagogical usefulness of mobile devices in my own subject area of historical anthropology.  However, persistence and a willingness to think outside the proverbial box, have taught me that the iTouch’s online collaboration tools and digital audio and video capabilities can serve as effective teaching tools for historians as well as our colleagues in foreign languages, math, and computer science.  Students’ ready familiarity with digital technologies puts them in a position to engage with course content in new and progressive forms.  

In this presentation I will cover some of the applications I have found useful in a variety of academic settings (specifically a senior seminar capstone course, a writing-intensive freshman seminar, a 200 level topics course, and a one-on-one faculty-student undergraduate research project).  Particular attention will be paid the benefits of using Facebook as a classroom management tool in lieu of other formats such as Blackboard, given the potential of social media for enhancing group work and other collaborative enterprises requiring discussion outside of class.  I will also discuss exciting possibilities that Flipcameras, small, portable cameras designed to make video production easy, hold for students and faculty alike interested in undergraduate research projects in public history.