Teaching Teaching Critical Thinking in an Increasingly Digital Age: Strategies, Struggles, and Success Stories

AHA Session 71
Friday, January 3, 2014: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Virginia Suite A (Marriott Wardman Park)
Fritz Fischer, University of Northern Colorado
Susan R. Fernsebner, University of Mary Washington
Erin Jordan, Old Dominion University
Eric W. Platt, Saint Francis College
Kenneth Nivison, Southern New Hampshire University

Session Abstract

This roundtable proposes to open an important dialogue about the challenges of teaching research and critical thinking to students in the midst of what the AHA has styled the “digital revolution.” Approaching the task of teaching research and writing in the digital age as both a challenge and an opportunity, panel members will share their experiences teaching students the art of navigating the ever-increasing sea of potential historical sources.  Central to this conversation will be several critical questions:  How do we teach 21st-century students to read the long-form book?  What strategies can we employ to help them sift through the myriad of primary sources so readily available on the internet, and how do we teach them the value of site-based archival research?  How can digital resources be used to enhance student learning?  How has the widespread availability of historical writing in digital form impacted our students’ own writing?  What challenges have arisen with respect to intellectual property and academic honesty as a result of broader technological trends, and how have we addressed these challenges? 

As a teaching roundtable, this panel will address several of the requirements for a “Teaching Panel” as outlined by the AHA proposal guidelines.  It will directly address teaching challenges and practices through the shared experiences of the panel participants, and it will be dedicated to an extended conversation among panelists and audience members.  The goal of the panel is not to provide definitive answers or findings for the audience; on the contrary, we hope our brief comments will stimulate a thoughtful exchange of ideas and lessons for all present.  

Eric Platt will discuss how he pairs site-based archival research and various online resources to teach first-year students research and critical-thinking skills.  After visiting the archive, his students search for online sources that provide background information about the archival sources they examined, write blog posts about their research, and participate in online discussions built around these posts.

Erin Jordan will talk about strategies for integrating on-line materials into various courses, not exclusively, but to balance more traditional types of assignments and readings.  She will discuss her experience developing assignments that force students to engage with site like Wikipedia so that they can better appreciate why it is simultaneously useful but “non-scholarly.”

Susan Fernsebner will share perspectives on the intersection of social media and Sinology, discussing the complexities--and opportunities--associated with teaching Chinese history and historical methods in a new digital age.  She will discuss bringing students into that space and ways in which it can be used to question dominant narratives about history and culture.

Kenneth Nivison will discuss his efforts to build research-intensive modules into content-based upper-division courses.  He will share his experience modifying course structures to fit more hands-on research in the classroom, and also his experience transitioning the traditional student research paper to new forms of expression, such as blogs and wikis, that permit students to link their sources directly to their writing and to present their work to an audience wider than just the course instructor.

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