Teaching Hidden History: Learning by Developing Digital Modules

AHA Session 223
Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media 1
Saturday, January 6, 2018: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Diplomat Ballroom (Omni Shoreham, West Lobby)
Jeffrey W. McClurken, University of Mary Washington
Stephen Barr, Eastern Senior High School
Kelly Schrum, George Mason University
Nate Sleeter, George Mason University
Amy Swan, George Mason University
Ilsa Tinkelman, George C. Marshall High School

Session Abstract

A photograph shows a stone marker, not unlike a gravestone. The marker looks quite old – it is chipped in several places, its edges are worn and rounded, the words engraved on the front —“Jurisdiction of the United States” — have mostly faded. The marker is, in fact, a boundary stone where no boundary exists. Hidden in this object is the history of Washington, D.C., the original demarcated territory of 1792, and the area that was retroceded back to the state of Virginia in 1848. This stone marker connects to larger narratives in American history as the retrocession was driven in large part by the sectarian politics of slavery. This photograph, and the story surrounding it, exemplify the student projects developed during a hybrid, graduate history course called Teaching Hidden History.

K-12 social studies teachers represent an important constituency of history graduate programs and one with unique needs. As students, they often learn history in history courses and social studies teaching methods in education courses, but they rarely have opportunities to learn and practice both together. In addition, with technology standards increasingly a part of the K-12 curriculum and many school districts adopting 1:1 laptop or tablet policies, teachers are looking for ways to incorporate digital methods and resources into their classroom practice.

Teaching Hidden History represents an attempt to address all of these needs. The course teaches digital methods, pedagogy, and historical thinking. Students in Teaching Hidden Historycreate online modules based on their own historical research, ranging from a street sign connected to a seventeenth-century witch trial in Virginia to a 1906 dime novel cover that can be used to explore the mythology and collective memory of the American West.

Beginning with a historical object or artifact, students design modules that model how historians think, interpret evidence, and employ contextual elements and supporting resources to craft historical narratives. Students design their modules to teach the “what” of history as well as the “how” with their own classrooms and students in mind as the audience. Creating an online module requires learning about historical thinking, research, and pedagogy, and in addition, it requires development of digital skills to implement modules online.

Participants in this roundtable will provide a brief overview of the course structure and will present student work. Practicing teachers who took the course will talk about their experiences, including historical research, intended audiences, and development of digital projects. An open discussion with the audience will include a focus on the challenges and opportunities of working with practicing teachers in graduate history programs.

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