Keeping track of resources

SO MANY things online about how to teach online. Why did my team bother to try to make something??? Seriously – there are so many available. The biggest problem is keeping track of them and curating them into a sensible organization.

So – here’s a running blog of resources I need to track.

ACUE’s Online Teaching Toolkit

The ACUE’s Online Teaching Toolkit

Good resources and videos about:

  • organizing a course
    • create a predictable weekly rhythm
  • being welcoming
  • microlectures
  • providing rubrics
    • Make the first formative quiz, discussion worth less points so they learn what you expect
  • holding online discussions
  • assigning self-reflection assignments (I am a BIG believer in these)


How to Be a Better Online Teacher

Blog post, How to Be a Better Online Teacher,  by Flower Darby in the Chronicle. Read the full post, but here are her 10 basic points:

  1. Show Up to Class
  2. Be Yourself
  3. Put Yourself in Their Shoes
  4. Organize Course Content (think like a student) – don’t make it hard to find things! Be consistent
  5. Add Visual Appeal – we don’t have to do this in a classroom, but you do online
  6. Explain your Expectations – be really clear about what students are supposed to do, especially with into level courses. Have the first dicussion/quiz worth less so they learn what you want
  7. Scaffold assignments – build up to the big assignment
  8. Lots of examples. Convey content in several ways
  9. Make Class a nice place to be. Set class behavior norms
  10. Continuous improvement – be open to suggestions, get feedback from students


Mountain View College’s Best Practice for Online Teaching

An open Canvas course with solid concrete, practical information about how to teach online. Good use of student videos talking about the different points.

Grading Participation

Interesting conversation about how and why (if!!) we should grade student participation.  Participation is usually graded by how much the student speaks up in class and how many days the student attends class.

My opinion: this is a skewed way of looking at participation.

I don’t feel comfortable in discussions if I might be thought to be wrong, or if there’s someone who is dominant.  I don’t like to speak up in large groups even to ask a question unless I know the people well.

So many students have reasons not to participate in discussions we can’t even list them here.

First point: if you are going to use participation as a place of grading, then you need to have several options. It cannot just be how many times a student speaks up in class. You are grading on behavior and personality, not on growth. We’ve seen in this era of emergency remote learning that students who were otherwise reluctant to speak up in class may be communication more in written discussions. That should be rewarded as much as the student who speaks up in class.

Second point: reconsider rewarding participation by using a self-assessment. Have it be growth, not some predefined rubric. This concept comes from an article about a new way to conceptualize how instructors grade participation by Alanna Gillis, Reconceptualizing Participation Grading as Skill Building.

Third: is participation really something to grade? Shouldn’t achieving course objectives be the point? If a student has already mastered the material, should they really have to come to class every day? Here’s another article about using student contribution to the collective knowledge as a way to measure participation: Assessing Student Participation  by Sritama Chatterjee

Humanities Matter!

Ran across this powerful statement by Cathy Davidson and Christina Katopodis about why humanities is essential to higher education, and what faculty can do you ensure students come tot he humanities classroom, and leave better prepared.

Changing Our Classrooms to Prepare Students for a Challenging World – Profession

A couple of thoughts about this:

  • Much of my job includes supporting faculty who are doing digital projects with their students. They see the value, or are at least willing to try it out! Davidson  and Katopodis have a quote that rings so true to me: “Students need to unlearn years of being taught that they aren’t experts or innovators.” I see this nearly everyday. Students want clear, specific, rubrics and goals. They want to know exactly what the professor expects. While I don’t disagree with the need for clear goals, what I see is students doing exactly what the professor wants, not knowing/wanting/caring to decide on their own what needs to happen. This isn’t the students’ fault. It’s a problem with grades and with an education system that rewards sitting in a seat and spitting back what you’re told.
  • Skills mentioned in the article are exactly what we do in these projects:

    “working effectively in groups to solve problems together; reading and interpreting complicated data, events, and texts; undertaking original research; and understanding and making sense of ambiguity (the gray areas).”

  • Students struggle in these areas, as I mentioned above. Students frequently dislike doing group projects, and they definitely struggle with gray areas. I am surprised how difficult it can be for them to work with primary sources — the staple of historians.
  • We often hear how students would prefer to write a paper/essay. They know that drill and it’s easy. Working through primary sources and data is complicated. Digital projects also mean a non-linear method of writing, and this can be difficult to learn.
  • The authors’ suggestions of ways that humanities courses can foster these skills. Techniques like letting students talk at the beginning of class as opposed to the professor starting can be so effective in shifting the learning responsibility.
  • I welcome the idea of having students help set the agenda of the course. What do they want to learn?
  • Often, when I do evaluations of digital projects, students feel like they “learn more” through tests and papers. I find this fascinating, and we are digging deeper into this. Professors feel the opposite about the same projects. My hypothesis is that students are looking at content learning as the value, rather than the skills.
  • I will also more carefully incorporate the technique of reflection at the end of a course. Ask students what they’ll remember, what they learned, what questions they might have.


More skills mentioned by Davidson and Katopodis:

  • people skills,
  • communication skills,
  • critical and interpretive skills,
  • collaboration and
  • project management skills

Maps that Speak Volumes

I’m teaching a short workshop on the use of digital maps/GIS in history classrooms. I have a usual song and dance that I do, talking about spatial thinking, how mapping is such a powerful tool for students, and how mapping lets students dig into primary sources in ways that other tools don’t. I still believe all of this, and will discuss it, as it is amazing what we can do with maps. Perhaps that is a blog post of its own soon.

However, for the last couple of weeks, and this weekend in particular, I find myself wanting to use maps to make real change. How can we use digital maps to better illuminate problems, amplify hidden voices, and search for solutions?

I’m pulling together a list of maps that may start me on this path… feel free to explore.

History Communication

A friend posted a link to this article about a course on History Communication put together by the National Council on Public History. Here’s the syllabus they proposed. So many thoughts about this article.


I haven’t spent much time looking at the syllabus yet, but apparently this all came about four years ago. FOUR YEARS????? Where have they been? Seriously? I’ve been doing “History Communication” for thirty years. The “National Council on Public History” just decided four years ago that this skill should be included in undergraduate education. Wow. Frankly, that seems far too late. We’ve done an amazing disservice to our young people.


The syllabus has a byline, “Sharing Historical Scholarship with Non-Experts Across Multiple Media.”

I find this attitude incredibly hard to stomach. Just because someone isn’t an academic does not mean they aren’t an expert. It may be hard to believe, but there are people in the world who know a great deal about a topic, even history, but they do not work in in the field. And, really, who is to say the academic or museum professional view is the “expert” view? It’s one perspective, one knowledge base.

The other implied piece in this sentence: the academic “expert” is “sharing” their expertise and wisdom. Wow. Thanks. Did anyone ask for it? Does anyone care? This attitude is what gives academics and museums a bad rap. It’s this self-importance that knowledge comes from the institution. That the museum/university knows everything and legitimizes the content.

Library with old books and busts of men

Experts sharing with “non-experts” feels an awful lot like dead white man history. Photo by Giammarco Boscaro on Unsplash

This is far from true. In both museums and universities, the materials in collections are biased by the institution that collected them. Who’s stories are we telling? Who’s stories are we not telling? Why isn’t the community telling their own story?

I’m not saying the historian/professor/museum professional isn’t incredibly knowledgeable. They clearly are steeped in content, background, context. This doesn’t deny that. But this statement above just strongly implies that the academic/museum professional is better than those “non-experts.”

Course Content

I’ve just glanced through the syllabus but I will say it is still incredibly heavy on the academic and theoretical. I would love to design my own syllabus for this…. The concept of “History Communication” is brilliant, actually, and is a great way to frame the course.

Here are some of my points of confusion:

  • One activity is “Create a Department/Faculty Portfolio for non-Historian Audience.” What in the world does that mean? If I am even close to thinking what that is, why would you ever do that?
  • One activity has students writing a script for a podcast. This is an excellent activity. However….. they use the term, “Brevitizes”. OK – that’s obnoxious. It’s writing in a way that anyone can understand. It means taking out jargon that only a few people know. It means using terms and words that make sense to people who don’t spend their life studying these things. If you’re a historian, think about how you’d want to read something about, oh, nuclear physics, Russian literature, anatomy, auto mechanics, whatever. Don’t be condescending. Make it so people can understand what you’re saying.
  • One week on Digital Humanities? Oh please. That needs to be at least half the course.

My course would have the following:

  • a maximum of two “journal articles.” If even. Probably zero, except to compare/contrast language and writing styles.
  • no papers as assignments.
  • projects: grading would be on minimum of two major projects, at least one digital and one non-digital.
  • writing to analyze: social media from museums and other historians, newspaper articles, magazine articles, press releases, blogs, films and novels.
  • writing to produce: marketing materials, tweets and other social media, newspaper articles, mini-web exhibits
  • audience: every project would be for an audience outside of the instructor.
  • visuals: every single project would include visuals of some sort: maps, photos, infographics, objects, something.
  • teaching technology: the term “digital native” is a myth. Not everyone under 30 knows how to use technology, and we need to teach them.

I better get busy! More to come.