« next \ text update | Main | Cultura: a glimpse at the future of the student generated textbook »

April 4, 2006

learning from our next \ text history meeting

We recently held the first of a series of discipline specific meetings with higher education teachers who use new media in their teaching and scholarship. We invited leading American History scholars to share their thoughts and experiences with history and new media. What is most exciting is that after listening to the group for the day, that we left an idea of what the next generation history textbook could be.

Some background findings.

1. teachers / scholar
We spent much on the day talking about applications of new media to this areas of study, however, we always circled back to the fundamentals of teaching (with or without technology), as it soon became apparent that these scholars viewed their teaching as equally important as their research. Many of them first discovered the potential uses of technology with their teaching through using these tools in their scholarship.

2. access to historical documents
In the area of American History, teachers have access to vast array of primary historical documents that have been digitalized and made easily available. Access to these documents changed their teaching, which lead to attendee's John McClymer's idea of a "pedagogy of abundance."

3. "pedagogy of abundance" and inquiry-based learning,
We found that this group belonged to the higher echelon of teachers who limit the use of traditional textbooks, and place less importance on the rote memorization of historical facts. They encouraged an environment of inquiry and focused on the teaching objective of getting students to learn how historians think through a structured exploration of documents.

4. the spectrum of teaching approaches / needs.
This group acknowledged that there is a range of history teaching. Although they prefer the limited use of traditional textbooks, many still teachers adhere the traditional "march through" of the American History textbook. Inquiry-based learning shifts some of the authority of the classroom to the student, which challenges the idea of the traditional lecturer's role of the interpreter of history.

What's next?

We envision the next \ text American History survey textbook to be a curricula which integrates teaching guides with digital archives of primary historical documents. The teaching guides would address the teaching requirements of the spectrum of styles from the "march through" history lecturer to the independent instructor who wants to design her own course. We are excited by support the transformation of how American History is taught.

Of course, much work still needs to be done. Active learning through student inquiry is a direct challenge to the entrenched lecture/ textbook teaching style. We foresee sponsoring one or several master teachers to create and teach a digital primary document based curricula for a history survey course. These curricula and experiences would be used to create guides for future teachers to use. Over time, existing guides for the same course could be refined and new guides developed to address the varying needs of the diverse landscape of higher education (from the large public university to the small liberal arts college to the community college.) For example, the nomadic and resource strapped adjunct teacher, who often relies the traditional narratives and exercises, would also have access to guides or pieces of guides that could be applied on an ad-hoc basis. By offering a breathe of material, we acknowledge that radical changes in curricula cannot happen instantaneously.

To support these efforts, the coverage of the next \ text site will expand to address that teaching tools and resources are equally important to the creative teacher. Since launching the next \ text project, we have been collecting exemplary works in education technology. They span various media and hardware from CD-ROMs to websites to augmented reality goggles. However, we have come to realize that many examples are not available to the general public and only show a portion of the changes occurring with teaching with new media. Due to technological obsolescence, institutional firewalls, password protected Course Management Systems, subscription fees and limits of fair use, important and innovative applications of new media to education have limited accessibility. The issues reveal larger underlying factors which influence the creation and sharing of syllabi and learning material, including the economics of textbook publication, educational use of copyrighted material, and privacy. Further, these factors limit our ability to how they are being used in the classroom. However, we clearly see from our history meeting that digital technology is changing the classroom.

While CD-ROM have revealed the possibilities of adding interactive multimedia in teaching and learning, they are still bounded education texts. Similarly, online textbooks are often self-contained websites which do not utilize the potential of the being located on a network. In that, the network allows the opportunity for social computing and collaborative learning is a new way, that challenges the traditional lecture-based learning. We found that the our collection of best practices was weighted toward work that was still bounded, and had limited acknowledgment of the importance of the teacher. In the case of American History, we have only begun to think about what tools would assist the exploration of the digital archives for both students and teachers. Therefore, we share on the next\text site our investigation of the new processes and forms of learning in a networked and open source environment. In addition to reviewing examples of successful uses of new media with textbooks, we will also address teaching using educational technology. If you just want to view the gallery of showcase of best practices of next \ text, click on the "gallery" in the categories section.

The mission of next \ text is to encourage the next generation of textbooks which will fully utilize the potentialities of the digital technology. We realized early in the project that the future of the textbook will look quite different from the traditional textbook, but we now clearly see how the it will be taught in a very different way. In the case of the history classroom, the networked textbook allows for an active learning experience, which moves away from the "covering" of history to the "uncovering" of history.

Posted by ray cha at April 4, 2006 6:31 PM