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2019

Students in my US History I and II classes have recently started a short research project, which means we are spending class time in the library getting everyone acquainted with identifying and citing research materials. As I assist students in locating relevant library-based materials for their projects I am simultaneously conducting web searches to identify new materials not yet available at my college library. While helping a student locate sources on Indian boarding schools this past week I came across an amazing resource that is deserving of some special attention by those of us who teach US history: the Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center created and maintained by Dickinson College.

 

If you are not familiar with the history of Indian boarding schools in the United States a great place to start is the (some-what difficult to locate) documentary film “In the White Man’s Image” (PBS, 1992). There are numerous narrative studies of the schools and biographies of their most famous attendees, including Kill the Indian, Save the Man : the Genocidal Impact of American Indian Residential Schools by Ward Churchill (City Lights Publishers 2004). In recent years, writing by students at the schools have been published. See, for example, Recovering Native American writings in the Boarding School Press edited by Jacqueline Emery (University of Nebraska, 2017) and Boarding School Seasons: American Indian families, 1900-1940 by Brenda J. Child (University of Nebraska, 1998).

 

If, like myself, you only have a short period of time to introduce students to Indian boarding schools, there is no better resource on the web than the Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center. In addition to hundreds of searchable images of children and young adults who attended the school, there are Student Records searchable by name, date of entry, and nation or tribe, as well as log books and student registers. Modern day history students are introduced through these digitized records to names (native and Americanized), birth dates, and some family history of the Carlisle students. We are able to get a sense of how long students stayed at the school and the types of pressures that led to their dismissals and/or personal decisions to return home. Finally, a section of the resource devoted to Teaching provides lesson plans for younger students that can easily be enhanced for work with first and second year college students.

 

Have you stumbled upon any new or new-to-you web-based history resources that you think may benefit your history colleagues? If so, please share in the comments below!

My son, a high school 10th-grader, has been using an iPad in school regularly since 5th grade. He’s grown up in a generation of students for whom digital textbooks and computer-based learning are commonplace. And yet, he’s not sold on the idea. As we sat in a doctor’s office waiting room last week he commented to me that he prefers his teachers to assign readings from a printed text. In his view, the only pitfall of the printed text is the excess weight of his heavy backpack. His digital textbooks, on the other hand, are loaded onto devices that contain many, many distractions (text messages, games, etc).

 

At the start of each semester I present my students with the option of purchasing a digital or printed textbook. Inevitably before heading to the campus bookstore a student will ask which format is “better.” My typical answer is that textbook format is a personal choice based on a variety of factors. For community college students, cost is always tops the pros and cons list. It is difficult for me to counter the argument that their need to afford textbooks for five classes necessitates choosing the least expensive options. Nonetheless, when I am asked by a student for advice about digital v. print textbooks, here are some of the questions -- in addition to cost -- that I suggest they consider:

 

  • Do you have regular access to a reliable laptop/computer/tablet and WiFi? If the answer is no, I suggest that they think realistically about when/how they will access an eBook. If the campus library is several bus stops away and only open when they are working their own part-time job, for example, the print text might make more sense.

 

  • What will you be using the textbook for? In my classes, for example, students are allowed to use the textbook to complete open-book online quizzes and assignments. I suggest that they consider how they will manage such tasks with an eBook. Some students are able to use their own device with a desktop system in the college computing, which works very well. For others, moving back and forth on one device between an eBook and an online assignment can be more difficult depending on their comfort level with the learning management system.

 

  • Have you talked to other students? Every semester I have students in my classes who willingly provide feedback to their classmates as to any challenges they had with either print or the eBooks in the past. I find that students generally value their classmates’ perspectives. I have even had students planning to use the eBook decide, in addition, to share one purchased copy of the printed text with a classmate.

 

  • Have you utilized the college library’s resources? I place a copy of each of course textbook on 2-hour reserve in the college library so that it is always accessible. I make sure the students are aware of this option as a safe alternative if they are struggling for any reason with computer access and/or the eBook, have misplaced their print copy, or simply want to try both options before making an economic commitment to one or the other. 

 

I emphasize to students that textbook purchasing is not a one-size-fits-all experience. Helping our students understand which format will work best with their homework schedules and learning styles in an important component of our teaching. As we prepare this month to order textbooks for the spring semester I’m working with our campus bookstore to make sure students have choices and flexibility in the process.  

Last week’s announcement that there will be an impeachment inquiry into the actions of President Trump has created an opportunity to talk with students about the historical precedents of this action. The nearest my courses this semester get chronologically to any discussion of impeachment is the Watergate scandal and that’s only if I get through the civil rights movement at record pace. As a result, I find myself recommending sources for students to consult outside of class.

 

Here are some (very) general online sources that I have found particularly helpful for first and second year college students. Feel free to share these with your students and add your own suggestions in the comments section below.

 

 

 

 

For those students who may have already studied the impeachment process in a political science course, I’ve found it meaningful to suggest that they undertake their own study of media biases. Have the students search the web for editorials and political cartoons that argue for/against impeachment. Remind them that today’s current events will be tomorrow’s subjects for history courses. Political cartoons and editorials from today’s papers will be used years from now to discern how Americans were reacting to events in Washington during this impeachment inquiry. 

 

Finally, suggest that they spend some time listening to the nightly cable news shows or talk radio -- most important here would be to compare what different news outlets are saying about the same topic. Ask them to consider how historians decades from now will view the arguments made in these forums.

 

The impeachment inquiry will no doubt be a complex period of highly charged debate among politicians in Washington. As a current event in 2019 it offers a valuable opportunity for history students to consider the complexity of the times in which the primary sources we are studying in our textbooks originated.