Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Bleg for book recs

I'm teaching what used to be our Historiography class next fall. It's in the process of being turned into a research methods class, with historiography. So I can't see that ordering Tosh's Pursuit of History is necessarily appropriate (although I'm up for being convinced otherwise). With or without Tosh (and I'm toying with substituting Bennett's History Matters there, too), is there any book out there that you think is great for teaching How to Do Research and Write a Paper?

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Cool teaching tools!

Hi all --

So at present I am buried under a pile of really poor essays. Really poor. So poor that I will have to write a post about why differential teaching and learning is good, but that it's very hard to draw some lines: where, for example, is the tipping point between making the good students better and making the failing students passable?

In the meantime, I am occasionally thinking about resources for a re-vamped historical research course. In some ways, I fear for this course. The intention is supposedly to teach students to write a research paper, so that we don't have to teach that as part of the upper-division courses where research papers are now mandatory. There are some who want to teach historiography proper, and something called 'an appreciation for the art of history' in there. If that means teaching big questions in the field and the arguments historians present, I can't see it. After all, I could teach such things, but they would make no sense to students who have never taken a medieval content class. I could teach the history of history-writing, but you know? I just don't think it's as important as actually learning by doing. At some point, we need to know that there is a tradition of historical writing out there, and that ideas of history change from Thucydides to Ranke to Bloch (and I don't have any idea about Americanist historiography). But I'd much rather teach that as part of my content classes than as part of a methods class: "here is a big question for medieval historians -- 'is there such a thing as feudalism/the feudal system?' and here are the major arguments and the people who are making them." In a lower-division methods class, if I'm teaching a paper with an annotated bibliography and/or lit review, then I can set the stage with the idea that historians don't agree and that approaches change over time. How this will all work out when it's a rotating course is going to be interesting.

Anyway, here are some fantastic tools that I think I will be using for teaching methods and in my survey classes, especially:

First, Sharon Howard has posted a tutorial for integrating zotero at the Old Bailey online. How cool is that? the tutorial goes beyond using that site, too! I've been trying to get students to use something like zotero, because they are crap at keeping their bibliographies up to date...

Then there is Wall Wisher, which I found through one of the links on the Old Bailey page. I'm thinking of using that for having students prep class discussions. That, and maybe have them use it for structuring essays and studying together.

There are other cool things linked, too -- I especially like the group assignments in zotero.