Commitment 4: Students as Historians
As a teacher and as a creator of online instructional resources, I want to transform students from passive recipients of knowledge into active learners who actually do history. Through the use of new technologies, I want to encourage students to become active investigators, detectives, and researchers who will learn how to dig up evidence, determine its value, analyze it, and present their findings in a clear, coherent, and compelling form.
On the Digital History website
At the University of Houston, I have been at the forefront of efforts to revitalize the freshman experience through a series of thematic-oriented linked "quintets" that combine history, literature, intensive writing, technological literacy, and the fine arts, and which use the city of Houston as a learning laboratory.
So far, my colleagues and I have introduced three quintets. The first, "Coming to America, Coming to Houston," focused on the immigrant experience. Through literature and a host of first-person documents, students explore the human meaning of migration. To "localize" history, student conducted oral histories and produced websites presenting their findings. The student sites are online at the Coming to Houston website: http://discovery.coe.uh.edu/linked/front/coming-to-houston.htm.
The second and third triads were called "Places in Time" and "Multicultural America." Freshmen built web pages, created PowerPoint presentations, developed digital stories, and analyzed paintings, sculpture, music, photography, architecture, and other works that illuminate creativity and inventiveness in the arts, literature, science, and technology in the United States since the late nineteenth century. The course syllabi can be found at: http://www.writinghistory.uh.edu.
Each week, students engaged in a "hands-on history" project. For example, when students study the Great Depression, they also read Hart Crane's poem "The Bridge," look at film clips from the era, and examine photography by Walker Evans and paintings by Joseph Stella. Instructors include specialists in history, literature, instructional technology, and an education director from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Samples of class resources are available at http://www.class.uh.edu/mintz/places/.