The Difficulties of Teaching History

Dr. Kelly wrote in Teaching History in the Digital Age, “It is a bit disheartening to realize that more than 100 years ago historians were already warning their peers about the problems of lecturing.” I, too, find this information troubling. I’ve also been thinking about my own experiences both teaching and learning during my BA, MA, and now PhD processes. In my experience, incorporating the digital can sometimes just mean, “slap a powerpoint up there so they aren’t bored.” (Which, we all know how well THAT works!) But how do we get students to utilize the wealth of sources available to them? How can we assist them in being creative with their historical understanding and analysis without creating an altered document (like the Nuremberg video). I used to teach 4th graders, and although we could not give them digital means to learn history, we DID want them to be hands on. All of the exhibits that we had for our museum were required to have some type of interactivity. Can’t this also be applied to teaching history to older students with digital means?

I, for one, love the idea of letting students go on their own to find their sources, with guidance on how to choose a good source beyond “use .edu.”I love the idea of giving more choice than “use what I give you.” Isn’t that part of the historical process? Why are historians so fearful of changing how we teach students history, and why is there this ongoing theme that these new concepts are scary? All they can do is enhance our understanding of history even further. 



4 thoughts on “The Difficulties of Teaching History

  1. I agree – and maybe because I’ve obviously chosen to be in this program – but I struggle to understand why there is such a resistance to incorporating these techniques/resources in a teaching/learning environment. Maybe we can bring this up in class..

    • I just find it remarkable that there is such a hesitance. I mean, CHNM has been around for 20 years. These ideas aren’t brand new. (They are relative to history, but so is gender history and other types of new methods.)

  2. I think high school is much further along than university regarding the incorporation of interactive techniques in the classroom. When I taught high school, at least three times during the year I would assign a major project and bring the “mobile computer lab” into the classroom and devote class time for students to research and build some kind of project. I did lecture almost every day in class, but I always ensured that there were appropriate practical exercises and/or group learning to support and add to the lecture (as well as give students a break from sitting and taking notes).

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