The hubris of a digital historian. . .

Writers spill way, way, way too much ink writing about the future of education as it relates to computers. I’m not going to rehash all debates or research on digital education except to say three things:

  1. Technology does not equal progress forward for humanity. Witness the history of weapons, or, say singing cats videos. If you’d like to read someone who understands this and writes about education, see Hack Education. (Hat tip @Trianglemancsd for sharing)
  2. Students demonstrate uneven penetrations of knowledge about technology. Older does not equal clueless, younger does not equal skilled.
  3. Technology skills do help get students jobs.

Given theses issues, how do I as a teacher work to ensure digital technology benefits my students, rather than act as barnacles on their career ships?

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It can’t wait for a sabbatical. . .

When I tell folks what I’m doing this summer, they say, you should wait for a sabbatical to do that. But my students are drowning, and I don’t know if I can save them, but I can give them a fighting shot at swimming to safety on their own if I go now. It can’t wait. This is my blog about how to build a better (world history) course. I write in the hopes that others will see my work, help me, and perhaps consider how to help poor students succeed in their courses. And, if I write my thoughts down, maybe they’ll be better thoughts than when they’re tangled up in my head.

This is not a blog about feelings or inspiration: I have both, as do you, but we don’t need better feelings or more inspiration, we need better tools to teach our students.

I’m increasingly distressed at the failure of my poor students. These folks can be train wrecks as students. They often come from un-supportive homes, have uneven or limited access to technology, they are ignorant of college as an institution and ignorant of how to navigate institutions in general. I can see their failure and I know it’s historically rooted. Responses to poverty tend to be condescending (poor dears) or systematic (let’s create a scholarship fund), neither of which I find useful.

After years of teaching poor students at four and two-year schools, I started asking colleagues: “If I could do one thing to help poor students succeed in my classroom, what would that be?” Most folks suggested additional resources (buy them tablets, pay for college), which I can’t do. Others suggested pointing out resources my college already has, which is sound, but insufficient. You see, most students drive to college, walk to the classroom, finish the class, and drive to work or home. Car- class – car. Continue reading