This spring I will teach History 101: Western Civilization I in the University of North Dakota’s new Scale-up classroom. My class will be the only history class in the room – and the only course in the humanities – so I feel a little additional pressure to pull off my rather ambitious plans with at least a modicum of recognizable success. The goal of the Scale-up room is to have students work together in groups of 9 or 3 rather than sit idly and endure a lecture in traditional auditorium style lecture hall. The room is designed around 20 tables with 9 seats and 3 laptops.
If you want to read my entire proposal, go here, but the short version is that I’m going to have students write a History 101 textbook. They will do this by both reading primary sources carefully, but also reviewing current textbooks. Preparing these will give students experience both synthesizing and analyzing as well as in writing, organizing, and reviewing a historical text.
The first step is collecting the names of five of six Western civilization textbooks for the book store. Each group will be made of three different students with different textbooks and each table of nine should have all textbooks represented.
1. Jackson Spielvogel, Western Civilization I (to 1500). Volume A.
2. Thomas F.X. Noble, B. Straus, D. Osheim and K Neushchel, Western Civilization: Beyond Boundaries. Volume 1 (to 1560)
3. J. Coffin, R Stacey, J. Cole, C. Symes, Western Civilizations: Their History and Their Culture. Volume 1.
4. J. P. McKay, Bennett D. Hill, John Buckler, et all, A History of Western Society. Volume A: Antiquity to 1500.
5. L. Hunt, The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures. Vol. A (to 1500).
6. B. Pavlac, A Concise Survey of Western Civilization. Prehistory to 1500. (Volume 1).
7. M. Kishlansky, P. Geary, P. O’Brien, Civilization in the West. Volume A (to 1500).
If you have additional texts that you think would be well suited to provide basic narratives of Western Civilization, timelines and maps, some notes on primary sources, and serve as the basis for a synthetic study, please do recommend them. I’ll supplement these texts with wikipedia pages, my own podcasts and text, a selected group of primary sources, and some secondary sources that provide an overarching structure of the textbook.
I’ve also begun to think about ways to keep students focused on a longterm, collaborative writing project. One of the ideas that I have comes from watching the University of Oregon’s football team. They run a very up tempo offense and to maximize the effectiveness of the offensive, they practice in a very up-tempo way. The up-tempo approach to practice not only builds conditioning, but also helps the players realize that they can play through mistakes on the field. In fact, the tempo of play allows Oregon to run more plays and this will mitigate the impact of mistakes that the tempo may induce. I think introducing an uptempo classroom environment and allowing the students to recognize that mistakes are part of the compositional process. Moreover, it’ll keep the students from getting lost and distracted over the course of the many weeks it will take to complete the project.
More on the Scale-up classroom as I finish off preparing my class over the next couple of months.