The challenges and joys of teaching USII in the age of Trump

This fall I am teaching the US History II (1870-present) for the first time in almost a decade. Oh boy. Typically I teach the European History II survey course that covers twenty-seven countries over five centuries. I jumped at this opportunity to teach the history of just one country over 140 years.

When I last taught USII, it was while I was simultaneously teaching at four different colleges. To maintain my sanity back then (and with a newborn on my hands), I stuck to a textbook-aligned plan that allowed for minimal flexibility. I had my stock lectures and themes and led primarily teacher-centered classes.

Things are going to be different this time around. My students will explore US History as it relates to some of the most pressing issues of today: namely race, immigration, and ethnicity. News coverage is saturated with Trump pronouncements about “building a wall” and halting Muslim immigration, as well as his “look at my African-American” comment at a recent rally. I can’t see any other way to teach USII without addressing the history behind these remarks and why they get so much traction today.

First stop, We’re History and The Junto. 

PS I found inspiration in this AHA Perspectives article:






Continuing the conversation…

OK, everyone, summer is near and we will soon have a bit more time to explore teaching with digital history. I’m going to pick up where I left off in March and blog about my experiences with some of the tools that were presented at the conference.

In the past two weeks I have received queries from conference participants regarding the digital tools from on March 18. One was about Brian Croxall’s app on the Battle of Atlanta. The other was on Heather Cox Richardson’s magazine We’re History. So, I’ll address those first. I welcome you to join me…

Oh, by the way, when you create a new post it is helpful if you check off the category it fits under. You can also add a new category if need be. Also, consider adding tags related to your post. These shortcuts should help us all use this blog more effectively.


On Wrangling

Elli Mylonas is undoubtedly a treasure for faculty and students at Brown. If only I had someone like her to help me devise the most effective ways to digitally expand my scholarship on German-Jewish refugees and to create and curate my findings. Elli, can we clone you for Massachusetts State University faculty?

I absolutely love working at Framingham State, but boy, I could sure use a wrangler like Elli.


Do you need a Harvard degree to crowdsource historical inquiry with your students?

Hope not… So, Jamie McFadden is doing amazing things with Harvard graduate and undergraduate students. The use of wikis to create a collaborative space among students who are not sitting in the same classroom is impressive. I want to give that a try, for sure. I wonder if a social studies department at a middle/high school could crowdsource a grade-wide project this way. They could try something similar like looking at news-coverage of Pearl Harbor or 9/11. I need to think more about this one. Any heads of department, Social Studies Curriculum Coordinators, or classroom teachers out there who want to brainstorm with me?

BTW, while I was digging around to learn more about what Jamie is doing with his students I came across this incredible collection of resources on Russian and European history created by his group at the Davis Center. Check out the footage of a Russian women’s suffrage protest from 1917. I’ll be using this to teach about suffrage, the Russian Revolution, and media in the early 20th century…  Davis Center Digital Resources


Overwhelmed and Inspired by DPLA

Thanks to Samantha Gibson, I will now be forfeiting endless hours of my life to the DPLA.  Where to begin…The Digital Public Library of America is incomparable in its scope and in the possibilities it holds. I thought the Digital Commonwealth- everything from Massachusetts’ museums, historical societies, and archives was mesmerizing. Just search the town you live or work in if you are from MA- you’ve been warned.

But the DPLA is another beast entirely. How many of us have used the holdings of the Smithsonian or Library of Congress to spice up our teaching?  Now, students can practically do research on any topic in the world that they are interested in and find original sources about it. I finally have a place to send the students who ask me how to find legitimate primary sources relating to the history of such wide-ranging topics as carrier pigeons and scrap-booking  (I was literally asked about both of these things just last week). Google just wasn’t cutting it.

I don’t even know where to begin with DPLA, but perhaps it will be easiest to pour through the topic collections for educators that Samantha showed us. I’m teaching an Intro to US History II course in the fall and will absolutely have the students using DPLA. I may even have them create their own geo-tours with the software Brian Croxall created and annotate them with images from DPLA. There goes the month of July. Watch this space…