UNofficial reflections

Okay– so (OF COURSE) I went over the allowed word count!

But I have some thought about the future of this class, history at mary washington,  and the topic of digitial history that I thought might be good to post.  I’m guessing this is going to be a part of what we will talk about on Thursday and during the exam period.

So this is my unofficial extra reflection:

I have always been really excited about the idea of this class.  To have the ability to participate in something that is both an experimental learning environment and on the forefront of historical research is a very exciting prospect.  In addition, and I know I’ve said this in class before, this class provides applicable skills and knowledge- not simply the normal class environment.  At the same time, one of the worries that I have had, and continued to have throughout the semester, was that the type of class (the inherit informality of having computers in class and group work) limited individuals’ seriousness about the course.  “HIST 471C3,” being both a 400 level course and one of the two required seminars to graduate from college, should be one of the most difficult and time consuming courses in your entire academic life.  It isn’t a lower level history class, to be worked on when you have extra time, but rather it is the most important class or activity in the schedule every day.

At the same time, the group nature of this class leaves the possibility for individuals to sit back, relax, and allow other members to (because the overall group grade and presentation of the project is so important), literally, get them through the class.  If somebody isn’t contributing to the project, what more is this class than a free ride to college graduation?  And, as a somewhat rhetorical question: How, in a student group project, do you enforce the division of labor, the attendance of group meetings, and then general effort displayed by every member of the group.  Even though this was a group project, I don’t think we should be expected to play a role of babysitters.

I think there are two ways to make this class more effective.  First, a smaller class size(I know that’s not on you Dr. McClurken, but, starting in the fall, don’t you get to decide those things?).  I remember on the first day of class I walked in the room and thought: “Wow, this is a huge class!”  Well, it was a big class, and I really think it allowed several people to “hide” out.  While it isn’t a professor’s job to keep track of the amount of work every student does (we are, after all, in college and adults and old enough to be responsible and all that junk), a smaller class will help to prevent some of the problems that the some of the groups had.  Second, while, the most important aspect of our class were these projects- I also think it’s important to look more at “digital history” as a field.  We did a little bit of it, but I really wished that we had gone more into it- looking at other projects like the ones we were creating.  I don’t know what kind of impact this would have on the whole, but, for me, it would make the course seems as if it didn’t have such a narrow scope- of our individual projects.

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