The Skyping Classroom

Last Wednesday I spent a good 45 minutes Skyping with Modupe Labode’s public history class at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. The class is focused specifically on the Civil War and public history and includes both undergraduate and graduate students. Students were required to read the first chapter of my Crater book, but we managed to address a number of topics. Beyond the book itself we talked about the challenges of interpreting race and slavery at historic sites as well as the role of social media/blogs in shaping historical knowledge and memory. The students were incredibly sharp and their questions reflected a close reading of the various books and articles required for the course. It was time well spent.

This week I will be working with Professor Greg Pfitzer’s students at Skidmore College. The class is the Civil War in American Memory and students are reading David Blight’s article “Decoration Days: The Origins of Memorial Day in the North and South” in Ailce Fahs and Joan Waugh eds., The Memory of the Civil War in American Culture along with a recent post I wrote about commemoration activities in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Students are required to respond on the post and I am going to make every effort to respond to every comment. Please feel free to share your thoughts through the week as well. As we did a couple of years ago, once the assignment is concluded we will debrief with a Skype conversation.

Over the past few years I’ve received a number of requests from both college professors and high school teachers to Skype with their classes. It’s easy to do and I find that I greatly enjoy it. It puts me in a setting where I feel the most comfortable and the interaction with students is a real pleasure.

As a teacher I highly recommend using Skype to connect your students with individuals and even other classes. It places your students in touch with people that they likely would never have the opportunity to question directly. It can be an empowering experience for students.  I’ve always seen social media as a way to extend the borders of the traditional classroom and there is no better way than through Skype. The easiest way to start is to assign your class a reading, contact the author, and set up a date to talk. There is nothing more to it.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like me to talk with your class. I am happy to do it as long as my schedule permits it.

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