Faculty Experiences - Janice Reiff
What matters most to you in your teaching?
How are you using technology as a tool to achieve your teaching goals?
How have your students responded to your use of technology?
What new goals do you have for using technology in teaching?
Alternative view points
Ask good questions
Class web site
Seeing Relationships Between Past & Present
My teaching philosophy is getting students involved in understanding how history is important presently and understanding the kind of sources we use to understand the field of history.
I try to have students ask questions and find answers that are of interest to them. I try to encourage students to learn about relationships between the past and the present. I try to help students come up with their own conclusions so that they understand that part of the dilemma is that histories are different based on the different perspectives.
In a lower division course, I try to get students to ask good questions and then to get them to answer those questions. In upper division courses, I'm much more interested in trying to get students to understand relationships--what happens in one place and how it may affect what is happening in another place--and the kind of web of history where all the pieces come together.
I'm interested in hypertext and hypermedia. It seems to me there's a way of telling history in a very straightforward way: You start here and you end up there. There's an argument to these kind of historical narratives, but much of these narratives are immersed in these big webs. So when you look for a kind of narrative, you lose something on the side. What hypermedia does is let you tell others what is on the side. I can give lectures in class and actually use the web site to raise questions about my lecture, or to have students go back and look at other view points. Part of the process is to get students to see me as a source of history and to learn how to evaluate what I say--what makes sense and what does not. The whole structure of web sites, for example, lets this process take place. If you take the hypermedia format, you can see how we can bring in other sources. For example, if we are studying the Great Depression, I can send students to the Library of Congress for stored oral histories of people who actually lived through the Depression like the WPA (Work Progress Administration) did. Or in my 1960s class, we can actually have materials up so students can see what happened in Watts, for example. Students can take a look at newspapers from the particular era to see how different sources like the L.A. Times to the L.A. Sentinel to the N.Y. Times to the Chicago Tribune report on the same event. Students can see how these different sources can change how history is presented.
When I taught my 60's class, the Film Archive was nice enough to let us put up some video clips in my lectures. There's a wonderful clip we use of the Kennedy sisters, and you see Jackie Kennedy answering phones for JFK. You see the kind of exchange of what the girls were doing at this time and what you get is this wonderful image of what America was like in the 1960's--the politics, how women were presented, the different type of relationships, etc. So we can bring something like that to the students to say "Okay, look at this, as a document of popular culture and see it as a window of the times." These are the different framings of history based on the different type of sources available.
Technology makes more sources available. It also requires a tremendous amount of work getting these historical sources up because one of the dilemmas is determining the authenticity of what is really a historical source. How do you evaluate it?