It was a pleasure reading Dr. Langhorst's post. As a bit of background, Dr. Langhorst teaches 8th-grade US History. Before he wrote this post, Dr. Langhorst had received a teaching fellowship to conduct in-depth research on Thomas Jefferson. He had just returned from a week-long forum in Monticello (Jefferson's former home), where he helped build new online teaching resources on the topic of Jefferson. This post is his reflection on what he had learned and how he was going to apply what he had learned into his classroom.
In reading his blog, I found myself going 'YES! ME TOO!' at some of his remarks. For example:
At the conclusion of workshops such as this - periods of time where I am afforded the luxury of experiencing history on a deeper level - my biggest hurdle also provides an exhilarating opportunity. How do I synthesize all this information into a condensed version which we help my 8th grade students understand this individual and the broader context of the time in which he lived?
It would not be difficult for me to devote an entire month to the study of Jefferson... But reality forces me to realistically utilize about five days...
Throughout my field experience so far, this challenge that Langhorst identifies is probably the hardest for me. Obviously, it is so much easier being a student, learning whatever I'm interested in and consider important, than being a teacher. Thus, I addressed this in my response:
As a preservice teacher, I struggle so much to choose what ideas I'd like students to focus on and which activities are appropriate.
On the other hand, Dr. Langhorst also elaborates on the "condensed version" that he came up with and intended to teach to students. It is always interesting to hear how a fellow historian unpacks his thinking!
...I tried to identify several major themes that I would like my students to learn about Jefferson. My Jefferson themes include: innovation, politics, role in western expansion, and complexity... I think one of the most powerful and currently relevant aspects of Jefferson's personality is his ability to innovate. I truly believe that the course of our nation's history in this century will be determined by our ability, or inability, to innovate.
Reading this, I thought back to my History at Scales class, as well as the bunch of readings on teaching World history. Although Dr. Langhorst was talking about American history, the themes he identified could be very well applied in World History. And most importantly, again, Dr. Langhorst confirms that it is impossible to teach history to students as a nice, tidy package that they can grasp so that they can understand it and move on. I'm going to interpret that as teaching a collection of disconnected facts and getting bogged down in small details. Thus goes my response:
Hi Dr. Langhorst, I really like the four major themes about Thomas Jefferson that you identified for students. Although I'm a World History teacher, I can see how these themes can be relevant in any historical discussion, and therefore make great connections across different individuals, events, time and place. Especially the theme of innovation - adaptation, which I think is what accounts for modernity in general, and the United States & Jefferson present great contributors.
Concerning technology, Dr. Langhorst also mentions that a challenge for him is to choose among many available and fascinating options, which activity "best meets his needs". I wish he had elaborated more, esp. how he planned to use any tech to teach this unit on Jefferson:
I would love to hear more especially how you overcame the challenge of selecting (or innovating) technological use for your teaching of Jefferson & U.S. History!
Overall, I love how Dr. Langhorst's enthusiasm oozes out of his writing. There are many other excellent posts, and I really really recommend checking them out at: http://speakingofhistory.blogspot.com/!!