A Pedagogical Ode to Google Docs

Well team, I’ve made it to Easter Break after my first post-sabbatical return to teaching, and if my silence on the blog has been any indication, it’s been busy. The sabbatical was obviously good for thinking about research and book stuff, but what I hadn’t anticipated was that the end of my sabbatical would also push me to reassess the ways that I teach. More specifically, it prompted a reexamination of the preparatory work that I do before seminars, and raised questions about the relationship between the amount of time I spend prepping and the extent to which my students benefit from my prep. Lately, I’ve been doing less prep myself and using various types of Google tools—Docs, Forms, and Sheets, mostly—to make students more responsible for their learning. Here’s how and why: Continue reading

America, the Series?

1676It took me a few days to realise my mistake. Around the third week of the semester, in this my first year teaching the “Foundations of American History” survey course here at Birmingham, I slipped up in a way I’d never have imagined. I was lecturing about Bacon’s Rebellion, and about Stephen Saunders Webb’s provocative, half-mad 1676: The End of American Independence. I found it odd that my students didn’t seem to see what was so funny, or at least glib, about Webb’s title. Those blank looks spooked me. So I said, “well, you know guys, because, 1776, right? That’s… when the Americans declared independence? Remember?” Continue reading