A running quest in my years as a history professor is how to teach my subject in a digital age. I adopt a kind of “guerrilla warfare” tactic—to quietly interest and embolden students to double-major in history or pursue a history minor.
My approach to creating memorable classes is to let students take ownership of their learning through individualized challenges, many with a digital focus. In courses of all sizes and levels, I include a “mechanism” to nudge students to jump an extra creative hoop between their reading and writing assignments. Discovering digital tools particularly appeals to them.
For instance, students in my upper-level spatial history courses learn basic ArcGIS software to translate their research findings into professional-looking maps, which then serve as visual scaffolding for their final papers. Students in my modern history surveys formally debate current dilemmas in class and share their arguments and evidence online. But for my premodern history surveys, like Traditional China, I use Photoshop to have students insert their own faces, literally, into the distant past of a distant land.
The creative works of my students are exhibited on this site.
–Elya Jun Zhang, Assistant Professor of History, University of Rochester