What is the value of thinking about the past? How does history relate to our lives in the present? Whether I am engaged in research or teaching, as a scholar of medieval culture and literature these questions are a part of my daily life. As I explain to my students, whether they’re watching the latest episode of HBO’s quasi-medieval fantasy Game of Thrones or just walking past the Gothic chapel on campus, their daily lives are constantly intersecting with medieval history. In order to understand why we’re fascinated by murder and intrigue set in an imaginary medieval world or the significance of Julian Abele’s design of Duke Chapel, students need to consider the medieval past and the role of the medieval in contemporary culture.
But how do you teach students to think critically about the intersection of the medieval past with their contemporary lives? The Graduate School’s GS 762: Online College Teaching course provided me with the space to reflect on how digital tools and classrooms can be used to think about our relationship to the past. I found that the course fostered a community of people engaged with and invested in digital pedagogy, and I received valuable suggestions for developing digital projects for students. Currently, I’m in the process of developing a course assignment in which students will digitally collaborate to edit and expand a Wikipedia article about a medieval text. The idea for this project arose partially in response to the Medieval Feminist Wikipedia Write-In initiative of the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship. Students will collaborate on historical analysis and think about the particular editorial biases and cultural ideologies that shape our understanding of historical texts.
Participating in the Certificate in College Teaching, and particularly my work for the Online College Teaching course, has demanded that I think creatively and carefully about my work as a scholar and teacher. How can I think more critically about my relationship to history? How can my students? Developing proficiency with digital teaching tools and learning the ins and outs of online teaching has expanded my teaching arsenal. Going forward, I anticipate developing additional online projects in which students are engaged thoughtfully with the past.
Ph.D. Candidate, English
Jessica is a Ph.D. candidate in the English Department. She specializes in the literature and culture of medieval Europe. Her upcoming class “Game of Thrones: Medieval Literature and Popular Culture” considers the role of the Middle Ages in contemporary popular culture. For more information, visit Jessica's website.
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