What’s the Matter with Kids Today?

Great insights about Millennial students.

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Twitterpated with History

Can Twitter be used to engage students in history classes? I have a Twitter account that I rarely use to post, however I do follow several historians, history organizations, museums, and journals.  My Twitter feed is a testament to how relevant history continues to be and I think that incorporating Twitter into my history courses might be a way to engage students in classes and get them excited about history. Not a day passes that I don’t see something that piques my interest. New discoveries, anniversaries of historical events, social commentary from renowned historians, reviews of exhibits, historic images, and links to articles regularly beckon me to click, peruse, favorite, and re-tweet…then recount in one of classes later that day.

Gibson (2011) noted that students who participated in determining learning objectives for a course had lower absentee rates and higher engagements than those that haven’t. In my own classes, in lieu of a review session for exams, I assigned groups of students to different chapters and have them write the exam, each group contributing two to three questions that best represent what they learned in their respective chapters. The class, as a whole, edits and votes on the final questions, which then become the study guide. Like Gibson (2011), I find that students who have agency over what is covered in the class, or on exams, do better. In Gibson’s (2001) study, students are choosing what they course will emphasize; and in my classes, students’ test anxiety is reduced because they are tested on what they know they learned. Gibson (2011) uses a structured process, giving students fifty learning objectives from which to choose, and I reserve the right to add or revise questions. Incidentally, I have found that over 90% of the questions students write are questions I would have included on any given exam.

How do learning objectives and exam questions relate to Twitter? They don’t, really, however the process of engaging students and allowing them to drive learning in the classroom do. Yakin and Tinmaz (2013) used Twitter for course content and activities and found that that student engagement improved. Students appreciated the access to course content, ability to create and share content with classmates and the increased interactions with classmates and instructors.  Since all of my courses—face-to-face, hybrid, and online—use the Blackboard LMS, I don’t think that I would replace any of the Blackboard functions with Twitter, but I do see its potential to engage students in the classroom in much the same way that my teachers in the 80s and 90s required students to bring in newspaper or magazine articles to discuss current events or had us watch or read foreign media and journal about it to help in language acquisition.

Two key ways that I might integrate Twitter into the classroom is to generate discussion topics and as a platform for historical re-enactments.  The first step for either activity would be to create a hashtag (#) for the class. Next, those students without Twitter accounts would need to sign up for Twitter. All students would be directed to follow me @ProfMoniK and at least two or three other history-related accounts.

For discussion activities, I would give students suggestions based on the class. For example, in a U.S. history class, I might suggest students start by following the National Archives @USNatArchives, The American Historian @TheAmHistorian, Smithsonian National Museum of American History  @amhistorymuseum, and Teaching History @teachinghistory, then look for others that relate to a particular interest, such as the Civil War @civilwarhistory, California @CAHistory, or women @SheroesHistory.  Each week, students would retweet potential discussion topics with the class hashtag (such as #AWCHIS121). Students could comment on the tweets from other students, or, in class, the topics and articles could be pulled up and projected on the screen and students could discuss topics in groups.  If students were required to re-tweet topics by Sunday night, the instructor might have time to provide additional resources, such as primary sources, to introduce into the discussions.  Discussions could be structured chronologically, by events, thematically, or focused on new discoveries and interpretations.  In this way, discussions and ancillary content would be learner-directed, rather than instructor-directed, possibly leading to greater student engagement.

McKenzie (2014) used Twitter as a platform to re-enact the Paris Commune and Battle of Stalingrad, taking cues from the role Twitter and Facebook played in the Arab Spring. Using documents, images, and secondary resources, students adopted the personas of participants in the events.  In US history, Twitter re-enactments might be used to better understand the American Revolution, Civil War, WWI & II, the New Deal, Civil Rights Movement, Cold War, or myriad other turning points in American history. I often assign students US Presidents to profile, so assigning students to act as presidents throughout the course might be another way to reflect on domestic and foreign policy decisions at different periods, while having other Presidents “weigh in” on decisions. Just as many politicians, Supreme Court Justices, and political analysists today often ask “what would the Founding Fathers do?”, Washington might question Jackson’s Indian Removal Act or Reagan might comment on TR’s Roosevelt Corollary.

Regardless of the mode of delivery, technology can be used to engage students and breathe new life into old topics, of which history has plenty!


Gibson, L. (2011). Student-directed learning: An exercise in student engagement. College Teaching, 59(3), 95–101.

McKenzie, B. A. (2014). Teaching Twitter: Re-enacting the Paris Commune and the Battle of Stalingrad. History Teacher, 47(3), 355-372.

Yakin, I., & Tinmaz, H. (2013). Using Twitter as an instructional tool: A case study in higher education. Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 12(4), 209-218.

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Using Google Web Apps to Improve Student Engagement

In my teaching, I have incorporated Google Web apps into activities that I have already used—group projects, class discussions, and content presentations.

Source: Using Google Web Apps to Improve Student Engagement

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Using Discussion Boards in a Hybrid Class

In the hybrid classes that I teach, how and when  to use the discussion board is something that I wrestle with each semester. The discussion board can be an excellent forum for discussion and exploration of historical topics, or it can be an unpopular dead zone.  When I first began teaching online using the Blackboard LMS, I created discussion boards because it was a requirement and, although they served the basic purpose of, obviously, discussing historical topics we were covering in the class, they were pretty stagnant. Perhaps it was the questions, perhaps the students. Whatever the cause, they weren’t very exciting. The first time I taught a hybrid class, I abandoned the discussion board, believing that topics could be discussed better in class. I have since embraced the discussion board as a tool that can be used in a number of ways, incorporating other technologies such as Google Docs, Prezi, Microsoft Office, and history websites.

The following are ways that discussion boards might be incorporated into hybrid classes, as well as online and web-enhanced face-to-face classes. The first three are ways in which I current use the discussion board and the remaining two are ideas that I’m working on integrating into my classes in the future.

First, the discussion forums can be used to post questions for students to ponder and discuss or debate.  I am careful to write prompts that encourage students to consider a historical issue and take a side. In addition to written prompts, links to websites, documents, images and videos can be integrated into the posts (Luckhardt, 2014). Students are required to post a response to the prompt then comment on at least two other posts by the end of the week.

Second, in hybrid classes, there is often limited time to allow for student research presentations. Discussion forums can be used in conjunction with presentation software, such as Prezi, Microsoft PowerPoint, or Google Slides, to share research presentations with the class. Students can either upload their presentations or provide a link so that classmates can view their presentations. Requiring student to comment on presentations encourages them to view the presentations. In addition to individual presentations, students can also use the discussion board to collaborate on group projects.

Third, discussion boards can be used for online office hours or FAQs (Meyer, 2012). In the past I have tired using Blackboard Chat and Blackboard Collaborate for online office hours with little luck. In my Writing Intensive (WI) classes, I have a tutor from the Writing Center assigned to my class. Using a discussion forum in Blackboard, both the tutor and I can respond to questions posted by students or hold online office hours.

Fourth, the discussion forums can be used for  document analysis. Lane (2014) and Luckardt (2014) noted that students gain historical thinking skills through such online labs and, although I have yet to use the discussion board this way, I look forward to incorporating this method into my courses next semester. PDF or JPG files of documents are loaded into the discussion board forum for students to review and analyze in groups.  All students can be assigned the same document(s) or documents with their corresponding questions can be assigned to smaller groups of students.  Linking to http://www.ourdocuments.gov is an alternative to posting files the files.

Finally, discussion boards can be used for peer review of writing assignments. Again, I have yet to use this in my lower-division hybrid classes, but Hudson (2007) noted that peer review can be particularly valuable to students as a learning experience.  Taking peer review from the classroom to the discussion board allows students more time to review and comment on writing (Knight and Steinbach (2011) and, if a writing tutor is assigned to the class, they might also hold online peer review sessions through the discussion forum.

At this point, I am comfortable using discussion boards to hold online office hours or answer questions, assign and moderate discussion topics and as a presentation forum. I can also assist students with the various types of presentation software. However, I see great potential in developing an online peer review process in conjunction with my college’s Writing Center. As more and more courses are offered in online and hybrid format, helping students develop strong writing skills can be facilitated through the peer review process. I would recommend that a group of tutors and faculty from English, as well as other disciplines, develop a process and share best practices through professional development workshops.


Hudson, J. A. (2007). Writing, technology and writing technologies: Developing multiple literacies in first-year college composition students. International Journal of Learning, 13(12), 93-100.

Knight, L. V., & Steinbach, T. A. (2011). Adapting peer review to an online course: An exploratory case study. Journal of Information Technology Education, 1081-100.

Lane, L. M. (2014). Constructing the past online: Discussion board as history lab. History Teacher, 47(2), 197-207.

Luckhardt, C. (2014). Teaching historical literacy and making world history relevant in the online discussion board. History Teacher, 47(2), 187-196.

Meyer, K. A. (2012). Technology review: Creative uses of discussion boards: Going beyond the ordinary. Community College Enterprise, 18(2), 117-121.

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Classroom Technology: Resources and Professional Development

Arizona Western College is a small community college but supports a number of technologies that are available for use in the physical and virtual classrooms.  The college has six satellite campuses, or learning centers, and serves a large rural community, therefore distance education is a priority and the college is committed to providing training on the various technology tools available.  As a professor of history and geography, not all of the available technologies are applicable to teaching in my discipline or compatible with my teaching style and some technologies, such as smartboards, are available in a limited number of classrooms used by one or two departments.  Also, classrooms equipped with computers for student use are reserved for certain departments, making it difficult for other departments, such as my own, to schedule classes that utilize technology. That said, five commonly used technologies at my institution include Blackboard learning management system (LMS), traditional smart classrooms (computer consoles for instructors that are connected to the Internet and AV system), Interactive Television Network (ITN), Adobe Connect, and Camtasia.

I use three of the technologies mentioned above, Blackboard LMS, instructor consoles, and ITN on a regular basis and believe I have sufficient training and competence using them for teaching and learning.  I have been using Blackboard for seven years for all of my classes and am comfortable using the tools that are applicable to my teaching style and discipline. I use it in different ways for face-to-face and ITN courses than I do for hybrid and online courses and seldom encounter problems that I can’t easily resolve.  For face-to-face, ITN and hybrid classes, the smart classroom is how I incorporate audio-visual tools into my teaching, including PowerPoint, YouTube, Prezi, GoogleEarth, and DVDs. Unless there is a computer malfunction, I believe I am competent using its various functions.  I have been teaching ITN classes for the past three years and, although many instructors do not like teaching ITN, I embrace the modality and technology as a means to connect with students at campuses that are up to 140 miles apart. Wong (2008) noted that faculty can use smart classrooms to engage students and “create a richer, more compelling learning experience,” (p. 34) in the physical classroom, but what about engaging students in the growing online environment?

Two of the technologies that I would like to incorporate into my online teaching are Adobe Connect and Camtasia.  New communication technologies have the potential to engage learners and both of these seem to be a good fit for my online courses that, as Manocheri and Sharif (2010) pointed out, might engage students who possess diverse learning styles.  I have some familiarity with how both can be used in the online learning environment, however, I need training before integrating them as teaching and learning tools.  Other professors at my institution have used Adobe Connect to hold online office hours and study sessions, so I am particularly interested in using it for those purposes. I had previously tried using Blackboard chat, but found that students were not receptive to the tool. I also think that having a live online orientation will benefit students and perhaps result in greater success rates.  Camtasia is a screen capturing and recording tool that can be used to narrate and enhance PowerPoints. I had been using MyBrainshark, a free online tool, to narrate presentations, until the site closed down last year.  AWC provides licenses and training in Camtasia, so as I update my online lectures, this is the opportune time to develop my skills.

Each August, the Distance Education (DE) department at Arizona Western College hosts “Camp Yuma,” a week-long technology training workshop for faculty. Although some sessions are geared toward new faculty, others include training on Camtasia, Adobe Connect, and other technology that seasoned faculty may want to learn.  Technology training is also available at the annual Professional Development Day each Spring and as requested throughout the year.  Free Camtasia training is available directly from Tech Smith, the company that produces the software, and Adobe Connect training is available directly from Adobe. Lynda.com is an all-in-one source for technology training that educators can access, including training on Camtasia and Adobe Connect.

Elliot, Rhoades, Jackson and Mandernach (2015) observed that training needs to be delivered to meet the needs of faculty. One challenge that full-time professors and adjunct instructors have is scheduling time during the school year to access face-to-face training. Although there are some online resources available related to Blackboard and other technologies, there is not a comprehensive online resource library. One recommendation I have for my institution is that the DE department produce training videos and quick help documents for the technology that is available through the college so that faculty have the opportunity to hone their skills. These could be organized in a Blackboard shell in which all faculty and staff are enrolled.


Adobe. (2016). Adobe Connect tutotials. http://www.connectusers.com/tutorials/

Elliott, M., Rhoades, N., Jackson, C. M., & Mandernach, B. J. (2015). Professional development: Designing initiatives to meet the needs of online faculty. Journal of Educators Online, 12(1), 160-188

Lynda.com. (2016). Online video tutorials & training. http://www.lynda.com/

Manochehri, N., & Sharif, K. (2010). A model-based investigation of learner attitude towards recently introduced classroom technology. Journal of Information Technology Education, 931-52.

Tech Smith. (2016).  Camtasia 8 tutorials. https://www.techsmith.com/tutorial-camtasia-8.html

Wong, W. (2008). The case for smart classrooms. Community College Journal, 79(2), 31–34.

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They’re Not Digital Natives, They’re Digital Tourists!

Digital natives are defined as those people who have grown-up using technology daily beginning in the 1960s, but the term is more commonly used to describe those born in the 21st Century. According to the PBS Frontline Website, http://ow.ly/kXq4N

Source: They’re Not Digital Natives, They’re Digital Tourists!

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Welcome to History + Technology!

My name is Monica Ketchum and I’m Professor of History at Arizona Western College, where I teach a wide range of history survey classes in a variety of modalities, including traditional face-to-face; hybrid, or blended; and fully online. When I began my teaching career, classroom technology was limited to overhead projectors, televisions with VCRs, and chalkboards. Over the course of 15 years in higher education, I have witnessed the introduction of new technology and have incorporated many into my teaching. This blog is focused on integrating technology into history education at the college level, although I suspect that many teaching technologies will be applicable across several disciplines.

This blog is part of a course I am taking at Walden University, and as such my goals related to the course include:

  • Evaluating new technology and its applicability to teaching history
  • Integrating tech tools into online and hybrid learning environments to improve student collaboration
  • Improving accessibility for diverse learners using technology
  • Effectively employing technology to engage learners, develop historical thinking skills, and improve student learning outcomes

I’m looking forward to sharing what I learn with the community and value your feedback.


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