Monday, March 26, 2012

Norway Doorway, pt 5: Sean Taylor on Reacting to the Past

Randall Stephens

One of the more enjoyable things about my Fulbright experience in Norway has been getting to know other American Fulbrighters and to hear about the work they are doing. Martin Fisk (Oregon State University, University of Bergen) is studying bacterial life "deep in the Earth and their impact on the rocks in which they are found. This research could contribute to solutions
of a number of environmental problems and help to identify evidence of past life on Mars." He's one of the researchers who is taking part in a future Mars Rover mission. Others are studying climate science, literature, drama, public art, the nature of genocide, and much, much more.

The historian Sean Taylor--a Fulbright scholar at the University of Agder in Kristiansand--is associate professor of history at Minnesota State University Moorhead. His research focuses on colonial, revolutionary, and early national America. While in Norway he is working on a dynamic new pedagogy that is changing the way we draw students into debates about history. Called Reacting to the Past, this history game offers students the chance to engage history on a more direct level.

The Reacting to Past website at Barnard College describes it as follows:

Reacting to the Past (RTTP) consists of elaborate games, set in the past, in which students are assigned roles informed by classic texts in the history of ideas. Class sessions are run entirely by students; instructors advise and guide students and grade their oral and written work. It seeks to draw students into the past, promote engagement with big ideas, and improve intellectual and academic skills.

In the video embedded here I speak to Taylor about his use of this pedagogy and how it has worked in his classroom. He also speaks to me about Barnard College's role in developing curriculum and hosting events. And finally Taylor tells me a little about how he'd like to use Reacting in the classroom in Norway.

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