Tuesday, November 20, 2012

John Fea's Virtual Office Hours

Randall Stephens

Historical Society member, Springsteen disciple, and historian extraordinaire John Fea recently launched a series of videos called "Virtual Office Hours" from his blog The Way of Improvement Leads Home.

So far he's created four clips.  In these Fea discusses some of the concepts that animate a course he teaches on historical methods.  Listen to Fea discuss "The Past is a Foreign Country," "In Search of a Usable Past," "Are Historians Revisionists?" and "How Do Historians Think?"

Fea does a wonderful job of explaining concepts like historicism, Whig history, and the much-misunderstood/maligned revisionism.  Students of history, and their profs, too, would do well to watch these.  And many of us who teach courses on historiography, methods, and the like could take a page out of Fea's playbook here.

Perhaps the next step would be to get students to use technology to engage the concepts and themes introduced in a methods class.  Maybe they could make group-project videos that explore the uses and abuses of the past, the role that history plays in forming policy, how our understanding of the past changes from one generation to the next, and more. 

1 comment:

hcr said...

This is impressive on a number of levels. John Fea explains important concepts quickly and entertainingly, of course, and that means that there is great information for students here. But for colleagues who might have some idea about these concepts already, watching Fea gives us that all-too-rare opportunity to see a colleague talking about core professional ideas. I would love to be able to take my colleagues' courses, and almost always leave one of their presentations unhappy that there never seems to be time or a natural place for the sorts of fundamental discussions that might make me rethink things I thought I knew. Fea's videos help to address that gap.

Oh, and the construction of the scene and the coverage of the material is a good example for public historians and writers, too.

Randall's right; these are very worth viewing!

And John, it was great fun to see you again! Love the Pez dispensers!