The creator of this unit on Biafra is David S. Trask, Department of History, Guilford Technical Community College, Jamestown, North Carolina. I participated in this effort for several reasons. I wanted to see if electronic media create the opportunity for historians to teach history in new ways that will give all of us a better understanding of what happened in the past and how it relates to the present. This is also an opportunity for me to look into an area of history which is not one of my areas of special expertise. Why do this? One reason is that if we are going to teach world history or move beyond familiar perspectives in western civilization or learn anything, for that matter, we have to be willing to grapple publicly with issues and regions which were not part of our graduate school experience. For this reason many teachers must become like students learning new and different material. It can be awkward. There are all those new names to learn and powerful issues which we did not know about until ten minutes ago in our reading. [This paragraph is obviously another advertisement for the value of this unit and its approach--it still hasn't told you who I am.]
I teach primarily western and world civilization courses and have developed several internet versions of these classes for my college. I am very concerned about how history "on the web" is different from the traditional textbook and lecture-based learning. I am truly a child of print media teaching students who are more and more experienced in electronic media. This is obvious from my current projects: I recently completed co-editing a special issue of The History Teacher (November, 1999) on teaching history at two year colleges. My three year term as contributing editor for the Teaching column for Perspectives, the Newsletter of the American Historical Association, ended in August, 1999. I presented a paper at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in January, 2000, as part of this project on "Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age." It dealt with the impact of electronic media on the understanding and teaching of history and carries the title, "Did the Sans-Culottes Wear Nikes?" Although my current work is tied to media theory, my research interests are in American history and include a recent essay on Vietnam as an Indian war.
During the fall semester, 2001, I received educational leave to work on the Digital Teaching Library of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center of the University of Montana. The topic of the DTL is "America's Wars in Asia"; my role is to develop materials from U. S. perspectives for this project while learning the in's and out's of the software used to develop and maintain this kind of site.
The approach employed in this unit is sometimes called a "post hole" approach in the sense that it focuses on a narrow issue and tries to develop many different historical understandings from a single historical moment. I first encountered this approach at a 1984 NEH Summer Institute on the "new" history and the survey course (at a time when the "new" history was social history). The institute was organized by the Community College Humanities Association.
I got my undergraduate degree in history from the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, and completed my masters and Ph. D. degrees at the University of Nebraska with a dissertation on the Populist party in Nebraska (populism was a nation-wide third party movement of the 1890s).
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