Teaching with (material) culture
I learned during my own secondary education about the power of objects to evoke an era or a place. I propose to share a selection of the resources, tools, and techniques I use to teach about America using material culture (the things we make and use in our daily lives). The workshop includes a general discussion for thinking about the relationship between culture and material culture. I will explain the strategies I use to get students to observe carefully, consider sources critically, and reflect on the broader implications of what they have learned from their observations.
Digital tools for teaching about American culture
Digital technologies make it much easier to bring primary sources into the classroom. I have designed a number of exercises using on-line datasets to teach about American history and culture. The workshops will address two key areas: digital primary sources (such as databases of artifacts or online archives) and digital platforms (tools that provide “big data” perspectives on large collections of texts, allow multiple contributors to a shared project, or offer alternatives to standard written assignments).
Standard English vs. the way(s) Americans really talk
As we know, language is much more than vocabulary and grammatical rules. Speakers make complex choices on the fly, saying either “Close that window!” or “Do you feel a draft?” A consideration of the “pragmatics” (social meanings) of communication will be useful for helping students think about the multiple planes on which the language works. I can also offer examples of regional diversity in pronunciation, word choice, and conversational style—hard won lessons as I’ve moved around the US and needed to learn how to speak to people with whom I already share a language! Finally, video clips are a fun way to share speech from different social groups and eras. These can help students explore conversational styles, language change, and American slang.
American educational cultures
The history and archaeology of American schools and African American education, was especially important to my work at the site of New Philadelphia. My knowledge of contemporary education is mainly as “participant-observer,” once as a student and now as a parent. This workshop features facilitated discussions using selections from texts and films that depict school and youth culture to compare the lives of young people in Norway and the US. We may also address American university culture in institutions large and small, public and private, including advice for Norwegian students interested in attending a US university.
Pragmatism and pedagogy
My interest in pragmatism (a major American philosophical tradition) began with linguist CS Peirce and the application of his ideas to the interpretation of artifacts. However, pragmatism also includes WEB DuBois, whose work on race anticipated the conclusions of modern anthropologists, and John Dewey, whose ideas about education underlie innovations such as project-based learning, authentic assignments, and service learning. Paolo Freire and bell hooks have taken pragmatist principles even further, framing teaching as a tool for liberation, social justice, and cultural understanding. Pragmatist ideas will form the basis for conversations about the ways that educators can create classrooms rich with meaningful experiences that help our students to develop the skills and perspectives to build a more peaceful and equitable world.