It may be to the outsider that some of the things on appearing on the blog don't add up - what's up with a history department and GIS, THATCamp, Escape Rooms, Game Design, and other stuff. Yes, we still teach history. Students read books and write papers. That's not going away. In fact, the bulk of what we do falls into those categories. The ability to deeply read a text, write a clear paper, and use content knowledge to place events in context has never been more important.
However, we're also adding some spice to how things have been done in a history class. Some of it, frankly, is experimentation with the goal of having fun. Why not? Fun is a powerful thing when it comes to learning.
But as you can tell from other postings, we're giving serious thought to the relationship between the liberal arts and careers. For starters, reading, writing, and content are important for life and work, but we also live in an age when things are changing rapidly and much of that change is driven by technology and data. For those of you who graduated pre-internet, think about how much our work, entertainment, and lives have changed. Frankly, there are now many careers that didn't exist 20 years ago and who knows what will exist 20 years from now.
There is a lot being written about this topic. We're urged to "adapt and survive" and to "race with the machine."
Fair enough. How?
This brings us back to the innovations we've been introducing to history classes. There is one word you need on your resume today, and that is digital and so you see our work in digital history. This is why we're working in GIS, website creation, podcast, and such. Students should have digital on their resumes in a concrete and professional way.
We're also giving some serious thought to how design fits into this - hence the game design and gamification.
We've been working with Bill Bechdel of XPhobia and Jennifer Pulver of SBU's events office to create an escape room summer camp. Don't know what an escape room is? Check out the Olean Times Herald story on Bill's room. According to Bill, “It’s like stepping into a movie — you’re a part of the action,” he said. “My idea is to bring as much immersion to this as possible.” For participants, it is an authentic, immersive experience.
For educators, it's a chance to blend content with design in the curriculum. It's a chance for educators and students alike to learn. The next step is to take the ideas we develop with the escape room camp and bring them into classes. That, it seems, is the key to adapting - and having fun.