Reviews

The students have been asked to reflect on the semester and consider the following questions:

What have you learned from this course? How would you assess your experience working with these digital technologies? Has this course made you a stronger writer? Why or why not? Would you encourage other instructors to use these technologies? How could this course be improved?

6 thoughts on “Reviews

  1. taymn May 1, 2013 at 12:41 pm Reply

    I am pleased with my decision to take this course. It allowed me to assess the faults in my writing abilities while analyzing interesting historical information. We focused on the origins of slavery in the Americas, reasons for its abolishment and the methods of modern slavery. Each of us read about the various topics discussed each week, analyzing them by paying special attention to the roles of our assigned subtopics. Working with the digital technologies (i.e. the website) made it easier way for me to connect my ideas with those of my classmates. The weekly blogs, specifically, were much more convenient in the sense that they allowed us to discuss the topics from our readings while practicing our writing techniques in a concise but formal format. The formation of the timeline and the archives would have been much more difficult without the use of the technology because the resources and opinions of our fellow classmates would not have been at our disposal.

    I believe this course has made me a better writer because through it, I have practiced writing in different forms. The timeline entries and weekly blogs forced me to work on summarization while the historiography and research paper were more extended forms of writing. In every assignment, I practiced and worked to fix my unsatisfactory habits. I learned how to truly assess what I have read in order to draw the important points from the readings. The readings were of different forms themselves. We read the non-fictional works of David Schama, David Brion, Davis and various others. We read the autobiographies of Olaudah Equiano and Frederick Douglass. We also read the primary sources necessary to complete our archives and research papers.

    I would absolutely encourage other instructors to use these technologies. It challenges students to analyze and produce various forms of information in an easily accessible way. Although very minimal, there are some improvements that I think could be useful. This course could improve with the way that certain assignments are either carried out or introduced. For example, the archive entries were introduced as a way for us to learn about our subtopics and summarize primary sources. It would have been more beneficial if we had known initially that the entries would be our starting points for our research papers. My entries, like my classmates’, were somehow linked to my subtopic, but had I known I would later be writing a paper using those specific sources, I would have tried to narrow their focus even further. Not to mention, although the final result of our timeline provides a nice overview of slavery overtime, every student was only exposed to the entries relevant to their topics. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the class. I know that I have learned a lot, not only about my writing but about slavery as well. One of my favorite aspects was the input in our weekly blogs from other professors. I liked hearing their opinions on our readings and their responses to our comments. It was nice to know that other professors enjoyed and respected the insight that we gave into our readings.

  2. Eric May 9, 2013 at 2:35 pm Reply

    The main thing I learned from this course was how slavery has changed over time and, because I focused on economics as my subtopic, how economic forces affected such changes. Working with technology to present my ideas was never very difficult and I think having an online place to discuss our readings outside of class made the time in class much more valuable. I’m not sure how much the course itself helped me become a stronger writer, so much as the practice we received while taking it did. The course itself seemed, at most times, focused on the material rather than the writing, but having to switch gears so many times in our writing styles helped us, I feel, develop our writing skills.

    I can’t make a recommendation for this particular set of technologies we have used to every instructor. While using this technology was often times helpful to us in our course, the same things could easily be a hindrance or unnecessary in another. I think what needs to be kept in mind is not using a resource because it looks cool or has fancy bells and whistles attached to it, but because it does enhance the lesson. I feel the technologies we used did this very well, and have perhaps trained us for a media age that’s leaning more towards the internet than paper and pen.

    I think this course could have been improved by focusing more on developing writing and editing skills. Most times it felt more like a history course, and though it may have been Mr. Wright’s aim to teach us writing more subtly while teaching a class about history, I don’t think his approach was direct enough at times. As a history teacher, Mr. Wright is very good, and he was always enthusiastic about whatever topic we were discussing, but I feel more concise lessons could have improved our writing and editing skills even more.

  3. Christine Shaw May 9, 2013 at 5:14 pm Reply

    This course has definitely helped me become a stronger writer, especially in terms of being able to articulate ideas in a more effective way. The work we did in the first few weeks of the course over critically reviewing and editing our blog posts improved the writing I did afterwards. The historical topics we covered were interesting and the weekly readings were relevant and enjoyable to read. I also liked the sense of continuity that the subtopics provided. Having a specific subtopic to focus on through the entire semester helped my ability to analyze each week’s material with respect to what we covered previously.

    I would definitely encourage other instructors to make use of digital technologies. I feel like the use of digital media and technologies greatly complemented the class and did not detract from learning the material. The weekly blog posts provide a great example of this. Being able to see others’ thoughts prior to class helped me to consider multiple aspects of the readings and view topics in a different way. It allowed me to refine my understanding of the material and sometimes notice points or arguments that I might not have otherwise thought of. I also thought that the online timeline enhanced my understanding of my subtopic and how it fit in to the overall picture. Since my focus was on slave resistance, the timeline seemed especially useful because, in many instances, slave rebellions are motivated or influenced by past ones. In addition, it helped me to see how the results of distinct insurrections differed based on when and where they happened. Writing the historiography of a Wikipedia article was one of my favorite assignments, though reading through the edits to the page did get tedious. We could see how the way people view history and what they consider important changes over time, and the discussion page about the content of the article meant that we could see the article editors’ reasoning and defense of why changes should be made or discarded.

    There are very few improvements that I can think of for this course, besides possibly an assignment or activity that makes use of the timeline since it seems like a great resource but I didn’t reference it very often after completing the entries. Overall, this was a great class and I’ve learned a lot about slavery while also considerably improving my writing.

  4. Caroline June 3, 2013 at 5:49 pm Reply

    In this class, I learned a lot about slavery in the past and today, improving my writing, giving and making a presentation, and using online tools to deepen my understanding of the topic. Although learning about slavery was depressing, I thought it was worthwhile, especially when learning about slavery today. I found the modern slavery topic most interesting because I didn’t know to what extent slavery still existed and it really opened my eyes to what is still going on. I think working with digital technologies helped me understand the topic much better. Having to reflect about what we had read every night on the blog definitely made me think about what I had read. The blog also jump started the in class discussion by having everyone share their thoughts about the reading and respond to each other before class. Another digital tool that I thought really helped in learning was the digital presentation sites, especially Presi. The presentations people were able to come up with using Presi were really impressive. Having the different available formats definitely made the main points of their presentations more clear. I used slide rocket, which was alright, but nothing more than what power point can do. I think the digital technology that helped us the most though, was looking at the history on the Wikipedia pages. It was really interesting to see the changes people had made to the Wikipedia pages over time and really showed the idea that history can be interpreted in many different ways. This course has made me a stronger writer because I have gotten more practice, having to write every week and also on larger projects. A year ago, a research paper like the one we wrote at the end of this class would have taken me forever and stressed me out a lot, but with this paper I found it a lot easier to organize my thoughts and write clearly. One thing I learned was how important it is to eliminate the passive voice, and I think my writing got a lot better once I started editing for that. I would encourage other instructors to use these online resources because everyone had immediate access to everyone else’s work. We could hear what other people thought of the readings and learn about their subtopics. This gave me a better understanding of the issues and disagreements in the history of slavery and also understanding all the subtopics in slavery. I think this class could be improved by cutting down or changing some of the supplemental readings, especially the one about the slave revolts in Brazil. I did not find it very interesting and it was incredibly long. Also, for the timeline it was really hard to find events outside of the United States because most of our readings were about the United States and most of the information on the internet is about the United States. I thought that requiring the number of entries to be even seemed unfair. Overall the class was great, I liked it a lot.

  5. Gabby June 4, 2013 at 7:02 pm Reply

    The rise and fall of the Atlantic Slave Trade was a great history based course. I enjoyed a lot of the books we read in the course especially, Inhuman bondage by Davis Disposable Peoples: New Slavery in the Global Economy by Kevin Bales. The later really opened my eyes up to the slavery that still goes on around the world today. This course was very well thought out. There were some interesting assignments like the Wikipedia Historiography. I also thought the idea of each student concentrating on a specific topic relating to slavery throughout the course was a great idea. It made the discussions interesting and useful since each student brought their thoughts from a slightly different perspective. This helped the class discussions swing away from repetitive responses. In my opinion, building a webpage as a class is a great way to measure the progression of the course. It’s nice to be able to look back and see if I improved my blog entries or if there are reoccurring grammatical errors. A class webpage is very convenient and ideal for history based courses. That being said, the subject of the course determines whether or not building a webpage as a class is useful. For a freshman writing intensive seminar, I think we should have written a couple of more papers so the term paper would not seem as daunting.
    The instructor of this course did well as far as giving immediate feedback on our work. Overall, I am glad I took this course.

  6. Daniel June 7, 2013 at 12:14 pm Reply

    This course, “The Rise and Fall of Atlantic Slavery”, consisted of weekly group meetings in which our class became engaged in a multifaceted discussion of slavery under pretext of various writing exercises and assignments. The subject matter was not limited to a historical overview of slavery but additionally addressed contemporary issues such as race and modern slavery. Overall, the course felt much more like a history course than a writing course, but a very interesting one at that.
    As far as assignments go, this course had about an average-less than average workload, an appropriate amount for a FWIS. The assigned readings were for the most part very interesting, and throughout the semester we were introduced to a wide range of perspectives on slavery. At times, however, the amount of reading seemed to be a bit much. The weekly writing assignments were very effective in improving my writing skills, and the novelty of some of the assignments such as the Wikipedia historiography rendered these tasks engaging and even fun. I also thought that the online aspect of the assignments were a plus as it allowed us to easily access and edit each other’s writing, a commonly assigned task that was mutually beneficial to both the writer and the editor.
    Professor Wright was fantastic as a professor with regards to his ability to foster conversation among us, both in class and online, of the course material which he is obviously passionate about. He expressed sincere interest in our opinions even as he challenged them, and due to his wide-ranging familiarity of material written on slavery could consistently broaden our perspectives. With regards to the writing assignments Professor Wright was always responsive to requests for help and never afraid to provide constructive criticism.
    Overall, this course gave me new insight into slavery while strengthening my skills as a writer, and I can definitely recommend it to incoming freshmen.

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