Good digital platforms support all the efforts you’ve already put into your history teaching. So how is Macmillan Learning doing this with ACHIEVE? Select one super short video that speaks to you.
5 Reasons Why Achieve is Different in 1 Minute.
Teaching Students to Think Like Historians with Primary Sources
Improving Student Preparedness with History
Assignable Skills Tutorials & Reflection Activities for Students
Instructor Activity Guides in Achieve for History
Using Analytics to Identify Student Barriers
For a deeper look at Achieve for History, you can also meet with Stephen, your learning solutions specialist for history.
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With only a little more than a month of classes left in the spring semester I’m increasingly concerned about my incredibly shrinking classroom population. Pre-pandemic a full class at my community college contained 32 enrolled students. This week I have been lucky to count 10-15 students in each of my on-campus courses. It’s terribly disconcerting. Yesterday I asked students in my 1pm class “where is everyone?” The twelve present students assured me that the problem is not the professor (phew!). “All my classes are empty like this one,” a young man offered, hoping to appease my concern that students simply hate my teaching style. In one class, he continued, “only 5 of the original 20 students are still regularly coming to class.” We know that nationally the COVID pandemic has caused a decline in college enrollment. In the fall 2021 National Public Radio (NPR) reported that “ At U.S. community colleges, the freshman class is now 20.8% below the number for the freshman class in 2019." (Elissa Nadworny, “College Enrollment Plummeted During the Pandemic”) Those of us teaching in community colleges have witnessed this precipitous drop in enrollment and are seeing the negative ramifications for our students. The hallways, once so noisy that I could not teach with my door open, are nearly silent. The cafeteria used to bubble with energy and student activities; most days the space is quiet. Students interact with the receptionist at the COVID check-in point and then go silently to their classrooms. In previous semesters I regularly divided students into groups for discussions and low-stakes classroom-based projects. Being able to have 5-6 groups report to the class on their collective work and findings has provided opportunities to expand students’ perspectives of historical topics. Students benefited from meeting other people in the class and often developed collaborative relationships that helped with exam preparation. I prepped my teaching plans this semester with the hope that while the overall campus population would be smaller, individual classes would feel normal. I was unprepared for the number of students who have left mid-semester. While some have reported changing jobs necessitating a break in their academic plans, others tell me that returning to on-campus learning has been more difficult than they expected. Many dislike leaving home to attend classes after nearly two years of remote learning, while others have found that family and work responsibilities have increased dramatically due to pandemic-related changes. Those students who are coming to campus need to be encouraged to participate in the social engagement component of undergraduate education. This past week our campus hosted two events for students to discuss race relations in the United States. While attendance at the streamed event was significantly higher than the in-person, it was obvious to me as I listened to students’ questions and comments that our young people need to interact more with their peers and their professors, as well people from outside of their college communities who can offer insight into other experiences and viewpoints. The isolation of learning during the pandemic needs to be counterbalanced with encouragement to be interactive. My goal for upcoming course planning is to find more ways for my students to engage with each other, even if the numbers in the classroom are small. Suggestions welcome!
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On March 25th, 1911, a fire kills 146 at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York City. It would become one of the most notorious tragedies in American industrial history. From the devastation stemmed new regulations that aimed to better protect the safety of factory workers.
At the time of the fire, most employees were young women immigrants that worked in true "sweatshop" conditions for extremely little pay, averaged 12 hours a day, and had no days off. It's believed that there were approximately 600 workers when the fire began. With no adequate exit doors, a hose that was rusted shut, 146 people were tragically killed from the fire, jumping, or succumbing later to injuries.
To learn more about this, check out Jo Ann Argersinger's Bedford Series book: "The Triangle Fire, 2e" here: https://www.macmillanlearning.com/college/us/product/The-Triangle-Fire/p/1319048854
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There are no dorms at the community college where I teach, which means students are intensely focused right now on the painfully high price of a gallon of gasoline. AAA puts today’s average in my state at $4.224/gallon, which is just below the reported national average of $4.237. Yesterday we looked at photographs of “Hoovervilles” in United States History II, shanty towns erected by the poor and homeless in the earliest years of the Great Depression. Our discussion was a weave of current events and history as students pointed out that the blame on President Hoover for the 1930s’ economic crisis was not unlike the sentiment of memes, gifs, and social media posts that place responsibility for today’s high gas prices on President Biden. As we reviewed some of the central causes of the Great Depression – over-lending, under consumption, bank failures, etc – it was as if tiny light bulbs were sparking over the heads of my students. Blaming Hoover for all of the economic turmoil that enveloped his administration was too simplistic. We had to look at the big picture. The big picture right now is a complicated mix of domestic and international crises, which include a pandemic that has killed more than six million people worldwide, a war with major international repercussions, and a mounting refugee crisis in Eastern Europe. Trying to help students understand all of these issues is overwhelming, especially given that many spend little to no time outside of school exploring about current events. Sharing links regularly with our students is one easy way to guide them towards credible sources and encourage them to think about world events. Here are two links I’m sharing this week: Lesson of the Day: 'The Invasion of Ukraine: How Russia Attacked and What Happens Next' (New York Times, updated 22 March 2022) provides a list of key questions for students to consider as they seek a greater understanding of the war, including material that exposes students to Ukrainian history and links to other Times articles and editorials. I particularly like the way the site encourages students to share their views of the conflict and to read ideas expressed by other young people. People’s and Government’s Choices to Help Refugees compiled by Facing History & Ourselves offers students examples of ways in which European countries have responded to the needs of Ukrainian refugees and suggests ways that students might reflect on the growing crisis. US history classes might use these examples in conjunction with a discussion of how the nation responded to the challenges faced by refugees during World War II. Finally, this week I’m encouraging all of my students to read or watch news broadcasts about the Senate hearings for Supreme Court justice nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson. Live Streaming of the proceedings provides an opportunity for students to evaluate how our elected officials conduct themselves in public hearings. Asking students to reflect on the kinds of questions posed to the nominee can be an interesting lens into their observations of race and gender dynamics at this critical moment in our national history. While most online news sources offer basic background on the nominee, the Alliance for Justice published a more comprehensive history of Judge Jackson’s work as a lawyer and judge on their website earlier this month. While at times it may feel as if there is simply too much happening in the world for us to introduce more content to our already over-stuffed curriculum, it is essential that we help students to view the context of today's events through the lens of history.
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Will we be seeing you at OAH 2022?
The OAH Conference on American History is the leading conference for American historians and the study of history that occurs in the Spring of every year. We invite all those interested in history to join us in Boston, March 31-April 3. Join us at booth #509 for a demo of Achieve and to request a copy of one of our History products. See you there!
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Who was the real St. Patrick? Was that legend about the snakes true? And why did so many St. Patrick's Day traditions start in America?
Dig a bit deeper into the history of St. Patrick and the origins of St. Patrick's Day HERE !
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I started my US History II class meeting a few minutes late last Thursday so that I could show my students pictures of Lenin’s Mausoleum in Red Square. When I entered the room that morning the group was discussing the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Many had no idea where Ukraine is and few understood the significance of it having once been a part of the Soviet Union. Undoubtedly, the Cold War that clouded my high school years has been replaced in relevance for today’s students by the War on Terror, which for more than twenty years now has dominated American foreign policy. The Lenin’s Mausoleum discussion started because I told the class that in 1989 I had the privilege of traveling to the then Soviet Union with a group of students and teachers from my suburban public high school. I shared that one of the most memorable experiences was waiting in line to pass through the Mausoleum. I can remember my seventeen-year-old self wondering if what I saw in front of me was really the physical remains of one of the founders of the Soviet Union or a wax model put in place to force citizens of the communist nation to pay homage. The students in my high school group debated the legitimacy of the body in the days that followed. We could think of no comparable memorial in the United States and its mere existence fascinated us. To our unsophisticated rationale, the willingness of the Soviet people to honor the remains of Lenin in such a public way seemed to support the arguments of American politicians that people in communist nations did not think for themselves but were, instead, puppets under the control of a brutal political ideology. Years later as a college student studying the history of the Soviet Union I learned that the reality of life under communist rule was far more complicated. I have been thinking about that tip a lot lately because in addition to the Russian cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) our guides brought us to Ukraine to witness life in a Soviet Republic. We toured the city of Kharkiv and saw evidence of Soviet military control in the region. The people were exceedingly friendly, though also desperate for any morsel of life outside of the USSR. I can remember more than once being asked to trade my sneakers or blue jeans for a cheap trinket. The cleaning woman on the overnight train was overjoyed when I gave her my (used) make-up as a tip, and an American dollar was worth far more to a street vendor than the rubles I so carefully counted. Thanks to Google I was able to quickly put pictures of the Mausoleum up on the screen for the class to view, which inevitably led to a series of questions, most of which revolved around “why”: why would a government put a long-dead body on permanent public display? Why would people wait hours to view it? And, most importantly, why did any of what I was saying relate to the current conditions in Ukraine? Truthfully, I assumed when I started my Google search that Lenin had been long buried by now considering the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. I was shocked to find that the body remains on display, a testament to the past and an era I believed had ended, which brings me to my most significant observation of my students’ curiosity: there is so much about world history that is completely disconnected to the lives of today’s students. While they can see up-to-the-minute reports of violence in Ukraine through social media feeds and 24-hour news stations, none of those sources provide the context for the horror currently being unleashed on the Ukrainian people. No social media post adequately explains why the Ukrainian people are so willing to fight, again, in defense of their sovereignty. We, as teachers and historians, must be prepared to help today’s students understand not just the timeline of the Russian invasion but the much longer history of Soviet/Russian aggression in the region. Let’s start sharing resources. Have you found a web site or digital resource that is particularly helpful in explaining the complicated history of Russia and Ukraine? Share here in the comments or email me firstname.lastname@example.org and I will compile a list of resources for a future blog.
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We invite you to watch "Why We Oppose Pockets for Women" A satirical poem by Alice Duer Miller, voiced by Jane Smith, is a delightful and biting satire to kick off Women's History Month. Please enjoy!
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For me, the return to campus after nearly two full years (summer and winter sessions included) of remote teaching has been exciting and somewhat turbulent. While the students are reacclimating to long-standing classroom practices (shutting off cell phones) and adapting to pandemic-related protocols (wearing a mask in class), I’m thrilled to hear my colleague lecturing in the classroom next door. I’m grateful for the enthusiasm of students who are happy to be back in the physical classroom. There seems to be an unspoken joy amongst teachers and students who relish once again being part of a group. In spite of it being my fifteenth year of teaching at the same campus, however, I can’t seem to remember which classroom to go to at 10am on Tuesdays. Twice I have impatiently waited in the hallway outside the wrong room wondering why the students were not vacating the space only to discover that the problem was entirely me. And I find myself struggling with my classroom confidence. After so much time without live human beings in front of me, I’m feeling very self-conscious. Can they hear me through the mask? Can they read my handwriting on the board? Am I talking too fast? Am I talking too loudly? These thoughts rattle through my mind as I try my best to keep students' attention on the course content. Mostly, however, I’m worried about what has been lost by the students over the past two years. At a community college the concept of preparedness and how to overcome gaps in students’ K-12 experiences is under constant discussion. The pandemic has made the challenges we have always faced even more dire and I’m making changes to my syllabus on the fly to adapt to what I perceive as students’ immediate needs. This week, for example, I’m thinking a lot about note taking in advance of the first exam. I’ve distributed a study guide and asked students to bring all of their notes to class tomorrow in hopes that we can identify deficiencies before they spend the weekend engaged in studying. I’m hopeful that by completing practice questions in small groups we can model the upcoming in-class, timed exam experience that some of my students have never experienced at the college level. Stay tuned!
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Black History, Black Stories: Share your story of inspiration!
We tasked students, instructors, and administrators to choose a historical figure or event from African American history and tell us how they draw inspiration from him/her/them/it.
Congratulations to the winners...
View Prisca's submission! View Alex's submission! View Rodeney's submission!
View Carolyn's submission! View Kerima's submission! View Jenell's submission!
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Just before Valentine's Day, 1965, the Supremes released the breakaway-hit "Stop! In the Name of Love" after recording it a month prior. The song skyrocketed on the charts hitting Number 2 on the U.S. Billboard Top 100 and was also a Top 10 hit in the U.K.
The Supremes consisted of Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard. Both the artists and the song's notoriety is often associated with the famous "traffic cop" dance style where the ladies sang the chorus and made the "stop" sign gesture with their hands in tune with the music. The Supremes went on to become one of Motown's leading female groups.
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Last week’s planned return to campus after three and a half semesters of remote teaching/learning was foiled by Omicron. Instead of meeting in person with students, I found myself lecturing to a screen full of black rectangles. Our college will spend the first four weeks of spring semester completely remote. Most of my students, it seems, are fatigued from on-camera class meetings and so it was that I appealed to any last sympathies they might have for their professors. “Please, don’t make me lecture to a screen with black rectangles and face-less names,” I pleaded. “When we meet in person next month it will be much less awkward if we are familiar with each other’s faces.” My pathetic begging resulted in about half the students turning on their cameras. A (very) small victory. This afternoon I participated in a time management seminar for students run by our college tutoring center. While the number of students who attended was small, their willingness to participate in such a program during the second week of the semester reiterates the importance of recognizing that students generally start out the semester hoping for success. Attendees of today’s program, just by being present, were acknowledging the challenge of managing academic demands with family and work responsibilities. Likely they have struggled with balance in the past and are hoping that this semester things will be different. Their presence made me wonder how many of my students are, in fact, engaged in this juggling while their cameras are off during my lectures. In my head I know that there are many reasons students do not turn on their cameras. Perhaps they feel uncomfortable having strangers see into their homes/workspaces. Maybe they are still in their pajamas and sipping their first coffee of the day during my 1pm class. Or they are shy and unwilling to have their images broadcast via the internet into their classmates’ private spaces. Or maybe they are texting or gaming or doing anything but listening to my lecture. I’m trying hard right now to convince myself that it’s not all about me. I have been working with college students since 1994. Nonetheless, the hour before my first remote lesson of this spring semester I was an anxious mess. It was as if I had never taught a class before in my life. Although by this point in the current pandemic I have attended dozens of remote events, I found myself overcome by nerves before opening that first meeting. I played with the backgrounds, adjusted and readjusted my speaker and microphone, and changed my sweater twice. There is something about teaching through the lens of a webcam that is incredibly intimidating even for the most seasoned professional. The screen of black rectangles intensified this anxiety for me: were the students listening and taking notes? Or were they logged in to class but doing something more interesting instead? All of this angst surrounding teaching remotely has made me even more nostalgic for the return to traditional in-person learning. But then, I wonder, how much will have changed? What will the new normal look like? I’m desperate to hear from those of you who are back in the traditional classroom. What has changed? For better or for worse? Please share.
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With so much focus this past year on COVID-19 I asked some of the young people in my life (high school and college-age students) to tell me which news stories from 2021 they wished they knew more about. While we have been necessarily hyper-focused on the pandemic as we live through it day-to-day, what do today's students think future generations will need to know about the year 2021 to fully understand its history? Topping their list of lessons for students of the future is the removal of US troops from Afghanistan and the rebirth of the Taliban. Many young people have never known a time when the US military was not active in the Middle East. For those born after the year 2000, the “War on Terror” is to them what the Cold War was to children of the 1970s like me. While it’s likely that it will likely take decades before historians fully understand what went wrong with US policy in Afghanistan, I’m hopeful that future generations of students will have access to government and military documents that provide a more complete picture of our nation’s policies overseas. The students I spoke with also emphasized the importance of future generations studying the environmental crises of 2021, both natural and man-made. From wildfires, hurricanes and tornadoes to oil spills and air pollution, today’s young people see climate change as a fundamentally important topic of study for their lifetimes. Perhaps more than any generation before, students in 2021 have been charged with generating tangible changes that will benefit the environment. Issues relating to sustainability are becoming part of the business school curriculums and today’s students see the socially active young people of today as critical to the future of our environment’s survival. Finally, I was heartened to hear today’s students emphasize the changes in public discussion about mental health that have taken place around the pandemic and spread into nearly all aspects of American life as critical to understanding the year 2021. One student cited the Summer Olympics as a flashpoint in the way that we as a society talk about stress. US gymnast Simone Biles’s decision to withdraw from competition led to other athletes and nationally known figures publicly acknowledging the mental toll that anxiety, depression, and stress have taken on their lives. The measurable surge in demand for counseling services for people of all ages during the pandemic will add to the importance of future generations looking to 2021 as a time of significant challenges (and hopefully progress) in the field of mental health. Without question, COVID-19 with all of its variants has remained the most talked-about news story of the year. As a nation we’ve debated vaccinations (Moderna v. Pfizer v. J&J) and boosters (which to choose and when). We’ve seen major economic challenges as a result of the virus – job losses and creation, career changes inspired by the pandemic, unemployment, and work-from-home have all been part of public discussion. It could be argued that not one single aspect of American life has been untouched by the pandemic. As the year comes to an end, many of us find ourselves again facing COVID-based restrictions and shutdowns and wondering when this chaos will finally dissipate – hopeful that in 2022 the pandemic will move from being a current event to a topic for the history books. Happy New Year!
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I have the privilege this year of parenting two students in their senior years: one in high school and one in college. As a result, I’m spending a lot of time thinking about higher education and the paths to undergraduate and graduate degrees. In particular, I’m hearing about the stress of making seemingly enormous decisions at the tender ages of 18 and 22. While I’m quite certain my own children are tired of hearing my personal story for the thousandth time, I think as faculty it’s worth sharing with the students in our lives why and how we made the decisions we did regarding education. I can only vaguely recall being a high school senior with a handful of college acceptances. I remember not wanting to move far away from home and knowing with certainty that I would be limiting the number of math and science courses I took to the bare minimum. I emphasize how little I remember about this decision-making process because so many of us as parents and educators want to see young people quickly and assertively make decisions about their academic and career paths. When we reflect on our own, however, we are reminded of how foggy and unclear it all seemed in the moment. As a professor at a community college, I’m perhaps even more sympathetic to the challenges of academic decision making than most parents. I see first-hand, regularly, how the college search process can go wrong. Teaching in a state with a program that offers free community college to recent high school graduates means I have a lot of fresh-faced 18 year olds in my classes each fall. I also, however, work with just as many students for whom the first choice of their college search process did not work out as planned. Students have found themselves too far from home or with financial aid complications or at a university/college that was too big/too small for their learning style. Community college for those students is an opportunity to re-group and re-think their futures. Oftentimes, it is in our classrooms at the community college that these students find the path that they did not know they were searching for. As we approach the semester’s end, let’s do our best as faculty and teachers to help guide our students through the challenges of decision-making and path-building. Being open and honest with our students about the right/wrong choices we made along our own journeys can be enormously helpful to both young people just starting out as well as to those non-traditional college students seeking a life reboot. With all of the stress and challenges facing students today, let’s do our best to show empathy for how difficult it is to make decisions amidst the turmoil of the pandemic. No matter our academic discipline, the students we teach amidst this chaos will remember us in the future for our kindness.
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I recently had the opportunity to view the film “Loving” (2016), a dramatization based on Loving v. Virginia (1967) in which the Supreme Court struck down state laws prohibiting inter-racial marriage. For those who have yet to see the film it is a fictionalized account reportedly inspired by “The Loving Story” (2012), an HBO documentary. In addition to the obvious significance of the case in the history of civil rights, viewing the feature film reinforced for me the many areas of US history that can be enhanced by class discussion of the Loving case. Watching the entire film in class is not always optimal timewise but there are some excellent online resources to introduce the case to the class in its place. Encyclopedia Virginia offers a summary of the key people and events, which can be assigned in conjunction maps and figures documenting the history of interracial marriage in the United States. Both the ACLU and vividmaps.com have accessible visual aids to help students understand the geographical component of the debate. While general histories of the case often portray its importance within the broader movement for civil rights, in-class or online discussions may branch out to include such diverse topics as the civil history of marriage in the colonies and the States, miscegenation laws, the 14th Amendment, and the post-Civil War rise of Jim Crow. Students may also wish to discuss connections between Loving v. Virginia and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which guaranteed marriage equality. The Loving case offers an opportunity for students to talk historically about inter-racial relationships and the challenges faced by black and white families who sought to navigate friendships and marriages amidst brutally restrictive racial customs enforced by state laws. It also sheds light on the hypocrisy of a culture that long accepted sexual assault against black women (free and enslaved) by white men but believed that consenting adults should not have the legal right to create interracial unions. These conversations are no doubt difficult in the classroom but meaningful for students to fully understand the foundations and lasting-legacies of slavery and racism in our national history. I find the Loving case to be particularly relevant to students because, at heart, it is about the right of two people to create a family of their own choosing. It is sometimes easy to lose sight of the human beings behind Supreme Court rulings, but it is these historical actors that many of our students will engage with most willingly. Encourage them to read interviews with Mildred and Richard Loving, and to watch some of the short video clips of news coverage of the case. In learning about this case many students will be able to see connections to their own family histories and to reflect on how their lives may have been different without the end of miscegenation laws that Loving v. Virginia brought about.
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