Leslie Gene Hunter (Texas A & M University-Kingsville)
Publicado en: The Journal of the Association for History and Computing,
Vol. I, No. 1., June 1998
The theme of the inaugural Cincinnati Symposium on Computers and History is "The Future of History in the Electronic Age." It is clear that technological changes are affecting how scholars access information. Historians need to train their students to do research in new ways to deal with the electronic age. As James B. M. Schick explains in his book, Teaching History With a Computer: A Complete Guide for College Professors, technology is providing new links between historians. "With it the relative isolation of scholars and the need for pilgrimages to document repositories may diminish as academia enters the global electronic community that links major corporations and government agencies."1
Great libraries have been at the center of traditional universities, but all students and faculty have not been able to use those resources. Parker Rossman notes in The Emerging Worldwide Electronic University: Information Age Global Higher Education that "one of the signs of the worldwide electronic university is an emerging global electronic research library system that is beginning to increase that use." Although this is only a dream at the present for some countries, "many students and faculty already participate in its beginnings."2
This individual historian is more inclined to look backward than forward, and has no clear vision about what the teaching of history using technology will be like in a decade or two. It is possible, however, to describe the modest changes that have occurred in the teaching of an upper-level class on history research methods at Texas A&M University-Kingsville in just the past three years. The class is not conducted completely "on-line" but has mixed aspects of traditional pedagogy with some necessary emphasis on utilizing computer technology.3
02. Class Organization
The title of the class ("Methods of Historical Research") was chosen to fit the short spaces in the university catalog and in the printed schedules of course offerings. It is somewhat misleading. The class is a compound of three related topics: The philosophy of history, methods of historical research, and the use of computer technology by historians. It is taught only during the Fall semester and meets once a week for three hours in the evening in a networked computer laboratory with access to the Internet.
An attempt has been made to keep the three "threads" of the class--philosophy of history, research methods, and computer lab--as related as possible. For each of the sixteen weeks of the class, the syllabus lists the essays to be read about the philosophy of history, chapters to be read concerning research methods, and the topic to be dealt with in the computer lab. The attempt to relate the three aspects of the course can be seen, for example, in the syllabus assignments and topics listed for the fourth week:
Fourth Class: Tuesday, September 24, 1996
Philosophy of History Discussion:
Augustin Thierry, "National History and Nationalism"
Thomas Babington Macaulay, "History and Literature"
Research Methods: Chapter 4, "Finding the Facts"
Research: Computer Lab--Bibliography Searches on Library Catalogs
During the course of the class discussions, the professor tries to guide the students eventually to consider what the readings and computer activities mean for their individual research project.
03. Philosophy of History
The first major component of the class is about historiography and the philosophy of history. For each week the students read essays by notable historians on topics about the writing of history and share their comments about the readings on a computer "conference."4 Students can use the computer labs on campus or access their account on the university computer from their homes, dorms, or apartments. During the week before the class meeting, the students discuss the readings "on-line." The first two years that the class was taught, the discussions were conducted on a VAXNotes conference using guest accounts on a computer at another university.
For the third year, the Texas A&M University-Kingsville Computer Center established a list ("H-Methods") restricted to members of the class. A considerable lead time is necessary to prepare for teaching such a class. At this university it is necessary to start early to get the computer staff to establish the list before the first class meeting if the students are to get full benefits of the list. It is also necessary for the professor to learn the functions and operations of being a list manager--well before the class starts! During the first class meeting, the first lesson on the computer is to explain e-mail and lists, and to assist the students in subscribing to the H-Methods list.
Each week the professor posts a question concerning one of the essays for the students to discuss for the upcoming week. He usually posts it (distributes it to the list) early on the morning after the previous class. The question concerns some aspect of one of the essays the students are to read for the week. When students log on to the university's computer system, they find the question included in their e-mail. All replies which the students make to the list are distributed to all members of the class. The discussion by the students of the topic is a continuous, asynchronous conversation lasting up to the time of the meeting of the next class. At the end of each week, the postings on the list for that week are archived so the students can retrieve questions or comments on that topic for further reference.
Student participation in the dialogue on the list varies as greatly as if the discussion were held in a traditional classroom. Some students are very active, posting numerous answers and adding questions and comments about postings by other students. Other students are "minimalists" adding only one posting a week. There are interesting variations from the participation expected from students. Some of the students who would usually be outspoken in class discussions are also active on the list. But some articulate students seem uncomfortable about the technology and participate much less on the list than they would in a classroom setting. Most interesting, however, are students who are reluctant to talk in class who became very active in the discussions on the list. The capability of composing their answers, pondering about what they were saying, and then editing their answers before posting seem to make some usually reticent students more willing to contribute. Handicapped students, who might otherwise be self-conscious, have generally been especially active on the list.
The professor observes the discussions on the list, but does not actively participate. Occasionally, he sends e-mail messages to individual students about some aspect of their posting, but does not post comments about an individual student's answers on the list for everyone to see. The discussion is meant to be by and for the students with the professor an omniscient but silent observer. Students often encourage and discourage each other, moving the subject along, eliciting further comments, or bringing the dialogue back to the topic when someone strays. In general, the students are much more civil than discussions on many of the lists on the Internet. Students seem to self-moderate the list themselves. There was only one occasion when a student made a personal, unnecessary, and unacceptable comment--to which several students made replies, discouraging further such comments.
At the beginning of each class meeting, the professor tries to solicit further observations about comments posted during the week. The professor also asks students about their reactions to other aspects of the reading and to the other essays read but not included in the posted question. Some of the students who were reticent "on line" feel more comfortable talking in a classroom setting and actively contribute more to the discussion. Because the students have already written answers to one question about the reading, they seem to have more completely internalized the material. Many seem to know the subject better for having organized and written about the subject. It is as if they had completed a take-home essay examination each week. During the class discussions, the professor asks the students frequently how the topics being discussed relate to their individual research project.
04. Research Methods
A second major component of the class deals with the methods of history research. Each week the class is assigned one or more chapters in a textbook on researching a topic for history.5 Most evenings the students discuss aspects of the readings about doing research and describe progress on their research projects. Each student is expected to research and write a paper on a topic agreed to with the professor as an exercise in philosophy and methods. They are to investigate the topic, locate documents, interpret the information, synthesize their conclusions, and demonstrate their mastery by writing a term paper. This component is expected to be a "history laboratory"--demonstrating that they were familiar with the philosophy of history, history research methodology, and resources available to historians by computer technology.
The professor also assigns himself a research topic so that he can participate in the discussion--describing developments on his project during the semester as the students report on their progress. This is intended to be teaching by example. It is hoped that the students will discover a logic to the professor's pursuing particular avenues of information and will be able to apply the same approaches to their own research. Although it may be embarrassing for a professor to admit that some weeks his research has not been fruitful, it is a valuable and reassuring lesson for students who are just learning about the frustration of research, especially in archives and with primary sources.
To help prepare the students for their research papers, part of one of the early class meetings is a tour of the South Texas Archives (a division of the James C. Jernigan Library on the Texas A&M University-Kingsville campus). The archives are used extensively by many of the history classes as a teaching "lab" for research in history. Over the years a variety of projects have been developed to introduce history majors especially, but even general undergraduate students in U.S. history survey classes, to the qualities and utility of archives. History classes have used the South Texas Archives to research a variety of local subjects: the Kingsville Original Townsite Project,6 The Tombstone project,7 La Castaûa Project,8 and The 75th Anniversary History of Texas A&M University-Kingsville project. Even if students locate archival collections relevant to their topics on the Internet, they still need the skills to locate the specific documents at an archive.
Although students might be familiar with library research techniques, they are usually unfamiliar with archival research which requires different and additional research skills because of the unique way in which the materials are categorized and filed. In addition to the tour of the South Texas Archives, a reading is assigned to the students, "Historians and Archivists: Educating the Next Generation."9 The tour and the reading are intended to give students a better understanding of what they should know about archival practices in order to do research successfully. Lists of potential topics that might be successfully researched in this archives are accumulated with the assistance and cooperation of the archivist. In this way the archivist can be of more assistance in teaching students how to ask for assistance in an archives
05. Computer Technology
A third major component of the class is a weekly laboratory presentation about some aspect of computer technology, followed by a hands-on application of that skill. During the course of the semester, the students are expected to employ e-mail during the list discussions; obtain documents by File Transfer Protocol (FTP) from the National Archives, Library of Congress, Texas State Library or elsewhere; use on-line public access catalogs; subscribe to one H-Net list (in addition to the H-Methods list on the campus); discuss history subjects on Newsgroups; demonstrate Gopher, Archie, Jughead, and Veronica searches; and employ WAIS and WWW searches. The emphasis and examples are on history resources available, not on other amusing but not relevant features of the Internet.
The professor has been interested in finding a book focusing on the history resources on the Internet. For the computer laboratory component of the class, there are many books dealing with the Internet in general which could be used as textbooks. But many of these books are technical, very large, expensive, and often deal with a great deal that is not necessarily useful to history students. For this part of the class there has been no textbook, but there are a series of handouts for the students. By the end of the semester the students will receive approximately thirty-five handouts, totaling one-hundred pages.10
If the topic of the evening is public access catalogs, for example, approximately thirty minutes will be devoted to an explanation and demonstration by the professor followed by a step-by-step handout for the students to access several catalogs. One handout includes the steps to access the University of California System (MELVYL) and other university catalogs. At first the students are taught to telnet to the libraries because many are able to connect to the university's computer from home, but lack PPP accounts. Later in the semester, they access the catalogs using Netscape Navigator and the World Wide Web. During the practice session following the professor's demonstration, the students search MELVYL for books relevant to their personal research subject and e-mail the results to themselves as a beginning for their bibliography.11 Another handout is devoted to doing periodical literature searches in Wilson indexes at the Texas A&M University Library and in UnCover at CARL (the Colorado Alliance of Research Library).12
Because the students are doing original research on limited local topics so that the documents will be available in the archives, most of their sources are not found "on-line." Much of the background and larger context for their topic, however, is found in the library catalogs, databases, or other information on the Internet. As archives continue to automate, more documents will be electronically available in the future, from even the smallest archives.
Each class session covers topics on the philosophy of history, methods of research, and computer resources for historians. The syllabus lists the philosophy of history readings, topics to be discuss about research methodology, and computer activities for each class. There is at least one step-by-step handout for each evening's class dealing with the computer lab topic for the student to add to a ring binder. In addition to the step-by-step computer handout, frequently there are handouts on other relevant topics. Some examples from the syllabus of the subjects and activities for some typical weeks:
Fourth Class: Tuesday, September 24, 1996
Philosophy of History Discussion:
Augustin Thierry, "National History and Nationalism"
Thomas Babington Macaulay, "History and Literature"
Research Methods: Chapter 4, "Finding the Facts"
Research: Computer Lab--Bibliography Searches on Library Catalogs
Sixth Class: Tuesday, October 1, 1996
Philosophy of History Discussion:
Henry Thomas Buckle, "Positivistic History and Its Critics"
Karl Marx, "Historical Materialism"
Research Methods: Chapter 6, "Handling Ideas"
Research: Computer Lab--Armadillos, Gophers, and Javelinas
Ninth Class: Tuesday, October 22, 1996
Philosophy of History Discussion:
G. M. Trevelyan, "Clio Rediscovered"
Henri Berr, "Specialization and Historical Synthesis"
Research Methods: Chapters 10-11, "Plain Words" and "Clear Sentences"
Research: Computer Lab--Archie, Jughead, and Veronica
It is not possible to perfectly match the three components of the class for each evening. For the fourth week, the overall topic deals with sources. An essay on "History and Literature," a reading on "Finding the Facts," a discussion of documentation, and a computer search of public access catalogs work well for one evening session.
The students begin with an "on-line" discussion of the essay by Macauley on "History and Literature" in the week before the class meets. When the class meets, there is a review of the list discussion. The next part of the class that fourth class evening is an analysis of documents. There are three handouts: two handouts on documents and one handout about connecting to public access catalogs. The professor introduces the students to the section on "Teaching With Documents" in the publication of the National Council for the Social Studies Social Education. He distributes to the students a copy of General Dwight D. Eisenhower's D-day message to General Marshall," June 6, 1944.13 Another document distributed is an account of the confession of a young French woman accused of witchcraft in 1652.14 The class analyses the documents, considers problems of using sources, and then also discusses the information in the textbook on "Finding the Facts."15
For the last part of the class, the students practice telnetting to the library catalogs of the University of California, Dartmouth, Harvard, Texas A&M University, and the University of Texas.16 Computer addresses can change quickly and the ones included in a handout one semester often become outdated by the next time the class is taught. The emphasis in this exercise is upon doing literature searches for research topics. Obviously, other public access catalogs could be used instead of the ones noted above. Frequently the professor asks the students to consider how to apply what they have just learned to the data they are locating for their individual research project.
06. Other Computer Lab topics
Class discussions of essays by historians and of research methodology are traditional for such a course and do not need further elaboration. The computer laboratory emphasis upon on-line resources for historians is not so traditional. On one evening the computer lab segment of the class deals with the topic of File Transfer Protocol (FTP). The students connect to computers at remote sites such as the University of North Carolina, Library of Congress, Marshall University, Mississippi State University, and elsewhere to retrieve documents.17 In addition to the step-by-step handout for that evening class, a copy of an article by Michael J. McCarthy, "The Historian and Electronic Research: File Transfer Protocol (FTP)" is distributed to students.18 Another laboratory session deals with lists and listservs, and the students subscribe to one of the H-Net lists appropriate for their interest in history. The professor gives a lengthy description, distinction, and warning about the difference between the list and the listserv. One handout for that evening is a copy of the article on "H-Net lists" in History Microcomputer Review by Kelly Woestman.19 In late October, the computer lab exercise deals with Web sites, and the examples used that evening are timely, dealing with the Presidential election. The class uses Professor Woestman's article on political candidates, parties, and political issues Web sites and Newsgroups.20
The students also learn how to telnet to sites which have a menu of options so that the student can connect to many different libraries in the United States and at universities in foreign countries.21 At Texas A&M University-Kingsville, the majority of the students in this class are Mexican-Americans, bilingual, and many are interested in Latin American history. They learn how to log on to the Rio Grande Freenet and to use it as a convenient gateway to Latin American sites through the Latin American Network Information Center (University of Texas).22
On another evening, the lab is devoted to Archie, Jughead, and Veronica searches. A demonstration is given in which "Veronica" at Universidad Nacional Autùnoma de MÄxico (UNAM) is used to search for everything in which the word "museum" appears in the title. After several minutes, Veronica displays the first 200 items, but also shows that she had located a total of 3,582 sites, including: Maritime Museum of the Great Lakes, Gold Prospector Museum, National Railway Museum . . . . The students then spend the rest of the lab session trying Archie, Jughead, and Veronica searches of their own. During the course of their explorations, the students search for their individual research topics by searching for "slavery", "railroads", "Civil War", "ranching", or some other relevant term.
For one evening session, the handout is devoted to "virtual reference desks." There are many, many sites and routes to those types of resources. The example used is to access some of the resources through the Rio Grande Freenet. From that base, the students examine dictionaries, encyclopedias, U.S. Census Data, Project Gutenberg, the Complete Works of Shakespeare, and so on.23
The computer lab session devotes an evening to an introduction to the World Wide Web. Web sites are popping up overnight like mushrooms. It is not possible for this paper to include an extensive list because there are so many, and new ones are being added daily.24 The students receive a handout of several sites to visit and are encouraged to explore for sites relevant to their topics. There is too much to cover more than just a basic introduction to each type of activity, such as FTP, Gopher, or WWW in each computer lab. For each of the topics introduced in the computer lab sessions, it is expected that the student will continue to explore this aspect of technology for historians in the week following the class and throughout the remainder of the semester.
Sites on the Internet and the technology to access them change so fast that handouts become dated before the next time the class is offered. The handouts used in the Fall 1994 semester were seriously dated by the Fall 1996 semester. The professor would like to prepare all handouts before the class begins so that students can purchase a complete set from a photocopy-store across from campus. It has proved almost impossible to prepare that far ahead for the class. Handouts prepared for a specific topic in the summer, when the professor has the "leisure" to review the overall organization and materials for the class, have become partially obsolete by the time the class session devoted to that topic meets in November or December.
07. Future Teachers
Because many of the students will ultimately obtain certification and become secondary school teachers, useful teaching resources are pointed out during the computer lab. One evening the computer lab segment of the class explores Gophers and the handout is entitled--"Gophers, Armadillos, and Javelinas." The "Javelina Gopher" is the name for the Gopher of Texas A&M University-Kingsville (the Javelina being the school mascot). "Armadillo" is the name of the Texas Social Studies Gopher.
After the professor describes and demonstrates Gophers to the class, the students are given a step-by-step handout taking them to "All the Gopher Servers in the World." From there they access "AMI--A Friendly Public Interface" where they explored "History" with sub-topics on Genealogy, Historical Documents (Queens City Public Library), History (University of Virginia), Library of Congress (LC MARVEL), North Carolina State University Library Gopher; RiceInfo (Rice University), Texas A&M, Washington & Lee University, and so on. From the Javelina Gopher the students are shown how to go to the Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit; Holocaust Archives; Soviet Archives; Vietnam Era Documents, and etc. The Armadillo has a variety of projects and files useful for secondary social studies teachers. There are directories and sub-directories on Library Services and Resources; Super Projects!!!; Texas History and Geography; Famous Texans and Immigrants to Texas; Multicultural topics; Texas Community Profiles; and, other subjects.25
This secondary emphasis upon how students can utilize some of the resources for teaching public school social studies classes recognizes that many history majors will become school teachers. While the students explore Web sites, several examples of possible "virtual field trips of museums" are given--such as the Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institute--which would be suitable for junior high school students.26
One computer lab session devotes a considerable amount of time to the use of simulations for teaching. A copy of the current issue of History Computer Review is shown to the students. Examples of software programs and CD-ROMs are described and the literature survey section of articles relevant historians is pointed out to the students. For example, the Spring 1996 issue of HCR contained sixteen reviews. After a description of some of the reviews, a number of software programs and CD-ROMS are demonstrated to the class and the students spend a major part of one evening exploring those programs. The students also learn that there are numerous postings during any week on the "H-Net List for Teaching College History and Related Fields" which are helpful to teachers. During the course of the semester, the professor forwards interesting and relevant postings from some of the lists to which he subscribes to the H-Methods list to be distributed to the e-mail box of each student in the class.27 Reviews of new software, notices of new Web sites, or references to sources of information for research are the subjects most often "forwarded" to the H-Methods list.
The next Fall semester when the class is offered, there are other topics which can be added to these dealing with teaching. For example, reviews of Web sites, which will become a feature of History Computer Review, can be shown to the students so they can see reviews of sites relevant to historians.28 In addition, students in this class can also receive a copy of a recent article which shows them how to set up a history based Web site for their students when they become teachers.29 There is also a template for students to build their own Web page, which can be shown to these future teachers.30 Undoubtedly, there will be new Web sites which will be of use to history students doing research which will be added in the upcoming months.
08. Research Paper
The topic of each student's research paper is posted on the H-Methods list, distributed in a handout, and mentioned frequently during the weekly discussions. Therefore, each student quickly learns what others in the class are researching. The computer lab seems to provide for more collaborative learning than a traditional class. It is obvious that those students more comfortable with the technology help the less "computer literate." But as the semester progresses, as they discover Web sites, bibliographies, lists, and so on. All students share them with their classmates. There seems to be considerable help by students on their research topic. There is more cooperation, source sharing, suggestions by students for each other than in classes without the computer.
They share with each other not only during the class evening meeting, but also during the week. The university archivist has observed students pointing out to their classmates file folders and boxes of information relevant for their research. Some students have asked the archivist to point out certain documents when a specific classmate shows up at the archives. Students share information on the "H-Methods list to all in the class, and individually by sending personal e-mail messages directly to each other. When the student mentions a problem in research to the professor, he often is able to refer the student to a classmate doing research on a tangential topic.
Students submit a rough draft of their research paper the tenth week of the semester. The professor makes substantial suggestions, deletions, additions, and corrections to the papers and returns them to the students. All students rewrite their papers and submit the final version on the fourteenth week of the class. Some students are asked to make additional changes and submit their papers to a scholarly journal to see if they can be published. Although it is not expected that each of the students who submit their papers for publication will be successful, it is an opportunity for the professor to convince those students to do one additional rewrite. Some of the students have been successful in having their research papers published,31 and one of the sample research projects which the professor was doing at the same time that the students were doing their papers has also been published.32 The paper demonstrates the extent to which the student has learned about the philosophy of history and the methods of history research, and counts for one-half of their grade for the semester.
09. Final Examination
The final examination is a "scavenger hunt" on the Internet. To prepare the students for the final exam, there is a sample Internet scavenger hunt during the twelfth meeting of the class. For the practice session, all the students have the same scavenger hunt questions, are permitted to use their handouts, and are encouraged to cooperate and assist each other if necessary. The practice Internet Scavenger Hunt includes seven items: a literature search for a book on a public access catalog; a bibliography search for an article; a Gopher search for an oral history article; the retrieval of a document from the Soviet Archives; a search for an historical document at the Library of Congress; a Veronica search of Gopher space for a subject; and a Web search for an article. The students compose answers to the questions and e-mail their answers to the practice final exam to the professor.
The actual final examination is individualized for each student and is distributed to the student and submitted by them through e-mail. Students are not to share information during the actual final. The student is required to write an essay about some question concerning the philosophy of history, retrieve documents from a remote site, do a bibliography search in an on-line library catalog, and answer questions from information at the National Archives. The bibliography questions are related--at least slightly--to the individual student's research project. For example, one student was asked to identify when Abraham Hunter purchased land in Illinois and what price did he paid per acre.33
The grade for the class is weighted for different components of the class. The student's class participation and discussions count for 10%; the quality and quantity of the student's weekly participation on the H-Methods list 25%; the Final Examination 15%; and the research paper is worth 50% of the grade.
This class continues to evolve. Surely, next Fall semester there will be further changes, perhaps different textbooks, and new handouts. The search for the perfect textbook is never ending--like the quest for the Holy Grail. Several new books have been published recently that can be selected as a textbook for the computer lab sessions. In future years there can be a decrease in the number of handouts distributed. One new book appears to be an especially good textbook candidate for the computer lab part of the class--The History Highway: A Guide to Internet Resources.34 There is also a briefer book, History on the Internet: A Student's Guide, which comes "bundled" with a freshman survey textbook, which offers a short introduction to the subject.35 One new introduction to locating information on the Internet, is also brief enough to be suitable as a general textbook for the computer lab--NetResearch: Finding Information Online.36
For the introduction to historiography and the philosophy of history component of the class, there are other possible textbooks than the selection of readings from historians. A brief introduction, History and Historians: A Historiographical Introduction, could be used.37 A more substantial textbook, Historiography: Ancient, Medieval, & Modern, could also be used.38 Undoubtedly, there are other books which could be selected, or a series of articles assigned for readings. Whatever the readings, the most important aspect is to get the students to read, reflect, comment, discuss, and inwardly digest the information about the nature of history--and incorporate that into their own research.
For the first two years, the professor printed out the VAXNotes discussion at the end of the semester and gave a spiral-bound copy to each student. This gave the students the opportunity to look back over the topics discussed and to see their own answers to each question. But the number of students taking the class has increased, and the volume of student discussion on the H-Methods list is so high that it would require approximately thirty copies of over one-hundred pages in length. It was useful, the first two years, to look back at the progression of the postings by the students. It surprised the students to see how their discussions became more sophisticated, confident, and lengthy as they became comfortable with the computer technology.
The rapidly evolving technology will surely continue to cause annual changes in such a course dealing with the use of computers by historians. In just three years, there have been shifts in emphasis. The use of FTP, Gopher, Archie, Jughead, and Veronica were dealt with more the first two years and considerably less the third year. The World Wide Web was dealt with less the first year and more each year thereafter. Surely that trend will continue.
Technology poses some new problems and challenges for a class taught in a computer laboratory setting. In none of the first three years this course has been taught have the computer facilities been close to ideal. The lab should be physically arranged so that the students can work at individual computers and also see a projected display from the computer on which the professor is demonstrating. Lacking such an arrangement can be extremely frustrating, forcing the professor to move from computer to computer to demonstrate the same operations repeatedly. An arrangement of computers in carrels, with limited visibility of the rest of the lab, is an especially difficult environment in which to teach this type of class. It is desirable that there be one computer for each student. The success of the class enrollment has reached the point where either two sections of the class must be offered or else students will have to "share" a computer, a much less desirable development for demonstrating "hands on" type of activities. Teaching any such course will be considerably affected by the laboratory situation, layout, computers available, networking, and resources available through the specific university computer center.
There are new computer and electronic version of ancient problems professors have always faced. Using technology permits students to stray from the topic under discussion in new ways. There are now electronic methods of passing notes, and other computer variations of deviant classroom behaviors. Inappropriate e-mail messages, not related to historical topics, can easily be sent by students in the class. The content of some of the e-mail messages in the class apparently are not related to the subjects of philosophy of history or research methodology. On occasion, students seem to exchange jokes and distribute other interesting postings found on the Internet which they usually do not share with the professor! There can be searches on the World Wide Web for topics not suitable or at least irrelevant to history subjects being discussed. Students are extremely versatile in finding unusual Web sites. On occasion, students have accidentally blundered into material on the Internet which was offensive or embarrassing to them.
Some students begin the class seriously advantaged by being computer literate. By the end of the semester, the advantage seems to be less serious. The majority of the students seem to catch on relatively quickly, especially being assisted by their peers. Most students do not seem to be intimidated by the technology. The students look forward to the class, even though it is a required course for all history majors. The class has increased in size each year because several non-history majors have been opting to take the class as an elective.
Students definitely enjoy the technology, even those who begin with a limited knowledge about computers. The subjects of researching and writing papers is something they have been exposed to in the other history classes, but without the computer research component utilized in this class. The students come to dislike--and do not well anticipate--the length of time it will take to do the research for their paper. There are new electronic distractions and ways to procrastinate. The "Emerging Worldwide Electronic University" shares some of the same problems as the older traditional universities.
The global electronic university poses new challenges for historians. Different topics and approaches need to be included in classes to teach undergraduate majors the craft. The class described above has changed each of the three years it has been taught in a computer lab setting. This is only a modest beginning. A decade from now it will certainly be even more different. The changes are so relentless, that one author has noted that there are over one thousand new Web sites being added to the Internet each day!39 The "search engines" used on the Internet when the University of Cincinnati holds its 10th Annual Symposium on Computers and History will probably make those currently used seem primitive. A decade from now, the topics in the class described above will surely seem laughable and perhaps even quaint.
Historians must prepare the next generation of students, especially those who will become teachers themselves, to be comfortable with new ways of doing research and locating information. Historians do not have the luxury of simply ignoring the Internet. As one historian noted: "The resources are too rich and valuable." There are documents, databases, Web sites, library catalogs, electronic journals, and lively discussions by scholars and students of history. "The Internet is quite simply the most revolutionary storehouse of human knowledge in history."40 There is, in fact, what Parker Rossman has labeled an "emerging global electronic research library system" emerging.41 James B. M. Schick concluded his work on Teaching History With a Computer with the observation:
The sooner historians take up the challenge of computer-assisted instruction, the more effectively will they reach today's students. By pressing for the establishment of computerized links among historians and with primary and secondary sources, history professors will significantly improve research possibilities for themselves and their students and discover new ways to disseminate their findings. The use of simulations and other techniques to recreate the past will broaden the discipline's appeal and reveal new fields for scholarship. Finally, the computer offers historians the opportunity to improve the communications and cognitive skills of students, a task both important and necessary to society and the university.42