A History Professor Gave Students an Unusual Assignment. Here are the Results.Historians in the News
tags: teaching history, primary sources, coronavirus, COVID-19
Kevin Mitchell Mercer is an adjunct history professor at the University of Central Florida who is now teaching two classes of “U.S. History 1877 to Present.” He has made it a practice to ask his students to select an artifact about their lives as college students that would explain who they are in the future — and now, during the coronavirus pandemic, which has shut down most public life across the country, he has decided to adapt the assignment to the times.
“With covid-19 changing everything for us, I thought this would be a good way to process this experience,” he said.
So he asked them, for extra credit, to select one artifact that a historian 100 years from now could use in an exhibit, and he tweeted about it, saying that the responses were “moving and heartbreaking.” Many students suggested things that are “unfinished,” such as half-empty course notebooks.
“Collectively they show young lives in disruption,” he wrote in another tweet. “I can tell them this will be generationally defining for them, and they can nod in agreement over Zoom, but that realization is still years off. If you have students, just be kind to them right now.”
His initial tweet garnered more than 2,000 retweets, prompting a revealing Twitter conversation among history teachers in K-12 and higher education about this moment and how to capture it for students in class. Below are some of the tweets in that conversation.
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