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An enterprising group of 700 teachers recently completed an innovative online graduate course, “Understanding Lincoln,” presented jointly by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the House Divided Project at Dickinson College. The results of this project now appear in a diverse and thoughtful collection of research and teaching tools. Registration for the second phase of “Understanding Lincoln” will open on March 15, 2014.
“Understanding Lincoln” began as a fall semester 2013 online course that attracted a cohort of 100 participants pursuing graduate credit from Dickinson College and an additional 600 auditors from four continents. Dickinson College history professor and noted Lincoln scholar Matthew Pinsker was the instructor. The Gilder Lehrman Institute’s director of digital projects, Lance Warren, served as course producer.
Participants engaged in live seminar sessions and interactive field trips, viewed an expert panel on Lincoln’s legacy televised by C-SPAN, and a special exhibit on the Gettysburg Address created for the Google Cultural Institute. Three participants also received an all-expenses-paid trip to Gettysburg for the 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, where they presented their final course projects during an open online session. All course participants were encouraged to 1 of 3 contribute close-reading content to a growing archive of web-based resources created during the course sessions. These tools were designed to align with the new Common Core State Standards. Perhaps most importantly, more than 50 course participants became contributing editors to a new, award-winning website devoted to promoting the teaching of Lincoln documents in the K-12 and undergraduate classroom.
EDSITEment, a project of the National Endowment for the Humanities featuring excellent online humanities content, ranked “Lincoln’s Writings: The Multi-Media Edition” as one of the “Best of the Humanities Web” in November 2013. These contributing editors, now rightly recognized as public historians, are bringing back to classrooms around the world not only their own insights, but also those of hundreds of colleagues. With “Understanding Lincoln” and the “Lincoln’s Writings” site, a new community of Lincoln scholars is born.
Course participants have been quick to praise the effort. “The rigor and intellectual engagement of this course was very impressive, as was the work of the other participants,” noted Emily Trono, a high school English teacher from Boston who earned graduate credit for the course. Woody Woodruff, a lifelong learner from New York participating in the free, open section of the course, found the process unique and profound. “I learned about Lincoln and the Civil War Era,” he reflected, “but I also discovered the power of learning through original source material, and that online courses can be a lot more interactive than I expected.” “I have seen the future,” Woodruff wrote, “and it is ‘Understanding Lincoln.’” The Gilder Lehrman Institute and Dickinson College will offer “Understanding Lincoln” again this summer, with registration opening on March 15.
The work of “Understanding Lincoln,” especially through the ongoing development of the new multimedia edition of “Lincoln’s Writings,” represents a new chapter of Lincoln scholarship driven by teachers, guided by historians, and assertively exploring the future of the president’s past.
The best projects from the “Understanding Lincoln” course are available here: http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites/lincoln/understanding-lincoln-project-gallery/
To view the exhibit on “Lincoln’s Gettysburg Addresses” featured at the Google Cultural Institute, go here: https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/exhibit/lincoln-s-gettysburg-addresses/wReow-98
About the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
Founded in 1994, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is the nation’s leading nonprofit provider of K–12 teacher training and classroom resources. Our programs promote excellence in the teaching and learning of American history. Gilder Lehrman programs include Teacher Seminars, a national Affiliate School Program, online courses, Traveling Exhibitions, online materials, and more for teachers, students, and the general public. Visit www.gilderlehrman.org to learn more.
About Dickinson College
Dickinson College, founded in 1773, is a highly selective, private residential liberal-arts college known for its innovative curriculum. Its mission is to offer students a useful education in the arts and sciences that will prepare them for lives as engaged citizens and leaders. The 180-acre campus of Dickinson College is located in the heart of historic Carlisle, Pa. The House Divided Project at Dickinson, directed by history professor Matthew Pinsker, specializes in building digital resources on the Civil War era for K-12 and undergraduate classrooms.
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