New methods for hands-on teaching in the history of technology

Awardee: Matthew Hersch (FAS)

Summary: Awardee developed experiential learning opportunities for students in history of technology courses, including in-class demonstration and simulation.

In an effort to demonstrate the continued importance of physical presence and hands-on learning at a time of increasing interest in digital content and online self-directed work, Assistant Professor Matthew Hersch created experiential learning exercises in two of his courses: HS 182 An American Way of War: Technology and Warfare and HS 189 The World We Made: Technology and Society.  

In HS 182, demonstrations of military technologies provided students with an understanding of the hardships of military life, and the very real difficulties of using weapons systems that appear to operate flawlessly in popular movies and on television. Students had the opportunity to examine technological artifacts first-hand, and learn about essential concepts and innovations. In HS 189, students used kits to assemble four historically influential machines (a clock, a loom, a telegraph, and a rocket) out of era-appropriate materials and recreated historical processes. These exercises, in combination with class lectures surveying the global history of technology, afforded first-hand knowledge of historical (and still relevant) technological processes. Graduate students on Hersch’s teaching team gained valuable teaching experience through supervision of projects and interactions with the students.

Building on teaching and learning successes in both these courses, Hersch assembled “Strategies for Interactive Teaching in Lecture Courses” that can be used by others to enhance course offerings and increase both learning outcomes and student satisfaction.