This weekend I had the pleasure of presenting and leading a discussion about the gaps between secondary and higher education in history. I traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan to present at the Great Lakes History Conference. History teachers and professors from all over the U.S. attended and shared their thoughts concerning attempts to bridge the gaps. It came to light that many secondary educators feel they are required to “edutain” rather than educate. The issue is; however, that once students get to higher education, they are not used to the university style of learning. They do not understand how to take notes, analyze, synthesize or read scholarly work. Most importantly, they have not learned any sort of reading stamina. It seems the disconnect between high school and college is getting wider and wider. Dialogue between the 20 or so people in our session was interesting, but I am not sure conclusions were drawn about how to solve these issues.
In the evening, conference attendees listened to a keynote presentation by Dr. Mark Carnes of Barnard College and Columbia University. He presented on replacing rote memorization with games to understand history. It became clear rather quickly that the audience was filled with gamers of all kind. People clearly understood history through the lens of gaming, and perhaps this was the new way to learn. Dr. Carnes lectured on the changes in academia and the student expectation of universities. He gave a convincing argument for why games could replace lecture; however, he was an incredibly engaging lecturer himself.
As education shifts and the expectation of students changes, secondary educators and professors must keep up in order to stay relevant. In order to keep the study of history as important as it was hundreds of years ago, we should not do what we have always done, but we must embrace the times and instruct in a way that holds the attention of young people. Rigor and relevance are key, but when students have a relationship with the material, they are more likely to embrace it.