Lucinda Matthews-Jones: Facebooking the Past

Roundup: Talking About History
tags: social media, digital humanities, Chronicle of Higher Ed., Lucinda Matthews-Jones, facebook, ProfHacker

Lucinda Matthews-Jones is a lecturer in history at Liverpool John Moore (UK), where she teaches nineteenth-century British History. Details of her research can be found on her profile. She also blogs and co-edits the Journal of Victorian Culture: She tweets from @luciejones83.

Digital databases have provided scholars with new ways to access source material. Have we been quick enough to extend these benefits to our students? As a history lecturer, I am keen to encourage students to get their hands dirty by exploring a number of different kinds of primary source databases. Just before Christmas, I decided that I wanted to use digital sources in a different way. I wanted my students not just to find source material but also to use it, digitally, in ways that showed their understanding of lecture topics.

There was also a practical reason for this change of gear. Having recently been appointed to a new lectureship, I was faced with a new challenge: how to devise a 28 week long nineteenth century gender history module that would not necessarily rely on the traditional lecture/seminar format that I had been used to.

What should I do? I stumbled on the idea of using Facebook as a way of providing relief from the traditional lecturing format. Facebook, as its website declares, “is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. People use Facebook to keep up with friends.” It might seem odd that I should decide to use Facebook in a classroom. Surely, you might think, my students should keep their Facebook socialising to their own time. And, as Jason wrote about a few years ago, students often regard academic use of Facebook with mistrust. However, I realised that Facebook would in fact be an interesting format through which to explore primary sources....

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