Read this first – 1101 – Fall 2019


Welcome to History 1101

This document is long, but essential reading if you want to learn about the past (and pass this class). We are going to be doing history, digital history, in ways that are both familiar and foreign to you. As a course in 2019, we can take advantage of new ways of doing history. Much of the basics of history haven’t changed: we still look at sources from the past, draw relationships between those sources, and then make arguments about why things happened to different people at specific times.

Two major changes have transformed history in the last decade. Our way of getting at the past, our toolbox, has added a digital component that expanded the amount of information available exponentially. Before we had books, and museum objects, and pictures, and letters and all sorts of other physical stuff. And all that stuff was in museums and archives. Now, we have all that, and new digital tools that give users greater access to the stuff we had before, and new ways of understanding it. For example, go here. 10 years ago we simply couldn’t do this type of analysis. Now you can read a letter from a ruler to his wife in which he says it took him 15 days to go from Constantinople to Rome and you can ask "was the noblemen telling the truth?" We can ask different questions with different tools.

More importantly, there is now more inaccurate history available than accurate history. The internet, especially social media, spreads historical lies, incredibly. It used to be you worked very hard to find a source about a topic you were researching, say a book on the Tang dynasty. Now, your work is far lower to find information, but sorting credible from non-credible information presents significant challenges.

_We will spend a great deal of time making you information and digital literate, that is able to operate in digital spaces as critical thinker. __

So, we are going to use a bunch of new digital tools this semester. One advantage of this approach is that everything I want you to use is: free, web-based, and user-friendly. As long as you can use a web-browser, you can use this semester’s digital tools. I assume you can successfully navigate a web browser: that’s it.


Our course begins officially today. I’ll walk you through the course design below and encourage you to poke around our course page and our D2L page and get comfortable with the two. More on why the two pages below. For my online-only students, you can also start posting to our opening introductory discussion board.

By way of introduction, my legal name is David, but everyone calls me Jack. If you feel the need, you can address me as professor Norton, but I’m not terribly formal. I’ll address you by your first names, unless otherwise directed and, most importantly, I’ll always address you respectfully.

I’ve been teaching at Normandale since 2009. I taught at the "U" while getting my Ph.D. in history, and have since taught on the south side of Chicago for two years before returning to MN to settle down. On that note, I’m a dad of a elementary-age kids.

Course Design

The syllabus and grade plan have been posted to our course page. Grades will be recorded in D2L

I am hosting our course on my own server. Doing so allows you (and your friends, family, whomever) open access to our material beyond the two years Normandale supports on D2L. Putting our course on the open web also lets me design a web site that includes only that which is useful for learning.

There are some things that I do need D2L, Normandale’s course management system for, mostly due to legal requirements. Anything having to do with your grades is protected by the Federal Education Rights Privacy Act (FERPA). So, you will submit assignments through D2L, check grades –and discuss readings for my online-only students- on D2L because all of those parts of our course need the extra security provided by D2L.

In addition to our course page, I’m also posting all of our class materials (assignments, syllabus, grading rubrics) on Github. Github is a repository, or file library. Should you ever wish to use what I’ve created for this class for your own purposes, you can get the original files on my Github page.

As a general road map of the class, each week , our class will have five components:

  1. Opening quiz. This quiz will be open book and include both multiple choice and a short answer question. The purpose of this quiz is to ensure your reading is done before we begin working on the Lab and to gage your learning of key historical concepts. I’m trying to understand what you know, not trying to grade the extent of your knowledge, so the majority of your score for the quiz is that you completed all of it with a good faith effort.
  2. Lab Experiment. These are mini-projects that structured around questions. The complete project (or a link to it) will be posted to the Lab discussion board. Please note that the discussion board is an open web space, so other students will be able to review your work.
  3. Lab consultation. As you do your lab, I will ask you to talk with other students about your process. You will share insights on what is working and what is not, ask questions of other students, and consider how best to accomplish the projects. Consultations are "how-do-I do this" conversations. The consultations will take place in class for face-to-face students and in the discussion board for online students.
  4. Lab reflection. Your reflections will be in the Reflection discussion board. You will respond to the original prompt each week. This is a private space that is not open to other students for you to reflect on your learning in an honest way.
  5. Closing quiz. This quiz is a short answer question only and gages your learning of a key historical concept.

I’ll open the opening quizzes on Thursday at noon and it will close on Sunday night at 8 p.m. You can take the quiz twice and D2L will record the average of your two scores. I use quizzes to ensure you’ve read, not to ensure you’re a master of this week’s readings. If you can remember the main themes of the reading, you’ll be great. Looking up the answers to questions during the quiz will not allow you enough time to complete all the answers. Your lowest two quizzes will be dropped from your total quiz grade.

IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT QUIZZES: Your opening quiz is for the readings for the following week! So, you will take the quiz on the readings for Week 3 at the end of Week 2. Much as you need to practice a sport or an instrument before a game or recital, so too do you need to read our materials before you can do the assignment for the week. Your closing quiz tests your ability to use historical thinking.

A note on technology:

For reasons of economy, future-proofing, and personal preference, everything your write for this course will be in in plain text in the Markdown syntax. I assume you have no experience using either, and so will train you in our first two weeks of class. You will be shocked how fast and easy writing in plain text is and how much easier your life can be without dealing with expensive software or fussing with formating. By learning to write in Markdown you are learning to create web pages that are Americans with Disabilities Accessible, which is a valuable skill for many future jobs.

In addition, you’ll need to sign up for accounts with a limited number of web pages, such as google, to complete work for this course. I’ll walk you through it slowly and with plenty of time before you need to use the accounts. All the web services we’ll be using are free. I assume you know nothing about any website we’re using, and will train you accordingly.

For the content of the course, we are going to cover from around prehistory to around 1400. I assume you’ve had no college history and no world history, so this is a true introduction to both subjects. All readings and films will be in English, although you are welcome to use other language skills if you have them. I designed the course to prevent any single grade from ruining a final grade. My experience is that students who stay up on the readings, participate in discussions, and turn their work in on time have few problems in my courses. Those students who check out for even a short period struggle. I cannot emphasize this enough: you must submit regular work and check in regularly in this class or you will likely fail. Please see here if you are unsure if online education is for you.

First assignments:
  1. Read the syllabus.
  2. Tell me something about yourself in my get-to-know ya form.
  3. Take the get to Opening Quiz 1, which is a Syllabus scavenger hunt to familiarize you with our syllabus course.
  4. Start reading the course readings and taking the quizzes as indicated in the schedule.

REQUIRED PICTURE: It would be useful to me if you could load a picture of yourself, or an avatar into D2L so that we can all get to know you. Please do not post pictures of multiple people, such as you and your friend, a parent, or child. It can be confusing (who am I looking at?) and posting others’ pictures should generally include their written consent. Your picture will be visible to other students and in your other courses.

Looking forward to meeting y’all!