REEL AMERICAN HISTORY AS TEXTBOOK:
The Reel American History archive can be used just as you would a textbook. It collects and organizes information on individual films that you and your students can "take" for use in your classes. If you are studying the period of exploration and discovery, for instance, you might have your students see Ridley Scott's 1992 film 1492: Conquest of Paradise and read Christopher Robe's issue essay in order to open thinking about our construction of heroes and our interaction with Native Americans. Think of our archive, then, as an ever-expanding anthology of readily available material eventually covering the full range of American history that can be drawn on for your specific curricular needs.
REEL AMERICAN HISTORY AS FIRST-STOP RESEARCH RESOURCE:
If your goal is a more active learning experience, a valuable function of our archive might be to lubricate student research, to orient students to available information, and to provide models for their own original work. Our information-rich film projects might help novice researchers get started, might help overcome the inertia of inexperience. For instance, if you wanted students to investigate the image of Columbus -- one of our nation's most powerful patron saints -- you might assign the discussion of heroification in chapter one of James W. Loewen's Lies My Teacher Told Me, have students view Scott's 1992 film and read through the project about it in our archive, view the 1949 Christopher Columbus film, decide which research questions most relate to the assignment, find sound bites that are applicable, and then do a comparison/contrast project that focuses, say, on a common scene such as the portrayal of the hallowed moment of "touch-down" in the New World.
REEL AMERICAN HISTORY AS PUBLISHER OF STUDENT WORK:
We envision the archive growing through the addition of various kinds of high school, college, and graduate student projects, and so, if your goal is a learning experience active and authentic, we suggest you consider the following range of possible activities:
- A new project on a film not yet in the archive: Your students (individually or in groups) might choose an appropriate film using our Films about American History as a guide (see also our advice to students about choosing a film) and contribute a complete project following our Format for Film Projects. We caution, however, that these projects are ambitious in scope, can take considerable student and faculty time, call for a variety of skills, depend on adequate library resources and technical expertise, and might require a special seminar, Independent Study, Honors or Advanced Placement class situation -- or even more than one semester -- to complete.
- An addition to an existing film project: We consider
none of the work on the site as "finished," and contributions to an
existing part of the archive could be of more limited scope than the
previous example and thus easier to accomplish but still be very
valuable. Therefore, students should think of the existing
projects as information bases on which to build, should think of their
authors as team members with whom to collaborate or as representing
opposing viewpoints that need to be tempered or corrected. For
instance, your students could:
- add to the scene analyses and issue essays: We value
dialogue, and we encourage your students to "talk" to the authors
on the site. Thus, we would be especially interested in linking
commentary from your students -- ranging from a substantial paragraph
to a full essay in length -- that provides a "value-added" dimension to
existing work by finding new ways to support existing claims or,
perhaps more importantly, that disagrees or provides a different
perspective. Links could be established at the exact spots in
existing essays where your students would like to comment. See,
for example, the comments on Paul Galante's scene analysis for Cabeza
- add a scene analysis: For example, six additional scene analyses have been added to the one Christopher Robe did when he created the project on 1492: Conquest of Paradise.
- add to the comparison films page: Expanding on an example above, for instance, student work on the 1949 Columbus film could be linked to the citation for it on the Comparison Films page of the 1992 film.
- add even small pieces of reference material: Your students might find insightful additional reviews to annotate, update article and book items, find more web sites, call attention to other comparison films, find or formulate provocative sound bites, and so forth. Every little bit helps.
- add an audio or video link: See Elsie Hamel's "one-woman show" on video as Dorothy Bradford critiquing her role in the movie version of Plymouth Adventure as an idea. Or students might do a sensitive reading of a controversial poem or of a part of the famous feminist tract by Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, the subject of I, the Worst of All. Or gather several people with different perspectives to comment on one scene, say, the Columbus landing. Or expand on the annotation of a book in the bibliography. Or link a stream of consciousness audio response to a particular sound bite, such as the one on #536.
- add to the images: Your students might find a bloodthirsty illustration from an old book on Jesuit martyrs for Black Robe or a New Yorker caricature of cinematic historian Oliver Stone; contribute a revealing photograph from a personal visit to the Custer monument; compose original cartoons, lampoons, parodies; or analyze one of the images in an image gallery.
- point out mistakes for us to correct!
- add to the scene analyses and issue essays: We value dialogue, and we encourage your students to "talk" to the authors on the site. Thus, we would be especially interested in linking commentary from your students -- ranging from a substantial paragraph to a full essay in length -- that provides a "value-added" dimension to existing work by finding new ways to support existing claims or, perhaps more importantly, that disagrees or provides a different perspective. Links could be established at the exact spots in existing essays where your students would like to comment. See, for example, the comments on Paul Galante's scene analysis for Cabeza de Vaca.
We will do our best to find a way to incorporate your student work with proper attribution and credit, so that your students will be visibly recognized as contributors to the mission of the project. To be safe, you should consult with us about your plans beforehand. Naturally, we depend that you will be responsible for quality control on the work your students produce.
REEL AMERICAN HISTORY AS STIMULANT:
In the above examples your student work is governed by our content and format, but we envision, and indeed hope, that visitors to our site will have their imaginations stimulated to create and engage in other projects related to the representation of history. We would be pleased to help increase the value of our site and the visibility of your student work by linking to related projects on your web site.
REEL AMERICAN HISTORY AS BROKER:
An especially intriguing function we might serve would be to bring classes together from different schools, different states, even different countries for peer reviews or even group projects. As interaction with the site grows, we should develop a pool of faculty contacts with complementary interests.