of Dr. Steven L. Berg

Using Film in Contempory World History

After my first class today, I told some colleagues that I was delighted because my contemporary world history class had given me permission to take the approach to the class that I desired.  Often, this would seem an odd thing for a professor to say, but I often negotiate course content and approaches with students.  And today was one of those cases.

After my experience with students really enjoying watching films in ancient world (300, The 300 Spartans) combined with a number of documentaries and short films, I decided to try to use film as a strong component in the course.  Therefore, I decided to use a series of films to give us a starting point to look at various issues and historical periods.

To introduce the concept to students, part of today’s lesson involved screening West Bank Story and then having students discuss it.  I then showed them a series of questions for approaching film; questions I have previously addressed in “Modern History Notes.”

I left the classroom for a bit to allow the students to discuss my proposed approach in private.  They decided to go with the films and, I believe, seemed legitimately excited by the approach.

As the semester progresses, we might make changes in the approach, list of films, or other items.

During one of my classes, a student said that he did not want to sound like a “prick,” but he wondered what advice I would have for students who took a more traditional approach to classes.  I first assured him that this was a very good question.  Then I told him that the first thing was not to try to second guess me; that I did not have some hidden desire that I expected him to accomplish.  I also told him that if he got worried that he should talk to me and that I would reassure him and give him direction.  He seemed satisfied with the answer, but this might be a good topic to develop into an essay that I can give to students at the beginning of future semesters.


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