Topics in World History, 1350-1800: Syllabus

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On this page you will find the syllabus for J. B. Owens' summer 1998 graduate- level professional development course, History 597, TOPICS IN WORLD HISTORY, 1350-1800. The course is designed for secondary school teachers of History and Social Studies. To move to other pages, point and click on the links indicated in this text by special highlighted areas ("hot links"). If you need to contact the instructor, Dr. Owens, you may send an e-mail message to Please include your name and e-mail address in the text of your message.

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Course Description

This course has been developed as part of the COM- IDEAL Project, which is funded by the State Board of Education to explore computer-mediated distance learning as a means to better serve students at widely-scattered, remote sites. The only pre-requisite for the course is the permission of the instructor Dr. J. B. Owens.


Secondary school teachers of History and Social Studies have been thrown onto the front lines of education with very little support. They are expected to provide civic preparation for future citizens of a country and a world seemingly ever more driven by intolerance, brutal oppression, individual greed, and widespread denial of personal responsibility for the future of the commonwealth. They are expected to uphold high curricular standards in a highly-charged context in which many political leaders engage in always-heated and frequently ill-informed debate over what these standards should be. And they are asked to make greater use of instructional technology without adequate training or time to seek materials and prepare lessons and student activities.

TOPICS IN WORLD HISTORY has been designed to provide a supportive environment in which interested teachers can think about how to introduce central global concerns to their students, consider the foundations on which the national history standards have been drafted, and become more familiar with instructional and other professional uses of computer-mediated communications.

The course is devoted to an examination of (1) the nature of global economy and geography; (2) the impact of epidemic diseases and massive ecological change; (3) competition over the development of better military technology and organization; and (4) the effects of largescale human migration (through a focus on the African slave trade and its consequences throughout the Atlantic world). Students will develop a class module on each topic, and each of these modules will address some aspect of the National Standards for World History.

The course is also designed to promote an active and intense dialogue about the difficulties of encouraging student learning at an adequate level for them to be disposed and intellectually prepared to meet their responsibilities as adults.

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Select this item to learn about the class modules which you will prepare for this course.


Select this item to see a list of the books required for this course.
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Online Office Hours

The computer is my ally in promoting dialogue in this course and in providing you with the personal attention you need and deserve (On using the computer network to improve communication between teacher and student, see the comments of James J. O'Donnell.).

Although I will be available for conferences with individual students in my on-line office, sometimes that may not provide sufficient time for us to interact. For example, we both know that often our schedules will not mesh sufficiently for us to have adequate time to sit down for a discussion of your ideas, questions, and projects. The solution: Send your ideas, questions, and problems to my e-mail address, and I promise to respond just as soon as I can. Moreover, by handling the matter in this way, I will have more time to consider what you are saying, check on facts and bibliography, and respond clearly in writing so that you will have a record (I will keep one too). Therefore, you can seek the assistance you need, and you can do so in a way that is compatible with your schedule and life-style.

But it gets better than this. Naturally, I will respond to anything of a personal nature with an individual response to you alone. However, many of your questions and comments, about on-line sources for aspects of your class module designs for example, will be of importance to everyone in the class. Therefore, you will post these messages to a special address from which it will be distributed to me and all other members of the class. The other students and I will do the same with any responses we have to your message. That way I, and you, will derive much more benefit from my interactions with students outside of class. We will be able to have this type of communication because we will all be members of an online discussion list.

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The List

All those whose application for course membership has been accepted have been given a subscription to the class discussion list, and you should have received the automatic welcome message with some instructions for use of the list. If you have not submitted an application to take the course or if you have but haven't received the message welcoming you to the course discussion list, please send me an e-mail message to, including your name and e-mail address in your message text.

Any message sent to the discussion list e-mail address will be sent to the e-mail boxes of all other course members.

This discussion list will not only allow you to raise questions and make comments about reading assignments and classroom activities for which there was too little time in real time ("live") class sessions, it will be vital to the collaborative development of your projects. You are welcome, indeed encouraged, to post statements of your ideas on particular subjects, messages of an informational nature (e.g., about real time meetings among students), and YOUR responses to the questions and requests for help of other students.

Since Internet discussion lists are rapidly becoming a major component of professional communications in all fields, you must learn how to use them well. For suggestions on how to ensure the high quality of your messages and of the responses to them, turn to the page on Using Lists Effectively. You MUST DEVELOP traits that encourage positive forms of interaction among class members if this course is to be a satisfying experience for you and others.

You may also find it intellectually useful and stimulating to join a relevant international list, at least as an observer (a "lurker" in Internet language), and I will advise you on how to find those most appropriate for your needs.

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Our real time ("live") class sessions will take place in the Classroom Building on Idaho State University's on-line campus in the ISU MOO. You will be assigned a character name and password for MOO use. Instructions for connecting to the ISU MOO will be provided, and our first real time meeting, scheduled for Saturday, 30 May, will be a technology training session in the MOO itself. In addition to the formal class sessions, you may find it convenient to use the MOO at other times to discuss the class modules with each other or to meet formally or informally with colleagues from elsewhere. The MOO is designed for these latter meetings, and I am able to facilitate them by admitting teachers who are not enrolled in the course.

For information about the MOO, visit the web site MOO at ISU and read the section about the instructional use of the MOO in my paper History On-line: Teaching on the Internet.

Reading Assignments and Class Topics

Moving to this page will inform you about the temporal organization of the course work.


Your grade in this course will be based on the consistent level of preparation for and quality of participation in the in-class and on-line discussions and on the quality of research, thought, and understanding demonstrated by the class modules you create.

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"One of the most significant facts about us may finally be that we all begin with the natural equipment to live a thousand kinds of life but end in the end having lived only one."
-- Clifford Geertz

You may return to the Topics in World History main page.

All contents copyright © 1998.
J. B. Owens
All rights reserved.

Revised: 18 May 1998