Mary Washington Alum and the Holocaust Museum

In today’s New York Times, there’s an article about a collection of photographs from a Nazi concentration camp. What makes these pictures unusual is that they’re of the camp’s SS officers relaxing in various ways which seemingly ignore the atrocities of which they’re a significant part. The contrast is chilling and alludes directly to what Hannah Arendt described as the “banality of evil.” The US Holocaust Memorial Museum has an online exhibit dedicated to the images here.

I bring this up on this blog because I wanted to share these striking images, but also because the first name mentioned in the story is a former star student from MW, Rebecca Erbelding, a History and American Studies double major who did her senior thesis with me several years ago. [It was a fascinating exploration of the role that an American, Varian Fry, played in getting people out of Nazi Germany.] She interned with the Holocaust Museum, which turned into a full-time job there. She’s now an archivist at that incredible institution. I suppose one of the positive counters to getting older is that you have more chances to see your students succeed. That’s pretty cool indeed.

Rebecca narrates a slideshow of the images here.

UPDATE: She can also be heard on NPR’s Talk of the Nation here.

I Enter the WPMU Blogging Fray….

This post is a quick summary of my digital pedagogy plans for this semester.

In one class, I’m repeating the wiki-as-discussion starter experiment from last spring. In this class, the first half of an upper-level course on US Women’s History, the wiki has already been the site of a great discussion of the theory, history, and current implications of the history of women.

In my new First-Year Seminar on the history of the experiences of returning American veterans and my significantly revised Historical Methods class (required for all history majors), I’ve taken advantage of the new WPMU (WordPress Multi-User) installation begun at Each class has a course blog (what Barbara Ganley calls the “Motherblog”), and then each student has their own blog, listed in the blogroll. Using RSS, eventually I want to feed their posts into the course blog itself. In both classes students are required to blog at least once a week and post comments on two of their classmates’ blogs a week.

In the First-Year Seminar, the blogging is more structured, as their posts will be twice weekly 1-2 paragraph responses to the primary and secondary source reading. [They’ll have a chance to rewrite two of the best of those posts near the end of the semester for a separate grade.]

In the Historical Methods class, although they sometimes will have specific blogging topics, at other times, I want them to write freely about their research process, to explore their writing, to discuss their own interests in aspects of history, and to respond to the ideas of others.

So far, everyone in the classes has set up their blogs and made one post introducing themselves. Here we go….

What do I hope to accomplish with this use of blogs? Oh, lots and lots….

As I told the students in the Methods course:

This online space will be used in a variety of ways–a research log, an assignment location, a place to discuss your project and the projects of others–but the ultimate goal is to allow you to create a shared space where you can display your work and begin to reflect on your learning, an electronic portfolio of your time in this class, and hopefully in connections to other courses as well.

I don’t want much, do I?

Suggestions for improving this system or encouraging student blogging? Please let me know.