Category: pedagogy

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Calling All Instructors: Bring Your Class to Special Collections!

Student from Sean Franzel's class doing research in Special CollectionsAs part of a class session in Special Collections, your students will have hands-on access to the most inspiring and intriguing materials the Libraries have to offer. They will learn research skills that go beyond databases – the ability to track down sources, make connections among documents, and read the content of the page alongside physical evidence. Most importantly, they will discover an enthusiasm and engagement with their subject that will take their studies far beyond their textbooks.

What can we do for you?

  • Orientations to books, microforms, etc.
  • Course-specific presentations (your classroom or our reading room)
  • Individual research consultations (for you and your students!)
  • Help with assignment development

The collections are diverse, and we can accommodate a wide variety of disciplines.  In 2011-2012, class visits included groups ranging from Engineering to English.  Browse our spotlight to see the innovative ways your colleagues are taking advantage of our collections and services!

We’re here to help. Email SpecialCollections@missouri.edu or call (573) 882-0076 to schedule a session for your class.

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Teaching spotlight: Sean Franzel

Sean FranzelProfessor Sean Franzel from the German and Russian Studies department is our guest for the Teaching Spotlight this month. His research interests span the culture, philosophy, and history of eighteenth- to twentieth-century Germany and include the history of education and the university; media theory; German Idealism and Romanticism; and the history of the novel. Professor Franzel is a frequent visitor to the Special Collections and Rare Books department, and we were delighted to have a chance to ask him a few questions.

SC: How did you incorporate Special Collections into your teaching?

I have used SC repeatedly for two courses I teach. In a graduate seminar on the literature of the medieval and baroque periods in Germany, I usually take the students in for two separate visits. First we look at an introductory selection of Special Collections’ excellent medieval manuscripts and representative early printed books (incunabula). We then go in a second time to examine SC’s sixteenth century emblem books. This was a very popular pedagogical genre throughout Europe at the time that placed poetry and allegorical images side-by-side. For me it is important that my students get an initial sense that what literature is and does has changed so much since antiquity. It is also very important for students to think about how books operate on visual and textual levels; emblem books are great for discussing this, because they are all about the interaction between text and image.

Students from Sean Franzel's class doing research in Special CollectionsIn my undergraduate Introduction to German Literature course, we do a section on children’s literature, and we go in to SC to look at their excellent collection of children’s books. This is fun for students because they learn to appreciate how books for children have played such a wide range of functions throughout history, from basic ABC primers for reading the Bible to very imaginative fantasy books. I ask students to look at the books and think about differences in form, function, design, audience, etc. Basically, I think that taking students to special collections is a way to awaken their curiosity as well as their critical ability to differentiate between the various functions that books and other media have had over time.

SC: What outcomes resulted from your class visits? What were the effects on your students?

Student from Sean Franzel's class doing research in Special CollectionsI think students respond really well to the visits; inspired papers and active discussions usually ensue in the class sessions following a visit. In an age when every assignment or paper can appear in uniform PDF-format on a laptop or e-reader, it is really important to hold actual books in our hands. Sometimes even just the realization that books used to be made on papyrus or animal skin is enough to change the way we think about how we process information today in the digital age. Personally I also love going into SC because I learn something new each visit. I get a lot out of trying to imagine the socio-historical contexts in which books were made and used— it is amazing how many new insights come from actually holding the books in your hands! In fact, my trips to SC have inspired me to get a more systematic introduction to book history, and I am going to take a course this summer at the UVA Rare Books School on the history of the book. I am very excited about this, and about incorporating more book history into my teaching.

SC: What advice would you give to faculty or instructors interested in using Special Collections in their courses?

There is so much interesting material in our library, chances are that it has something relevant for most courses, even if simply to shed light on the history of certain issues across the sciences and the humanities. And it is hard not to sign on to spending a class session looking at cool stuff! So even if instructors do not have a clear idea about what they want to do, they should contact the SC librarians for advice and guidance. Alla Barabtarlo and her team are all extremely helpful, knowledgeable, and eager to show students what the library has to offer!

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Posted in Classes, Rare Book Collection, Spotlight

Teaching Spotlight: Lena Sheets, Smithton Middle School

Graduate student Amy Jones shows ancient Asian artifacts to Smithton Middle School studentsLena Sheets has a master’s degree in education and teaches world cultures at Smithton Middle School in Columbia.  In December 2011, she brought 150 sixth-grade students to tour various collections on the MU campus, including Special Collections and Rare Books.  This month, we’ll hear from her and her students about their experiences with rare books and artifacts.

SC: How did you incorporate Special Collections into your teaching this semester?
Prior to going to special collections, students had been learning about the Early River Civilizations, such as  Mesopotamia, and Egypt. Students then went to Special Collections and learned various ways that early civilizations communicated.  Students wrote observations about the items they saw such as scrolls, papyrus, parchment and seals. Students then came back to school and wrote a brief story that incorporated the information they had learned about a particular piece.

What outcomes resulted from your class visits? What were the effects on your students?
Students could make the connection between history and real people and objects that they have studied.Students are much more engaged in what they are learning and are more inquisitive.  They would like to return again next year.

What advice would you give to faculty or instructors interested in using Special Collections in their courses?
If you are working with middle school students, it is important for them to have an activity to do while they visit.  The presenters were very engaging and answered a ton of questions, but it just middle school nature for students minds to wander.  With the outstanding presentation and a place to write down what they were learning, students were engaged the entire time and had great discussions when they returned.

Any additional comments or suggestions?
I think a visit to Special Collections is a great authentic experience that could fit any place in a unit, at the beginning to generate excitement or at the end to help students make real world connections outside the classroom, or even in the middle to do a little of both.

The staff  at Special Collections were so patient and accommodating. In addition, they were full of knowledge about each artifact and kept the students thinking.   I also appreciated that they took the time to let me preview the items my students would see. I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm for the trip and I only hope, I can get funding to return again next year.

Browse stories by young writers from Lena Sheets’ class below.

Know an inspiring educator or outstanding student you’d like to nominate for the Spotlight?  Email us at SpecialCollections@missouri.edu.

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Posted in Classes, Rare Book Collection, Spotlight
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