As the spring 2014 semester winds down for us Loyola history majors over the course of the next week, I thought that it would be nice to celebrate with something fun, light and easy. For that reason, I am posting on our blog to share with you an interactive website that one of my students at the Howard Area Community Center has recently introduced me to. The site is an online companion to the world history textbook Ways of the World: A Brief Global History with Sources; and it was created by the author and global historian Robert William Strayer.
A graduate of Wheaton College (BA) and the University of Wisconsin (MA and PhD), Strayer spent two years teaching in Ethiopia for the Peace Corps before beginning a prolific teaching career at SUNY College at Brockport. For thirty-two years, Strayer taught African, Soviet, and world history at Brockport, where he received several distinguished awards. In 1992, he received the Georges Queen Award for Excellence in Teaching History; in 1997, he received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and Excellence in Scholarship; and, the year prior, he was named as a Senior Fellow of the School of Letters and Sciences.
Amidst his tenure at Brockport, Strayer spent several years conducting fieldwork in Kenya and England; one year serving as a visiting professor at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand in1998; and one summer going on a cultural-exchange study-trip to China in 2000. Since retiring from Brockport in 2002, Strayer has been teaching at various California schools, including UC Santa Cruz, California State University, Monterey Bay University, and Cabrillo College. During the course of his academic career, he has published no less than five separate books within his respective fields of study (including Kenya: Focus on Nationalism in 1975; Why Did the Soviet Union Collapse in 1998; and The Making of the Modern World in 1988).
Strayer has stood in the vanguard of new global history since his emergence into academia in the early 1970s. After several decades of work, he was elected to the Executive Council of the World History Association; he was named co-editor of a McGraw-Hill series, entitled “Contexts, Connections, and Comparisons: Explorations in World History,” and his first textbook on global history had been adopted by 100 colleges and universities by the year 2002.
Originally published in 2008, his newest, two-volume textbook has been widely praised as a brief, open, and flexible work for high-school survey courses in world history; and now, Ways of the World has been updated for the internet age and public use. Using the educational software LearningCurve, students and interested parties can go online and take adaptive quizzes that reinforce their weekly readings. This is the feature that I want to share with you today.
Since first finding out about the online companion to Ways of the World—from a student at the Chicago Math and Science Academy in Rogers Park—I have been logging on regularly and testing my knowledge with the individual, chapter “self-tests” in world history. It only takes a few minutes to create an account (leave the instructor e-mail section blank) and then you can begin exploring the site. Taking the self-tests is fun for several reasons: it will keep you abreast of what students at the high-school level are expected to know in their history courses, and it will remind you about all of the subject areas in world history where your knowledge is the weakest (for me, this is Chinese and Russian history; I received only a 9 out of 20 in classical Chinese history, my worst score).
The multiple-choice questions have their flaws, but sometimes these are just as much fun to think about as the answers. Created by a seasoned expert in the field of new global history, the companion guide to Ways of the World helps its users ruminate on the difficulties associated with synthesizing global history. And, perhaps most importantly for those of us at the graduate level—who are so often focused on very specialized fields of study—the companion site can help us regain perspective.
Enjoy, and happy finals!