Infographic Syllabi: Fun, Easy (no really!), and Engaging

A poster I whipped up in Canva to advertise a new class

Last fall we had a natural disaster that shut down our school for almost the entire month of September. I did not step foot on campus for the entire month, since for part of it I was in England for DaCNet and research. Once the immediate danger of Hurricane Florence was past us, the real waiting began for flood waters that creeped up and up into our town and over our roads for weeks after. Obviously, this was totally nerve-wracking, and I was unable to focus on any heavy research or writing, because I was constantly refreshing the NOAA flood table charts.

I decided to do something a bit more fun, relaxing (to me), and creative instead: I turned my Spring semester syllabi into info graphs. I had wanted to do this for a while and wasn’t exactly sure how to go about it, so I headed to the Google. I found this article, and this, which gave some overall tips and ideas. I am most familiar with the website Canva, so that is what I decided to use for this project. I started with a completely blank page on Canva, and just added the elements as I needed them.

Canva is great for making posters to advertise your classes online or in print, social media images to advertise conferences or workshops, syllabi, documents, resumes, whatever you want to design. It is also incredibly use friendly with drag and drop functions. You can download as PDFs, JPGs, PNGs, and more. I plan to use the syllabi I have already made in the future, and copy them to make a new document, to update and change information easily. To get started, open canva in your browser and create an account.

Now, I know the syllabus is the contract the drives the semester and needs to have all the pertinent information for a successful semester. We want to get every rule, regulation, policy, and code in there to avoid any issues we have had in the past. This leads to syllabus creep, and eventually a 14 page document of blocks and blocks of texts that I don’t want to revise every semester, and students certainly don’t want to read each semester. Paring things down was hard, but I managed to go from 6 pages of text, to 3 pages of syllabus, with a supplemental calendar on another page, and for my upper division class, a packet of readings information. I also make extensive use of our online platform, Moodle, which made paring the syllabus down a lot easier, too. In the digital version of the syllabus, you can also embed links, so students can easily access the full text of an attendance policy or find information about counseling or health services, or the writing and tutoring centers (also linked on Moodle).

Ok, so how did I actually do this? Basically I opened Canva, opened a new document, and just started dragging elements around to where I needed them. I knew I had to have the course description and SLOs per university rules, and I wanted my contact information to be easily accessible for students to find. Once I had those in place, I focused on what else I thought would be the most important: how they earn their grades, course requirements, and rules/policies (condensed and pared down). I think my favorite part is the academic misconduct section, with the little skull and cross bones. Canva also has charts you can insert that will do percentages and labels, for grading or other charts you want to include.

Within canva I was also able to create an “icon” of sorts for each class, based on the themes in that class. For the museums class, I used a museum emoji with a bunch of people, for Museums and Communities. For Great Debates in Public History, I chose icons that represented our topics: a mummy, historic buildings, and a park ranger.  The icons are on each page of the syllabus along with the course name, and one cool thing about these graphics is I was able to take the icons I made for each class and use on other platforms, like our Slack page, or for different sections of moodle for a “branding” technique. This way the class was always recognizable, even across the different websites we use.

Canva has a lot of icons to choose from in the free version, like the skull and crossbones and the museum; however, you can also upload any icons or images you have downloaded on your own device to use within the program. All of the circles, starbursts, boxes, and so on are available in the sidebar of the program.

My favorite page – POLICIES!! Just look at those sweet little skulls showing the doom that awaits plagiarizers.

I taught this style of syllabus design recently at a CeTeal professional development workshop on my campus, and some of the instructors there have really run with it! One of the theater professors is planning to make hers as a Playbill, for instance, and a literature syllabus could be designed as an old book. A geography or map class could be done in a series of maps… the possibilities are endless, really. Maybe in the future I will redesign my museum one to look like an exhibit in a room! The most important thing is to be creative and have fun.

I did not do any kind of official assessment on use of the syllabus this past semester, but it did seem that students asked less questions that were answered on the syllabus. I’m sticking with it, and will post my fall syllabi at the end of summer!

 

Leicester and Richard III

Saturday began our last full day in England, and we caught the train to Leicester on the way back to London so I could see my favorite monarch of English/British history: Richard III. If you follow my Instagram you may have seen my epic r3 Halloween costume, and if you’re on Twitter, you’ll know fake r3chard has retweeted me like 3 times now. We’re basically best internet friends.

Mom and I got into Leicester and decided to try to find a place to leave our luggage. If anyone is looking for a lucrative business to open: start a found luggage in Leicester. We carried our giant bags all over the town with no luck. The Visitors Center couldn’t help us; the museum couldn’t store bags for insurance reasons (fair). We had already bought our tickets, I was tired and hangry, and nothing was going our way. My mom, saint that she is, decided to hole up in a café with tea and cake and babysit our bags while I went to the museum. Not ideal, but at least I got to see what there was to see.

The Richard III Visitor Center is built around the archaeological site where in 2012, archaeologists found the remains of the last Plantagenet. The archaeological story itself is fascinating, because it is not at all usual for an archaeological investigation to find exactly what it is looking for on the first try; but that’s just what happened in this case. There is a Smithsonian documentary all about the discovery available on YouTube here.

The visitor begins in a display about the history of the War of the Roses, family lines, and the reasons for the turmoil that surrounded Richard III’s reign. From there, you travel through the War of the Roses, RIII’s short reign, and his burial at Grey Friar’s Priory. Heading upstairs, visitors encounter a display that discusses the portrayals of Richard as a villain throughout popular culture, from Shakespeare to the recent Benedict Cumberbatch portrayal.

Next, the display walks the visitor through the entire story of the dig from its beginning through to the discovery and analysis of the Richard’s remains. This was great! The timeline included artifacts from the dig, video interviews with the archaeologists and others involved in the venture, and diagrams. The exhibit then represents scientists’ analysis of Richard’s bones through medical testing and forensic recreations. One controversy was that of Richard’s scoliosis; many proponents of R3 have relegated the story of the hunchback king to a tale made up by Shakespeare and other detractors to vilify and lessen the monarch in some way.  When the skeleton was uncovered, it was obvious that the scoliosis was a fact after all.

The visitor center experience ends with a visit to the site where the bones were found in the parking lot that used to house the church. The websitedescribes it as, “the site of King Richard’s burial, preserved in a quiet, respectful setting and with a contemplative atmosphere, fitting for the last resting place of a slain warrior and anointed monarch.” The room is quiet and simple, and a hologram shows where the bones were found within the unit. The volunteer in the room when I visited was incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, pointing out features in the dig that helped to date the remains.

Across the courtyard from the visitor center stand Leicester Cathedral, where the remains of Richard are interred. The church also has a display about Richard and his discovery and subsequent reburial (and a giftshop, too!).

Behind the church another gem is hidden: The Guildhouse. This is a medieval timbered building dating back to 1390 in its oldest part. The architecture and features throughout are gorgeous, from the soaring timbered ceiling to the mantels to the upstairs library. The site is also supposed to be one of the most haunted buildings in Britain, as the helpful museum employee told me as I walked through the building on my own. I managed to scare myself nearly to death when I looked into an old jail cell and saw a mannequin in the darkness.

Through hordes of football fans on their way to a match, we made our way back to the train station and headed back to London, content with our few days in Yorkshire and our day in Leciester. We were back to London for one more night, a classy McDonald’s dinner, and a trip to the Sainsbury for a literal duffel bag full of candies and presents (yet I still managed to forget a can of treacle). Mom and I made it back to South Carolina with no issues, and are already planning our next trip together!

York, UK: Harry Potter, Chocolate, and Richard III

sdfg.jpgYork and our journey there was a study in all of my favorite things: Harry Potter, train travel, that famous glorious son of York, chocolate, tea, and gorgeous architecture. We started our day with time to spare at Kings Cross so we could visit Platform 9 ¾, the start of one’s journey to Hogwarts. My mom and I started reading the Harry Potter books when I was a sophomore in high school, and we loved them and shared them throughout my time in college. Mom is a textbook Hufflepuff, while I am a stalwart Syltherin. How the two biggest hufflepuffs to ever hufflepuff created a Slytherin is anyone’s guess.  Anyway. Platform 9 ¾ was everything we hoped it would be, and the photographers in the line that day were superb and so fun. Even though they made me hold Voldy’s wand since I’m a Slytherin. Obviously we bought all 4 photos, and I got my mom some Hedwig souvenirs, because it was her birthday!

20180905_141107-01Then we hopped on the train and headed north to Yorkshire, home of my boy Richard III. Once we got to York, we dropped off our bags and headed into the ancient town. We started with tea at Earl Grey’s in the Shambles, which was delicious and perfect. I couldn’t finish my caramel cake, but the treats were superb. We wandered around the Shambles and downtown, then headed into York’s Chocolate Story to purchase our tickets.

20180905_141728York has a great history of chocolate and candy making, which automatically puts it high up on my list of favorite places. York’s Chocolate Story is a great example of the interactive, technological, and innovative types of exhibits that money can buy. All tours are fully guided and seem to be heavily scripted, but our guide was a delight. The tour starts with a ride in the elevator to the top floor where you enter a recreated street scene from York’s past.  We had an opportunity to taste chocolate made from one of York’s earliest recipes, and it wasn’t half bad. From there, we headed into a multimedia experience to tell the story of the discovery of cacao beans in the South American rainforests (without glossing over colonialism and the horrors the invaders brought with them). Then we learned about the families of York who founded candy and chocolate making empires in Yorkshire through a multimedia presentation. The next part was the best, though…

20180905_152047On the first floor there is a recreated chocolate factory, where visitors learn the entire process of creating consumable chocolates from processing to wrapping. We tried our hand at tasting the many flavors in chocolate and learned about the science of chocolate as well. Next, we got to decorate our own chocolate lollies! Chocolatiers were also on hand to show the process of making candies and truffles from the chocolate, and of course we got to taste, as well. I’m only sad that we had just had a large tea before our tour. We exited through the gift shop, as per usual, and brought home many treats for our friends and families (and ourselves). This museum really did have it all from multimedia displays, to sensory experiences, to the best possible interactives. I highly recommend it, even though it is totally touristy. We decided to walk off our chocolate and tea for the rest of the afternoon, and we saw all the major sites such as the York Minster church, the York walls, the Norman Clifford’s Tower, and even a pub named for r3.

20180905_161838We headed to our guesthouse and I got mom settled in, and I headed back out for a pub game night with the Death and Culture Net folks at the Eagle and Child. I knew I was in the right place when I walked in and heard people asking, “Are you here for death??” I didn’t end up playing any games, but I met all kinds of people from all over the world working broadly with death; Maggie, a doula and activist from the Bay area, Ruth from York who studies sociological aspects of death and criminology, Janieke from the Netherlands who studies funereal music… and so many more. My next will be all about DacNet, so tune in next time for more!

Café In the Crypt and The Roman Dead @ Museum of London: Docklands

IMG_20180904_133032_729From the British Museum, mom and I headed back to Trafalgar Square to finally visit the Café in the Crypt at St. Martin’s in the Field. I previously visited the café on my New Years trip to London and loved it. The café is located, as the name implies, in the old crypt of the church. The space and all of its associations truly deserve a blog all their own on death tourism and dark histories. Tables are located on top of grave stones and the crypt is surrounded by memento mori and memorial stones. Income from the café helps fund preservation and outreach programs at the church. When I told my students about this café, they were horrified at the thought of eating on graves and saw it as disrespectful, yet they were all about some ghost tours… as I said, lots more for another blog. All in all, the cafe made a mean scone and pot of tea, and the cakes looked to die for (lol see what I did there?).20180904_151621

We ubered on over to the East Side of London, which I was visiting for the first time, to the Museum of London: Docklands to see the Roman Dead exhibit that I had been looking forward to for months. The museum is located in the industrialized docks of the East End on Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs. The landscape is an interesting mix of industrial, commercial, and new sleek business buildings along the high-tech docks.  As a huge fan of Call the Midwife, set in this area of London, it was a bit shocking to see modern Poplar compared to 1950s and 1960s Poplar of the TV show.

DSC03390~2Our welcome at the museum was superb, and the FOH staff member we spoke with was a graduate of UNC, just a few hours from home; small world! We first went to see the Roman Dead exhibit before exploring the rest of this excellent museum. According to their website,  “Last year, a Roman sarcophagus was found near to Harper Road in Southwark. What does this unique find tells us about the ancient city that 8 million people now call home? We’ve displayed the sarcophagus alongside the skeletons and cremated remains of 28 Roman Londoners found during archaeological excavations of ancient cemeteries. The exhibition also features over 200 objects from burials in Roman London, exploring how people dealt with death in Londinium. Many items were brought here from across the Empire, showing the extent of London’s international connections, even at this early time in its history.”DSC03401~2

The exhibit also, “uses these grave goods and the results of scientific analysis of ancient Londoners’ skeletons to explore who Roman Londoners were, and show the surprising diversity of the ancient city.”One of the coolest aspects is an online interactive display available here: “Take a closer look at the exhibition’s most fascinating objects by exploring our interactive display.”

DSC03405~2I loved this exhibit. From the warning at the beginning about he display of human remains, to the treatment and interpretation of remains and funerary objects including cremated remains, full skeletons, childrens’ remains, and even animal and pet remains.

One of the best parts was the diversity (sex , age, and race/ethnicity) of these skeletons, all found in London from the Roman periods of history.   The museum did a great job of connecting the diverse history of London to its current status as one of the most diverse cities in Europe. Additionally, the connection between people 2000 years ago to modern people was presented with ease; people cared about their pets as family members, were sometimes buried with treasured belongings, and worried about the afterlife and what comes next, in many of the same ways that people do today.

DSC03393~2Soft lighting, quiet space, and layout of the exhibit seemed respectful and somber as was fitting for a room full of human remains. The interpretation of these people and their funerary objects, as well as the context of Roman Britain was explained well through text panels and multimedia displays. While I was in the exhibit, several families with children came through, and the children all seemed very engaged by the video, and also the remains themselves.

There were interactives, multimedia, opportunities to find more information, and all the things that make a modern museum exhibit great. I can’t say enough good things about it, and I’m only sad to report that it closed in October of 2018.

DSC03411After some time spent with the dead Romans, I had some time to visit the rest of the Docklands museum to learn the history of the area and people of the East End. This museum is awesome. Not only is it housed in a historic building that shows the connection of the location to industry and the local communities, but they have some very progressive interpretation (especially on colonialism and a surprisingly critical view of the UK’s role in the slave trade) and great interactive opportunities.

20180904_155650One of my favorite parts was the hamster-wheel like recreation of a pulley system from ye olde dockland days (see the photo my mom captured here), and the recreation of a London dock street, “Sailortown” was way too much fun. There were also myriad opportunities for children to play and learn throughout the museum from dress-up corners, to a mining set-up, and interactive recreated living spaces from throughout the decades. I started to get museum fatigue towards the end of our visit, but I really plan to make it back here for another visit on my next trip to London (and the regular Museum of London, too!). From the museum, mom and I headed back to Covent Garden where we ended the night with the traditional cheeky Nandos chicken and British television.

Next: Platform 9 ¾, York, York’s Chocolate Story, and more!

Fall 2017 Student Blog: Oral History

This is the fifteenth in a series of Tuesday re-blogs of my student work from our HIST395 course. Please enjoy these blogs written by Coastal Carolina University students.

This is the second blog by student Morissa Robinson about the importance of oral history. 

By Morissa J Robinson I recently worked on a project in one of my history classes that required us to dig up any information we could find on a person assigned to us and write up a biography entry. Easy, right? Well it wasn’t that simple. Some of us had first and last names to […]

via Why Oral History is Important — Journey into Public History

 

Fall 2017 Student Blog: Motor City Mayhem

This is the fourteenth in a series of Tuesday re-blogs of my student work from our HIST395 course. Please enjoy these blogs written by Coastal Carolina University students.

This is the second blog by student Dylan Livingston about museums in Detroit. 

By Dylan Livingston During this past summer, I traveled to Detroit, Michigan to visit my father and take a look into what he was working on for his job. Over the past year, my father was hired as the CEO of the Michigan State science center. One of my dad’s main objectives was to educate […]

via Motor City Mayhem — Journey into Public History

Fall 2017 Student Blog: National History Day

This is the thirteenth in a series of Tuesday re-blogs of my student work from our HIST395 course. Please enjoy these blogs written by Coastal Carolina University students.

This is the second blog by student Tori Peck about National History Day. 

By Tori Peck What is National History Day? It is an event that is independently sponsored by organizations that will hold local and state competitions where elementary, middle school and secondary school students present historical research done on a predetermined topic. Around 3,000 students attend the final competition and they come from all around the […]

via National History Day — Journey into Public History

Fall 2017 Student Blog: Archaeology and Public History

This is the twelfth in a series of Tuesday re-blogs of my student work from our HIST395 course. Please enjoy these blogs written by Coastal Carolina University students.

This blog is by student Bryan Maldonado about Archaeology and Public History.

By Bryan Maldonado DIRT: Archaeology, Artifacts, Bones, and Organizations Archaeology is the study of ancient and recent human remains or material like artifacts in order to get more information about the past culture and the way of life. Artifacts are more than just a rare or ancient object they also tell archaeologist a story or […]

via DIRT: Archaeology, Artifacts, Bones, and Organizations — Journey into Public History

Fall 2017 Student Blog: Battlefield Visits

This is the eleventh in a series of Tuesday re-blogs of my student work from our HIST395 course. Please enjoy these blogs written by Coastal Carolina University students.

This blog is by student Chris Colón about the importance of docents and interpretation at National Parks and Battlefields. 

By Chris Colón When I first became interested in history, I had realized that the reason I was so interested was the way in which my father would teach me about history. He made a great effort to teach me as if he were telling me a story. It was that storytelling aspect that made me […]

via Battlefield Tour Guides — Journey into Public History

Fall 2017 Student Blog: Lincoln Giants

This is the tenth in a series of Tuesday re-blogs of my student work from our HIST395 course. Please enjoy these blogs written by Coastal Carolina University students.

This blog is by student Lontay Greene about the Lincoln Giants.

By Lontay Greene Olympic Field sprouted the roots of a baseball team in New York, that would hold as much cultural impact in the Harlem Renaissance as the singers, poets, and writers. The Lincoln Giants entered the scene of Harlem in the year 1911, under the co-ownership of Jess and Edward McMahon. The Lincoln Giants […]

via Lincoln Giants — Journey into Public History