Student Reflection: Rob Farr with a student-teacher’s perspective on Teaching Hidden History

Rob Farr is pursuing his Masters in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on Film and Video Studies. He also teaches the History of World Cinema (FAVS 225). Rob’s particular area of interest is silent film, particularly early comedy, and he has published several articles on this topic.

Having completed the first Teaching Hidden History, I am very enthusiastic about using it in my History of World Cinema class. THH was made for teaching media studies.

Many pre-20th Century modules use artifacts or paintings as gateway object to introduce readers to a subject and in some ways it seemed as if I were reading a book or paging through a web site with well-chosen illustrations and room for student responses at the end of each section. When I discovered that I could embed high-resolution film clips, THH took on whole new possibilities. The ability to embed audio and video clips into the pages is a dynamic way of leading the student through the progression of a film movement or the arc of a performer’s career. I learned in class to keep them short (5 minutes is probably too long). And it is important that the chosen clips be relevant and at the same time impactful. In the THH model, the course designer can choose clips that lead the learner to the subject through back doors and side alleys.

Film is common currency to a wide age-range of learners. Media studies can be adapted to students from middle school through graduate school. My Charlie Chaplin module was geared for high school students, but it could also serve undergrads who were being introduced to film studies for the first time. I used several clips from his 1940 feature, The Great Dictator. Being a satire, it assumes some awareness of Hitler, Nazi Germany and the Axis powers. THH is flexible enough that it is easy to insert clips better suited for younger learners.

I realize I’m showing my bias as a media historian, but I think that film studies and THH is the perfect marriage of subject matter and learning technology.