It’s been three weeks since I first published my blog post on “Crowdsourcing Course Ideas Through Social Media,” and as promised, what follows is an evaluation of my experiment to seek out ideas via Twitter for a new undergraduate course titled “Booms and Busts in North America” that I’m creating for my upcoming position at the University of Maine.
Relying on my original post as a full-length explanation of my experiment, I proceeded to tweet a link to the post and a request for help on four occasions: twice on September 2nd, then once each on September 7th and 14th. I also used a variety of hashtags to try to reach beyond my immediate followers, including #envhist (environmental history), #cdnhist (Canadian history), and #amhist (American history). I’m sure there were others that I could have used, but those were the ones that seemed appropriate at the time.
My attempts to spread the message were fairly successful. Over three weeks, my blog post received 105 views. Most of the views were from Canada and the United States, as one might expect, but the post also generated interest in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Bulgaria, New Zealand, Japan, and Singapore. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of the views corresponded with the days in which I sent out my tweets.
In total, there were 11 contributors to my experiment, and here is a full list of the suggestions they sent to me:
@ooHugh: Badly underappreciated is hydro dev’t in Northern Manitoba, state intervention means not conventional boom / bust but; It has commodification of nature in spades; hydro power now produced @ a loss at expense of indigenous ppl & local ecology; tinyurl.com/pwancxb Shortish introductory doc on subject but there’s a wealth of relevant published resources
@journeymanhisto: Wheat–ties together land, env change, settlement, railways, and the market, with multiple cylces of boom and bust
@Thomas_D_Finger: Have you seen Charles Kindleberger’s book Manias, Panics, and Crashes?
@TinaAdcock: Kate Beaton’s “Ducks” deals w/ these themes in contemp. oil sands in v. nuanced, sophisticated way. http://beatonna.tumblr.com/post/81993262830/here-is-a-sketch-comic-i-made-called-ducks-in …
@ruralcolonialNS: I’ve been using Steinberg’s Slide Mountain, Folly of Owning Nature for over a decade – thought-provoking & students like it
@mmurphySMB: Fisheries on Georges Bank or any industrial fishery in North Atlantic. No ideas for texts but check w/ @robgee18
@DaleBarbour: At the risk of being a one trick pony; beaches/resorts. You can even argue there’s a boom and bust pattern to them #envhist
@mica_amy: don’t forget mining! Two upcoming books might be of interest (one from J. McNeill one from @JohnSandlos and A. Keeling).
@jeffmanuel: sorry for the immodest promotion, but my book analyzes boom-and-bust resource econ in northern MN https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/taconite-dreams …; also check out Steven High’s work with paper mill workers in northern Ontario http://storytelling.concordia.ca/high/steven_high/research.html …
@DanAllosso: Last yr I added a bit to my
#EnvHist class taken from Bill Kovarik’s writing on ethanol: http://www.environmentalhistory.org/billkovarik/about-bk/research/henry-ford-charles-kettering-and-the-fuel-of-the-future/ …
@journeymanhisto: This recent post I wrote for @historyrecipes deals with a food assignment, but really useful for studying commodification; “History Bound Up in Every Bite: Food, Environment, & Recipes in the Western Civ Survey” http://recipes.hypotheses.org/6540
The suggestions ranged from specific sources to general themes to the names of scholars who have written on particular subjects. The mix of ideas demonstrates, I think, that my requests for help reached a decent cross section of expertise.
So, the verdict: was my experiment on crowdsourcing course ideas through social media worth it? Definitely. Much of my time and effort was spent writing the original blog post, but most folks aren’t likely going to go through with that step, nor do they necessarily need to. A general request for help expressed through one or a series of tweets, disseminated by way of well-established hashtags, and repeated often enough would probably serve the same purpose. As a result, seeking out course ideas via Twitter takes very little time and effort, and that which you do put into it has the potential to reap great rewards. Some of the suggestions I received were already on my radar, while others might not fit well with how I eventually end up constructing the course, but it is doubtless that there were ideas that I might never have come up with on my own, or at the very least not as quickly. The whole experiment was more than worth it, and I’m sure that I’ll continue to use a similar, more toned down version of it when creating courses in the future.
But as LeVar Burton would say, you don’t have to take my word for it. Go try it out for yourselves.