Gift or Loot: Who Owns Cultural Property, A First Year Seminar at Wheaton College

My first thought was, “I want to take that class!”

My second thought was, “I want to teach that class!”

Then I realized, who would want to teach a class we wouldn’t be stoked to take ourselves?

In the fall of 2013 art historian Leah Niederstadt developed a first year seminar course designed to “identify useful elements and applications of blended learning in Wheaton’s liberal arts classrooms.” Entitled Gift or Loot: Who Owns Cultural Property? the course examined contested claims over cultural property. Asking student to consider both historical and contemporary attempts to exercise control over artwork, ethnographic objects, human remains, and structures and to explore the beliefs, economics, ethics, morals, and laws that underpin such attempts and their failure or success, the course had been inspired by a “Teaching Naked” workshop led by Jose Antonio Bowen.

According to Leah Niederstadt and her collaborator Pete Coco, digital strategist at Wheaton:

This case study demonstrates the many ways in which collaboration between faculty, technologists, and college administrators can overcome the upfront resource challenges—particularly those related to time and technical expertise—that can deter the exploration of blended learning in any classroom. At liberal arts colleges, these collaborations have the added benefit of embodying and creating the community that our students join, united around the common goal of enhancing student learning.

For more on Niederstadt and Coco’s findings from this experiment in utilizing blended learning in a liberal arts context, see their blog post on “Digital Projects and the First Year Seminar: Making Blended Learning Work at a Small Liberal Arts College.” 

Leah Niederstadt and students work with the Arab Filly statue

And for further reading:

Berrett, Dan. “The Many Faces of the Freshman Seminar.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 29, 2013.

Bowen, Jose Antonio. Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2012.

Bryn Mawr College. “Blended Learning in the Liberal Arts, Home.”  Accessed April 30, 2014.

Coleman, Sandra. “25 years and counting: Reflecting on First-Year Seminar.” Wheaton Quarterly, Spring 2012.

DeFrancisco, Vincent. “Four Digital Humanities Projects from Chronicle Readers.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 10, 2014.

Spohrer, Jennifer. “Blended Learning in a Liberal Arts Setting.” Online webinar for National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education, September 12, 2012. Accessed June 6, 2014.

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