History professor hits Hollywood

A Portland State University professor is collaborating with Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) to create a multimedia series on world history for high school teachers.

The series will include 26 half-hour videos, along with text material that will be available online.

“I genuinely feel that this is a great opportunity, and I’m excited to reach beyond the walls of the university and make a difference at a time when it’s obvious we need to understand more about the world,” said Linda Walton, chair of the history department.

OPB contacted Walton and Washington State University professor Candice Goucher last spring about working with them on a grant proposal for a world history project.

Goucher, a former PSU professor, worked with Walton on a world history textbook together in 1998 and were interested in the prospect of reaching such a national audience through OPB’s media series.

“It is really a wonderful opportunity, personally, for me to reach a lot of people and make a difference in the world by shaping how high school students see the world,” Walton said.

Goucher agreed, adding that this is “a tremendous opportunity to have an impact on how people think of that history.”

“A lot of states have required world history classes for high school students,” Walton said.

Currently, Oregon only requires that high school students meet a certain standard in world history, said Andrea Morgan, education specialist in social science at the Oregon Department of Education.

According to Walton, very few high school teachers have training in world history. “It’s an overwhelming subject,” she said.

The series for OPB is intended to cover the history of the world from the very beginning to the present, across the entire globe. The challenge for Walton and Goucher has been discerning what of world history to include.

“We can’t tell everything about everything. We have to be very selective,” Walton mentioned.

They plan to include obviously important events, such as the French and American revolutions. However, Walton and Goucher also want to explore thematic aspects of world history.

“The themes that we develop will be the ideas and framework for how teachers are trained and students taught,” Goucher said.

OPB received the $2.2 million grant from the Annenberg Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This was the fourth grant OPB has received from them since 2000 for the purpose of producing a nationally distributed educational series.

After competing with public broadcasting stations in Boston, New York and Washington, D.C., OPB received the grant and contacted Walton and Goucher.

According to Walton, OPB generally prefers to work with local people, which was why they ended up contacting Walton and Goucher. “We were interested and it worked,” Walton said.

OPB has done similar educational projects for Annenberg in the past, in topics such as English and biology.

The world history series begins production in March and is expected to be ready for distribution by fall 2004.