Graduate Course Syllabus

3 Graduate Credits

Instructors: Dr. Kelly Schrum and Dr. Nate Sleeter

Center for History and New Media
4400 University Drive, MSN 1E7
Fairfax, VA 22030-4444


t: 703-993-4521
f: 703-993-4585

Hidden in Plain Sight is an online course designed for history and social studies teachers. There are no in-person class meetings; all course work is completed online and asynchronously through the course website.

Course Structure

The course is designed as a series of 8 online modules. The first module focuses on analyzing objects and historical thinking — the process of analyzing primary sources and constructing historical arguments. All other modules use a different everyday object as a window through which we can examine a specific period or theme in American history. Together, these modules provide new information about American history and some new ways to think about teaching the past.

Each module contains a set of resources to guide you through the historical content. In each module you will complete several activities that allow you to engage in the historical inquiry process and provide opportunities to think about classroom application. After you complete the Analyzing Objects module, you can choose 7 additional modules to complete, and can complete them in any order.

Course Reading

Adams, William Hampton. “Machine Cut Nails and Wire Nails: American Production and Use for Dating 19th-Century and Early-20th Century Sites.” Historical Archaeology 36, no. 4 (2002): 66-88.

Becker, Ann M. “Smallpox in Washington's Army: Strategic Implications of the Disease during the American Revolutionary War.” The Journal of Military History, 68, no. 2 (April 2004): 381-430.

Berwanger, Eugene. “'absent So long from those I love': The Civil War Letters of Joshua Jones.” Indiana Magazine of History 88, no. 3 (September 1992): 205-239.

Castillo, Greg. “Domesticating the Cold War: Household Consumption as Propaganda in Marshall Plan Germany.” Journal of Contemporary History 40, no. 2 (April 2005): 261-288.

Davis, Paul, and Diana Kleiner. “The Breakthrough Breadboard Feasibility Model: The Development of the First All-Transistor Radio.” The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 97, no. 1 (July 1993): 56-80.

Grady, Lee. “McCormick's Reaper at 100: Marketing the Machines that Revolutionized World Agriculture.” The Wisconsin Magazine of History 84, no. 3 (Spring 2001): 10-21.

Guerty, P.M., and Kevin Switaj. “Tea, Porcelain, and Sugar in the British Atlantic World.” OAH Magazine of History 18, no. 3 (April 2004): 56-59.

Leach, William. “Transformations in a Culture of Consumption: Women and Department Stores, 1890-1925.” The Journal of American History 71, no. 2 (September 1984): 319-342.

Robbins, Hollis. “Fugitive Mail: The Deliverance of Henry “Box” Brown and Antebellum Postal Politics.” American Studies, 50, no. 1/2 (Spring/Summer 2009): 5-25.

Royster, Charles. “1775: Rage Militaire,” in A Revolutionary People at War: The Continental Army & American Character, 1775-1783. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996: 25-53.

Shapiro, Laura. “‘And here she is… your Betty Crocker!’” The American Scholar, 73, no. 2 (Spring 2004): 87-99.

Todd, Ellen. “Remembering the Unknowns: The Longman Memorial and the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.” American Art 23, no. 3 (Fall 2009): 60-81.

Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. “Objects in the Classroom.” OAH Magazine of History, 17, no. 4 (July 2003): 57-59.

Witkowski, Terrence. “World War II Poster Campaigns: Preaching Frugality to American Consumers.” Journal of Advertising 32, no. 1 (Spring 2003): 69-82.

Course Requirements

All students enrolled in Hidden in Plain Sight are expected to work through 8 modules and complete all required assignments. There are deadlines for completing each module and all work must completed by April 25, 2017. Assignments in each module include:

  1. Hypothesis: Aside from the first module, each module begins with a picture of an object and two questions: “What do you notice about this object? How might this object connect to broader themes in American history?” You'll be asked to craft a short hypothesis answering that question, but don't worry if it's not immediately obvious — you'll encounter materials later in the module that will help you, and you'll have another chance to answer the question once you've learned more about the object and its context.
  2. Resources: Once you have submitted your thoughts, you'll move to the resources section: a group of images, objects, short videos, and text connected with the main object. Each of these resources provides important additional information surrounding the object's significance in American history. This information will help you refine your initial hypothesis.
  3. Article: Read an article to build deeper understanding of the historical context.
  4. Rethink: Reflect on what you have learned about the object's significance in history and revise your hypothesis.
  5. Connections Essay: Review your new hypothesis, and read a short essay that expands on the everyday object's significance in American history.
  6. Classroom Connections: Reflect on classroom applications.
  7. Wrap-up: Read what other teachers have posted on the topic and share ideas.

Final Project:
Design a module exploring the hidden history of an everyday object. Working with the instructor, each participant will select an object, conduct background research into the historical context, write descriptive text, and select images and quiz questions for the final module. Participants will receive feedback from the instructor as they assemble the individual pieces of the final project. Due dates are listed below.

Course Schedule

Due Date Module Final Project
Jan. 31 Complete Module 1 (Analyzing Objects)
Feb. 12 Complete Module 2 (selected individually) Submit project primary source and proposal
Feb. 21 Complete Module 3 (selected individually) Submit resources and annotated bibliography
Feb. 28 Complete Module 4 (selected individually)
March 12 Complete Module 5 (selected individually) Submit draft narrative text for resources
March 21 Complete Module 6 (selected individually)
April 9 Complete Module 7 (selected individually) Submit draft connections essay and quiz
April 25 Complete Module 8 (selected individually) Submit all final project materials