Jeff Everhart is using modern technology to teach others about a 19th-century movement devoted to nature and emotion.
Everhart, a recent Longwood University graduate, didn’t do the traditional research paper for his master’s thesis in English. Instead, he combined his two passions—technology and the American Romanticism period in literature—to create a website, "American Romanticism Online," that is a resource for students and teachers.
"My dream is to develop pedagogical tools for teachers using this intersection between text and technology," said Everhart, who graduated May 10 with a master’s degree and earned the Full-Time Student Award. He also earned a bachelor’s degree at Longwood in December 2011 and soon will start working at the university.
Http://www.americanromanticismonline.com features free edited editions of texts by four authors that can be downloaded as pdf or Word documents, integrated lesson plans for the Virginia Standards of Learning and interactive quizzes.
"The site averages 10 to 15 hits a day from Google searches," said Everhart, who has not done any advertising. "I assume that most of these people are teachers since the most common key words are ‘lesson plans’ and ‘quiz.’ Also, students are visiting for the summaries of texts."
The website, primarily for high-school students and teachers, is related to two recent movements—open educational resources and digital humanities. The former are freely accessible, usually openly licensed documents and media used for teaching and learning, the latter a research area that incorporates digitized and born-digital materials.
"Some similar websites have parts of what I’m trying to do, and I’m putting a spin on that," said Everhart. "I’ve taken ideas from things that exist independently and put them together on one site. It was an idea I’d had for a while. I mentioned it to my thesis director [Dr. John Miller], and he said ‘Sounds cool. You should do this for your thesis.’"
This was the first thesis of its kind in Longwood’s English program, said Miller, assistant professor of English, who has collaborated with Everhart on several academic projects.
"Most people who are doing things like this are established faculty or in Ph.D. programs," he said. "This period can be difficult for some people to understand, so Jeff is making it accessible to students and showing how teachers can use these texts in a way that draws on technology. This is an original project that will be valuable to students and teachers. Jeff is an exceptional student who has initiative, intellectual curiosity and poise, and maturity beyond his years."
Everhart might develop similar sites for other eras of literature and other disciplines, including history and the social sciences.
He acknowledges that his two passions seem like a bit of an odd mix. "I grew up loving nature, so it is ironic that I’m into technology, too. But the more efficient I can become by using technology, the more time I have to take walks in the woods."