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Madeleine McKeon

Madeleine McKeon ’19 is pictured at Machu Picchu, Peru, where she went last spring as part of a travel study course.

Facebook, Blogs Enhance Digital History Course

10/04/17

What do Facebook, blogs, video conferencing and the Quakers have in common? They all were part of a digital course that allowed Madeleine McKeon ’19 of Methuen, Mass., to teach high school students in alternative educational settings about the religious group, which established themselves in New England and the New World.

The digital history course McKeon participated in, “Force May Subdue,” focused on an examination of secession and separatism. It also resulted in a website that McKeon and another MCLA student, Elizabeth Kurz-Michel, created for students who may need to access the information at home.

Before she took the course, McKeon knew little about digital history: learning a new skill and completing an independent, long-term project was exciting to her. “I also loved the idea of interacting with students and professors that I never would have had a chance to meet otherwise. I got to know students from all over the country. To learn with them and from them was really fun.”

The Quakers, McKeon explained, were a religious group founded in the 17th century. Soon after, they immigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. “While in North America, they ran into conflict with the Puritans. We used this relationship and the Quakers as a whole as a case study to understand the concept of secession and the limits of its definition,” McKeon said.

“I loved the Quakers because they were rebels,” she continued. “They were counterculture, but they were rebels for peace. I loved that dynamic. Many secession movements are associated with violent conflict, but I argued that secession also can be purely a rejection of a system of thought. They are one of the first groups to speak out against slavery, and to encourage women’s rights. Much later, they became pacifists. I think they are a really admirable group of people.”

McKeon’s participation in the initiative – funded by the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) – was recommended by MCLA history professor Dr. Anthony Daly. She also underwent an application process before she gained COPLAC approval to take the digital course.

Course participants attended class via video conferencing. “We also interacted with our classmates via Facebook and by keeping individual project blogs where we tracked our progress and offered advice, help, and support,” McKeon said.

“We structured the website to have a really clear narrative thread – each page led into each other,” she continued, “telling a different part of the Quaker story and beliefs, ending with a discussion of secession. We also developed supplemental materials and provided links to help teachers develop projects about the Quaker-Puritan conflicts, and so students could find information for their own independent research.”

In addition to helping McKeon to become a more self-sufficient and independent student, she said she feels much more prepared to take on research-based projects. Eventually, after graduate school, she hopes to work in non-profit management and heritage law.

Now in her second term as president of MCLA’s History Society, McKeon also participated in a travel course that included travel to Peru last spring, when she also presented a paper at MCLA’s Undergraduate Research Conference. Next semester, she plans to study abroad at the University of Westminster in London, England.

“I’ve had an excellent academic experience at MCLA,” McKeon said. “I’ve experienced a true liberal arts education – many of my classes share themes and connect, sometimes in unexpected ways. Those interdisciplinary relationships have helped me so much, academically. My professors both in the history and arts management programs all have been incredibly encouraging and supportive of me and my education.”