My PhD student Misha Griffith pointed me to the website bloggingheads.tv, where two people are shown in video dialog on a particular topic. Unlike the more popular television format of political debate programming like Crossfire, the commentators on bloggingheads engage in much more civil and thoughtful dialog on the issues.
As I watched a couple of the discussions, it struck me that the format could make a great vehicle for historians discussing issues of interpretation. One of my good friends, Lendol Calder, sometimes assigns his students two general histories of the United States–one written from the right, one written from the left, and asks them to try to figure out what really happened from the different accounts. I would love to watch two historians approach the same event from two different methodological perspectives…and even more than that, I’d love for my students to watch such a discussion.
Or, alternatively, one could require students to prepare to engage in a discussion like the ones shown at bloggingheads.tv, where each student discussed an event based upon the research he or she did on the subject.
One other thing I like about this format is that it is not glitzy. Too often we get bound up in the need for video to be produced with very high production values. But these video discussions demonstrate that it is not necessary–these folks are in offices, living rooms, studies, etc., and many are wearing headsets. In no way does the informal environment detract from the quality of the discussion.