CSM Professor Spotlighted by NBC Learn


Bringing History to Life is Easier with Vast Video, Digital Library

When College of Southern Maryland Adjunct History Professor Lawrence Brannan thinks about corporate monopolies in the early 20th century and how he would translate it to his students, he sees a political cartoon of Standard Oil depicted as an octopus.

“This image says it all—the glaring head of the octopus is a barrel of Standard Oil with tentacles stretched out and wrapped around the Capitol building, a ship at sea, a group of industrialists and a state house, with one tentacle reaching for the White House,” Brannan said.

Brannan’s zeal and inclusion of images and newsreel footage, including more than 200 videos in his syllabuses for U.S. history courses, led to his recognition as an NBC Learn “Super User” for December 2013.

“After years and years of history coursework, I have viewed hundreds of photos, video and text on history and government. I have an advantage when trying to make history come alive for my students, but no matter how many adjectives I use, the words sometimes can’t compare to a visual experience for students,” said Brannan.

NBC Learn, the educational arm of NBC News, has digitized more than 12,000 historic stories, images and primary source documents for use by teachers, students and parents.

“Because we have an institutional account for NBC Learn, I wanted to provide a workshop for instructors,” said CSM Distance Learning and Faculty Development Chair Kim Donnelly. “NBC Learn is fully integrated in our online Blackboard service and when I pulled up user statistics, Larry was listed as our heaviest user.”

About the same time Donnelly reached out to Brannan to teach a workshop, NBC Learn announced him as a super user.

CSM students Gary Corley, of Leonardtown, and Ashley Espirita, of Great Mills, find the videos helpful to understanding history.

“I like [the videos] because I’m more into visuals.  Also, if I miss something in class, I can go back and watch the video and get a better understanding,” said Espirita who is majoring in arts and humanities.

Corley, majoring in secondary education, agrees. “It is helpful when we watch a video that corresponds with what we are reading in class.”

Brannan has been interested in history for as long as he can remember. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history and government, and a master’s degree in education counseling from the University of Dayton.

Brannan’s wife of 44 years had not shared his interest in history until he planned a trip to Dodge City, Kan., early in their marriage. “Visiting a place that was the inspiration to the television show “Gunsmoke” helped her connect with the excitement and history of the early West,” said Brannan.

Brannan’s career in teaching started in 1969 with a job in Southhampton County, Va., schools before transferring to Pocahontas County, W.Va., and then Boggs Academy, Ga., a private prep school for African American children. Brannan then spent 27 years in the insurance business in Maryland before returning to his passion—teaching.

Brannan has used NBC Learn for three of his five years as an adjunct professor at CSM. He teaches U.S. history and Western civilization courses and now has a playlist of more than 240 videos and photos.

For information on CSM, visit www.csmd.edu.