Tuesday, September 10, 2013

History Tools in the Digital Age

It can sometimes sound like the war-stories of old but when I was in college, "smart classrooms" were barely in existence and few faculty could use them.  But here at North Shore Community College, we have the fully fledged multimedia console in the vast majority of our classrooms and it can fundamentally change how we teach history.

Capable and competent instructors that we are, we are quite capable of engaging an audience who is usually less than thrilled to be taking a "required" history course.  But we do not have to do it entirely on our own.   What follows are a variety of digital resources that can be used inside and outside the classroom for your students that can help the course come alive.  The beauty of these resources is that they are public domain or open content, allowing for much more dynamic use of them without violating copyright and potentially creating a vast collection of resources that can allow the instructor to bypass the traditional textbook (and its hefty price). 

Most History and English instructors are familiar with Project Gutenberg, but not nearly as many are familiar with the Internet Archive.  This is one of my favorite places to visit and I find all sorts of interesting and curious artifacts.  From many books (in digital form from scans--not just text) to old time radio to television and film, the Internet Archive is dedicated to making all public domain materials available--even software and music.  It is abundant with a great deal of material that you can use for your class or send your students to explores and turn them into virtual anthropologists and archeologists.  

The Archive's Audio & Radio section has a great range of material from public radio recordings, to volunteer-narrated audiobooks of public domain works, to actual speeches, interviews and even old time radio shows.  For instance, you can find all the 1945 Episodes of Amos & Andy, a speech by Aldous Huxley called "The Ultimate Revolution," Orson Welles' 1938 Mercury Theater recordings (which includes the famous War of the Worlds), and of course, Speeches from Hitler's Germany.

In the department of books, the bastion of the history course, you can find an abundance of resources on Archive.org, such as history books or a great range of primary sources depending on your focus.  You can find some of the most curious texts such as Observations On The Mussulmauns Of India (1917), Occultism And Modern Science (1923), What the moon saw : and other tales (1866), Reflections on the causes of the rise and fall of the Roman empire (1758) by Baron de Montesquieu and my personal favorite: Letters from a cat: published by her mistress for the benefit of all cats and the amusement of little children (1879).  But what's great about the books on Archive.org as opposed to the Guttenberg Project is that there are many books that are full-scans, not just text.  This means they will including images, page layout, and the ability to download the ebook to read on different platforms. 

Archive.org also has a great deal to offer in terms of videos and movies--all of which can be streamed or downloaded.  This includes access to documentaries, feature films, television shows (from 1940s & 1950s), old commercials, news reports, famous speeches, and much more. There is plenty of archival film to explore here for you and your students.  Some of the curious items I found, include Experiments in the Revival of Organisms (1940), an entire collection to be found on September 11 Television, a personal favorite, Edison's version of Frankenstein (1910), a curious look for people considering cultural history, Adventures of Dr Fu Manchu S1E11 (1956), and a good documentary on Ghosts Of Rwanda Genocide.

Finally, there is the Internet History available at Archive.org.  This neat tool allows you to follow back on the history of the internet and in particular, different websites.  For instance, you can examine how different media sites cover the same event or study how a website has changed and adjusted over the years.  Here are some great examples:

NSCC Website August 21, 2002

NSCC Website June 24, 2005
Boston.com Main page 9/11/2001
CNN.com Main page 9/11/2001

Have you tried any of the above resources?  What was your favorite?  What artifact did you uncover or do you use in your class?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Faculty Retreat Program (Wednesday, May 22)

Faculty Retreat
Department of History, Government and Economics
Math and Science Building, Room 119 (Lecture Hall)
Wednesday, May 22, 2013

9:00-9:30 am
Continental Breakfast (provided by the department-- Old Cafeteria, Math
and Science Building)

9:30-10:15 am
Moonsu Han and the Economics Club, “Mock FOMC Meeting”

10:30-11:45 am
Keynote Address
Professor Cyrus Veeser (Bentley University), “Bricks and mortar, flesh
and blood: Why real humans in real classrooms are still better than online

11:45 am-1:00 pm
Lunch (provided by the department—Old Cafeteria, Math and Science

1:00 pm-2:00 pm
Kara Kaufman and the Debate Club: “Make me an argument I can’t refute:
Incorporating debate into the classroom”

If you plan to attend the retreat, please RSVP to Larry Davis @
LDAVIS@northshore.edu by Wednesday, May 15.

Monday, April 29, 2013

COD Award

It is my pleasure to announce that Kara Kaufman has been awarded the Massachusetts Colleges Online (MCO) 2013 Online Course of Distinction (COD) Award for her World History 2 course.

The award will be presented at the MCO Annual Conference on Wednesday, June 5th at Bridgewater State University.

Congratulations Kara!

Friday, March 29, 2013

New World War I Sourcebook

Christine Goodchild, one of the librarians on the Danvers campus, has informed me that the library has purchased Empires, Soldiers, and Citizens: A World War I Sourcebook, edited by Marilyn Shevin-Coetzee and Frans Coetzee (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013). 

It is a comprehensive collection of primary source material  that represents political, social and economic aspects of the war. The collection also features chapters on the war as it was fought in Asia and Africa.

If you come across books you believe would be good additions to the library's collection, feel free to email the title to me. If it is not available in print, we can try to buy a digital version.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

NERWHA’s Autumn Symposium

ANNOUNCING NERWHA’s Autumn Symposium
26 OCTOBER 2013

"Hispanic America in World History," featuring a keynote address by Felipe
Fernández-Armesto, William P. Reynolds Professor of History, University of Notre
Dame, will be the theme of NERWHA’s 2013 Fall Symposium, Saturday, 26
October 2013, 9:00 AM-4:00 PM, at the Dudley H. Davis Center, the University of
Vermont, Burlington, VT.

Proposals for papers, full panels, roundtables, posters, and other contributions
relating to research and/or pedagogy on the symposium theme should be submitted
electronically as a Word document to Alfred J. Andrea <aandrea@uvm.edu> before
15 May 2013. Proposals offered by persons representing disciplines other than
history are warmly invited. Each proposal, whether for a group or an individual,
should consist of a brief abstract that clearly places each contribution into a world
history context and a one-page CV for each participant.

Full details regarding the symposium, registration materials, directions to
Burlington, Vermont, and a campus map will be available on this website in the
near future.

Jessica Burt

Sunday, February 24, 2013

TED Talks

I love TED talks! This Sunday morning as I sipped my tea and ate my bagel I listened to a talk by Neil MacGregor on the Cyrus Cylinder.


In 18 minutes, MacGregor beautifully links World History I and II together. According to the cylinder, Cyrus, the first emperor of Persia, was led by God (spoiler alert: which God is in dispute) to restore the Jews to their homeland and allow people in the Persian empire to worship freely whomever they desired. MacGregor threads this artifact through 2600 years of Persian/Iranian history. He highlights not only Cyrus himself, but Alexander the Great's conquest, the Balfour Declaration, the Shah as Western puppet, the Iran/Iraq war, and the Islamic Republic.

What a great way to start a Sunday!

Kara Kaufman

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Patterns of World History Text

At the other campus where I teach world civ we used Von Sivers, et al. and right now we are regretting the decision. The text does not facilitate synthesis and interpretation and students are having a difficult time understanding how to organize topics found in each chapter. The concept maps are inconsistent, some of which look like path analyses without a clear explanation or a call-out box detailing how the paths are conceptualized (not even in the instructor manual), so I had to second-guess the authors or just skip that diagram altogether because I had no clue why it was drawn in the manner chosen. Then there is their attempt to 'shoehorn' all civilizations into a fiscal-military state theme that may work for western civilizations but it is questionable for East Asian civlizations. I ended up having to consult several other texts and relied much more heavily on primary source documents to help students develop topics for essays. In all my years teaching world civ I have never found it so difficult to get students involved in class discussions.  It was clear to me their understanding of the text was minimal.  They couldn't even recall sufficient details when I probe some of their isolated comments to help them interpret the facts.  Patterns as is definitely is not appropriate for 2-year colleges.