Corrections and other stuff

I’m working on those website corrections. Fun stuff.

Actually, what’s more fun– and I’m betting this is the group that would be interested in this (being a little geeky and good-oriented): I was driving around Fredericksburg today (I was either on Stafford St. or on Augustine St. can’t remember) and saw the google “street view” camera car! If you don’t know what that is: It is really cool and check out these links. They just put Richmond up (yeaaa… that’s my parents’ house) so I guess Fredericksburg is next? According to our friend wikipedia (which is a pretty good source on this type of stuff) says that they delayed the release of DC and northern Virginia bc of security concerns.

It’s too bad I didn’t take a cell phone picture of it, as it seems that is what people like to do: One, Two, Three… there are more.

UNofficial reflections

Okay– so (OF COURSE) I went over the allowed word count!

But I have some thought about the future of this class, history at mary washington,  and the topic of digitial history that I thought might be good to post.  I’m guessing this is going to be a part of what we will talk about on Thursday and during the exam period.

So this is my unofficial extra reflection:

I have always been really excited about the idea of this class.  To have the ability to participate in something that is both an experimental learning environment and on the forefront of historical research is a very exciting prospect.  In addition, and I know I’ve said this in class before, this class provides applicable skills and knowledge- not simply the normal class environment.  At the same time, one of the worries that I have had, and continued to have throughout the semester, was that the type of class (the inherit informality of having computers in class and group work) limited individuals’ seriousness about the course.  “HIST 471C3,” being both a 400 level course and one of the two required seminars to graduate from college, should be one of the most difficult and time consuming courses in your entire academic life.  It isn’t a lower level history class, to be worked on when you have extra time, but rather it is the most important class or activity in the schedule every day.

At the same time, the group nature of this class leaves the possibility for individuals to sit back, relax, and allow other members to (because the overall group grade and presentation of the project is so important), literally, get them through the class.  If somebody isn’t contributing to the project, what more is this class than a free ride to college graduation?  And, as a somewhat rhetorical question: How, in a student group project, do you enforce the division of labor, the attendance of group meetings, and then general effort displayed by every member of the group.  Even though this was a group project, I don’t think we should be expected to play a role of babysitters.

I think there are two ways to make this class more effective.  First, a smaller class size(I know that’s not on you Dr. McClurken, but, starting in the fall, don’t you get to decide those things?).  I remember on the first day of class I walked in the room and thought: “Wow, this is a huge class!”  Well, it was a big class, and I really think it allowed several people to “hide” out.  While it isn’t a professor’s job to keep track of the amount of work every student does (we are, after all, in college and adults and old enough to be responsible and all that junk), a smaller class will help to prevent some of the problems that the some of the groups had.  Second, while, the most important aspect of our class were these projects- I also think it’s important to look more at “digital history” as a field.  We did a little bit of it, but I really wished that we had gone more into it- looking at other projects like the ones we were creating.  I don’t know what kind of impact this would have on the whole, but, for me, it would make the course seems as if it didn’t have such a narrow scope- of our individual projects.

Official Reflections on Digital History

During one of our Thursday presentations, the “Alumni Group” was asked a question about how, on our contract, we divided and set deadlines for the work we had to do on our project.  At the time, I didn’t think that was such a big deal- I assumed that each group member would contribute pretty much all the same amount, work would be done on time, and everything would go smoothly.  Looking back, our contract was probably the biggest problem with our project.  While we laid out what we wanted to do, both the specific tools and the big ideas, we failed to think specifically about how/who/when things needed to be done.  Besides that major problem, we were able to create almost exactly what we wanted to proposed in our contract. 

From my prospective, the Alumni Project is a professional looking website that really displays both the tools we talked about in class as well as the overarching idea of “digital history.”  One of the things that I like most about the site is that it is very much a digital history project instead of a series of individual essays and papers simply placed on the internet.  With videos, rather than simply text, we were able to create something that really takes advantage of the medium (the computer and the internet).

Coming into the class, I felt pretty comfortable with both the “historical” and the “technological” aspects of this course.  In the end, I feel like I was able to use both to help make our project a success.  On the technological  (and artistic- which is something I learned a lot about this semester) side, I created: both the design and the “coding” for our final website,  created the filmstrip on the homepage, created the header logo that’s on every page, created the layout for each profile page, compiled all the information for each profile onto that one page(including links), created the video page, created gmail and youtube accounts for our project, placed us on creative commons,  and created the add yourself page and accompanying email form.  For the content (more “historical”) part of the project, I wrote the homepage introduction, the about page, and the other explanatory paragraphs on the website.  I also scanned, uploaded, and made a list for the timeline of all the Bullet articles between 1940-1950, and 1990-end of the Bullet on microfilm.  I also found and scanned some of the yearbook photographs for the profile pages. Looking back, I wish I had been able to contribute more to the “content” side of the website.

Another aspect of the project that I spent a significant amount of time on was the organization of the project and the group.  Throughout the semester, I felt like some members of the group were very uninvolved with the project.  From the start, one of our biggest problems was that only a couple of group members were throwing out ideas for the vision of the project.  Because others did not formulate ideas, there was little feeling of ownership in the final product.  As a result, the group had a difficult time getting significant contributions from everybody in the group.  It almost seemed as if some where purposely not making an attempt to participate when group meetings were not attended (skipped or otherwise) and deadlines that were set as a group were blatantly passed over. 

Although these problems contributed to some major frustration, our project is complete and looks great.  I really believe the success of these projects (and this class) is important to the history department at Mary Washington.  I’ve been wondering if, sometime in the future, a project like we have created this semester, will replace the traditional thesis paper as the major course/project for history majors at the school.


Done, D-done, done-y, da-da-da-done…

You have no idea how much I want to write an “I’m done” blog entry.

Even though I have mosttttttttt things done, I’m guessing I will always be making changes.  So I don’t think that “I’m done” statement wil ever happen…

Question:  I accidentally put my flash drive thingie through wash yesterday.  Is it going to work.  I’m afraid to use in on my computer.  Is it wrong if I try it on a school computer first??

for class tomorrow

Sometimes I forget to write on the blog.
What we need to talk about tomorrow:

– Exhibit problems: pdf documents not being displayed. What do we do?

– Timeline: I can’t get videos to work, can anybody else?

– Profiles: We’re missing some information.

– Polishing the site: Go through and make edits, make sure all links work and everything looks good.

– Friday’s presentation: If only three of five can attend, do we want to still present? If we do want to present, are we meeting to discuss what to say?


Tuesday 04/08/08

Yaaaaaaaaaaaay!!  I never got that out here…  My 485 rough draft is done and turned in.  Don’t worry, I did it Monday, but didn’t feel the need to update everyone until now.  And only now since I am giving a project update anyway.  So it’s done.  Hopefully Dr. Hudgins doesn’t make me change anything for the final.  How great would that be?!

I was able to spend tonight working on the alumni project stuff.  So here’s a real quick list:  First, I made a little filmstrip graphic thing for the homepage.  What do you guys think of it??? Sometimes, it hurts my eyes and gives me a headache.  And, is it too gimmicky?

I also added the Create Commons stuff, like we had talked about during class on last Thursday.  I put it on the bottom of each page.

On the profile pages, I created a better way to display all the links.  We had too many videos to put where the used to be on the right side of the page.  I think it looks okay, but does it really?? I also put the time of each video next to the link.  I think that is helpful.

I still need to do an about us page.  And there are still a few gaps in the profiles.

As for the groooooup, the To-Do list much the same as last week:

– look at the site and send me any edits/additions

– If you haven’t yet, write a blurb about yourself: who you are/describe some of what you did for the project

– put transcripts of interviews, questionnaire sheets up on Omeka.

– upload all videos to youtube

– interviews left to edit

– t-line issues

– Bullet uploads

We have a meeting tomorrow tonight (6 pm in Monroe, if anybody else is interested in attending), so hopefully some of that stuff will be addressed tomorrow.

ps: this is a pretty bad post.

Impact of Digital on History

In reading Christopher Miller’s article “Strange Facts in the History Classroom: Or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Lobe the Wiki(pedia),” I immediately thought about the discussion we had a few weeks ago (months ago?) where we talked about our own opinions of how to incorporate Wikipedia into academic research. During that discussion, we decided that while it was a great place to start research, because it is an encyclopedia it is inappropriate to cite in academic papers. I was very surprised to read that more traditional print encyclopedia have the same sort of inaccuracies that people use to question the legitimacy of Wikipedia.

The problem with using technology, or really anything “new,” in a classroom is the opportunity for either the students to have no idea what the teacher is talking about or something to go wrong in the technical aspects of the project. In Miller’s example, he assumed that his students were going to understand what he was talking about when he mentioned the Wikipedia website. In fact, it was critical to his assignment that the students have a basic knowledge of the arguments surrounding the online encyclopedia website. Luckily, Miller was able to change his plans slightly to provide more of a background of information. One of the limitations in using “technology” in the classroom is that students, in most classes, should be spending a majority of their time with research or something specific to the subject matter rather than dealing with technological problems in website or PowerPoint. We are all aware of those horrible and awkward moments when the technological aspects of somebody’s presentation are not working.

The other article I read, “Blogging for Your Students,” written by David Voelker, gives a kind of explanation of why teachers should create blogs for their courses. I thought this article provided good, practical information for professors. One of the things the author writes about is the ability for an out of class dialog that includes both students and professors. The author believes the fact that a blog is public forces blog participants to post more complete thoughts than a message board would.

Also interesting is that the founder of’s name is James Farmer.

Well, today is really our first deadline- we’re supposed to have the articles scanned/uploaded to omeka. Hmmm…. deadline: “a line beyond which you die”. Who died? We also made some other deadlines on our google calander. We’ll see how thhhhhaaaat goes.

I’ve got my Bullet articles done, but now there is a lot of other stuff on the to do list.

For me to do- maybe by Tuesday’s class

– make some sort of graphic for the front page of the site that includes photographs, both old and new, our alumni count, maybe something that is interactive and moving. Hope that works.

– update profile pages with the info about each person, the photograph, links to video, artifacts-transcript. I’m going to have to change the layout of the page because there are more video links than fit in my little “video” box.

– about US page (as a link off of the about page or on the about page?)

Group things:

– look at the site and send me any edits

– write a blurb about yourself: who you are/describe some of what you did for the project

– put transcripts of interviews, questionnaire sheets up on Omeka.

– upload all videos to youtube

– three interviews left to edit

– t-line issues

– bullet bullet bullet…

Third Time’s The Charm.

Three posts today??  Well, yes. But only to say that I’m back in the history game.  I have a much better attitude now.  All it takes is some college basketball games on tv.

Also, just wanted another update to say that I’ve put more on the “about” page.  And since I’ve done that, I responded to the email that I received from the UMW Today people.

Have a good weekend!

Who is in charge of the digital history end of the year party?