Osiern’s Weblog

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Digitization, Preservation and My Project

Posted by osiern on October 26, 2008

Almost all of the material involved in my project has already been digitized.  The primary sources I will be using can be found on the Library of Congress website or they already exist within my organization’s database.  If I do find a primary resource that I would like to use in an archive that has yet to be digitized, I will find out if it can be digitized with their permission.  I do have access to many good scanners as well as digitial cameras at work so the tools would not be difficult to access.  If an item cannot be digitized, then I will have to accept that and work around it by leaving out the item, replacing it with something else, describing the information, or explaining where the item can be found.

For preserving this tool, I feel that it will run as long as an IPhone can run.  If an IPhone were to break hopefully the technology will still be available to fix it.  The content that is on each IPhone will be saved within my organization’s hard drive and backed up on a regular occasion.  I will also post all of the material on the web page, which is saved every few months by our web team.  As technology changes and develops I hope the material can be moved along with it, however just as technology changes so does educational philosophy.  I expect the material on this tool to be regularly updated and I will not keep track of every change.  I’m not really one for saving everything, as much as a I a historian I’d rather not be a pack rat.

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Comparing Digital Books

Posted by osiern on October 26, 2008

For this comparison I have chosen to look at The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass from google books and from Internet Archive.

Similarities: Both books can be presented in a “turn the page” like fashion.  I liked this feature better than scrolling because it was I could flip through the pages quicker. Both offered the same book from the same publisher and publication date.  Both displayed all of the pages, even if there was nothing on them.  Both provided a “search the book” option. Both are difficult to read directly off my computer screen, both put strain on my eyes.

Differences:Google books did not have the annoyingly fast flashing of each book and its contents, that bugged me a lot when I was searching for the book.  Google Books presents the book with a white background and black writing. Internet Archives presents the book with “authentic” coloring.  The authenticity may have caused a longer load time because the google version loaded faster.  In the table of contents Google provides links to each chapter and subsection where Internet Archive does not.  While in the reading mode (that’s what I call it when the book is actually open in the flip setting) IA offers no links, while google offers multiple links to various topics including links to booksellers.  Google provides other information about the book on a separate page titled “About this Book.” Here you can find links to the chapters, highlighted pages, reference to scholarly works, reference to websites on Frederick Douglass, and a map showing places mentioned in the book.

Preference:  For a basic quick search of The Life and Times of Frederick DouglassI would choose Google Books because of the quick links to chapters and sections. As an educator I would choose Google Books for the “About this Book” page and resources it offers. For reading the actual book, I would choose neither.  I would rather take the actual book out of the library and sit next to a bright lamp.  Reading from a computer screen is too eye straining.

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Abundance is Overwhelming to Me

Posted by osiern on October 26, 2008

This post is in response to Roy Rosenzweig’s article, Scarcity or Abundance? Preserving the Past in a Digital Era.

When we discuss the possiblities of the web and all the information that is out there, could be out there, will be out there, I become overwhelmed.  As a historian it’s great to find information, sometimes hard to acquire, piece it together with other information and create a narrative or answer a historical question.  However, with all of this information out there and all that is out there possibly being saved it seems mind boggling to me.  On one hand I think it is great to have this on the other I am nervous.  I think “what if i miss something that is so obvious because it’s right there on the web for everyone to see” or “holy cow, how will I ever be able to look at everything.”  Thanks to this article I know I am not alone in these thoughts. 

A significant amount of historians are concerned, worried, nervous and rightly so.  Until recently historians could piece together information using various mediums which were generally finite and easy to see/touch/recognize.  A book, a letter, a piece of music, a film, an object; these are items a historian is used to dealing with.  Once these are created they pretty much stay the way they are, the items are usually tangible in some fashion, there may be copies but the number is pretty much within a conceivable range, if altered it is usually noticeable, not everyone has access to the item being studied.  Historians have been working with these types of mediums for a long time.  Over time hIstorians have established ways to use these items to study history.  Now with new media and the digital world a whole new way of using this medium is going to have to be esablished. 

HIstorians are going to have to figure out how to best use the information they are given as well as how to use the technology to find the information they are looking for.  Historians may have to take on a role similar to that of an archivist, pulling out and saving what is truly the most important while leaving other resources behind. A lot has just been added to the historian’s plate, there are some who do not want to deal with it and there are some who have become historians because of it. In the article Rosenzweig states:

historians should take steps individually and within their professional organizations to embrace the culture of abundance made possible by digital media and expand the public space of scholarship. Rosenzweig pg. 26

Expanding the public space of scholarship is something I agree with, it just freaks me out how much is out there.  The best and probably only way I have found to handle it so far is to jump in and ask for help from those who jumped before me.

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great model

Posted by osiern on October 21, 2008

I especially like this website, “A Moment in Time” out of the University of Richmond, because it provides clear direction, it’s easy to use, and provides brief, educational historical narratives.  The narratives are also in audio, visual, or written form for multiple learning styles.  This would be a website I would have posted every day on my large computer screen for all of my students to see/listen to when they came into class.   There is a membership but it’s free.

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Copyright concerns with my final project

Posted by osiern on October 20, 2008

At this point my concerns are minimal.  Fortunately I will be developing this tool for the organization I work for, so a good amount of the material I will be using is already owned by my organization and safe to use.

The other materials I will be using are so old they are no longer under copyright.  This is a major advantage of using primary sources from 1861-1865.  I will also be using government developed material from the National Park Service, which is also in the public domain.

An area of concern is the music recordings I will be using, however my organization has a good relationship with individuals who record period music, and so therefore, I could just ask for permission.

This is much easier to work on through work, which is full of resources, rather than as an individual.

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protection and progress

Posted by osiern on October 20, 2008

As historians we build off others research in order to progress the field.  How could we do this if research is “protected,” is protection limiting our progress? Should scholarly research be open to the public for the progression of society?

As a historian and an educator I believe that scholarly work should be open to the public and that copyright law, extensions, and the regulation of copyrighted materials on the internet has at times gotten out of hand. Copyright law, as Dan Cohen, Roy Rosenzweig, John Willinsky, and Lawrence Lessig would agree is a good thing. However, just as with anything else in life, when this good thing is abused and driven by greed it becomes ugly.

All three readings (Digital History Chap. 7, Copyright, and Free Culture) go over the history of copyright law and the explanation of fair use.  But they also discuss the importance of social progress and what they believe was the true nature of copyright citing the U.S. Constitution.  As new media allows for a quick flow of information and document sharing, it has become as Lessig states, a war.  A war between those holding a copyright and those trying to use the material.  He does not feel this war is worth waging, and that will ultimately end up hurting society.

Scholars need to earn a living, but the greed needs to stop.  If research had not been built upon we would be a vastly different society. With the world wide web as a new resource we should have more opportunity for more sharing, learning, and growing.

I believe that by having these conversations in combination with the work of organizations/web pages such as creative commons we can prevent this over protection.  These two pieces help a community of “cultural environmentalists” progress society and make others aware of what the consequences might be for the future.

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Outline for Final Project

Posted by osiern on October 14, 2008

Abstract: The project creates a tool that would be used on a self-guided tour.  The tool would allow for a tour that consists of multiple forms of media. My central focus and what led to this idea is concept of place-based-learning.

Specifically using a class set of IPhones (40) a teacher with his or her students could walk around a trailed battlefield.  The battlefield would have waysides that could be read by the average visitor as they go along the trail, but using the IPhone the class would be able to access a tour that includes a narrative from a historian which would follow along the trail and the waysides.

At each wayside another piece of the story would be told along with primary resources such as letters, photographs, and newspaper clippings that were used by the historian to research and tell the story.  These items could be located outside the tour in their respective folders (see mock up in past blog).

Along the trail the class will also be able to see a map of the battle and using gps technology, they could locate themselves within the battle map.  Period music would also play at appropriate times during the tour, such as when walking or listening to a personal narrative.

For the teacher there are lesson plans that can be accessed online or on the IPhone during the tour.  These lesson plans support activities pre and post tour.  There are also “leading questions” provided to the teacher at each wayside and in conclusion to the tour.  All of the items on the self-guided tour can be accessed online in similar organization so that teachers and students can revisit the material they used, or want to use at a different time.

Need: Place-based-learning is important for students of any age to make a connection to the topic they are studying.  Battlefields especially are difficult to understand without actually seeing them or being there.  Using music, providing audio narratives of personal experiences, and providing visuals create an emotional attachment possibly even empathy, which drives in an interest to learn more about a topic.  Through the use of the battlefield and the technology of the IPhone we are able to combine various mediums touching upon multiple learning styles, deferentiating the learning experience.  A differentiated learning experience is useful and necessary for all students, but can be especially affective for those with special needs/gifts.  Finally, the multiple standards of learning are being addressed throughout the experience making it practical and useful for teachers.

Main Features/Functionality:

Most of this has been explained above or in previous blogs.  I have added the picture of the interface again below.

Audience: My audience is grades 3-12 students and teachers.  However this can be used for students of any age.  The primary resources will not be based on grade and can be used by the adult student of the Civil War.  Since the questions asked are “leading questions” these can also be thought provoking questions for adults as well.

Technologies I plan to use and avoid: I wanted to use the IPhone and not the ITouch or an IPod or cell phone.  I specifically chose the IPhone because of its internet and gps capabilities.  Apple also uses a very user intuitive model, which means I won’t have to spend time explaining how to use the technology.  However there are instructions in the welcome.

User Interactive Elements: A message board will be available to teachers on the website.  This will allow for quick feedback and trouble shooting.  I will also have an educators blog on the webpage (CWPT page) where I will discuss my thoughts on the tool and teachers can leave comments.

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A Bookless Future?

Posted by osiern on October 5, 2008

I do not believe that therewill be a bookless future, although this is often a popular idea in science fiction movies.

A physical book is a valuable object.  We spend thousands of dollars to protect and preserve highly valuable books, not for the purpose of the information they contain, but for the value of the actual object.  Not everything is about information, information can be found in a lot of places.  Sometime people just need to see, hold, smell an actual object to make a connection. 

I love books, the actual objects and I am not alone in this.  Last week my classmates and I were talking about moving and how books can be the heaviest, most annoyting thing to move.  We discussed how even though this was the case, we really cannot part with our books.  Books are attached to some of our fondest memories or most trying academic times.  I still have my favorite books from childhood and there is no way I am getting rid of the books from my graduate research course.  Books add a cozy design element to rooms as well as giving visitors a quick way learn more about me.

A blanket, a cup of your favorite hot beverage, and a book are often what people look forward to in the winter.  A beach chair, your favorite cold beverage, and a book are often what people look forward to in the summer.  I cannot lug my laptop everywhere and I don’t want to.  It’s heavy, it’s far more expensive to replace if said beverage were to spill, and it’s frustrating to read on. 

I actually print most reading material.  90% of my school work is not done at home in front of my computer.  I read on the metro, the elevator, the bus, the bus stop, the park bench, etc.  It’s much easier to print out a few pages or carry a book. 

I think that there will definately be books and other publications online and a better way to electronically read them, but I do not think that books will ever become obsolete.

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Wiki History

Posted by osiern on September 29, 2008

I enjoyed Dr. Rosenzweig’s essay on Wikipedia. I thought it was a well rounded argument, making me really think about the value and issues of the popular on-line encyclopedia.

I personally do not have a problem with individuals using Wikipedia as a research tool.  Students and the average person are going to Wikipedia, it’s incredibly accessible in more than one way.  It’s free (no monetary charge), it’s the first thing that shows up when you google a topic (fast to access), it’s organized in a concise manner (a table of contents and a page is broken down into topics), it’s written at a reading level that most are comfortable with.

My concern is that people do not use it in the correct manor.  However, I do believe that most teachers address this.  I have recently developed a web-page for my job about doing research on the Internet and I specifically address the proper use of Wikipedia, I want people to know it is okay to use it but only for the purpose of an initial introduction to a topic.

I choose three pages to look through and read the history and discussion of:

The Cubin Missile Crisis

The overall entry on the topic is fine.  This is where I actually did some initial research for a project I did for one of my graduate classes, from Wikipedia I was actually able to find very useful links to primary and secondary sources both on-line and in physical locations.

The history of the page shows that there has been a good amount of activity surrounding the site.  Usually every two days there is some adjustment, which there should be, this is recent history and the events are still coming to light.

In the discussion section I found one particular entry very interesting.  One person comments about how the exact times should be stated instead of “in the afternoon;” however, as my classmate who did research on just that discovered, naming the exact times is a daunting task.  This is especially true because of the time difference of Russia and the United States.  I really appreciate the conversation that is set in motion, since it is something that historians have also struggled with.

Ellis Island

Vandalism Found

Vandalism on Wikipedia

Vandalism on Wikipedia

When I started looking through the Ellis Island page I noticed some vandalism right away.

I took a screen shot, knowing that this would most likely be fixed in the near future. When looking back at the history I noticed that these changes had actually all occurred today.

This is one of many concerns with doing research on Wikipedia, however most people would notice this as a mistake right away.

Horace Mann

My last search was on the great education revolutionary, Horace Mann.  This site has also been having some problems with vandalism, which I noticed when I read the discussion page.

Time for a protection

This page is literally being monitored and followed by vandals. Nine vandal editions in just seven days (from March 17) and this is just an addition to a large file of previous attacks. Isn’t it time for a protection? —Filius Rosadis 16:48, 23 March 2006 (UTC)

I agree with you that this page has been subject to much vandalism. However, Wikipedia:Protection Policy seems to indicate that protection is used very sparingly, and mostly for either high-profile pages or pages subject to heavy or coordinated attacks. I’ve seen plenty other higher-profile, more highly-vandalised pages that are still unprotected. I think we should just keep this page on our watchlists and revert as needed. We can handle 1 or 2 reverts a day. You take 1, I’ll take the other 🙂 AbsolutDan 05:25, 24 March 2006
This was just random that I stumbled upon two history based sites in a row with vandalism issues, however both were being addressed and there was a vast amount of great information there.
Again, the conclusion is: use Wikipedia wisely!

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Final project continues

Posted by osiern on September 29, 2008

I have been working this week on what the initial interface will look like for my IPhone self-guided tour.  This is the initial interface that a teacher and their students would see when they turn on their phones.  I don’t want it to be too busy and I still want them to be able to find everything they need quickly.  I’m not sure about the image in the background, I could just go with a black background.  All the teacher really needs to do is click on the tour icon and all the maps/video/photos/music/objects will be within that tour.  However, I also wanted them to be able to pull these items out individually.  There are also extras, like the NPS historian battle overview, which would not be part of the tour, but could be watched before or after.  Everything on the phone would be available on a website as well, for the teacher and students to access free.

draft 1 of interface

draft 1 of interface

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