Friday, March 27, 2015

The Junto's Final Four

The 2015 Junto March Madness Tournament Update

As you know from my earlier post there is an annual contest every year over on The Junto. This year's tournament has been about primary sources. After some fairly wild upsets, the Final Four has been reached. Unfortunately, Frederick Douglass' Fourth of July Speech did not make it. However, Douglass did make the Final Four with Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass which will be taking on The Declaration of Independence. The other match-up features Ben Franklin's Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin versus Alden T. Vaughn's Early American Indian Documents, Treaties, and Laws, 1607-1789. 

This has been an interesting contest and has seen several upsets. The only number one seed left in the field is Douglass. The DOI is a two seed while Franklin is a three. Vaughn is the lone Cinderella remaining in the field.

Who will win? Who will take home the 2015 Junto title? How can you participate? That's the easy part. Just go here and be ready to vote on Monday!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Technology in the Higher Education Classroom -

Technology in the Higher Education Classroom - Module Two
(Walden University course work by Jimmy Dick)
            The classroom of the future will be a place I hope to teach in. I look back to the college classrooms of the 1980s and cutting edge there was a microphone and overhead projector. Today cutting edge is a 3-D equipped classroom. I would love to have one of those to use in teaching history. I mentioned this to my students today and they loved the idea of it. Imagine having 3-D maps, images, and people for students to observe and even interact with. The possibilities are applicable in multiple fields of study too. The other areas I have interest in are mobile learning technology or m-learning. This pulls in two other tech segments such as e-textbooks and mobile applications for cross platform devices. Two additional tech areas I like are computers in the classroom and of course access to the Internet.
            At this point having a computer in the classroom is practically a necessity due to the usefulness of the device in playing audio/visual elements as well as the ability to access the Internet for various reasons. I think that is pretty self-explanatory, but when I look back to the 80s I remember not having them and my professors using slides and overhead projectors. Sometimes I miss not having a chalkboard in my classes because I saw more teaching via chalk than I ever did with a white board or for that matter a smart board. In fact, I have never had a class with a smart board or even used one. I don’t even think of them as a result.
            What I do consider important is m-learning and how I think that is going to revolutionize education. The ability to condense textbooks and learning materials of multiple media types and place them all within a transportable device or application via the device is phenomenal. Personally, I need to learn more about this technology in order to fully implement it in the classroom. I already work with e-textbooks and have no issues with them. In fact, I am going to incorporate them and their capabilities in accessing course materials in a much greater capacity in the second half of my American History to 1865 course this semester.
            My community college does a good job of supporting technology use via professional development programs. They have a $250 stipend available for every 15 credit hours completed which is a nice incentive. The courses are also online or in seat which also allows instructors to see online class presentations in action. We are lacking in m-learning training though and that is something that really needs some attention. I am pushing for training in using Apple’s iTunes U materials. I have discovered materials that will help me learn how to use the iTunes U and develop courses within it. That is going to be a major project of mine and I am really debating about possibly making that the focus of a doctoral study.
            M-learning applications exist abundantly. Over one trillion dollars’ worth of apps were sold in four of the biggest public app stores in 2013, Google Play, iTunes, Blackberry, and one other (Statistic Brain, 2014). This does not count private companies selling apps through their own storefronts or in programs via distribution. An example of this would be contracts with institutions through Pearson Education. This dollar figure takes on bigger meaning when you realize that over 65 billion apps were downloaded from those four stores and most of them were free apps. There are multiple applications with iTunes U for course development planning which I am just beginning to explore.
            One of my goals over the next eight weeks is to explore the construction of an app for my students to use which will help them utilize the learning-centered environment I strive to create in my classes. I am writing this while administering a mid-term, one of two mid-terms and a module exam I am giving today (Spring Break starts Friday). Several students commented about how the class, the materials, and the assignments came together in the mid-term. That was not by accident. It was by design. The technology I use in the classroom was in use during the mid-terms, but I want to take this a step further in the assessment process. That will be part of the final exam for certain as I learn more about using that iPad in the class.
            The major recommendation I have for my school is to develop a school wide training program for m-learning. We do not have anything and it is showing. Each campus has an iPad cart and I am one of two instructors who uses it in their classes. Studies have shown that institutions which do not have a cohesive m-learning development program for their instructors have a really poor m-learning integration problem (Hawkes & Hategekimana, 2010). Granted that the use of the e-Textbook here is still in its first year and limited to a few courses, but the training was limited to website use of the e-Textbook. Hardly any attention was giving to its use via mobile technology and none at all in conjunction with applications. Furthermore, the company that supplied the e-Textbooks has some really clunky applications for its m-learning platform. In fact, it looks like they just tried to port the website materials straight over to the m-learning platform and did next to nothing to create a self-sufficient m-learning portal.
            In conclusion, I think m-learning in the wave of the educational future. With the current assault on education funding by politicians who prefer ignorant Americans falling behind in the global learning world it is imperative that we use the shrinking funds wisely and invest the money in the technology that will expand the learning capabilities of our students. This is going to require institutions working together to develop training programs and resource utilization so that dollars are not duplicating previous efforts. It is also going to require staying up with the desires of our students and that is increasingly being tied to technology usage in schools. The bottom line is those who are proactive in this brave new world of technology are retaining and graduating students at a higher rate than those schools who are not. Some of those schools are closing their doors. What will be the fate of your institution?
Hawkes, M., and C. Hategekimana. (2010). Impacts of mobile computing on student learning in      the university: A comparison of course assessment data. J. Educational Technology Systems, 38(1), 63-74.
Statistic Brain. (2015). Mobile Phone App Store Statistics. (Website). Retrieved from   

Friday, March 13, 2015

Diffusing Revolutionary War Knowledge: The Journal of the American Revolution at

In the current political climate, the Internet often serves as version of the Wild West where websites of all types abound. Unfettered by notions of truthfulness and accuracy, some sites make all kinds of claims regarding events in history. An area that is heavily corrupted by political rhetoric and claims of dubious facts to outright lies thanks to a proliferation of these sites is that of the American Revolution. Unfortunately, far too many people seek to establish their modern ideological credentials by trying to gain legitimacy through an association with that era. It seems that patriotism must be part of the lunatic fringe at times.

Todd Andrlik
            Fortunately, there are some high quality websites available for students of history as well as the general audience who seeks history written from factual evidence instead of history created to suit someone’s political and or religious beliefs. One of these websites has been created by Todd Andrlik, author of Reporting the American Revolution: Before it was History, it was News. Andrlik, who has collected one of the largest private archives of newspapers from the Revolutionary era, developed a website dedicated to the delivery of “impeccable, ideally groundbreaking historical research and well-written narrative” concerning that era. Conceived on a napkin at first, Andrlik brainstormed with Hugh T. Harrington and developed the idea that resulted in the creation of The Journal of the American Revolution.
          Anyone that has looked for magazines dealing solely with this era will quickly discover two things. One is that there are none and the second is that in the last several years every attempt to create one has failed. The costs of creating a physical publication are too high for reaching the required number of readers it takes to sustain such an endeavor. However, as an astute observer might realize by looking at various websites, the cost of producing an online publication are a fraction of that expense. The real key is producing content to sustain viewers. Andrlik has managed to accomplish that feat by allowing the readers to be the content creators, which has been a masterful stroke of genius.

            As anyone knows who deals in academia, the mantra of the profession is publish or perish. With a limited audience for physical books dealing with this era, the numbers of titles that can be published each year remain small. Often, academic presses are the major source for publication and they tend to prefer those who are teaching in the colleges for their monographs. This has left historians who do not write monographs, but do write articles with little room for their work few opportunities to share their knowledge. That has also resulted in a decided lack of accurate and highly researched information reaching the public. Instead, the shoddy and often erroneous material whipped together to support ideologies and beliefs has been what reached the public.

            With the introduction of The Journal of the American Revolution in January of 2013, an outlet for magazine length articles of high quality research existed. Andrlik’s plan bore fruition as historians began to submit articles for publication. Today, a growing stable of historians with a wide range of publishing experience are submitting articles to the Journal on a regular basis. The website is a valuable outlet for public historians as well as grad students, academic historians, park rangers, and others who submit their work and receive nothing more than a byline for remittance. Yet, those same authors are adding to our knowledge of this period and gaining recognition for their work which they never would have received had this Journal not been created. 

            Today the Journal reaches over 165,000 unique views each month. Over one million unique views have occurred since the Journal began over its first two years. Articles have been picked up for distribution in major media outlets, featured on television, and lauded on National Public Radio. Many of the contributors have seen their work cited by professional historians. Television and movie producers seek these authors out for guidance concerning their programming. Teachers have used the information in their classes and constructed interactive learning lessons with them. 

            During that process, Andrlik has increased the number of editors to seven in order to keep up with the flow of submissions and maintain high standards of accuracy and research. In addition to the online Journal, Andrlik and his team have also taken the submissions and published them in annual hardcover volumes. The second volume is slated for publication in May of 2015. These articles range from general topics to specific concerns, book reviews, critiques on television shows and movies, and other issues dealing with the American Revolution. Every possible theme from the Revolution is being explored somewhere in the Journal. Recipes mingle with battles while spies lurk, women support their men, heroes and villains strive to sway public opinion and win a war in the articles on this website. 

           The result is one of the best websites on the Internet that covers this era. Students of history will not be disappointed with the articles nor will anyone with an interest in the period. For those who seek to know what really happened in that period, The Journal of the American Revolution is a must visit site. The best part is that the information is completely free. Actually, that is the second best part. The best is yet to come as more articles are published and added to the archives. As we enter the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution, The Journal of the American Revolution is poised to be one of the leading Internet sources of information on this period. Not too shabby for a concept sketched out on a napkin!

Friday, March 6, 2015

The 2015 Junto March Madness Tournament

The 2015 Junto March Madness Tournament

            This marks the third year that the junior Americanists over at The Junto have run their version of March Madness. I look forward to this annual event and am disappointed every time when my favorites get knocked off by obviously lesser quality opponents. You see, instead of sports teams playing a game where physical talent dictates the winner, the Junto selects elements of academia to battle it out for the title. This is a contest where sheer mental acuity, a passion for research, the ability to spin a phrase, and an impressive reputation count for more than physical ability; unless one considers the need to lift all those books. 

            Sixty-four of the best nominations from the Juntoists and their audience are selected for the brackets. The Juntoists seed the fields and the audience then votes. Each year a surprise upset occurs which shows the volatility of the contest. The first year, 2013, featured nominations for the best monograph in the field of history covering early American History. This is usually defined as colonial, Revolutionary, Early Republic, and Jacksonian eras. Usually anything after the Jacksonian era is not classed as eligible. The winner that year was Edmund Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom. The book was a runaway winner according to the judges as the voting for that book dominated the contest in every matchup. 

            The second year saw the field narrowed to monographs in the same eras, but published after 2000. This contest was very interesting and had a great deal of interaction. Michael Jarvis’ In the Eye of all Trade was a surprise winner. This year the field will not feature modern monographs, but instead is limited to primary sources, again in the same eras as before. This has resulted in some interesting choices and will be illuminating as historians nominated the ones they use often. The brackets have been filled and can be found here:  As the Juntoists say, “As a reminder that we give out every year: this exercise is meant to be fun. There is no way to truly determine what is the “best” document to use in the classroom. If any document doesn’t do as well as you expect, or if any subfields or subtopics seem underrepresented, it is based on readership nomination and voting. Most especially, the purpose of this year’s tournament is to use a fun venue (March Madness) to introduce teachers to a broad array of documents that they may want to consider using in the classroom.”

            I applaud their work and enjoy it greatly even if my choices did not make the brackets. Obviously, there are not that many fans of John Adams reading the blog! Still, the sources on this list are pretty impressive ones. I strongly encourage everyone to visit the Junto, participate in the contest, and do a little exploring. The Juntoists fill a very good role with this blog in the exploration of early American history. This is an area that has a small footprint on the Internet when one considers academic websites versus historically inaccurate and polemic sites that are usually not operated by a historian. Therefore, I hope to see the Junto have a nice long run. May the best source win!

Sunday, March 1, 2015


     Greetings intrepid adventurer! You have ventured to a blog where as Thomas Jefferson stated so eloquently "it is believed that the most effectual means of preventing this would be, to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large, and more especially to give them knowledge of those facts, which history exhibiteth, that, possessed thereby of the experience of other ages and countries, they may be enabled to know ambition under all its shapes, and prompt to exert their natural powers to defeat its purposes."

    The topic of history education is the purpose of this blog. My goal in life is to work in history education and to help refine and develop better practices for teaching history in higher education. Much as Jefferson and others have thought over the years since the founding of the United States, education is the key to combating gross ignorance in the world. I hope you join with me via this blog to share your ideas and knowledge in that process.

      To that end, history, education, and any combination of the two topics will be prominently featured in the blog. I look forward to interacting with you here!