I discovered this morning that I was, in fact, out of printer paper! So this will have to do for now =)

 

Aaron Elfering

Hist. 381

12/7/2012

Technology in the Classroom: A Digital Frontier

            Reflecting upon my experiences with educational technology, both in theory and in practice, I believe that we are in the midst of a major revolution in this field. Over the past semester, I have been introduced to a plethora of technology aids, resources, and tools that even I never suspected to exist. Technology can be made to be a great asset in any classroom, both as a motivational aid and a teaching tool to help students succeed. The realms of technology in the classroom have expanded far beyond mere word processing and basic presentations with images, and technology is now a prime way to motivate students. Now, those same programs used for simple tasks are capable of so much more. For example, instead of merely creating a linear PowerPoint presentation, teachers can use the Kiosk features of the program to create interactive, non-linear activities for students such as Jeopardy or Hollywood Squares for use during lessons. Video games, before used only for children’s entertainment, now can be learning tools instead with a proper introduction. For example, strategy games created about the civil war can be used as instructional tools when describing the lives of soldiers during the conflict or other related topics. By using technology in this fashion, students can become more engaged in instruction and achieve a more substantive learning experience.

Perhaps my favorite use of technology over the past semester has been our use and discussion of GIS oriented tools. I’ve been acquainted with these types of tools for a long time now but never cease to be amazed by the potential that lies in GIS based learning and technology. Stretching far beyond dinking around with google earth, I was fairly excited to get to incorporate this kind of technology into our grant proposals and discuss the huge potential that this sort of technology can bring to the class room.

One of the things I find most interesting about technology is that, for the most part, users are able to use many different kinds of technology in conjunction with the other to create/present information in ways that many people might not think possible. It was great to see this same effect occur first hand in class with each project/study area. It’s nice to know that I could combine GIS technologies along with some augmented reality (QR codes, video reporting etc.) and analyze through copious amounts of big data and primary sources to create one killer wiki page or even a large scale grant proposal. Ultimately there just don’t seem to be many classes I’ve taken where towards the end I felt that I could use each project or area of study in a practical, impressive manner.

The fact that students were encouraged to use any technology available to them felt very refreshing and in my opinion, access to smart phones, tablets and laptops being openly encouraged seemed to make for less distraction for students. It is my hope that other courses will start to step away from the idea that these devices are taboo in the classroom. While I personally stand by the use of technology in the classroom due to its seemingly limitless potential, I feel like it’s important to note that if technology is to be implemented heavily into the educational world, it is crucial that it is used to foster a more encouraging, interesting and creative learning environment rather than being used to homogenize education and allow for lazier teaching methods; the focus must remain on the student and in many cases, the classroom will still play a vital role.

 

http://digitally.doinghistory.com/674/

Boise Bike Project Wiki Reflection

Boise has proven to one of the most interesting small cities I have ever visited, in part because of the many sub cultures that can be found here. I often describe Boise as small town big city because in living here, its easy to find elements of both environments, the good and the bad. Boise’s size and variety of environments makes it a perfect home for the more outdoors inclined as well as younger urbanite crowds. I believe that somewhere in the middle of these two groups is something that has a true claim to being part of the heart of Boise, the bicycle. Call it the Portlandia “Hipster” effect but especially over the past 5 years, Boise has become one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the U.S. and somewhere at the core of this influx of cyclery lies the Boise Bike Project.

The Boise Bike Project or BBP is inarguably Boise’s most important bicycle resource and serves thousands each year for just enough to keep themselves afloat. It is this kind of attitude that embodies Boise’s cycling community. I am far from Boise’s biggest cycling advocate being more of a car guy myself but after recently spending my fair share of time at the BBP putting together a road bike project of my own for practically nothing, I quickly realized how great of an operation it was and it felt more than appropriate to try and spread awareness about this hidden gem at the core of Boise’s grassroots cycling community.

I can honestly say that I didn’t have many technological difficulties with this project but the one or two that I did encounter were fairly frustrating. For starters, I was not the least bit amused when I realized that BoiseWiki.org and boise.localwiki.org were in fact, completely different pages but are seemingly run under the same leadership with generally the same format and information but do not communicate/interact with each other (I could also be completely misunderstanding the relationship between these sites). I began my wiki page on boisewiki.org after googling “Boise Wiki” seeing some familiar names and formats and accepting that I was using the correct site. Using MS Word for most of the meat of my project, I was able to paste my project in, do some simple styling editing using text and felt I had a pretty solid little page put together. It was after trying to get this page to pull up that I realized I ultimately created my own entirely new wiki solely for the BBP. Ultimately I did what any red blooded American male would do only after reaching the point of frustration, I consulted the directions…

As I should have observed before starting anything, I realized that I should have been using boise.localwiki.org. “No matter” I thought, “it looks like this site is, at its core, virtually identical to the last, I’ll just paste in what I’ve done and the end result should be much the same.” I was correct for the most part, but there was one glaring difference, the styling tools operated completely differently. While BoiseWiki.org used a more text oriented editing process, boise.localwiki.org used a GUI based editing process, which would seemingly be more user friendly. I say this in the most friendly way possible, I am not a fan of that interface, maybe I’m even more incompetent than I had previously realized but this tool seems to have more than its fair share of flaws.  This doesn’t sound like much of an issue but I still was not ultimately able to style my page exactly how I would have liked. (/rant)

To be on the safe side I have left both articles in place and they can each be found on their separate respective Wiki pages here and here. This was not my first time writing a local piece on Boise but as strange as it might sound to say it, I always come away with a sentimental feeling after digging into small parts of our wonderful little city. The more and more research I did into the BBP, the more I was truly impressed with what the staff behind that organization has accomplished and how much groups like the Boise Bike Project really are an invaluable asset to our community and it feels great to know that I could help spread the word for them on some level and draw them much deserved attention. After checking out the DavisWiki and realizing its success, I have no doubt that Boise as a community is capable of developing an extremely comprehensive Wiki to rival the DavisWiki and it feels great to have participated in this sort of tangible project.

Public Domain and Creative Commons Images

Public Domain Image.
http://www.public-domain-image.com/cache/space-public-domain-images-pictures/space-shuttle-launching-to-space_w725_h545.jpg

Creative Commons picture.
Photo taken by Delphinidaesy (http://www.flickr.com/photos/delphinidaesy/) Taken on October 23rd, 2012.
Spokes

Political Party Changes in Reflection to Party and Social Values

Nicole Kinney, Aaron Elfering, Adam Frickey

Our project is a visual representation of demographic shifts over time in parties represented by the face of an average party voter. Certain policy changes and historical events have significant effect on the average voter of each party. It is important to note that parties have gathered voters from widely different demographics over the last 150 years. Our project would be presented in a website with a central image and interactive time bar below it. By dragging across the timeline, the image changes to represent the average voter of that period and facts or ideals that may have influenced their voting habits. Factors considered would include age, race, economic class, and gender. To present further detail, background images will be included, such as religious items, common workplace tools, clothing, or environment. This will prevent the need for cumbersome or excessive reading, while a link could provide access to additional information to more interested users.

Research Project Plan: The Dawn of Nuclear Threat

Aaron Elfering

History 381

10/5/2012

The Dawn of Nuclear Threat

Sixty years ago the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Japanese government surrendered to the United States and its allies. The nuclear age had begun with a literal ‘bang’ as the first military use of atomic weapons was demonstrated. With the material that follows, the National Security Archive has released the most comprehensive collection to date of declassified U.S. government documents on the atomic bomb and the end of World War II in the Pacific. Besides material from the files of the Manhattan Project, this compilation includes formerly top secret summaries and translations of Japanese communication intercepted under military programs. In addition, the collection includes translations from Japanese high level meetings and discussions in Tokyo, including the conferences when Emperor Hirohito gave the final decision to surrender to allied forces. The decision made by the U.S. to display its military superiority via the Atom bomb is painted with controversy, however, given the extensive intelligence that the U.S. Government had gathered about Japan at the time, following through with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the correct choice.

  • Description of weapon capability as well as potential drawbacks as discussed by President Truman and high ranking military officers.

A. Memorandum discussed with the President, April 25, 1945
Source: Henry Stimson Diary, Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library, Henry Lewis Stimson Papers (microfilm at Library of Congress).

President Truman learns about the Manhattan project and is brought up to speed by scientists and military strategists about its capabilities for ending conflict with Japan.

B.Untitled memorandum by General L.R. Groves, April 25, 1945
Source: Record Group 200, Papers of General Leslie R. Groves, Correspondence 1941-1970, box 3, “F”.

It is determined that President Truman favors the project and has become very intrigued by its possibility. Trusting the men in charge of the project, Truman gives the Manhattan Project his approval.

  • As it quickly became clear that Japan would be the established target, these documents, meeting minutes and briefings detail proposed delivery targets, delivery methods, command and other logistics (potential aftereffects are detailed as well).

 

 A. Notes on Initial Meeting of Target Committee, May 2, 1945, Top Secret
Source: RG 77, MED Records, Top Secret Documents, File no. 5d (copy from microfilm).

Military officers and nuclear scientists had met to discuss bombing techniques, selection of targets , and mission requirements.  The discussion of available targets included Hiroshima, the “largest untouched targets not on the 21st Bomber Command priority list.”

 

B. Memorandum from J. R. Oppenheimer to Brigadier General Farrell, May 11, 1945
Source: RG 77, MED Records, Top Secret Documents, File no. 5g (copy from microfilm)

Discussing the radiological dangers of a nuclear detonation, Oppenheimer explained the need for precaution to U.S. Generals.

C. Memorandum from Major J. A. Derry and Dr. N.F. Ramsey to General L.R. Groves, “Summary of Target Committee Meetings on 10 and 11 May 1945,” May 12, 1945, Top Secret
Source: RG 77, MED Records, Top Secret Documents, File no. 5d (copy from microfilm).

Scientists and officers held further breifings of mission requirements, detailing height of detonation, weather, possibilities for aborting the mission, target selection, including priority cities (“a large urban area of more than three miles diameter”) and psychological effect.

D.“Notes of the Interim Committee Meeting Thursday, 31 May 1945, 10:00 A.M. to 1:15 P.M. – 2:15 P.M. to 4:15 P.M.,” n.d., Top Secret
Source: RG 77, MED Records, H-B files, folder no. 100 (copy from microfilm) .

Discussion of several key Manhattan Project issues ranging from stages of development,  problems of secrecy, cooperation with “like-minded” powers, to the military impact of the bomb on Japan.  Interested in producing the “greatest possible psychological effect,” panel members agreed that the “most desirable target would be a vital war plant employing a large number of workers and closely surrounded by workers’ houses.”  Arguments are made  “that this target choice represented an uneasy endorsement of “terror bombing”–the target was not exclusively military or civilian; nevertheless, workers’ housing would include noncombatant men, women, and children”.

  • Alternative methods of resolution; Russia had poised itself to begin the invasion of Japan and the U.S. had managed to establish themselves in the south pacific to prepare for occupation. The United States had found themselves ready to use the bomb but unsure of how to go about first demonstrations after many members involved put forth their fears of creating a nuclear arms race. Ultimately deciding that using this new technology for the first time would have a resounding psychological effect on the rest of the world including the Russian government, with whom relations had grown more and more tense. By this time Japanese authority had still not shown any interest in peacemaking and only methods which would provide the quickest end to the conflict were being considered.

A. Memorandum from Arthur B. Compton to the Secretary of War, enclosing “Memorandum on ‘Political and Social Problems,’ from Members of the ‘Metallurgical Laboratory’ of the University of Chicago,” June 12, 1945, Secret
Source: RG 77, MED Records, H-B files, folder no. 76 (copy from microfilm).

Concerned with the long-run implications of the bomb, physicists had produced a report rejecting a surprise attack on Japan and recommended instead a demonstration of the bomb on the “desert or a barren island.”  Claiming that a nuclear arms race “will be on in earnest not later than the morning after our first demonstration of the existence of nuclear weapons,” the group saw international control as the alternative.  Ultimately it was decided that “atomic attack against Japan would ‘shock’ the Russians”, an effect that was becoming more and more desireable.

B. Memorandum from Acting Secretary of State Joseph Grew to the President, “Analysis of Memorandum Presented by Mr. Hoover,” June 13, 1945
Source: Record Group 107, Office of the Secretary of War, Formerly Top Secret Correspondence of Secretary of War Stimson (“Safe File”), July 1940-September 1945, box 8, Japan (After December 7/41).

An ambassador to Japan weighed in on the conditions of possible Japanese surrender, he stressed that it was extremely important that the United States declare its intention to preserve the current form of government headed by the emperor.  As he argued to President Truman, “failure on our part to clarify our intentions on the status of the emperor will insure prolongation of the war and cost a large number of human lives.”

C. Memorandum from Chief of Staff Marshall to the Secretary of War, 15 June 1945, enclosing “Memorandum of Comments on ‘Ending the Japanese War,'” June 14, 1945
Source: Record Group 107, Office of the Secretary of War, Formerly Top Secret Correspondence of Secretary of War Stimson (“Safe File”), July 1940-September 1945, box 8, Japan (After December 7/41)

The goals of ending the conflict are discussed, possible outcomes of alternative solutions and face-saving proposals for Japan, and the nature of the proposed declaration to the Japanese government, including the problem of defining terms of surrender. The author argued against “modifying the concept of unconditional surrender: if it is “phrased so as to invite negotiation” he saw risks of prolonging the war or a “compromise peace.””

D. Memorandum, “Timing of Proposed Demand for Japanese Surrender,” June 29, 1945, Top Secret
Source: Record Group 107, Office of the Secretary of War, Formerly Top Secret Correspondence of Secretary of War Stimson (“Safe File”), July 1940-September 1945, box 8, Japan (After December 7/41).

The decision to commit to the airstrike is now in effect providing the Japanese continue to refuse surrender. The weight of the impending Russian invasion is being felt by Japanese government.

  • The first nuclear strike and the beginning of the end to World War II. Detailings of the Atomic strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as some of the immediate aftermath felt in both cities. Japan’s course of action and ultimate surrender under the pressure of the threat of Soviet Invasion as well as the devastating effects delivered by the nuclear strikes.

A. Memorandum from General L. R. Groves to the Chief of Staff, August 6, 1945, Top Secret
Source: RG 77, MED Records, Top Secret Documents, File no. 5b (copy from microfilm).

The day after the world’s first nuclear strike had been made, effects of the bomb are being measured and felt around the world. Early casualty counts report over 70,000 killed in the initial blast with aftermath numbers unknown. The desired psychological shock among other nations has been achieved. Still the weight of potential Soviet attack is brought to light.

B. Translation of intercepted Japanese messages, circa 10 August 10, 1945, Top Secret Ultra
Source: Record Group 457, Records of the National Security Agency/Central Security Service, “Magic” Diplomatic Summaries 1942-1945, box 18.

Five days and one more Atom bomb later, “the first Japanese surrender offer was intercepted shortly before Tokyo broadcast it.” Previous terms of surrender were agreed to with previously refuted terms involving the resignation of the Japanese emperor now no longer an issue.

Ultimately, the U.S. was able to avoid a full scale invasion of Japan which would have resulted in massive casualties. Despite powerful allies, top notch intelligence and military superiority, taking Japan would have proved virtually impossible. Time and time again attempts to negotiate peace with the Japanese empire proved futile ultimately leaving the U.S. with few options. In the end, the United States would demonstrate its technological power through one of the most aggressive and devastating attacks in world history, a regrettable but necessary action.

Reflection

            After what seems like more reading than I’ve done in my entire life, I will admit, I’m very glad to have come to the end of this assignment; however, in retrospect I realize that was part of the point. The study of history on any level can be a daunting task and certainly not one for the book shy. Fortunately, I had the luxury of the internet at my fingertips for this project, as digging through the library of congress for declassified documents and excerpts from President Truman’s Journal was in no way an option for me. Ultimately I have the digital humanities field to thank for these digitized records, without the thankless, tedious work of some poor, bespectacled individual transcribing all of these notes and documents, this knowledge would be shamefully limited. Pouring through resources and attempting to find documentation about events that I knew had occurred/existed proved to be much more difficult than I had ever thought it would be despite concerning one of the best documented regiments in the world, the U.S. Government.

While the tremendous amounts of information available regarding WWII is helpful, I can’t help but feel that at the same time, the sheer volume of information is the biggest hurdle when researching topics like this. Big data can be a historian’s best friend or their worst enemy; I consider myself fairly adept at being able to find information that I need, especially when I know it exists, but in a library of congress situation where this information  can literally surround a person where does one start? Organization of big data is no small task and in a project such as this it becomes almost entirely necessary to find a few sources where this tremendous amount of information has been consolidated for you.

Relying on primary sources becomes a major issue at times, even when researching a relatively modern topic in history such as WWII. The further back in history and the more obscure the topic, the more difficult it is to dig up a firsthand account or documentation from official meetings. The allure of jumping to an article or website covering a topic as a secondary source is almost too sweet at times. Fortunately I had picked a tremendously well documented topic that was tied to a tremendously well documented organization. Without much of the digitization done by/of the Library of Congress/National Security Archive, it’s safe to say I wouldn’t know where to start with my research for this topic.

Digital Humanist interview with Dr. Bernard Frischer

Recently, after a rousing game of email and phone tag, I had the opportunity to conduct a phone interview with Professor Bernard Frischer, a leading scholar in the application of digital technologies to humanities research and education. Frischer has been the head of several significant projects, including virtual recreations of historical sites such as the city of Rome in the time of the emperor Constantine the Great. On his website, Dr. Frischer lists that he “and his institution have received international acclaim and have been featured on the Discovery Channel, the RAI, German Public Radio, the BBC, in Newsweek, Scientific American, Business Week, Computer Graphics World, Forbes, the New York Times and many other magazines and newspapers around the world.”

Beginning his digital humanities experiences in the 60’s, Dr. Frischer noted the importance of radio at the time. Frischer became a licensed radio operator at an early age; at the time the licensing process required a “basics of electronics” test be passed, so a general knowledge of the analog world would have been a necessity which allowed him to more easily transition into the digital age. Frischer also mentioned that when he began his career path, it was very helpful to have an understanding of the basics of photography (such as how to run a dark room, aperture and lighting etc.) as well as sound technology to ensure quality of work. As the digital age rolled around, the shift to the PC became necessary. Dr. Frischer reminisced that he had purchased his first PC in 1981 and began learning the basics of coding in the C language. Towards the birth of the internet Frischer had taken it upon himself to learn to use HTML to create his first website, which he proudly boasted was “one of the first ten thousand available on the internet”.

As Dr. Frischer progressed through his career as a digital humanist, he received his “B.A. (Wesleyan University, 1971) and Ph.D. (Heidelberg, 1975)” (as well as being recognized by numerous other scholastic groups and associations in his field of study) and would go on to become the first “head of the digital humanities lab” at UCLA when the lab was founded. Dr. Frischer noted that this would allow him much more potential for earning government grants and different sources of funding for his larger projects. As Chairman of the department, this position gave him a title and legitimized him as one of the leading professionals in the digital humanities world and greatly aided the progress of his career. While at UCLA, Frischer was appointed as founding director of the UCLA Cultural Virtual Reality Laboratory, which would become one of the first in the world to use 3D computer modeling to “reconstruct cultural heritage sites.”

In 1985, Dr. Frischer received a grant to create the world’s first remotely accessible library of Greek and Latin texts. A year later, at a conference held at Apple Computer in 1986, he gave a paper “in which he proposed creation of a digital model of ancient Rome”, the project that had originally drawn me to him in the first place, “Rome Reborn,” was not publicly exhibited until 2007, over twenty years later. In this project Dr. Frischer and his institution used a video game engine coupled with 3D modeling to recreate ancient Rome based around what archaeological knowledge we have. Dr. Frischer described to me the potential that projects like this granted for better understanding that time period. Aspects like lighting, acoustics and capacity could all be calculated and simulated based around this model. Frischer informed me of an expansion to this project, focusing on the area known as “Hadrian’s Villa” and another simulation that involves an animated population for the city complete with character interaction.

As we spoke, Dr. Frischer went on to paint the picture of a day in the life of a digital humanist, a picture that largely revolved around the magic of “Skype”. Stating that his “entire life is a series of Skype conferences after Skype conferences; it gets very busy and very confusing.” Frischer noted that he works with only one local employ for his research and projects, but relies heavily on international communication, as much of his archaeological work and field of study revolves around Europe.

After prying myself away from asking more and more about the professor’s truly incredible work, I brought out conversation towards a close by asking Dr. Frischer if he had any advice for the blossoming digital humanists out there, and of course he did. Frischer emphasized the importance of staying as busy and active as possible, a theory that he seemed to still live by as he continued to tell me about some of his other work in the field. “Use both the microscope and the telescope at the same time.” Suggesting that I start locally and keep my eyes open for involvement in projects online, throughout universities and other organizations. He suggested that I “talk to my university librarian” about any projects that needs assistance because groups are always looking for a little free, skilled help.

Overall Dr. Frischer’s conversation with me was a very enjoyable one, leaving me feeling a lot more comfortable with my understanding of what it means to be a digital humanist. Frischer’s impressive resume as well as his creative and interesting projects made for a great interview which in retrospect, turned out to be more of a free flowing conversation. There were times when we were both derailed from out main topic of conversation by one tangent or another, adding a much more personable feel to the discussion. Ultimately Dr. Frischer clued me in on one of his current projects, establishing the nation’s (if not the world’s) first Digital Humanities graduate program; a program he suggested that I keep in touch with him about, as he thought I’d make an excellent candidate!