Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Street Knowledge: Homeless Bloggers

A former student of mine, currently attending Belmont, recently brought to my attention the blog of Kevin Barbieux, a homeless blogger from Nashville. He blogs at The Homeless Guy.

After reading some of his posts, Kevin has a lot to say, and I like what he has to say--particularly about the topic of hospitality. I'm not sure if Kevin has kids, but his thoughts on hospitality and children, in my opinion, is right on. Here's a brief sample:

Nothing could be more crucial to parenting as hospitality. It is the most necessary aspect of raising a child. For with hospitality parents are required to recognize the person, and the individual that is their child, and to give this person full respect and consideration. It is striking how often parents fail to do so. And it is not at all surprising how messed up a child becomes when mistreated by a parent. Like the old saying goes, as the tree is bent, so shall it grow. Show me an adult that is lacking proper social skills, and I'll show you someone who was not treated with respect by their parents.

Read the full post here. And read another post about hospitality here. Reading Kevin's posts brings to mind another writer on homelessness, Fr. Gary Smith, whose Radical Compassion: Finding Christ in the Heart of the Poor is perhaps my favorite book. And check out this site, Where's Brandt?, another homeless blogger.

Thanks for sharing your stories, Kevin and Brandt, and gracing us with your wisdom, insight, and perspective.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Travelblogging 3.0 from Atlanta

Google technology

RSS: “real simple syndication”


Network Literacy

Google reader: Will Ricahrdson’s textbook for subjects related to networking, technology, and teaching; Will can update at anytime; he does not have a passive relationship with this textbook

(Book): Everything is Miscellaneous; creating “folkonomies” not taxonomies

Model: search term—what is your passion?
e.g.—mountain biking; first site Will pulled up had advertisement, so public site making profit….ended up being a personal blog.

Show students how to VET websites

Social Bookmarking

SUMMARY: This session was more about the application of the new connectivity programs; it was a real whirlwind; wish there would have been more time for the discussion. Good, but too short.

As promised, I'll be offering my narrative summary thoughts of the conference sometime over the weekend.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Travelblogging 2.0 from Atlanta

Don't have time to hyperlink notes, but here they are from Will Richardson's morning presentation. Finished up about 15 minutes ago. I'll follow up with narrative reflections as soon as I can.


Twenty Five Days to Make a Difference (blog)—11 years old; example of young people living in a networked world

Metaphor: kids driving the technology school bus; driving is sketchy; adults holding on for dear life

Implementation in teachers’ own lives: this isn’t just a seminar about adding something to classroom!

Clay Shirkey: Here Comes Everybody: tectonic shift

Technology Review: "How Obama Really Did It"; new mantra—not “It’s the Economy, Stupid” but “It’s Networking, Stupid”

NPR: Internet Cartoon Pays Off For Kansas Candidate (8/12/08): Morning Edition

USA Today: Gray Googlers Strike Gold

Surf the channel.com—movie clips, etc.

What is the fine line between collaboration and plagiarism? (Nathan Barber recently blogged about this.)

“If you are not participating in this technology, conversation, you will most likely get left behind”
Literacies, nuances to participation in this connected culture

Live Scribe” pens

Educational establishment largely opposed to new technologies; my question is why? The world is changing—get on board!

WR: besides having kids, blogging has changed his life the most

Do we address hypertext reading/scanning and textbook reading scanning? What’s/where the disconnect?

del.icio.us network


fanfiction.net—writers can add chapters to books, create sequels, etc.

Myspace.com: 85% of users have public profiles

To teachers: What are we doing to prepare students to get a job at my school in 7 years?

Who is teaching MySpace? (responsible use, thoughtful engagement, etc.)

Using technology: Difference between MODERATING and MONITORING; explain

IMPERATIVE: help students prepare for the global world; savvy, critical, connective, innovative
MIT opencourseware

Content is not scarce; content is not static

“The currency of information is paramount”

Raise kids who are editors….

Clarence Fisher—classroom with “thin walls” (technology)


“The best teachers in the lives of my kids are the ones that they find”

The Flat Classroom Project


“Be selfish” about using technology for yourself—learning it by yourself

What are my own learning practices? (compare/contrast with/to students: have a conversation)

SUMMARY: The main points of Will's presentation were to document that 21st century education, learning, and communication is here and emphasized the imperative for educators to know the new technologies and develop new literacies, or risk becoming irrelevant. The upshot of the PLP program in which I am involved (and which he and Sheryl co-faciliate), is to walk through a non-linear journey for the academic year to learn, discuss, collaborate, etc.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Travelblogging from Atlanta 1.0

Arrived here in Georgia after an uneventful flight. I've had some great conversations so far about curriculum development and collaborating across disciplines, and what kinds of teaching strategies my colleagues have employed over the years.

Also had a great conversation with the Director of Academic Affairs at my school about teaching full time the last 7 years with 6 of those engaged in doctoral study. I taught 5 classes each day, and two nights a week (with the exception of 1 semester) took graduate seminars.

Some background: I finished an MA in history in May 2001, and began teaching full time in August 2001. I spent 2002-05 taking courses and then essentially writing the dissertation since March 2007, when I took my final research excursion to New England.

The short of it is that it has been an amazingly rich time of interplay between teaching and research/writing. In the conversation earlier today I recounted how I bring teaching questions now to my archival research (or participant-observation)--essentially thinking about how I could teach using primary documents--and while I think of course about content, argument, structure, etc. with my writing, I also think deeply about communicating ideas--in other words, does my writing pass the muster of the scholarly guild and can one of my sophomore students pick it up, read it, and at least get the main arguments and structure? And of course the use of technology has been an ever present tool in the mix of it all. Such a schedule--teaching and going to school in the midst of a growing family--is insanely busy (how thankful I am for a patient and understanding wife!), but has been profoundly transforming and intellectually stimulating.

All these thoughts and observations come flooding back amidst the course of the conversations I had today. I anticipate it will continue tomorrow during the PLP seminar.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

On the Road: Travelblogging

As I wrote recently, tomorrow I leave for Atlanta and the Powerful Learning Practice conference at the The Lovett School. I'm looking forward to meeting other teachers from across the country, seeing what they do, learning new things, and contemplating more ways to collaborate.

Connectivity is a term often used in the context of communications technology and mathematics, but it strikes me as an equally important term for 21st education. It's a term that's collaborative, generative, and participatory.

Since the PLP seminar is only one day, I'm not sure how much time I'll have to blog during the course of events, but I hope to compose a couple of posts while there.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

W.E.B. and Wall Street

Thinking and hearing about the latest news from Wall Street reminded me of some of what W.E.B. Du Bois wrote many, many years ago.

Published in 1935, the year after Du Bois left the NAACP, these paragraphs from Black Reconstruction in America read like many of the creative religious parables and moralistic news stories he wrote while editor of The Crisis. (Read more about this book here; HT: The Proletarian.) And if Du Bois is an American prophet, then these words about religion, commerce, and global capitalism have a certain resonance with recent events. I’m not sure that history repeats itself—the human past and human experience are far too complex—but a wise person once wrote that there is nothing new under the sun. Du Bois, it is safe to say, certainly had an inkling of both.

Anyway, food for thought.

Suppose on some gray day, as you plod down Wall Street, you should see God sitting on the Treasury steps, in His Glory, with the thunders curved about him? Suppose on Michigan Avenue, between the lakes and hills of stone, and in the midst of hastening automobiles and jostling crowds, suddenly you see living and walking toward you, the Christ, with sorrow and sunshine in his face? Foolish talk, all of this you say, of course; and that is because no American now believes in his religion. Its facts are mere symbolism; its revelation vague generalities; its ethics a matter of carefully balanced gain….God wept; but that mattered little to an unbelieving age; what mattered most was that the world wept and still is weeping and blind with tears and blood…[T]he immense profit from this new exploitation and world-wide commerce enabled a guild of millionaires to engage the greatest engineers, the wisest men of science, as well as pay high wage to the more intelligent labor and a the same time to have left enough surplus to make more thorough the dictatorship of capital over the state and over the popular vote, not only in Europe and America, but in Asia and Africa. The world wept because within the exploiting group of New World masters, greed and jealousy became so fierce that they fought for trade and markets and materials and slaves all over the world until at last in 1914 the world flamed in war. The fantastic structure fell, leaving grotesque Profits and Poverty, Plenty and Starvation, Empire and Democracy, staring at each other across the World Depression. And the rebuilding, whether it comes now or a century later, will and must go back to the basic principles of Reconstruction in the United States during 1867-1876—Land, Light and Leading for slaves black, brown, yellow and white, under a dictatorship of the proletariat (pp. 123-24; 634-35).

Monday, September 15, 2008

(Y)ike(s): A Hurricane in Houston

It is now early Monday morning. I began typing my reflections early Saturday morning, as Hurricane Ike was making its way through Houston.


Saturday, September 13
It is now about 7:30am, and I’ve been awake for 4 hours or so. I went to bed about 12:30am and woke up about 3:30am (Ike made landfall around 2am) to shearing winds and rain pelting the windows of my home. No more sleep for me.

I was surprised we still had electricity when I awoke. Between about 3:30am and 6:45am, the electricity flickered 7 or 8 times, but it has been off now for close to an hour. I was able to catch local newscasts and see the radar. Now that the power is out I’m listening to the radio.

We live in the far northwest part of Houston which means we are on the west side of the storm—the so-called “clean” side. Nevertheless, we are getting some high winds and heavy rain. (My guess is that the gusts are in excess of 50 mph.)

My parents and two brothers (and future sister-in-law) as well as my mother-in-law are on the east side of the storm—the vicious “dirty” side of Ike. My brother is in law enforcement on the east side of town, and my future sister-in-law is a nurse and on call in the medical center area of Houston. [At this point (early Monday morning), I've not talked to them, although I know they are both fine. And I have not talked to any of my teaching colleagues, so I hope they are all doing fine. I did get a voicemail from The Proletarian last night to say they were ok but without electricity. I've not talked with my two Religion in American History blog friends who are in Houston either, Luke Harlow and Gerardo Marti, but hope to connect at some point later on today. UPDATE: Luke reports in the comments that he's doing fine, and all is well with Gerardo as we spoke by phone this morning. Three of my teaching colleagues are doing ok, although without electricity. Haven't heard from everybody, though.]

The kids have been asleep downstairs through it all. They’ve hardly rustled, thankfully. Every so often I hear things pelting the windows and roof, and the general whistling and howling of the wind is a bit unsettling with the gusts. Power lines dot the north edge of the backyard, and they continue to whip and rock back and forth. I’m hoping they don’t snap.

Now that it is getting light outside, I see shingles around the backyard and a few in the front. Two sections of our backyard fence are down—similar to what happened (as I remember it) during Hurricane Alicia in 1983 (I was 6 at the time).

Monday, September 15
Once the rain stopped on Saturday we were able to survey the damage to our home. Thankfully, it was minimal. We lost significant numbers of shingles on the north and east side of the roof, and none of the tar paper (if that is the correct term) was torn, so at this point there do not appear to be any roof leakage. Four sections of our fence fell over due to high winds (the pictures you see), and so with some new wood, some nails, a saw, and a hammer it should be fixed soon. I've already talked with the neighbors, and I'm happy to say it was easy to arrange splitting the repair costs.

We were without electricity all day Saturday and most of the day Sunday. We listened to the radio to see what we could gather about getting electricity back, and to find out about the rest of the city. Our cell phone service was spotty, and so we could really only leave voice mails with family and friends. We hopped in the car to drive around the neighborhood to survey the damage and to cool off a bit, and did the same on Sunday.

Overcast skies prevented the house from getting too warm on Saturday, but by that evening it was a bit stuffy. It actually rained early Sunday morning and by midday the sun was out and things began heating up significantly. We had stocked up on water so were able to keep somewhat cool and the kids enjoyed melted pop sickles in the afternoon. Our food supply was getting somewhat low because, well, six mouths to feed is a lot, and because our ice in the cooler in which we had sandwich meat, pasta, milk, etc. was beginning to melt.

We passed the time by reading inside, and by playing outside, chatting with neighbors, and watching the kids run around and splash in the water with neighborhood friends. We saw some dear friends at the store this afternoon (while we were still without electricity), and they invited us over for some a/c, a wonderful meal (they had an industrial size generator installed at their home Friday morning, so they were in pretty good shape throughout the storm), and hearty fellowship.

Now that electricity is back on and we've been able to catch up with the news and with family (some of whom do not have electricity yet), we are fortunate to have escaped with minor damage and minimal discomfort without a/c for a day and a half. Volunteers are out in massive numbers helping those in Houston and surrounding areas who were hardest hit. Thoughts and prayers help at a time like this, no doubt, but so does food, water, shelter, a/c, etc. Many of the schools here will be out through Wednesday, and it appears most local universities will reopen on Tuesday (at this point).

In addition to my own two cents worth about Ike, there are some other news sites you might find of interest: A Houston Chronicle blog, Houston Independent Media's Ike stories (you may have to scroll down the page), a Weather Underground blog, and a local CBS affiliate's Ike site. Here's a resident from my town who posted some YouTube videos of Ike, another video of a neighborhood close to where I teach (about 40 minutes southwest of where I live), and some AP aftermath footage.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

(Inter)Connecting the Past: Digital History

I recently came across an article in the Journal of American History that discusses the future of digital history.

In the round table discussion titled "The Promise of Digital History," William Thomas describes "digital history" this way:

Digital history is an approach to examining and representing the past that works with the new communication technologies of the computer, the Internet network, and software systems. On one level, digital history is an open arena of scholarly production and communication, encompassing the development of new course materials and scholarly data collections. On another, it is a methodological approach framed by the hypertextual power of these technologies to make, define, query, and annotate associations in the human record of the past. To do digital history, then, is to create a framework, an ontology, through the technology for people to experience, read, and follow an argument about a historical problem.....Digital history possesses a crucial set of common components—the capacity for play, manipulation, participation, and investigation by the reader. Dissemination in digital form makes the work of the scholar available for verification and examination; it also offers the reader the opportunity to experiment. He or she can test the interpretations of others, formulate new views, and mine the materials of the past for overlooked items and clues. The reader can immerse him/herself in the past, surrounded with the evidence, and make new associations. The goal of digital history might be to build environments that pull readers in less by the force of a linear argument than by the experience of total immersion and the curiosity to build connections. (Versus the narrative anticipation of what comes next, this is a curiosity about what could be related to what and why.)

This is a very thorough and helpful definition I think. In essence digital history uses computer and Internet technology as a tool to more quickly disseminate information about the past even as it exists as a participatory medium. The fluidity resident in it is an important variable in this equation, as it helps educators to (perhaps) more critically address the different learning styles that exist in our classrooms.

Steven Mintz is another participant in the digital history round table. Formerly at the University of Houston (but now at Columbia), Steve is a wonderful human being, kind soul, and innovative and critical thinker. Two years ago he graciously gave of his time when I organized a technology seminar for history graduate students at UH.

Whereas Thomas defines digital history above, Mintz chronicles the history of digital history brilliantly:

Digital history has evolved through a series of overlapping stages. Stage 1.0 consisted of communication and course-management tools, such as e-mail, online syllabi, Web-CT, and Blackboard, supplemented by content-rich Web sites (like History Matters, Lincoln/Net, and my own Digital History site) that made a treasure trove of high-quality primary source documents, music, historic images, and film clips available to instructors and students.

Stage 2.0 involved the creation of hands-on inquiry- and problem-based history projects designed to allow students to "do" history. Thus in Richard B. Latner's Crisis at Fort Sumter, students read the information available to President Abraham Lincoln from the time of his election on and compare the decisions they make with those that Lincoln made at critical junctures.

We have now entered Stage 3.0, in which the emphasis is on active learning, collaboration, and enhanced interaction. Wikis, blogs, mash-ups, podcasts, tags, and social networking are the buzz words. These technological innovations offer opportunities to students to share resources and create collaborative projects.

Stage 4.0 lurks just beyond the horizon. It includes three-dimensional virtual reality environments, which allow students to navigate and annotate now-lost historical settings. A stunning example is Lisa M. Snyder's reconstruction of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Stage 4.0 is informed by a "constructivist" understanding of learning, in which students devise their own conceptual models for understanding our collective past. With support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), a colleague in instructional technology, Sara McNeil, and I, are completing MyHistory, which will allow students to create online history portfolios, in which they can develop multimedia projects, and construct timelines, annotate images, and keep notes.

While Mintz's Digital History site is cutting edge (I've used it tons in my U.S. history classes), I'm intrigued with his latest venture: MyHistory. Looks interesting.

This post could go on and on, and there is just loads of great material in the article for discussion. What have been some of your best experiences with "doing" digital history? Your most challenging? Why do you think digital history is important?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Du Bois Debut

While I've blogged tons and tons about Du Bois both here at baldblogger and at Religion and American History, my "official" Du Bois debut comes in November at the Urban History Association national meeting in Houston. This is my first face-to-face scholarly presentation on Du Bois.

I'll be presenting some of my research on Du Bois and religion. Here's my panel for Saturday morning November 8:

African American Editors, Urban Migration and Civil Rights During the 1920s and 1930s
Chair: Mary Lamonica, New Mexico State

Jinx Broussard, Louisiana State University, "Giving a Voice to the Voiceless: The Journalism of Alice Dunbar Nelson"

Jane Marcellus, Middle Tennessee State, "Representation of Employed Black Women in the National Urban League's Opportunity During the 1920s and 1930s"

Mary M. Cronin, New Mexico State University, "C. F. Richardson and the Houston Informer's Fight for Racial Equality during the 1920s"

Phillip Luke Sinitiere, University of Houston, "Sermons in the City, Parables of a Prophet: W.E.B. Du Bois, Religion, and The Crisis, 1910-1934"

Moderator: Breea Willingham, St. Bonaventure University

You can read the full conference program here. I'm glad to see that the history department at UH is well represented (and UH historian Marty Melosi is the president of the UHA), my co-editor Darren Grem from Religion and American History is presenting, and a host of other friends and colleagues will be there as well.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Of Hope, Humility, and Reconciliation

Over at God's Politics, some recent posts and conversations related to racial justice offer hope, humility, and the possibility of reconciliation.

Jason and Vonetta Storbakken, and interracial couple and founders of Radical Living in Brooklyn, recently challenged progressive white leaders of the New Monasticism movement to release the reigns of power, and listen more intently to the marginalized "minority" voices in their communities. Read their post here.

On the struggling road for justice, divestment of power and from privilege can bring hope, necessitates humility, and makes reconciliation possible. And it's hard for white folks to do.

Shane Claiborne has responded to the Storbakken's post (and here too), and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (who I intereviewed at baldblogging earlier this year in three posts; read here, here, and here) has posted as well.

With Shane and Jonathan (and others), I hope we can "pass the mic."

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Connecting the Classroom, or Creatively Collaborating in Convergence Culture

I'll be traveling to Atlanta in a few weeks to attend a Powerful Learning Practices conference with several colleagues from my school. It will be held at The Lovett School.

I've followed some of the technology and teaching conversations over the last few years, have participated in it, and always discover new voices and new perspectives. One is from Will Richardson, author, blogger, and educational consultant; the other from Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, blogger and consultant-collaborator. Both will facilitate the conversation in Atlanta. (Other perspectives I read come from Henry Jenkins, author of Convergence Culture, and Jeff Howe, author of Crowdsourcing, among others.)

Anyone familiar with their work and/or approaches? I like what I've seen and read so far.