The Age of Exploration

The age of exploration was exciting. To find spices, gold, and new treasures across the open sea, and hopefully a water passage to the East.The wealthy often commissioned crews to find treasures for them, but just like those who traveled west to dig for gold in the 19th century, great treasure was rarely found. But […]

The age of exploration was exciting. To find spices, gold, and new treasures across the open sea, and hopefully a water passage to the East.The wealthy often commissioned crews to find treasures for them, but just like those who traveled west to dig for gold in the 19th century, great treasure was rarely found.

But life was even more difficult on the ship. Disease was common, as was violence. Malnutrition led to many of these diseases, as well as ignorance and general conditions on the ship. It was cold, dirty, and bug infested. And the captain had it little better. While he (and a few times she), may have had his own quarters, a crew could turn on him at an time. Now we travel by boat for luxury, then it was out of necessity.

Based on these details, have your students write a story or a diary or act out a skit about the life of a sailor. Why did someone become a sailor? What was so bad at home that this was the best life? How did this sailor survive, or die, at sea?

Blog: http://www.history.com/interactives/age-of-exploration

The funeral of Sir Winston Churchill

Today’s video is not educational so much as it is historic. This simple video shows how the man who led a nation was mourned by his people. But stepping away from the tragedy itself, I like how this video represents a certain window of time. When thousands of years from now people are learning about […]

The funeral of Sir Winston ChurchillToday’s video is not educational so much as it is historic. This simple video shows how the man who led a nation was mourned by his people.

But stepping away from the tragedy itself, I like how this video represents a certain window of time. When thousands of years from now people are learning about how technology developed through the years, videos like this will represent a very unique time period where we have the technology, but just barely.

It makes me think of Michael Jackson’s funeral. Not to say the broadcasters didn’t handle it with as much respect as they could, but the whole thing seems heavy-handed in comparison. You’ve got the 3D news graphics, the little network watermark in the corner, the constant reminder that it was indeed being broadcast live. Once again, I’m not saying it was covered incorrectly, they were just following the standards that have been set for years. But you have to admit, Churchill’s does seem a bit more graceful.

Now this may all just be a matter of perception. People 50 years from now could be looking back at Jackson’s funeral thinking about how quaint it was. I still believe though that this era represented by the Churchill film will be known for producing some of the purest and most genuine representations of history we’ll ever see.

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Why is the Sky Blue?

Ask people in different parts of the country this question and you will get different answers. Ask people where I am from, and the most common answer will be “Because God prefers UNC.” Others will say it is a reflection of the ocean. But then why is the ocean blue? Because it is a reflection […]

Ask people in different parts of the country this question and you will get different answers. Ask people where I am from, and the most common answer will be “Because God prefers UNC.” Others will say it is a reflection of the ocean. But then why is the ocean blue? Because it is a reflection of the sky. Excuse me?

Well here is the truth as portrayed by an infographic created by designers at Visual.ly. This infographic is fairly scientific, and I will admit I do not completely understand it. I understand that wavelengths affect the color we see out of all the colors that are available, but the rest went over my head. I went to school to study history and not science.

Before producing this infographic, have your students discuss why the sky is blue. Have each student produce a short hypothesis, share it in small groups, and discuss the merit behind each. Then share this infographic and see how close students came to the truth.

Blog: http://visual.ly/why-sky-blue

Happy America Day

Today’s infographic is from dailyinfographic.com, and shares a brief history about our celebration of America and her independence from Britain. Surprisingly, six percent of Americans do not realize that we are celebrating our independence from Britain. Some even thought Mexico. First of all, please make sure you students understand that while what is now the […]

Today’s infographic is from dailyinfographic.com, and shares a brief history about our celebration of America and her independence from Britain. Surprisingly, six percent of Americans do not realize that we are celebrating our independence from Britain. Some even thought Mexico. First of all, please make sure you students understand that while what is now the United States of America was colonized by a variety of countries (not including Mexico or Japan or China), we sought our independence from Britain.

Many also do not understand the insignificance of what we celebrate. We celebrate the colonies adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, and only two signers of the document did so on the 4th. In addition, we actually declared our independence on July 2nd. But imagine what would have happened to this document had we lost the war?

This infographic is a great representation of what Americans believe is important on July 4th. While I do not believe the date is significant, aside from knowing which day to set off fireworks, understanding that we did this at the end of the 18th century, before the Revolutionary War, is the important concept, and that we fought Britain for the right to rule our own country. Other important concepts include the fact that we won because Britain more or less gave up due to financial burden and obligations at home, as well as my theory that Britain never thought we would succeed. It is true that many countries did not believe we would succeed, that this was simply an experiment doomed to failure. However, I believe this played a great role our success. I believe that if Britain had realized how successful we would have become, she may have continued the fight. But also, we have helped her a great deal in two world wars, maybe should would have given up sooner and let us become more established.

What are your thoughts and the thoughts of your students?

Blog: http://dailyinfographic.com/happy-america-day-infographic

100 Years of Change

Argumentatively, more has changed in the past 100 years, than in any 100 year period before, as this infographic shows. The first step in teaching this infographic, and teaching any part of history, is to consider the cause and impact of these changes. While most students, and many administrators, may argue the unimportance of studying […]

Argumentatively, more has changed in the past 100 years, than in any 100 year period before, as this infographic shows. The first step in teaching this infographic, and teaching any part of history, is to consider the cause and impact of these changes. While most students, and many administrators, may argue the unimportance of studying history, at least in comparison to other subjects related to technology. However, these technologies have shaped the past 100 years, and it is important to understand the past impact of these technologies, in order to understand the future impact of other technologies.

In addition to the importance of history, it is important to teach it in the best way. Aside from citing the year 1913 to compare (being exactly 100 years ago), there are no dates mentioned in this infographic, and yet the importance of this infographic is still obvious. It shows the impact that 100 years has made. When I was in grade school, just 10 years ago, The most important things I was taught were the dates of major events, and a little bit about the impact. While a general idea of the dates is important (knowing that The Civil War happened after The Missouri Compromise) the exact dates are not terrible important. The most important part of history is understanding the importance of a certain event (that The Missouri Compromise put off The Civil War, but recognized the increasing tensions).

While a the knowledge of a detailed history of the United States is not important for many fields, understanding the impact that people and events have made on this country is very important. If one of your students decides to go into software development of some sort, in order for them to develop the best software possible, they must understand the past impact of other technologies. What was the impact of the discovery of electricity and the following development of the lightbulb? How have people’s lives changed for good, and for bad, as electronic devices increasingly took over our lives? How can this particular student develop software that can mend the transgressions of previous technologies, but still create a positive impact on our future?

Blog: http://visual.ly/100-years-change

History of Infographics

I may be biased, being an amateur historian, but I strongly believe that exploring the history of something you are interested in helps to strengthen your knowledge of it. This infographic shares a rudimentary history of the infographic, going over major events in history, beginning with Ancient Egypt, that helped form the modern day infographic. […]

I may be biased, being an amateur historian, but I strongly believe that exploring the history of something you are interested in helps to strengthen your knowledge of it. This infographic shares a rudimentary history of the infographic, going over major events in history, beginning with Ancient Egypt, that helped form the modern day infographic. I challenge you and your students to go back to the basics of what infographics are to help create better infographics.

According to this infographic, the first infographic was created around 500 BC. But it doesn’t share any information on it. Go out and find a photograph of it, or challenge your students to do so. Following this, in the late 18th century, a Scot named William Playfair created charts that we commonly use in infographics today. In the 1970s infographics, as we use them today, were finally born.

Follow the source at the bottom of the infographic to see what these basics looked like. Help your students get away from the frills and decoration of infographics, and get back to the basics. At the most basic level an infographic should share information. Help your students make sure they are doing this well, before they add extras.

Blog: http://visual.ly/history-infographics-0

Preceden

Preceden (click to view video) I have been working on the history of my home town, and the book I am using is organized by subject and time, making it a little difficult to keep track of events as they occurred. I just came across this great website that easily allows you to create a […]

Preceden (click to view video)

I have been working on the history of my home town, and the book I am using is organized by subject and time, making it a little difficult to keep track of events as they occurred. I just came across this great website that easily allows you to create a timeline. It can be useful for both you and your students.

This will allow you to create both events and time periods, categorizing items by color, and by creating new layers. This is a great way to organize history for your students, and it can be accessed at home as well.

www.preceden.com

Too Many Universities? Too Many Graduates? Too Much Debt?

This one’s been knocking around in my head for a few days, and it’s one of those “thinking out loud” posts where I’m not sure about the track I’m on. It’s OK.  I think that it was Bertrand Russell who said something like..

What’s wrong with the world is that fools and fanatics are so sure of themselves, while wiser men are so full of doubts.”

It started with a conversation I had with one of my younger brothers. He is writing a family book about the life of our father (I’m doing the one about our mother). He reminded of a particularly difficult time when my Dad and I were not on the best of terms. It was a strained period, partly because he spent much of his world-view-forming years with the flag-waving culture of World War II while I spent pretty much those very same years with a flag-burning culture – Vietnam.

After spending two years in college, I’d felt that I needed a different kind of education, a real-life schooling that a university was not going to provide. I had been attending a community college, and most of my friends where working real jobs at the same time that they attended class, which in that part of the country meant working in a mill or a factory.

To make a very long and complicated story short and sweet, I put a hold on college to work for a while, getting a job at a Gastonia factory that made chain saws. My father was crushed. He was certain that I was stepping into quicksand, and that once I left school, I’d never be able to return. His dream was that all his sons would earn their eagle badges and college degrees – and I was turning my back on that dream and choosing failure.

Working in that factory was an education. Among other things, it convinced me that without an education, I would never be able to choose my work. I would never be able to mix passion with vocation. But that’s not the point of this writing.

Mostly, because I had taken drafting in high school, I pretty quickly moved up; from machine operator, to materials handler, to set-up man and finally, quality control. It is a track I could easily have continued, moving up, and having opportunities to creatively contribute to the success of the company, and perhaps even, one day, make my father proud.

But I was smart and better than that.  I had always been destined for college, not a factory.  I returned to college (in no small part because I love my father) and graduated a few years later with a history degree and a teaching certificate. What I’m trying to say is that for decades, we have convinced ourselves that success meant getting a college degree, because nothing less than that degree could bring success. Has this notion of college-or-nothing led to a brain drain, of sorts, from other important and critical quarters of the economy. I am grossly generalizing here, but this thread of thought has reminded me of a story that Bill Clinton told in his book, about how the smartest person he knew in his home town, was the man who pumped gas at the local service station.  Today, the smartest man we know is majoring in philosophy at the University of…

It was Audry Watters’ Wednesday blog post, Don’t Go Back to School… Or Do that provoked me to go ahead and write this down. She describes her son’s decision not to pursue a college degree, and I think of my own son’s decision to leave campus and rethink what he wants to do. I have faith that they will both find their ways, and make us proud. But I suspect that contributing to our problems are the myths about formal education that have guided our parenting and that persist in being part of the framework of our culture.

At least all of the sons of my father earned their degrees and we all got our eagle badges. What’s left, is that we all become Presbyterians. 🙂

 

War and Peace

This infographic found on visual.ly is a great infographic about major wars of since America became a country. It goes through every war, from the American Revolution to post 9/11 and shows the amount of time spent in battle, the amount of money spent on war, and the number of lives lost. According to this […]

This infographic found on visual.ly is a great infographic about major wars of since America became a country. It goes through every war, from the American Revolution to post 9/11 and shows the amount of time spent in battle, the amount of money spent on war, and the number of lives lost.

According to this infographic, America has spent half of it's its existence in war. Based on my knowledge of history, this is not terribly uncommon. Most countries have been in war in defense or offense over borders, money, or even love. Challenge your students to research some of the minor wars and find out the reasons behind them.

This infographic is also a great example of how to create an infographic. It uses a gun as a timeline, and a bulls eye to show lives loss. It is a great example of how to use implements from the subject to who information in an infographic.

Blog: http://visual.ly/wars-us-fought

In Defense of Liberal Arts – Sort’a

This is something that has troubled my wife for a couple of weeks. It's an issue I have only, in the last couple of days, started to pay attention to — my state's recently elected conservative Governor. For me it's like this… We elect this guy and I think, “He's a Republican, sure! A conservative, but so am I in many ways. He's an adult, mature, and responsible. He isn't going to do any real harm.” My goodness, I should have learned my lesson by now.

In a January 29 interview with conservative talk show host, Bill Bennett, North Carolina Governor Pat McCroy began his attack on North Carolina's much admired university system. Announcing his advocacy of vocational education, he said,

“I think some of the educational elite have taken over our education where we are offering courses that have no chance of getting people jobs.”

Now personally, I feel that it is a little bit unfair to make judgements about a politician based on a short radio interview and it's important to acknowledge that one of the functions of conservative (and liberal) media is to say things that generate the most emotional energy. But McCroy's comments have been echoed pretty extensively through the local and national news – and the education discussion is a critical one for our state and nation — and future

You can read about the interview here, here and here, and also listen to it here.

Claiming that NC has the 5th highest unemployment rate in the country and that businesses here can't find qualified employees, he continued,

“I want to adjust my education curriculum to what business and commerce needs to get our kids jobs as opposed to moving back in with their parents after they graduate.”

With an adult son living under my roof and an underemployed daughter, who continues to rely on us for part of her monthly payments, I identify with this statement. But, at fault, is not the courses in literature, history and music they've taken. Fault is with a business sector of highly skilled financial experts, who manipulated the nation's economy, with little regard for the human and cultural impact of their greedy actions.

Apparently “Gender Studies” at UNC is a common target of conservatives – a Google search for [University of North Carolina, “gender studies” and conservative] yielded approximately 2.8 million hits),

Continuing the attack, Bill Bennett mentioned “gender studies” as an example, prompting our governor to remark, that if you want to take those classes, then “go to a private school and take it, but I don’t want to subsidize that if it’s not going to get someone a job.”

McCrory declared that,

“I'm looking for engineers, I'm looking for technicians, I'm looking for mechanics.”

Continuing,

“Its the tech jobs that we need right now. Even in my tech schools, my community colleges, which are fantastic in North Carolina, most people don't realize that 2/3 of my students are women, and most of them are going into health care or taking Jr. College programs, when in fact I have a lot of unemployed men who typically go into technology, or mechanics or welding or something. If they do, they can get six-figure pay right now, but instead they're in unemployment.”

OK, he's describing a real problem here, that I see among my own personal friends, that young men are not going to or finishing college. So abolishing history and art will solve the problem? A job search on the North Carolina Department of Commerce's JobConnector site listed only 42 welding jobs available throughout all regions of the state ranging in pay from $9.50 to $18.00 an hour. Again, the function of these shows is to generate emotional energy.

Pat McCrory is a graduate of Catawba College, a North Carolina private liberal arts school. He said that he believes in liberal arts. He continued,

“There are two reasons for education. One is to, as Dad use to say, exercise the brain. But the second is to get a skill.”

That's it?

This brings me to what seems to be a paradox in McCrory's thinking. When asked by Bennett, how he got 40% of North Carolina's Hispanic vote, he replied,

“I did not appease any one group and change my speech, I gave the same consistent message on building the economy and building jobs, and believe me, that's as important for the Latino or Hispanic community as every other community.” 1

At first he was describing an economy that is starving for qualified workers, and now an economy that needs to be stimulated to generate more jobs. I believe that these two problems co-exist, and that our governor is probably genuinely concerned about them both. But I would suggest that North Carolina's economy will not be stimulated by skilled workers alone, no matter how buff their brains are. New jobs come from innovation and not just in the business sector. It comes from people who are creative, outside-the-box thinkers, and who can see beyond “TIG welding an aluminum joint.”

So how do you accomplish this. How do you bring Silicon Valley-style inventive thinking to the mountains, valleys and coastal plains of North Carolina?

In 2008, technologist, turned academic, Vivek Wadhwa, co-authored a study called Education and Tech Entrepreneurship. They interviewed representatives of 1,800 successful (sales in excess of $1 million) tech startups with U.S. born founders. They learned that 92% of the founders held bachelor's degrees, 31% with masters degrees and 10% PhDs. Yet, less than half of those degrees were in STEM subjects. In fact, more held degrees in arts, humanities, and social sciences than mathematics – though both constituted only a small percentage of the whole. 2

In a more recent New York Times op ed piece, Wadhwa wrote,

“Gaining a degree made a big difference in the sales and employment of the company that a founder started. But the field that the degree was in or the school that it was obtained from was not a significant factor.”

He went on to write that,

“The most common traits I have observed are a passion to change the world and the confidence to defy the odds and succeed.”

Where in a purely technical course of study are you inspired to “defy the odds.” 3

I think that Steve Jobs said it best,

“It's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough. It's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities that yields us the results that makes our heart sing.” 4

McCrory's is a simplistic, unimaginative and potentially harmful approach and I hope that he and those who are excited by such approaches can be inspired to defy them.

Protect Liberal Arts Classes at UNC

 

1 McCrory, P. (2013). Bill bennett's morning in america[Web]. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/nlQXY

2 Wadhwa, V., Freeman, R., & Rissing, B. (2008). Education and tech entrepreneurship. Kansas City: Kauffman: The Foundation of Entrepreneurship.

3 Wadwa, V. (2011, August 3). The leaders of silicon valley.The New York Times. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/LMRrj

4 Jobs, S. (Performer) (2011). Steve jobs apple's dna = technology liberal arts [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZeOhnTuq2I