Another Conversation with the Past

1872 Portrait photo of John Muir ((Bradley, H.W. “Portrait Photo of John Muir.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 29 Sep 2009. Web. 27 Nov 2009. <>. ))

As a former history teacher, I think that these conversations with the past — with Tweeple in History — are quite interesting and potentially they are enormous discussion starters in classrooms where discussion is used for learning.  A while back I wrote about one that involved John Adams diaries posted on Twitter on the days of the entries during “..a diplomatic trek to Russia as U.S. minister.”

I just learned that Calisphere, a service of the University of California with free primary source materials aligned with the California content standards, will offer a similar tweet trek in the voice (text) of John Muir, the California-based naturalist.

For one week in December, Calisphere will quote portions of the letters of renowned California naturalist, explorer, writer, and conservationist John Muir (1838-1914) on Twitter and Facebook.

Hear John Muir in his own words as he travels to California, encounters Yosemite for the first time, and struggles to preserve the open land he made his home.  Starting December 1, for a week Calisphere will quote portions of the letters of the renowned writer and conservationist on our social media pages. Each installment or “tweet” will contain a segment of Muir’s stirring prose and a link to the original document and transcript.

To hear Muir’s story, become a fan on Facebook ( or follow us on Twitter (  Not a member of either network?  No problem—both accounts are open for viewing by all.

This online event aims to engage students, educators, and the general public with the recent online publication of more than 6,500 of Muir’s letters—a joint achievement of The Bancroft Library at the University of California Berkeley and the University of the Pacific Library.  ((Berger, Sherri. “John Muir on Calisphere and Web 2.0!.” Message to David. 24 Nov 2009. E-mail.))

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A Very Cool Story

At this moment, I’m sitting at the Burlington Airport, having a burger in the restaurant filling time before my 7:00 PM flight to Washington.  Then is a short wait for the final leg to Raleigh and a full Saturday at home.

It was an excellent day in Burlington, working with educators from the Northwest region of the state.  Vermont is an interesting place with very interesting people, and the workshop ended out being a lot of conversation and sharing of ideas. It was one of those days I wish somebody had recorded — everything.

One of the best stories I heard was told by a school librarian, Kathy Gallagher.  Her daughter is a senior in high school and is currently shopping for colleges.  Kathy said that all of the schools her daughter is considering have their own Facebook groups — except for one, a fairly small liberal arts school.  …So her daughter set up the the group for the school.  She said, “In just a couple of days, the group grew to over 300.”

This was very impressive — to all of us.  But hoping to learn more, I asked, “So why did she set up the group?” 

Gallagher looked at me, as if I had completely missed the point.  I had completely missed the point.  She said that her daughter was visiting the Facebook groups to get answers to questions about student life at the schools from the perspective of students.  She wanted to ask the same questions about the small liberal arts school, so she created the community for the school, grew the community, and then had over 300 sources for answers to her questions.

This was, hands down, one of the most interesting and resourceful strategies for finding information on the Internet that I have ever heard.  It has as muct to do with working the environment as it does with using Google.