Bonus Features and Deleted Scenes: WordPress and its role in Historical Research by Dean Guarnaschelli

The role of technology in research becomes more refined as time goes on. Without doubt, there is a type of digital tool that can enhance any academic field today, from comparative literature to engineering and on to exercise science.

It can be argued that the role software technology plays for historians can be divided into two categories, it’s use ‘during research’ and ‘while researching’. This distinction, which upon first glance seems trivial, was however, never as ‘real’ as it is today. In other words, historians have a unique option in the digital age to use technology to conduct their research and also to share it while the research is ongoing for some very beneficial collaborative, developmental and marketing reasons. The work that leads up to a final historical contribution could be chronicled with ‘bonus features’ that show what was discovered and how. The ‘deleted scenes’ of a dissertation or chronicle are not unimportant; historians sometimes change direction to satisfy a new curiosity.

WordPress is a CMS (content management system) that meets the needs of documenting and disseminating historians’ work. This component of research allows scholars to not just ‘share’ the focus of their current project, but also to allow the evolution of ideas to do what it does best–to open new paths for gaining insight. Our field of World History has undergone many ‘overhauls’ over the decades; one catalyst today for the exploration and inclusion of the formerly marginalized sub-histories is our current technology.

WordPress provides all of the hoped for simplicity in terms of setting up a website dedicated to a historical endeavor. The feedback from other scholars and educators is present from the start and the support needed to run a digital forum is optimal. This part of the software phenomenon that we all witnessed this decade is sound, accessible and a motivation to communicate online with others trained in our discipline.

What’s Black and White and Read all over…Sometimes Even a Century and a Half Later? By Dean Guarnaschelli

Historical researchers have a lot to gain from archived newspapers. At first glance, newspapers seem to offer a predictable ‘type’ of information, namely reports on affairs both at home and on an international in scope. What becomes noticeable during research is that the age of a newspaper tells us a great deal about the balance between local and global news reported during a given era.

The concept of a newspaper is rather stabile. This makes old newspapers an invaluable source for research aimed at finding out more about human perception over time. One such example would be the section papers have in which they offer their readers advice. Focusing on these features can reveal a lot to the historian about the subscribers and their expectations during that time.

From a genealogical point of view, birth announcements and death notices provide many facts, but newspapers from the turn of the twentieth century and even prior quite often contain immigration material that can lead to findings about groups en route to their new life.

Foreign language newspapers printed in the United States are perhaps the most informative about immigration to America. Besides reporting on home country events, these papers were ways for relatives to find one another back in a time when letter writing, a costly and slow-paced medium, was the only alternative.

Using digitally archived newspapers to temporarily reverse the unfortunate but also inevitable ‘extinction’ of New York City’s original foreign language newspapers opens up a world that tells stories of hope, reunification, tragedy and laughter that let us know how valuable our current tales will be to future researchers.

Calling all NYCDOE 10th Grade World History Teachers

Hey Teachers!

We are recruiting for the summer workshop “Family, Immigration, and History: Grade 10 Citizen Archivists in the Digital Age” at St. John’s University. Funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, this project employs inquiry-based approaches to family history for New York City Public School grade 10 teachers who wish to inspire their students to employ historical methods and thinking, while learning research and digital literacy skills. The goal of the project is to develop curricula and resources to inspire inquiry-based learning that addresses Units 5 and 6 of the NYC Social Studies Scope and Sequence, and to engage teachers and students in the research and re-use of extant, freely-available digital historical records, thus providing a model for wide-spread adoption in formal and informal education settings.

Ten teachers will be selected to participate in the week-long workshop in July as well as five follow-up sessions to further hone their digital and historical thinking skills. Teachers will receive a stipend of $1,500 for the summer as well as compensation for the follow-up workshops. Applications due April 21, 2017.

This is a great opportunity for teachers!


Application May Be Found Here:

Notes of [Stolen] Media Literacy Ideas from Recent Conferences

On November 8, 2016, social studies teachers gathered at Alexander Hamilton Custom’s House in lower Manhattan for a professional development day on “Elections and Media Literacy. “ I gave a workshop on “Media Literacy, World History and Elections: Tools to Breakdown Walls.” At this writing, the conference has taken on more significance.   With a focus on whether Russia had influence in the U.S. elections in order to elect Donald Trump or whether the rise of fake news had an impact on the elections, the topics on media literacy and elections has taken on a new urgency.

What can we, as educators, do? With media literacy, we must educate ourselves about how URLs are purchased and/or obtained. We must teach our students and ourselves how to read web sites far more critically and to research those web sites to know the authors and the authors’ purposes. Lastly, like any good historian, we must encourage them to question the evidence and use their investigative skills to dig beyond the superficial.

In my presentation, I spoke about the importance of facilitating and curating materials for students to discover the past. A couple weeks later, I encountered again the importance of curating and guiding. Educators are collectors of evidence and some use this evidence in a creative fashion to teach students how to read material culture as demonstrated by Michael Freydin and Matthew Foglino two New York City public school teachers and members of the Association of Teachers of Social Studies. At their recent National Council of Social Studies conference presentation on increasing student engagement through the arts and artifacts, they demonstrated how to train students to read art and artifacts from the Middle Ages to draw some conclusions about the past and the past lives of people.

What if we collected fake items such as news or historical websites and then curated those items just a we do with sites created by reputable sources or peer review historical web sites?  Part of the AHA’s Tuning Project on the Discipline Core encourages that history students “recognize the provisional nature of knowledge, the disciplinary preference for complexity, and the comfort with ambiguity that history requires.”

In a time of rapid change, history teachers must continue to collect, curate, juxtapose, and educate about the media, its uses, and how sometimes certain ambiguities are created for a purpose.  That purpose may not ultimately be to support engaged citizenship but to undermine it.

“Family, Immigration, and History” An Introduction to Chronozoom by John Ronzino

As naïve as it might sound, I have come to the acceptance that there is no magic bullet to education. There is no single activity or method that will improve education and increase student engagement. I’ve tried it all. As a high school history teacher since 1999, I’ve jumped on board every new educational promise. I practiced everything from cooperative learning to role play and from learning centers to writing across the curriculum (which I actually thought was useful). I’m starting to realize that the key to student engagement is a mixture of activities that students should take part in during the lesson. The high school classroom cannot be a bell-to-bell lecture. Chalk-and-talk is long dead my educational paisans.

One such promising activity for students in a history class is Chronozoom. On September 28, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop at the St. John’s library on a new digital tool that can provide students and teachers with hands-on instruction. The workshop was led by Andy Mink. Mr. Mink is the Vice President of Education Programs for the National Humanities Center. He is also the founder and owner of Mink’ED.

Chronozoom is a brilliant tool that allows students and teachers to amend a beautiful timeline of historical events that link to primary documents across the internet. The primary sources can be something as simple as a letter John Adams wrote to Abigail or a news clip reporting on the fall of Saigon. The focus of the Chronozoom workshop was to connect family history with migration. This would be an outstanding project for my students since I work at a diverse school. Every student has a story and they can now tell it with history evidence.

This program could be used inside the classroom as an excellent tool for project-based learning or as an afterschool research project. As with all things involving project based learning, the details need to be ironed-out and the logistics need to be coordinated but the potential for Chronozoom in a modern classroom is limitless.

John Ronzino is a NYC DOE teacher at Flushing High School since 1999, and he is a PhD candidate at St. John’s University.

“Chronozoom: Over the Rooftops, We Step in Time” by Dean Guarnaschelli

The access that educators today have to videos and images online has had a tremendous impact on the practice of teaching.   When compared to past decades, today’s technology can be seen as having greatly altered everything from the planning phase of a given lesson to its very delivery to our audience.

ChronoZoom, a newly created open source timeline project, not only enables the incorporation of historical material into a modern presentation form, it is conducive to teaching our field’s philosophy of big history.  Big history is the tenet of our discipline whereby we investigate various happenings within a framework spanning from the appearance of Earth right through to this very moment.  The histories we encounter are no longer marginalized and connections between people and events over different times and spaces can be made.

The project-like nature of ChronoZoom supports this outlook for its users and the classroom implications are clear; when smaller histories are woven together online with text and media, the discoveries are part of humankind’s overall history.  For students, contributing to World History in this public manner is a feat that renews its importance each time one of the online exhibits is visited by someone else.
As time progresses, there will surely be a list of best practices generated, but the idea of research being completed and sources verified before the uploaded and scripting of virtual tours is a sensible approach.  A possible use for ChronoZoom in the classroom would be as project in which a lesser-known history or local history was the focus.  A finished product should be modeled and students should be encouraged to meet the criteria set by the teacher that could include oral histories so that firsthand accounts are represented.

Dean Guarnaschelli is a language teacher at Massapequa High School.  He is also a Ph.D. student at St. John’s University.



Using Chronozoom in the World History and Global Studies Classroom: First Workshop

Seven history educators gathered on Wednesday to undertake some changes in their pedagogical approaches to teaching world history as part of the NHPRC “Family, Immigration, and History: Grade 10 Citizen Archivists in the Digital Age” at St. john’s University.  Andy Mink, VP of Education at the National Humanities Center, has long disrupted traditional approaches to teaching history. In the past, we, as educators, curated the secondary sources and documents by selecting for our students. Back in the old days, before the Internet, teachers would place materials on reserves, whether in the university or secondary school library. In many ways, we undermined the sense of discovery and sifting through information that are essential skills of a historian. Yet, digital curation remains important for scholars, teachers, and students.

Universities and secondary school administrators rave about new technologies and their potential in classrooms. Mink argued that students do not see these tools as new technologies. Rather, technology, whether devices or digital materials, are part of their lives—as well as our lives. The question remains how to incorporate new tools into the classroom while enhancing the NYCDOE Social Studies Scope and Sequence and the curriculum.

In the workshop, Mink introduced participants to Chronozoom, an is an open-source community project dedicated to visualizing the history of everything, in this case a tool to teach new approaches to family and immigration history in Queens. While Chronozoom has the potential to allow students to visually curate their families’ migration stories. To tell a compelling story that demonstrates historical thinking and skills, teachers, researchers, and students will also have to gather, sift, and organize an array of documents to teach the histories of migration, modernization, globalization, and Queens.