Dedicating the Information and Technology Convergence Center

I was honored to be asked to speak at the ribbon-cutting and dedication of UMW’s amazing new ITCC (aka the Convergence Center).  [For a great time-lapse of the building being built…]

Picture by Anand Rao

My brief remarks are posted below.


Let me offer my own welcome to all of you and my thanks for coming this afternoon.

I want to start by offering some much-needed “thank yous” to people involved in this project.  Thank you to my fellow ITCC Building Committee members for all their efforts in dreaming up a new space in which people could work. Thank you to the architects and designers at HEWV for turning that dream into a vision.  Thank you to UMW’s Len Shelton and Joey Straughan and W.M. Jordan’s Frank Bliley for their efforts in making sure that the vision became a reality.  Thank you to Provost Jonathan Levin and Vice President Rick Pearce for stepping up with the resources necessary to operate the building.  Thank you to the new residents of the building for working with each other to ensure the space becomes all it can be.  Thank you most of all to John Morello, for shepherding this project from conception to creation.  It is not a stretch to say this building would not be here today were it not for his leadership. Let’s give him a well-deserved round of applause.

Edward Burger, the president of a small liberal arts institution in Texas recently said, “There are only two branches to this job: No. 1, make sure students are getting the most profound, life-changing, life-enhancing educational experience they can, and, No. 2, make sure that 100 years from now, whoever’s sitting in this chair will have the resources so he or she can do the exact same thing.” [“A Professor in the President’s Chair: Pushing for a ‘Friendly Revolution’ – People – The Chronicle of Higher Education —]

Now I haven’t ever sat in President Hurley’s chair, but it seems clear to me that this Convergence Center addresses both of these goals.  The first is perhaps obvious to anyone who has walked around it. [And if you haven’t, please take advantage of the tours that will be offered after this ceremony.] Simply put, the opportunities for transformational experiences for students exist throughout the space.  Less obvious is how constructing a building contributes to (rather than subtracts from) an institution’s resources.

And the answer to that is that it is buildings like these that bring in new students, buildings like these that inspire faculty, buildings like these that engage staff, and buildings like these that attract donors.  The Convergence Center introduces the UMW community to a wide array of technologies and opportunities that simply haven’t existed before, and in a format that doesn’t exist at other schools.

Now, much has been made in the press in recent years of the potential for technology to alienate people from each other.  This technology-rich building contradicts that claim.  With its classrooms and collaboration spaces, with its communal furniture and its multiple centers of student support, with its formal and informal gathering spaces, this building is a physical manifestation of the institution’s emphasis on–no, the centrality of–the relationship between people: faculty and student and staff — the relationship between teachers and learners, mentors and mentees.  Yes, it is a technology-enabled building that supports our digital spaces, but it does so to further enable the personal connections that are at the center of knowledge creation and at the core of the deeply collaborative experience of learning.

It is also a manifestation of UMW’s leadership in the field of digitally enabled creativity.  It is an institutional commitment to the future of teaching and learning, a future in which we see even more than before the melding (a convergence) of the curricular and co-curricular in one space.  This building represents the future of UMW while maintaining the commitment to students, to individual and group exploration, and to a variety of learning techniques.  The building itself, with so much glass, surrounding Campus Walk itself, is also an acknowledgment of our responsibility as a state institution of higher learning to be outward facing, to be transparent in what we do and what we have to contribute to the region, the nation, and the world.

So, to students, faculty, and staff of the University of Mary Washington: welcome to your new home on campus.

Thank you.


My Contribution to the James Farmer Lecture Hall Dedication

I was honored to be asked to be part of the dedication of the large lecture room in Monroe Hall at UMW in honor of Civil Rights icon James Farmer, who taught in that room for nearly 15 years.  Here is the text of my remarks with some of the clips I shared with the audience.

James Farmer Lecture Hall Dedication, November 15, 2013

Thank you all for coming. It is indeed an honor for me to be here today, to be part of this ceremony. And it’s certainly appropriate for me, as chair of UMW’s department of History and American Studies, the department that James Farmer taught in for many years, to say a few words here today.

But I have another perspective on Dr. Farmer as well. Twenty years ago this fall, I was starting my senior year at Mary Washington College, and, once a week, for nearly three hours, I had the privilege of sitting in this very room, listening to James Farmer tell nearly 100 of us about the Civil Rights movement and about his role in it as part of his Introduction to Civil Rights course. As a history major I had heard about the movement in several of my classes, but there was something fundamentally different in hearing those stories come to life from someone who had been there, someone who had physically and emotionally suffered for the cause in which he believed.

As a history major who had every plan of going on to graduate school to become a professor, a scholar, an historian, a teacher there was something deeply powerful about hearing from a living legend who was simultaneously, clearly human as well. He was self-deprecating and open about his personal struggles: discussing, for example, how he dealt with his jealousy of “Martin’s” fame (that first-name reference itself a casual, not ostentatious, but constant reminder to us of his ties to the other leaders of the movement) or his wondering whether he made the right decision to stay in jail with other protesters arrested in Plaquemine, Louisiana instead of paying the fees and being at the 1963 March on Washington.

Even if I hadn’t already been aware of the unique experience that I and my classmates were going through, it would have been brought home to me when I got my paper back with his comments on it. My paper was on Lyndon Johnson’s varied stances on Civil Rights over the years. I won’t bore you with the details now, but I was proud of the nuanced story that I had written, working in many primary sources, but especially using LBJ’s autobiography, written after he had stepped down as president. [In retrospect, given what I know now of primary sources and about Lyndon Johnson, I bought into LBJ’s retellings of his own story more than I should have.] When I got the paper back, Dr. Farmer had simply written, “Interesting. This is not the version President Johnson told me when I was in the Oval Office.” Now, I’d had professors tell me that I needed to think more critically about my sources before, but none of them could cite actual interactions with the people in question to make me do so.

For this and so many other reasons, my time in James Farmer’s class, my time in this very room with him, was transformative, so much so, that when I had the chance to come back to teach at Mary Washington I jumped at the opportunity to find ways to remember and honor him, for his service to the Civil Rights Movement and for his service to nearly a generation of students at this school. I’m not alone in that. Tim O’Donnell taught a First-Year Seminar on James Farmer, as do an interdisciplinary group of faculty led by Craig Vasey; my colleague Jess Rigelhaupt taught an oral history class in which the students interviewed many of Farmer’s colleagues during his time at MWC.

But I’ve been asked to show you a bit of work that students in my digital history courses have done to honor James Farmer. Now, in talking with my students who were working on these projects, I told them about my own experiences in Farmer’s class and about his many gifts as an orator. They decided that they wanted to make it possible for others to not just read Dr. Farmer’s words but to be able to hear him as well. The 2008 iteration of my digital history course found and digitized Farmer’s 1994 appearance before the Federal Election Commission. There are many excerpts of that testimony with him talking about his first exposure to racism in 1923, him discussing his views on affirmative action, him revealing the ways in which Gandhi’s non-violent approach was an inspiration to him. But I want to share this clip of a poem that Farmer himself wrote.

 “When I Stand Tall”

In the mid-1980s television station WNVT came and recorded 13 of James Farmer’s class lectures. In 2012, working with our Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies, students digitized those lectures, transcribed them, and made them available for anyone to see.

I want to share two clips here. The first clip is actually a trailer made for the site by the students in the class to draw people in to watching the full lectures.

In the second clip Farmer talks about what he saw as the successes of the Freedom Summer.

Please check out these two sites for more videos of Dr. Farmer’s FEC testimony and class lectures.

So you can see that through the work of UMW students everyone can hear James Farmer’s words, can hear him tell his stories, can come to understand why we honor James Farmer today with a room in which people will regularly gather to hear from faculty, from guest speakers, from politicians debating the issues of the day, and from students presenting on their own research, perhaps on the Civil Rights Movement.

It is indeed right and appropriate that today we honor James Farmer in this way, in this room in which he touched so many Mary Washington students’ lives.

It is indeed right and appropriate that we designate, that we consecrate this place where the Civil Rights movement came to life through the resonant voice, the wry humor, the deep intelligence, and the raw emotion of a man who had lived through the movement, had changed the movement, and had been changed by it

It is indeed right and appropriate that we celebrate and recognize the life and teaching of James Leonard Farmer, Civil Rights leader, hero, and educator.

Thank you.

Incorporating Digital Literacy into History Methods Courses

In the History and American Studies 2009 Departmental Strategic Plan my department said that, in addition to other skills and literacies, we wanted all majors to develop the following abilities:

n  Digital Literacy
o   The ability to find reliable, scholarly, information on topics:
§  Within gated, subscription databases and in the larger, disorganized online world.
§  In online archives, museums and institutions of higher education.
o   The ability to assess and evaluate the reliability of online sources bringing to this newer source of information the skills of judicious, critical skepticism that have long been an indispensable historical tool.
o   The ability to produce creative, scholarly materials for the digital world that require the same level of rigor historians have applied to writing and publishing traditional papers, presentations, and monographs
When we developed learning outcomes for the history major, we incorporated these concepts into 8 of the 14 objectives, including the most obvious one:
  • Ability to utilize technological resources in research, data analysis, and presentation.
Now, we are looking at revising our department’s long standing methods course, HIST 299, into a two semester class (HIST 297 — Colloquium and HIST 298 — Practicum) for a number of reasons, among them the desire to be able to fully integrate all of the aspects we believe necessary to be a successful history major in our upper-level classes, in graduate school, and beyond.

At our last department meeting, the department agreed to include the following ideas, concepts, and assignments into the two classes:   

HIST 297
n  Finding and evaluating sources online
o   How do we find and evaluate online materials for scholarly uses? How does one begin to sift through the massive content that is available in a systematic and/or creative way? What are the pitfalls and perils, the promises and potentialities of the online information experience?
§  Learn library databases
§  Advanced scholarly searching
§  Evaluating sources online
n  Discuss new forms of scholarly communication and methodology, including digital history projects, collaborative writing, blogs, text-mining/topic modeling, mapping/GIS [1]  
n  Digital identity
o   How should we present ourselves to the online world (personally, professionally, and intellectually)?
n  Potential assignments for HIST 297:
o   E-portfolio/digital resume
o   Website review (e.g, along the lines of the Journal of American History website reviews)
o   Public writing (reflective blogs or individual/group resource sites on historical topics)
o   Some kind of public history assignment
HIST 298

n  Review, as needed, concepts of source location and evaluation (focusing on primary sources), digital identity, and new forms of scholarly methods and communication.
n  Potential assignments
o   Minimum level:
§  Public writing (Research log or resource site on topic)
o   Innovative level:
§  Multimedia version of their research project.
§  Contribute to a larger digital project in a small way
·       Partnered with James Monroe Papers, James Monroe Museum, and/or Library’s Special Collections, students could make small contributions to larger projects, getting a sense for what goes on behind the scenes and contributing to a larger good.
·       Or students could participate in crowd-sourced transcription projects, such as the War Department Papers or Jeremy Bentham’s papers.

We’ll have to see how it actually plays out in classes, but I’m glad to see our department working on practical ways to implement digital fluency into the core classes of our curriculum.

[1]Here I’m talking about, at minimum, exposure to the complex new approaches to research in the some exposure to the complex new approaches to research in the discipline offered by recent advancements in computing, including text-mining or GIS (if only because that those methods are influencing a new generation of scholarship that students will need to understand to assess). As they become more accessible and widely used, there will be more opportunities for students to also engage in the application of these tools in their own work.

2012 UMW Convocation Keynote


The following is a speech that I was invited to give to graduating seniors at the pre-graduation awards ceremony known as Convocation.  If you’re not at UMW, some of the inside jokes will not make as much sense so I’ve included some links or annotations).  
May 11, 2012

Thank you for that introduction, Austin, and thanks to the Senior Class Officers for this opportunity to talk to the graduating class of 2012, and our honored guests, family and friends.


As Austin mentioned, four years ago I was the first faculty member to talk to all you graduating seniors as a class of UMW students [as part of the opening Honor Code ceremony]; I’m honored to be the last faculty member to do so before you walk tomorrow.

Four years ago I told you all about my own Honor Convocation. Four years ago we were preparing for a presidential election, much as we are today.  Four years ago I talked about having iPhone envy; now it’s iPad envy. 

In the last four years, Facebook gained hundreds of millions of users, tens of billions of dollars, its own tell-all movie, and, very recently, a few questionable UMW Grad Ball pictures. In the last four years, Twitter became so mainstream that President Hurley has an account (though I wish he’d stop competing with Lady Gaga for followers—it’s getting embarrassing).  In the last four years, we saw the beginning and the end of Kim Kardashian’s marriage, but sadly not the end of her 15 minutes of fame. 

On a more serious note, as a class you’ve witnessed a nation involved in multiple wars/conflicts; you’ve seen a world coping with man-made disasters of massive oil spills and natural disasters of earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic ash; you’ve seen the rise of the Tea Party and of the Occupy Movement; and the so-called Great Recession has, more or less, spanned your time here.

Of course, you all have been busy these four years as well.  A few weeks ago, I asked you for your favorite UMW memories.  Hundreds of you responded and for that I thank you.  I was moved by your passion for this school and for your time here.

When I asked what three things you would most remember about your time at UMW, several items stood out.  Your professors, your campus, your friends, your community, your Honor.–Honor
Several of you asked me to convey to your families “the essence of UMW and why [you] love it here: the honor code, the beauty of campus, the [caring] professors, the engaged classmates, knowing so many people as [you] walk down campus walk.” 

Whether it was playing on Ball Circle, lounging in the big white chairs, fountain swimming, eating at Seaco or McDonalds or Hyperion, watching or joining UMW sports, or studying in the library, you told me of “Good friends, good times, and good memories.” 
A number of you remarked on the visit by then-presidential candidate Barack Obama to campus in the fall of 2008. 
Others remembered how distraught you were to have classes cancelled during Snowpocalypse 2010’s 50+ inches of ice and snow. 
[The student in the laundry basket seems particularly distraught, no?]
Several of you commented on the constant state of campus construction; others talked about the change in University presidents.  One of you combined the two, remembering that some presidents came, started construction (including some really nice book cases) and then went.  [Actually quite a few of you remarked on how wonderful and approachable President and Mrs. Hurley are.]

Over and over, you told me about the power of the time spent in your department, your academic community, of your close relationships with faculty and fellow majors, of the process of “Mentors…becoming friends”.  Many of you wrote of being challenged by rigorous professors, about the discomfort and benefits of trying out new things, about how much you learned when operating out of your comfort zone, even if you weren’t able to do it easily.
Now, students who have taken my classes know that I have a phrase to describe that sweet spot in which real learning occurs: uncomfortable, but not paralyzed.   The comments you all made reflect that your UMW experiences were full of these moments of uncomfortable learning, real learning.  Scary at times, yes, but if you were ever paralyzed you knew you could turn to faculty and friends and family to help you through it. 

Even more importantly, you’ve learned to handle that discomfort of new things on your own.  As one of you noted: “I think part of becoming sure of yourself is not always being given advice but finding your own way.”  So, like your fellow student who began four years ago as a pre-dental, bio major who became an art major and will soon be an art teacher, you all have found your own way, tried new things, and learned about yourself and the world around you.

Tomorrow you will walk in front of your families, your friends, and your faculty. I, as many people have done and will do over the next few weeks, asked about your plans after college.–Post-grad
You told me of plans for graduate schools or jobs or internships or taking time off.   

But one of you challenged the simplicity of the question itself, saying, “instead try and imagine a life that will forever change, evolve, adapt, revolt and challenge the complex conventions of life that are so commonly reduced to a series of words.”  I like that reminder that graduation is just the beginning, not the end, of figuring out who you are, what you believe in, what you do.

Now, when I asked what else you wanted to hear about in this speech, many of you asked me to inspire you, to tell you it was going to be okay, to tell you that life after college would be good.  
So…in order to do all of those things, I’m going to tell you about moving back in with my parents.
Four years ago I told you about how amazing it was to walk across the stage in Ball Circle in 1994.
UMW Graduation — 

I didn’t mention, that after walking across the stage and shaking the president’s hand, as you’ll do tomorrow, I walked back to Alvey Hall, packed up my things and moved back home.  I had been conflicted my senior year about what I was going to do after college. For a while I was sure that I would become a minister.  That didn’t work out, though it was not because, as one student recently suggested, of any youthful indiscretions on my part.   [Honestly the student in question seemed disappointed that I wasn’t that cool.]

Instead I applied to graduate school in history.  Now, in retrospect, I realize that I didn’t know how to present myself or my time at Mary Washington; I didn’t tap into the resources on campus.  I didn’t make the case, as I should have, as you should, that the liberal arts & sciences at Mary Washington had helped to create me as an adaptable, engaged, well-rounded citizen, a critical thinker eager and able to continue learning throughout my life.   Perhaps not surprisingly, I was only accepted at one of the six schools to which I applied.  Without any funding, it wasn’t something that I could make work.

So, moving back in with my parents (who are wonderful, wonderful people, as your parents undoubtedly are), I went back to working at a movie theatre making minimum wage, a movie theatre I had worked at in high school.  I had some moments where I wondered what I had done with my four years of amazing time at MW.

I interviewed for a few jobs, though none of them worked out.  I did turn down a chance to manage a movie theatre for the princely sum of ~$300/week and all the popcorn I could eat.  Instead, I offered to volunteer on one of the first digital history projects and ultimately was hired as a paid employee. 

With this experience under my belt, and with the help of my professors here I applied again to graduate school, this time to 11 schools, getting into six, including a fully funded scholarship to Johns Hopkins University’s History PhD program.  Within four years I was back teaching here at this place we all love.
[Oh, and though I didn’t know it when I graduated 18 years ago, I’d already met the fellow Mary Washington student who I would somehow figure out how to propose to while in graduate school, the woman I’ve now been married to for 15 years.]
I tell you all of this, not because I think you should follow my path (my wife is already married), but because I want you to know that it’s okay not to know yet what your path is. It’s okay to be uncomfortable, but don’t be paralyzed.

Some of you have jobs.  Congratulations.  Some of you are already set for graduate school in the fall.  Congratulations.  Some of you are planning to work, then go to graduate school later.  Congratulations.  But even if you don’t have a job yet, and you’re not alone if you don’t, congratulations.   Why? Because historically, liberal arts and sciences graduates may take longer to get their first job, but are more likely to hang on to jobs and to adapt as fields change.

Know as well, that for some people, not going to graduate school, not getting a job immediately is the right choice. You have fellow graduates who are planning to backpack in Latin America, or to work for volunteer organizations, people who are excited by the chance to do something different.  Try being uncomfortable, just don’t let yourself be paralyzed.

Four years ago, I told many of you that you were entering an academic community of scholars, engaging in a partnership in learning with me and with my colleagues.  You have done so.  You have thrived, you have grown, you have joined us in an academic enterprise of consequence. 
Alan Levine–
As you walk across that stage in Ball Circle, know that we, your professors, are proud of you and all that you have achieved.  Know that we are grateful for the time we have spent with you and hope that you have felt challenged, inspired, and ultimately rewarded by your time with us.  Know that we look forward to hearing of your opportunities, successes, and accomplishments in the years to come.  No matter where you go, or what you do, you will always be alums of Mary Washington. That community lasts a lifetime.  

So, go, be uncomfortable in new jobs, new internships, new business ventures, new schools, traveling to new places, or even with just a new attitude in your old room at home.  Be okay with being uncomfortable, because that’s where the real learning, the real change, the real fun is.  And come back and tell me in 18 years how it all turns out.
Thank you.
Thanks to Tim O’Donnell and Carter Hudgins for their help/inspiration on earlier versions of this.  Thanks as well to the hundreds of 2012 UMW graduates who responded to my request for feedback, information, and memories of their time at Mary Washington.  I included as many of their words and ideas as possible here.
Image Credits


  • Word clouds from, based on response from hundreds of 2012 UMW Graduating Seniors.
  • Obama Visit:
  • Snowpocalypse Collage: Heather Thompson, Jenn Arndt;×201.jpg;
  • 1993 graduation photo:
  • 2012 Ball Circle photo:



Vote now on the UMW decade sites

The research sites on the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s that my US Women’s History students have created as part of our project to re-create the Mary Washington college classroom experience are now up on the course site.

Please check the sites out, and vote for the site that you think provides the best set of resources for our class to actually re-create the classroom experience.


The Assignment for Recreating the historical MWC Classroom

As I discussed in this post, my US Women’s History since 1870 class will be working on a project in which the ultimate goal is to be able to recreate a class session or two from the middle of the 20th Century.

Here is the assignment that I developed for the course, in three stages.  Note the use of individual and group work, online and IRL activities, and deep research in the archives of the school.

As always, I’d appreciate any comments or suggestions.  [The full course syllabus is here.]

This project will be based around researching Mary Washington College classes in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, & 1960s (including course topics, pedagogical approaches, majors, gender stereotypes, technology, and clothing).  As our class lectures and readings look at the experiences of women in the United States in the late 19th and 20th Centuries, our parallel goal will be to understand what college meant to women who came to Mary Washington in the four decades in the middle of the 20th Century.
Each group of 6-7 of you will have a decade to research, using a variety of online and archival sources, as well as interviews with alums from these decades.  Rather than writing a traditional individual research paper, you’ll keep a research blog and work with your group to create a research site collecting together the information that you’ve found.
Primary source resources (many available in UMW Special Collections)
  • The Bullet
  • Course Catalogs
  • Academic Department and Faculty Files
  • Student Handbooks
  • Photographs (Centennial Collection online plus those digitized, but not online yet)
  • Alumni/Faculty Interviews (talk to me about interview waivers)
  • Resources from Historic Preservation (?)
  • Scrapbooks/Aubade/Alumni Magazine/President’s files
Secondary Sources
  • Crawley, William B. University of Mary Washington: A Centennial History, 1908-2008. Fredericksburg, VA: University of Mary Washington, 2008.
  • Key UMW faculty and staff (Parsons, McClusky, Thaden, Snyder)
Decade-based Research Groups
I will assign each of you to a group of 5-7 each with a different decade at MWC to research, using a variety of online and archival sources, as well as interviews with alums from these decades.  Each person will keep their own research log/blog and work with their group to create a research site collecting together the information that you’ve found.
Part I — Individual Research Logs
Each student will take a particular set of primary sources (or will interview alumni) and research classroom experiences for their group’s decade.  Each student will share her/his work in progress in the form of four individual research log-style blog posts posted before class starts on four consecutive Tuesdays (1/31, 2/7, 2/14, 2/21).
Part II — Group Research Project
Building on the research done by each of the group members, each group will construct a site for their decade in UMWBlogs.  The design, format, and presentation of these sites will be determined by the group, with a broad audience in mind.  These sites are due by 11:59 PM on Monday, March 12.
Grading for Parts I and II – 30% overall, with an individual grade for research logs and group grade for the research project.
Part III – Class re-creation
Based on those group research sites, we will collectively decide (with the help of some alums), which decade we will then use for the final project, a re-creation of a course session or two from that decade.  The form these class sessions will take is still yet to be determined (depending in part on the decade picked), but they will involve everyone in some way in preparation and presentation.  Specific tasks will be determined after the decade is chosen.  This recreation will take place during the week of April 17.
Grading for Part III – 10%, with individual grades defined by student’s participation in the re-creation process.
PLEASE NOTE: Throughout these projects, all ideas, phrases, and quotes must be cited using footnote-style citations and bibliographies done using the Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition) or Turabian’s newest Guide (7th Edition).   

Re-Creating the College Classroom of the Past

I just sent the following email to one of my classes for the Spring.

Hello all,

Thanks for signing up for History 328: US Women’s History since 1870.  I wanted to give you a little preview of my plans for our class next semester because the research projects in the class are going to be a little different than that of other history classes (even for those of you who took HIST 327 this fall).

First of all, in many ways, the general structure of the class is going to be fairly standard.  We’ll have lectures on Tuesdays and part of Thursdays, and discuss readings on Thursdays.  There will be a mid-term and a final based on those lectures, discussions, and readings.

What’s different is that the rest of your grade, roughly 40%, will be based on a series of projects we’ll be working on in groups and as a class.  These projects will be based around researching Mary Washington College classes in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, & 1960s (including course topics, pedagogical approaches, majors, gender stereotypes, technology, and clothing).  As the class lectures and readings look at the experiences of women in the United States in the late 19th and 20thCenturies, our parallel goal will be to understand what college meant to women who came to Mary Washington in the four decades in the middle of the 20thCentury.

Each group of 6-7 of you will have a decade to research, using a variety of online and archival sources, as well as interviews with alums from these decades.  Rather than writing a traditional individual research paper, you’ll keep a research blog and  work with your group to create a research site collecting together the information that you’ve found.

Based on those sites, we will collectively decide (perhaps with the help of some alums), which decade we will then use for the final project, a re-creation of a course session or two from that decade.

Now, if this project is not the kind of thing you’ll be interested in working on, you may want to look for another class.  But I hope you’ll each at least be intrigued by the idea and perhaps even excited by doing something that is original, fun, and creative, while tying in to the themes we’ll be discussing more broadly for US women in the class.

Have a terrific break and I’ll see you in January.

Dr. McClurken

I’m very excited about this project, so any suggestions you have for the process, the approach, the research sites, or anything else will be greatly appreciated.

Info Age #4 — The Documentaries

[Be sure to check out the earlier installments of my discussion of my History of the Information Age senior seminar as well:   here, here, and here, as well as the class timeline and the list of the first set of projects to be placed in that timeline.]

Assignment #4 in this course was the group documentaries on some aspect of the Information Age.  I didn’t give the students a great deal of direction, other than to say that they needed to show change over time, that they should be between 5 and 10 minutes, and that they needed to upload them somewhere where they could be seen (they all chose YouTube).  They had about three weeks to come up with a topic (related to the class discussions of the digital age), research, film, and edit the video.

Each group had a basic video camera, and they had access to the editing stations in our Digital Media Lab (with iMovie and Premiere).   Ultimately, only one group used Premiere, one used iMovie, and two used Windows Movie Maker.  
Although they had been given a brief intro to video editing at the start of the semester by DTLT, most of them were going to be doing video capture and editing for the first time.  I recommended that they test out their cameras, video files, and basic editing before they got too far into the process so that they could figure out problems in advance.

They presented the documentaries to the class and they were a great deal of fun.  Certainly, the videos aren’t as polished as they would have been if I had spent more time in training them how to use editing software, or if they’d had more time in the semester to work on them (both points the students make in their after-project posts, linked below), but I’m quite impressed with the work they produced and their willingness to throw themselves into the projects.  

What’s your take?  What suggestions do you have for future iterations of the assignment?

Info Age Assignment # 3 — The advertisements

[Though I still need to go back and blog about the first two assignments in my History of the Information Age senior seminar (the creation of our class timeline and the first set of projects to be placed in that timeline), I decided to go ahead and post about this assignment anyway.]

For this assignment, the class split into four groups, each to work on their own fictional advertisement.  The goal of this assignment was to have students explore what went into advertisements in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and/or 1960s.  We read several pieces on the history of advertising as part of our weekly class reading on the history of communication and information, and students did further research before they actually created their projects.  [Some of the ads juxtapose topics that are chronologically out of the time period of the ad style, but I think that actually helped, in that it forced students to do more than just copy previous advertisements.]

Students threw themselves into researching the way that advertising was done in terms of themes, colors, wording, images, stories, tone, even font.  And at the end I think that they learned quite a bit about the difficulty and possibility of communicating in ways that go beyond text itself.

Check them out and let us know what you think.

Lecture: Teaching and Learning with New Media

I’ve not posted on this blog in a while (see and for other goings on).

However, I was honored to be asked to give one of the inaugural lectures in the Teaching Excellence series begun this year by UMW’s Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning.

What follows is the video and a list of the links mentioned in the talk.

Thanks to all for the opportunity and the questions. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.


  • What is New Media?
  • My Goals in using New Media tools
  • Examples of Classroom Use
  • Assessing the Impact
  • What Can You Do?
  • What is New Media?


  • Blogging – Teresa Coffman (EDUC) and Steve Greenlaw (ECON)
  • Blog as course management toolSue Fernsebner’s Freshman Seminar: Toys as History
  • As site for collecting hard-to-find research sources for students –Steve Harris’s Hist 485: Researching Russian and Soviet Resources
  • UMWers & New Media

    Low Levels of Technology Use

  • Wiki for discussions in all my courses
  • Blogs as Individual/Group Reflections
  • Blogs as Research Logs (Historical Methods/Digital History)
  • More Intensive Uses of New Media Tools

  • Examples of Individual digital projects — US History in Film
  • Class Museum of history of technology projects (
  • See also Krystyn Moon’s 19th-Century Museum –
  • Adventures in Digital history course
    Digital Toolkit
    • 2008 Class & Projects
    • – Historical Markers Project (HMP) — [6]
    • – James Farmer Project (JFP) — [7]
    • – James Monroe Papers Project (JMPP) — [8] and [9]
    • – Alumni Project (AP) — [10]

    Adventures in Digital History 2010 —

    • UMW Images Project
    • Life and Legacy of Mary Ball Washington
    • James Monroe’s Letters as Minister to France
    • City of Hospitals: Fredericksburg in the Civil War

    Student Impact Survey — From November 2009Contact me directly for details