Why Digitize?

Posted October 31, 2006 by Amanda Bennett
Categories: Uncategorized

Digitization is a wonderful thing for researchers.  It can put primary sources right at your fingertips without you ever having to leave your house.  All of us enjoy doing research in our fuzzy slippers.  For a lot of us, however, we have no idea what goes into making these sources available.  There is a lot of time, effort, and cost involved in the smallest of digitization projects.  I hope some of us come away with more of an appreciation for those institutions who delve into the ever-changing digital world.

For most of us, these problems are not biggies.  I only have certain files that I would like to preserve – mostly text – that are reformatted everytime Microsoft comes out with a new version of Word.  Not really a big deal.  But, I do have certain things that I saved one Zip disks – anyone remember those??? – that I can only get to because I kept the external Zip drive that I paid an arm and a leg for.  I don’t even know if you can get a computer with an internal Zip anymore.  Now, my files are not all that important, but I can only imagine what the people at the Domesday Project went through!

All this means is that we need to be very careful and do our homework before we invest our life savings into a digitization project that might be completely obsolete in 2 years.  Oh, and always keep the originals!!!

The Internet in the Classroom

Posted October 24, 2006 by Amanda Bennett
Categories: Uncategorized

The more the better.  The way this class is set up is excellent!  All the resources we need are in one place or just a click away.  They are much easier to find and to reference than having to go back and remember where you put that article or this paper.  It also allows for more visual learning, which helps me personally.  It also feels more hands on, like I have more agency in this class than in others.

No Computer Left Behind

Posted October 24, 2006 by Amanda Bennett
Categories: Uncategorized

Without getting into my feelings about the No Child Left Behind Act (that could be a novel in itself) this article hits the nail on the head of multiple choice tests.  As a former teacher, I do admit that Scantron is wonderful for saving time.  But you end up teaching the students things that college professors say are not all that important because you can just look them up somewhere.  Even the more thoughtful questions become regurgitation once the kids figure out how to take the test.  More essays in the primary and secondary classroom would kill two birds with one stone.  Not only do these students not know how to think about history, they don’t know how to structure and argument on paper either.  Some of my students (seniors in high school) could not put together a grammatically correct sentence.  Let them write!

Maps, maps, and more maps!!

Posted October 17, 2006 by Amanda Bennett
Categories: Uncategorized

Maps are wonderful! I love maps!  I also love the idea of being able to click on a map and find information about the spot that I clicked on.  We use this technology to find apartments and make hotel reservations, why not to search digital libraries or find the references we historians need to write our many multitudes of papers? 

I can certainly sympathize with Schwartz’s frustration at flipping through a book and not finding any visual representation of the location being described.  As a Civil War historian, there is nothing more annoying than reading pages upon pages about a certain battle and not finding any visuals of the terrain or troop movements, or the surrounding population.

Geo-spatial information is fundamental to history and should be used whenever possible.  It is exciting to see that someone is trying to put all this information together and make it easier for those of us who are not technologically savvy to find what we are looking for.  Even if the article may have gone a little over my head. 

I also find it easier to search visually than textually, but that’s just me!

Keep ’em coming!

Posted October 2, 2006 by Amanda Bennett
Categories: Uncategorized

API’s? Love them! Anything that helps me research the Internet and other databases more quickly and efficiently is OK with me!  I do agree with – I think it was – Bill, that this is what historians do.  We gather information from disparate sources and put them together for ourselves and others.  This is just a new, faster, more efficient way of doing what historians have been doing for ages.  It only makes sense that the humanities world should be moving into this not-so-new technology in order to make our work easier.  It is a shame that it is taking so long.

Databases should be as accessable as possible.  I’m not saying that historians and scholars should put all their research out there, they have to make a living somehow, but the sources they used for their research should be available to anyone who wants to view it.  This stuff needs to be out there, and it needs to be easy to find and sift through.  And, yes, those who are fortunate enough to know how to manipulate databases and create API’s and other programs that allow researchers to put their information together as easily as possible, should share the wealth and help those of us who are less fortunate.

Readings, Readings, Readings

Posted September 25, 2006 by Amanda Bennett
Categories: Uncategorized

Is it just me, or did some of these readings seem a little technical?  The charts explaining the different bytes were very helpful though.  It’s amazing how much information is out there, and how much we are producing on a yearly basis.  Of course, classes like this one are helping to add to those never-ending percentages.  It would be interesting to know how much it has changed since 2003.  The numbers are probably mind-boggling by now.

I found Turkels article on teaching historians how to search and spider very interesting.  It is definitely a skill that is becoming increasingly mandatory for anyone involved in research, and I am definitely going to check out that “How to Read a Book.”  One thing that I think is lacking, however, is that young historians are not necessarily ever really taught how to search in libraries and archives; teaching them to search the Internet first may contribute to the problem of “if Google can’t find it, it doesn’t exist.”

Wiki Wiki

Posted September 13, 2006 by Amanda Bennett
Categories: Uncategorized

Editing Wikipedia was pretty easy, maybe a little too easy.  If I was a bad person, I could have typed anything in there.  Check out my edit to the Post-War years at Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arlington_House%2C_The_Robert_E._Lee_Memorial