Saturday, March 24, 2007

Back in Missouri

Basketball players from all over Michigan descended on East Lansing last night which not only meant more activity late and early but also that I had to park at the end of the block since there weren't enough spots. So I adjusted my plans to start packing given that I didn't know if anything would be safe near an unoccupied building. I do wish they would make the folks just parking cars there - specifically the cars that did NOT move the whole time I was there including one that is full of "stuff" that appears to date back to the 80s given the computer parts - move them.

Had a nice evening out with History and H-Net folks and a friend graciously agreed to fix the satellite radio connection in my car that had been undone when I had the power loss (for phone and GPS device) checked. It was a very unconvenient spot but the problem was soon remedied and I was able to listen to Sean Hannity this afternoon.

It was rainy/misty until I was in Illinois an hour or so past Chicago. At least it wasn't heavy rain but it was much nicer when the sun was out. The sun setting tonight was gorgeous - it's one of my favorite times of the day to drive. I saw the St. Louis arch with the sun behind it.

I'm at the same Hampton Inn (St. Louis SW) as coming up here. Apparently I had to book online to get the bonus 250 points for Hilton Honors. It's not full at all but am glad I have a) the room and b) the extra points. Both managers that have been here have been outstanding. Tonight's manager recommended Nicoletti's for dinner and it was perfect - I was simply too tired to drive 15 miles back downtown and then back out here again - esp. since every place was so crowded - which is to be expected on a Saturday night at 7.

Mona Lisa Smile was on again this morning while I was packing and right now I'm watching the 2nd Bridget Jones again. I wish there were more novels about single women that weren't based on English women - that was overdone for quite awhile - esp. when it wasn't obvious they weren't in the US.

I hope to get up early but it also won't really matter as long as I get a good night's sleep. I hope to stop by to see Sam to give him his shirts and hat and maybe even stop by Mom and Dad's given that it will be a couple of weeks before I have another chance.

It was 79 degrees before the sun started going down - quite a change from snow on Monday. Shadow and I will both be glad to get home.

Friday, March 23, 2007

History Lessens - New York Times

History Lessens - New York Times: "Why does this matter? Because the National Archives does more than display the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. From its astonishing riches emerge not only the records of one’s immigrant grandparents but the documents and images that produce books and telecasts about this country. Without the services of the archives, the nation risks amnesia and loses direction. The president should ask for the few millions the archives needs to do its job right, and Congress should appropriate it. America must not forget itself."

Last Day at Michigan State

The time has certainly flown. Yesterday and today I spent most of my time going through all of the library books I had checked out to know which ones I would want to get through InterLibrary Loan since I didn't get through all of them here.

Wednesday Dr. Judy Olson took me to lunch and taught me quite a bit about GIS - not that I know very much but at least I have a much better concept of how it can be used in teaching history.

I also had a great time talking to a social studies ed prof here and we plan to begin working together. I need to learn how to publish in education journals and she needs publications for tenure and promotion. Plus, we both have a lot to learn from each other. She has worked with some of the stars in history education at the University of Michigan.

Last night I went to a wine tasting and tapas dinner at Dusty's Cellar in Okemos. The most interesting part of the evening was meeting a man who works for the Educational Testing Service and writes questions not only for AP Government, AP Comparative Politics, but also the Praxis II tests for social sciences and social studies. There are real people behind those tests! It will be an interesting story to tell my students.

Tonight will be a bit of an evening out and then packing before the drive home tomorrow and Sunday. My fear is that the weather has been so warm at home that I will have some mowing and weedeating to do. Nothing like exercising in the yard after driving 800 miles!

Tuesday it's off to the TAH Symposium and the OAH.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Monday evening

The presentation sparked some interesting discussion today. Afterwards, I went to the library and checked out some of the theses and dissertations related to history education. Tomorrow I'm meeting Judy the geography professor for lunch. Today was probably the last of the winter weather for here. We'll se what it's like in Minneapolis for OAH next week.

Day 20 at Michigan State

The snow ended up being a bonus yesterday. I had a very productive meeting in the morning and a good lunch at a local student hangout. The only thing they were missing was Dr. Pepper.

In the afternoon, I was very productive on several fronts. Now, I'm finishing up this afternoon's presentation which I'm really looking forward to.

Monday, March 19, 2007

It's snowing!

Wahoo! I thought I had seen the last of the snow up here. Yesterday they were predicting a "wintry mix" which normally means ice and freezing rain in Kansas. It was a great way to start the day!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Days 16&17

Harm de Blij was the speaker. The MSU Teachers for a New Era program were showcasing his book, Why Geography Matters. He was great at interacting with the audience, especially when he said that no matter what humans do to impact the environment, we would also "have to keep cows from farting."

He talked about the geological history of the earth and the worldwide connections that have resulted from previous geographical connections and then underscored the major points of his book. It provided a lot of food for thought and I have his book on my Amazon wishlist for when I return home.

Jerry Zahavi's formal presentation was also intriguing and provided a lot of food for thought for some projects with TAH teachers. At the very least, his integration of interviews into PowerPoints was inspiring - sometimes it's the simple things that work the best. (plus the "why didn't I think of that? . . ")

I picked up the rest of the MSU souvenir wear to take home - esp. those things that prominently display an "S" for my brother and a friend. I also found the Italian place where we ate dinner Thursday night and ate a quick lunch and also located the Italian market here. It's a shame so many average chains have all but wiped out the mom and pop-style Italian restaurants.

This afternoon I researched theses and dissertations written at MSU that focus on some aspect of history education and will get up to research those later today or tomorrow in preparation for my talk on Tuesday. I'm so glad that the library is open this weekend (it was closed most of last weekend because of the spring break holiday).

I also have some grant requests for proposals to review from the Department of Education and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Day 15

MSU hosted a visit from Professor Zahavi today. He's been involved a diversity of projects that pushed the boundaries of the study of history and how we get our students to critically analyze history well before we even knew there were boundaries.

I tagged along on the visit to the Vincent Voice Library at the MSU Library. I alwasy love "behind the scenes" tours. Tonight we had a great local Italian dinner. Apparently taco pizza is a Lansing favorite. I, however, prefer not to mix ethnicities in my food. (I don't want Mexican lasagna either.)

Dr. Zahavi will give a more formal presentation tomorrow and I'm also going to hear a geography speaker.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Oprah's school

I heard some news reports yesterday that there are some folks reporting that some of the girl at Oprah's new school don't like the rules (ie no cell phones during the week, no junk food, etc.). Let's see, they're getting a free high school and college education thanks to Oprah . . . . . and she's trying to teach them good habits. I remember hearing earlier that some were upset Oprah didn't build the school in the US. She apparently found that potential students in the US weren't willing do their part to be part of the school and she wanted to offer the opportunity to people who appreciate it. My belief is that it is her money and she can do whatever she wants to with it - esp. when she is giving it away to help others. There are always interesting news stories, even if they have to be created.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Accountability Frankenstein

Accountability Frankenstein

The title speaks for itself.

Day 13 at Michigan State

Now that I'm settled in, the time is starting to fly by. I had lunch with one of the programmers yesterday and learned a great deal about a variety of topics. Much of the day was spent finishing reviewing grant applications. I fly to DC late this afternoon for the panel tomorrow. It should also be a great learning experience.

There's a speaker in the MSU History Department at a brown bag lunch that will be discussing GIS in History - especially at it applies to K-12 teachers and that will be an interesting interchange as well. GIS is another one of those important topics on my ever-expanding list.

It's going to be 75 degrees in DC so I won't be worrying about bringing enough coats.

When I get back, there is another speaker who will be discussing his work with aural history.

MIT's OpenCourseWare Project Nears Completion

The Chronicle: Wired Campus Blog: MIT's OpenCourseWare Project Nears Completion

MIT's OpenCourseWare Project Nears Completion

When the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced the formation of its OpenCourseWare project (The Chronicle, April 20, 2001), the plan struck some observers as far-fetched: Putting online the instructional material for nearly 2,000 college courses isn’t exactly a simple task.

Nearly six years later, though, MIT has lived up to its lofty aspirations. Campus officials have told the Associated Press that the university will have digitized and posted material for all of its courses by the end of the year. (Currently, the institution has posted resources from more than 1,400 classes.) When they started the project, MIT administrators predicted that they would need about 10 years to complete it, so this could be the rare institutional endeavor that meets its goal well ahead of schedule.

Of course, the OpenCourseWare program may never really be finished in the traditional sense: New courses will pop up, syllabi will change, and new distribution methods will render others obsolete. But the announcement still marks a milestone, especially for other institutions — including the University of Notre Dame, the University of California at Irvine, and Utah State University — that have followed MIT’s lead and started making their own course material available free online. —Brock Read

Monday, March 12, 2007

Coming to Terms With Creative Commons

The Chronicle: Wired Campus Blog: Coming to Terms With Creative Commons

Coming to Terms With Creative Commons

The latest installment of Educause’s “Seven Things You Should Know About…” series covers a topic that should be of interest to plenty of professors and scholars: the Creative Commons license.

The licenses — which give copyright holders flexibility in determining how their works can be used — are increasingly popular in academe, and Educause makes a strong case that professors will benefit from understanding how the licenses work: “Creative Commons puts unprecedented power into the hands of content owners and users, creating an environment in which restrictions take a back seat to permissions and the creative talents of individuals benefit the common good.” —Brock Read

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Timelines in History Texts

HistoryTalk: "The Unbearable Uselessness of Timelines

Timelines or chronologies are textbook staples. No major publishing house produces an American history survey text bereft of a timeline or some similar date/event display. And no publishing house can resist bemoaning how there are never enough pages for all the material that the authors wish to include.

Here's an idea: get rid of the timelines. Timelines take up valuable textbook real estate—usually one-half to a full page. Not only are timelines a waste of time (in more ways than one), but they are also a waste of space. They also violate practically every visual display princple, particularly Edward Tufte’s guidelines. What is the evidence that the timeline presents? Only that in any particular year there was a particular event or events. What is this evidence of? Time marching on? One damn thing after another? Where are the comparisons? Where is the multivariate data? What about the integration of words, numbers, and images? Does a timeline thoroughly describe the source of the evidence? And finally, what is the quality or relevance of timeline evidence?"

Paula makes some excellent points here about what is possible with timelines - especially online. I will disagree, however, that they should be banned from textbooks. Many of my students and even teachers that are graduate students find them a useful reference - especially as they learn new material. I'm working on the teaching materials for the new Berkin text, Making America, and the authors decided to expand the timeline to juxtapose global events with US events.

Although this appears to be a quite simple tool, it is an integral first step to help students better understand that US history did not occur in a vacuum.

But how to give them more depth and meaning is certainly something worth both pondering and discussing.

Through Day 11 at MSU

It's Sunday already! Thursday was consumed with finishing our TAH grants and Friday I helped friends finish submitting theirs and learned more about the intricacies of and the NCLB data from various states I had to help friends include in their grants. At least some good came out of the extended time I felt bombarded by NCLB-related standards data, data anaylsis, and disaggregation.

The weather warmed up and I won't be surprised if the snow finishes melting today.

Friday night I went to a wine tasting at Dusty's Cellar and learned more about South American wines. I'll go back in a couple of weeks for another wine tasting and an Italian dinner.

I'm in the midst of reading grant proposals for a trip to DC on Tuesday and Wednesday. It will be great only having to fly 1 1/2 hours from Detroit and the drive over to Detroit will be less than the drive to KC with little of the frustration of driving 2-lane roads.

I spent much of yesterday doing errands and doing my first loads of laundry here. I brought way too many clothes since I didn't quite know what I would be wearing most and also knew there would be some dress-up occasions. And there would be the range of snow and winter weather to spring weather. But it's also meant that I will probably only have to do laundry twice for the month I'm here. yeah! I paid extra rent in my apartments in Missouri, Texas, and Florida to have my own washer and dryer. But, all the exercise up and down the steps was good for me even though poor Shadow kept resisting coming up the steps because he knew it contained the possibility of his being left.

Today, I'm going to cook some pasta. While there are a wealth of ingredients from the various groceries here, I don't have all of the kitchen equipment here. The hotel has provided plenty of equipment for the average person. I'm going to make some Rice Krispie treats later - they're good for breakfast and for dinner and at least a bit more nutritious than a candy bar.

I am doing some "bigger thinking" that should be part of a sabbatical but also know there is much to do and that the rest of my time in Michigan will just fly by. This week will be different now that spring break is over. And I have a presentation March 20 about history and history education. . . . .

I've also be examining vehicles since I need to replace my Explorer. Given that the dealership that took such good care of my shut down and the various mechanical problems Explorers have had, I'm looking at the range of GM products (I think I mentioned this in an earlier post). It looks like a white one of these is a serious consideration. My first car was a medium light blue and I've had two other blue ones since even though it's not necessarily my favorite color. I wrecked my dusty violet explorer and was tempted to paint later Explorers that color except that I usually need to get new engines before new shells (except in the case of the Explorer I turned end over end a few times). I've also had a red Beretta GTZ and a red Explorer along with a black Pontiac Grand Am GT - my first actual car that was mine and not a hand-me down. So, while black is great-looking, I'm up for a little less demanding color.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Day 7 at MSU

It snowed again this morning but the sun was out at noon. It was a bit sad when it dawned on me that this may be the last time Shadow gets to nose around in the snow. It looks like we'll get the warming trend next week.

The last grant is almost off the table - I just need fresh eyes to take one last final look and straighten out the appendices.

I actually made it to the library today. They have colored tape on the floor so you can find the right section (LoC letter). I looked at history ed and at Eleanor Roosevelt and then paired by stack by almost half - my usual habit (even at my home library) is to check out so many books that I can hardly carry them. Well, my not-20-something back is rebelling more openly now. So, I have plenty to read. I also learned something else about the MSU campus - it's about as easy to park near the Auditorium (where my office is) and walk to the library than to find a parking place near the library given the directional driving in circles on campus as well as the restricted left turns.

The next step is not feeling overwhelmed by existing deadlines to just enjoy being up here. I had certainly hoped to be finished with TAH before I arrived but that's not the way it all worked. But we are still a ways out from the deadline (at least in grant terms) and we didn't have any challenges due to others have had given that we have an expert on that who is the grants manager.

So, tonight is the first night I don't feel overwhelmed to work all evening.

Oh, the great find of the day was Cottage Inn Pizza - esp. the Mediterranean pizza. And the salad was out of this world. This is what I was looking for last night and didn't find (although I did find greasy sort-of tomato sauce on pizza). I like the Okemos location given that Shadow can safely go along and watch me go inside to get the pizza. And now that I have to-go menus, I can call and the pizza and everything should be ready by the time to get there.

Now to stock up on Dr. Pepper since I'm too far north for it to be readily available.

American Historical Association Blog: The Next Generation of History Teachers

American Historical Association Blog: The Next Generation of History Teachers: "March 05, 2007
The Next Generation of History Teachers

By Elisabeth Grant

Edward Ayers and other participants at a national summer conference in 2006 discussed the question of how to better prepare future K-12 history teachers. Their dialogue led them to focus on history departments, and how historians in those departments can mentor future teachers. Those ideas have been collected in an online paper titled, The Next Generation of History Teachers, which is now available on the AHA web site.

The Next Generation of History Teachers

This document reviews the current situation of K-12 history teaching, then goes on to discuss “concrete, immediate, and targeted strategies” for history departments to recognize and assist students who will become the history teachers of the future. The authors provide numerous resources for departments to draw upon to guide and inform themselves on these issues. All of the pages devoted to this project allow readers to comment and further debate. Or, if readers prefer, a PDF version of this paper available as well."

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Days 5 & 6 at Michigan State

Can you say "grant writing"? But at least there is some light at the end of the tunnel!

I'm also making some progress with some other potential grant projects.

Late Sunday I hit writing mode which was nice. I was working on grants but it's a piece of information I can use in some other places, too. It points back to my main professional weakness right now - not doing enough writing about what I'm doing - the same type of reflective practice I try to get teachers to do, in fact.

I successfully obtained a parking pass yesterday and tomorrow's goal is getting to the library.

Day 4 at Michigan State

Grant writing consumed yesterday but the fun part was being introduced to another H-Net colleague (the magic behind the curtain that not everyone realizes is required to make H-Net happen) and getting to know another one a bit better.

Shadow is figuring out the routine and tries to make me feel bad when I have to leave. If he only knew what it was like to be left for twice as long each day.

Yesterday's success was obtaining a parking pass - after I found the correct building without a campus map and didn't get my car towed in the process.

No snow today but it is expected back tomorrow.

Today, I'll venture inside the library - after more grant writing is done, of course!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Why am I here?

Why am I here? That is part of the reason I'm here. It's becoming clearer and clearer that I'm trying to do too much work and need to figure out a) how to say the word 'no' and to learn to choose what projects most interest me and stop feeling obligated to doing things I don't like doing anyway - especially when it drains energy away from what I really want to do plus allows me little personal time for a life outside of work.

H-Net is headquartered at Michigan State with the generous support of Matrix. As the H-Net Vice-President for Teaching and Learning and a list editor for H-Teach and H-TAH, I'm here partially to explore the world of H-Net and to physically be around some of the core people that make it work (in addition to the thousands of editors worldwide).

Because of Teaching American History grants and a Carnegie program, Teachers for a New Era, and the groundbreaking work of people like Sam Wineburg, Bob Bain, and Bruce VanSledright, more historians are paying attention to how we learn history. Because MSU is almost ten times bigger than my home institution, there are a great deal more opportunities to explore regarding the academic atmosphere and connections to be made across campus. And this doesn't include a much larger library in which I can do some much needed research without having to rely on InterLibrary Loan (as wonderful as it is to have - it still is full of inherent delays. There's still nothing like browsing the library shelves.)

So, today is continue to work on grants day so that we can submit them before the Friday deadline and not be caught in the crunch of final submission online.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Day 3 at Michigan State

Today was spent being out and about so that the hotel staff and the carpet cleaners could get in the room. We explored Grand River Avenue and ate some Chinese food for lunch. I bought some things at Target and at two of the MSU Bookstores. I missed the opportunity to browse all of the textbooks given that school bookstores are turning around inventory this early in the semester in order to incorporate more of the used market.

I slept in and emailed some friends this morning. One of our afternoon stops was at the local "party store" where I stocked up on Michigan-produced products. My only lack of success was in finding Dr. Pepper - all the once grocery store had left was DP Cherry Vanilla - not quite the same as the real DP. So maybe tomorrow. In the meantime, there's a Pepsi machine in the complex and that comes in a close second and still has caffeine.

I'm almost feeling back to normal and should have a good day tomorrow finishing up on several grants. The international dinner was interesting - more restaurant food than homemade but I did find enough to fill me up.

I explored some ed policy issues online tonight. I wish the internet had been around when I was a kid. I remember scouring the coloring books shelves at May's Drug to find workbooks - I always loved schoolwork.

It's still snowing - which is quite wonderful.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Day 2 at Michigan State

The snow I had hoped to see was absolutely spectacular! I watched it outside the office window all afternoon. Poor Shadow wasn't as happy with the snow when we went for our long afternoon walk.

I made a lot of progress on grants today - enough so that I can finish them up and actually enjoy the weekend.

A bagel was found for a late breakfast but the brown bag lunch presentation about farm women photos was moved or canceled when I arrived. I knew that room reservations aren't usually handled by the departments housed in that building so I went to my office. I met one of the grantwriters in residence and I hope to have further conversations with her.

I finished up some of the Greek food for dinner and will get out and about tomorrow. Apparently I found one of the good supermarkets by accident yesterday. They need to deep clean carpets tomorrow so we will need to be gone for awhile. It will be a good day to explore the neighborhoods - apparently a good Asian market is just a few blocks the other direction.

There's an international dinner at the high school tomorrow which should be fun.

I slept well enough last night to almost feel back to normal - and being productive on putting some grant details together today - both on paper, via email, and on the phone was great.

Day 2 at Michigan State

The snow I had hoped to see was absolutely spectacular! I watched it outside the office window all afternoon. Poor Shadow wasn't as happy with the snow when we went for our long afternoon walk.

I made a lot of progress on grants today - enough so that I can finish them up and actually enjoy the weekend.

A bagel was found for a late breakfast but the brown bag lunch presentation about farm women photos was moved or canceled when I arrived. I knew that room reservations aren't usually handled by the departments housed in that building so I went to my office. I met one of the grantwriters in residence and I hope to have further conversations with her.

I finished up some of the Greek food for dinner and will get out and about tomorrow. Apparently I found one of the good supermarkets by accident yesterday. They need to deep clean carpets tomorrow so we will need to be gone for awhile. It will be a good day to explore the neighborhoods - apparently a good Asian market is just a few blocks the other direction.

There's an international dinner at the high school tomorrow which should be fun.

I slept well enough last night to almost feel back to normal - and being productive on putting some grant details together today - both on paper, via email, and on the phone was great.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Day 1 at Michigan State

I missed most of the weather during my drive from St. Louis to East Lansing on Wednesday. Tornadoes hit less than an hour from home in Kansas and I arrived here before the freezing rain was too bad. I didn't eat lunch until 4:30 - I'll have to remember not to do that again. I just didn't want McDonald's. I used to be able to primarily eat Mickey D's for road food but now the calories are just too much - so I ended up with Taco Bell - at least some taste to go with the calories . . .

The place I'm staying here is excellent - I finally have my room on the second floor. Shadow is starting to get adjusted but what I miss most is being able to just let him out of the back door. I will put on snow boots but will be out in my robe in a minute to make sure he has his last trip out.

I spent quite a bit of time on the MSU campus today and now have an official ID, mailbox, and office - some in the History Department and some at the humanities computing center. I ate Vietnamese for lunch as I approached campus at 11 - decided I wasn't going to have a late lunch again today. Then, this evening I did some online research and found some Greek food to bring home for dinner. Luckily, I discovered a grocery store in the same shopping center so I know have whole milk for my Ovaltine and some fruit and some carrots. I will cook some eventually but am going to enjoy the variety of take-out here. I'm not sure I can cook on an electric stove anymore but want to enjoy the time here, too, and not overwhelm myself with cooking although I may take some cooking classes.

I was going to try speed-dating here but it falls on the only date I will be away from Michigan (in DC reviewing grants is where I'll be) so I will have to try some different approaches since I seem to have survied almost every other type of dating.

I may attend a brown bag lunch tomorrow as well as get back to grant writing before the 9 March deadline.

I think some of my head cold was allergies given that I am gradually feeling less "stuffy" although I'm still catching up on sleep.

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