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Ian Lind • Online daily from Kaaawa, Hawaii

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In defense of the humanities

October 29th, 2014 · 2 Comments

I continue to be impressed by my cousin, Leslie Madsen-Brooks, who is currently on the history faculty at Boise State University. To be more accurate, we are first cousins, once removed.

She’s very much on the cutting edge of integrating digital technologies into higher education, and seems to be constantly demonstrating ways it can be done.

This is the first part of a long post on her blog, ClutterMuseum.com, which I found most interesting.

I found myself in a meeting on Friday with several science faculty, and I had the opportunity to share with them what I’m doing in my Digital History course this semester. When I mentioned in particular that my students were mapping the neighborhood’s irrigation ditches, an engineering professor asked me how they were doing that. I said I had a student minoring in GIS and she’d likely in the end use Google Maps or maybe even Illustrator just to indicate where the water flows through the neighborhood and where it disappears underground.

She clarified her question. “No. . . How do you get your students to do things you haven’t taught them to do? If we ask our students to do something new, they say they can’t do it because we haven’t yet taught them how to do it.”

I pointed out that history, and the humanities more generally, provided students with plenty of opportunities to take initiative in research and communication, and that we tried to cultivate independent thinking in our students. Plus, I try to model this spirit of inquiry in the classroom. I pointed out (once again) that I’m a history professor without any degrees in history, and I’m a technologist without any formal training in that field. I’ve decided to eschew impostor syndrome in favor of openly making up my projects and career as I go along.

The professors seemed a bit flabbergasted. Maybe they hadn’t ever considered the humanities as anything other than courses that taught students grammar and asked them to read a lot.

In that previous post on instructional design, she described transforming one of her classes into a grand learning lab. What fun this must be for the students!

I completely blew up my digital history course a few weeks into the semester. I began the course with a traditional syllabus packed with readings and marked by some practice, but on student request, I changed the course so that 85% of the work—and thus of students’ grades—is connected to a single large project. You can check out the new syllabus, but you’ll find most of the course now consists of in-class work days for the 11 undergraduate and 5 graduate students in the course.

In the summer, a resident of Boise’s Central Rim neighborhood approached me about helping her and her neighbors better understand the history of their irrigation system, the Lindsey Lateral. The neighbors believed some residents hadn’t been getting all the water to which they are entitled, while other yards in the neighborhood were completely waterlogged and some basements flooded. The neighbors wanted an historian to trace the history of their water rights so they could make a case for various agencies or individuals to fund repairs to the ditches and canals that run through and under the subdivisions that constitute the Central Rim.

I admitted I’m no legal expert and instead offered to use the neighborhood as a subject in my Digital History course.

That course introduces students to the digital humanities and asks them to consider the various issues and potential opportunities at the intersection of digital technologies and our understanding of the past. In a previous iteration of the course, I had students interview digital humanists, explore exactly how far they could get with their research if they used only digital primary sources, build augmented reality tours, and write grants.

This semester, students have elected to focus almost entirely on the Central Rim Neighborhood project. That meant exchanging a lot of great course content and additional topics for hands-on skill-building, but I’m fine with that. Now students are working in teams to interview neighbors (with some of these captured on video as mini oral histories), document the history of irrigation, trace the development of the neighborhood from the first irrigated orchards to suburban subdivisions, and explore the evolution of the neighborhood into a particularly close-knit community where neighbors not only know each others’ names, but also know a lot about one another.

She then rattles off a list of things the students are learning as the work in teams on pieces of the larger project. From the looks of it, there’s probably much more learning going on than in the typical class of professorial lectures. Don’t you wish college was like this when you were there?

→ 2 CommentsTags: Education

Looking for hotel suggestions in Auckland

October 29th, 2014 · 2 Comments

Hey, travelers.

Meda has another conference in Auckland coming up in March, and we’re shopping for a hotel somewhere in the downtown area.

Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

When I asked about things to do in Auckland back a couple of years ago, it seemed like lots of readers had things to say.

Share your experiences with hotels. And you can probably skip the real high priced ones.

Thanks in advance.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Travel

Latest filing doesn’t solve mystery of GOP’s Hawaii Solutions PAC

October 28th, 2014 · 2 Comments

Hawaii Solutions, the Republican political action committee which entered three Oahu races with negative attack ads under somewhat mysterious circumstances, filed its report to the Campaign Spending Commission prior to yesterday’s deadline (see “Father-in-law of GOP state senate candidate is officer of “independent” Super PAC“).

The group reported receiving contributions of $$20,099 during the period August 10 to October 20, 2014, most from just four sources. All these contributions were dated October 8, 2014.

The group reported spending $13,501, and ended the period with $10,706.03 on hand.

Heidi Wong, who is listed at a Kuliouou address, contributed $15,000. Mark Garriga of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, made three contributions totaling $2,900, all on the same day. Lokahi Cuban of Booth Road is reported to have given four $500 checks on the same day. And Nancy Nino of Hawaii Kai, identified as the owner of Aloha Organizers, added three contributions totaling $99.

In 2010, Heidi Wong listed her employer as the Hawaii Republican Party, and now lists her occupation as “homemaker.”

Campaign records show Wong made several other contributions between the beginning of the year and the August 9 primary election. She contributed $5,000 to Duke Aiona’s campaign, $3,000 to Aiona’s running made, Elwin Ahu, and $2,000 to Rep. Richard Fale, who is running for the District 23 Senate seat.

News reports identify a Mark Garriga as an attorney who represented Republican U.S. Senator Sen. Thad Cochran against an election challenge filed by his primary election opponent. It is not clear whether the Garriga who contributed to Hawaii Solutions is the same person. Records going back to 2006 show Garriga has not contributed to any other candidate or political committee in Hawaii.

Cuban had not contributed to any other candidate or political committee in Hawaii prior to this year’s primary election, according to Campaign Spending Commission records.

The expenditures reported by Hawaii Solutions for printing and mailing flyers attacking Democratic candidates do not indicate the candidate or the race associated with each expenditure. This means that it is impossible to determine how much was spent on each race.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Campaigns · Elections · Politics

Absentee ballots arrive with return envelopes sealed shut

October 27th, 2014 · 14 Comments

Here’s an absentee ballot issue that you probably haven’t worried about. It was brought to my attention yesterday by a Kaaawa resident who complains that when her absentee ballot arrived in the mail, the return envelope was already totally sealed. Either it was very sensitive to humidity and sealed itself, or has been in storage for so long that it was self-welded.

As you can see, she had tried to pry the flap of the envelope open, but it started to tear. It looks like she will have to rip the envelope open to insert her ballot, but they it will be impossible to reseal without looking like it has been tampered with.

She’s worried that her vote won’t be counted if she has to rip into the envelope and then tape it closed.

She wants to know what she should do.

I’ll call the election folks at the city later today and try to get an answer.

sealed when received

→ 14 CommentsTags: Elections

Some links about the Puna lava flow

October 26th, 2014 · 1 Comment

These links were forwarded by a friend on the Big Island.

Here’s an interesting video from the Tribune Herald. It has some
nice views of the lava crossing Apa`a Road and some interviews with
locals who likely will lose their homes.

http://hawaiitribune-herald.com/news/local-news/video-lava-crosses-apa-streetcemetery-road

And below is the link for the official USGS website, which provides daily updates on the progress of the flow. If you click on ‘photos and videos’ near the top of the page, you will find some nice photos documenting the flow. If you click on a photo, it will open in a new page much enlarged. Some of those photos are quite
dramatic I think.

http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/multimedia/index.php?newSearch=true&display=custom&volcano=1&resultsPerPage=20

→ 1 CommentTags: environment