When I began the COPLAC “Industrial Voices” course, I was finishing up a month-long internship at St. Stephens Episcopal Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The school was for the well-to-do and many of the institutions and teaching strategies weren’t really applicable outside of that setting. One clear example of this is with the tablets the students used. Every student had to have a tablet, and each tablet would have all of the required reading and assignments loaded to it. With funding for public schools in the United States the way it is today, I think the notion that institutions should just switch to a system that demands students spend 80+ dollars on fragile technology isn’t really viable. But even still, I think digital alternatives to textbooks, particularly with history, could be a fundamental aspect of future pedagogy.
So back then, I was interested in the project primarily because it offered me an opportunity to create a learning tool for history students that is superior to textbooks. The task proved more difficult than I had anticipated and I ended up struggling just to have the sources and text agree and not be a disaster on the website. One of the largest problems was my own lack of tech-savvy. To really make a website that engages a viewer, I think someone should be involved in the web-site’s creation that knows a thing or two about programming. The timeline was my favorite aspect of my portion of the webpage, but if there was something that had more of that interactivity which made the timeline interesting, I think it would’ve gone a long way. I think something with the movement similar to that of Prezis would be a great addition. Something that has the viewer move from information to information rather than instantly changing pages. This wouldn’t have to apply to the whole website, but perhaps an exhibit of the website.
Perhaps a programmer really isn’t necessary to capture that type of interactivity. I think the other two groups managed to become more interactive, and more enticing, simply through their own design savvy (and no small amount of hard work). Especially with Mina and Kate’s site, the pictures were placed in such a way that the narrative was told through them, and I think students looking at these would be more curious about that history than they would with a traditional textbook. Along these lines, I wish I added more interesting pictures to my website. I think I committed the same error of the traditional textbook in that my exhibit was entirely text. I had pictures, but they too were of government documents, and thus text. If I were to try and redo the project, looking at the same topic as I had, I would’ve added many more pictures of government structures, or of people referred to in the text. In hindsight I had opportunities for this, but I was too bogged down in trying to make what we had into a narrative of some type.
My error here might also be explained through my undeveloped skills as an historian. I had worked in archives before Leo and I made our trips to Tampa, but I didn’t really have the organizational understanding of documents and narrative to where I could efficiently find documents and realize how to use them in conjunction with others to tell a story. I feel like I spent my time looking for the story for so long that I just had to give up and force what we had into a narrative. I think a viewer can pick up that awkwardness in the exhibit. This issue is no doubt common, and I think it was a necessary road bump to becoming a better historian, and understanding how to deal with information in an orderly manner.
Overall, I wish I had done better on my website, but I enjoyed my time in the archives and in class learning about technology that could improve upon pedagogical strategies and the industrial history of the United States. In the future I will use the lessons learned here to create digital platforms that can convey narratives in an interesting and accessible way. I think these lessons will be applicable in a variety of settings, but I already have some ideas as to how I might use them as a history teacher.