Thursday, January 23, 2014

Update: My trip to India

I haven't done an update on this site in ages. I did go to India in July 2010 and it was a wonderful but short experience that kept me asleep for weeks! We traveled to Delhi, India by way of Reagan National and J.F.K airports. We spent the first few days at JNU, the national University. That was an experience that tested my senses - visual, olfactory, hearing, and emotions. Going to India was an experience much different than I was used to. We have poverty here in West Virginia and the rest of the United States, but it does not compare to anything in India. Some of my travel companions said that this should not have been my first international travel experience due to the presence of such poverty. As Americans, we were not really going to see that side of India, but it was not avoidable due to driving through the cities and the countryside.
We went to the capital building as well as other monuments throughout the capital city of Delhi. We also visited some temples old as well as newer. We traveled 120 miles to the south and visited the birthplace of Krishna, which was located next to a Islamic Mosque. That was an interesting experience the the rickshaws surrounding our bus and our "guide" in the birthplace. Among the travels south, we encountered a mass of humanity in the road that slowed our travel. There was temple that was having a festival and to my estimate I bet there were hundreds of thousands of people in their finest garb for this event. Then we ventured a few days to Agra where the Taj Mahal and Agra fort are located. These are magnificent structures in their own right and built in the Mughal period. In Agra, we went to Pizza Hut, which was a welcome diversion from the Indian diet that I was certainly not ready for.
About half of the group didn't take the extended trip, including me, so we ventured back to the Delhi airport by way of a van and made the return trip which itself was an experience. It took over six hours to make our way back to Delhi which included encountering human traffic in the road along with the rest of the animal life that we observed in the road during our trip. This trip also included a trip to McDonald's and a flat tire on the way back!
This was a short review of the trip. I'm sorry I didn't write in this blog when I returned, but it was memorable experience that I would never forget and I would be willing to return in the future!

These links below are YouTube videos of my trip to India:
Delhi Traffic & Agra
Sitar and Drum Demonstration
West Virginia Teachers Visit India
India Gate

Stroll through Downtown Clarksburg on Christmas Eve 2011

I went walking through Downtown Clarksburg, West Virginia this morning.  This is something I do about once or twice a year.  It was kind of eerie feeling due to it being a Saturday and Christmas Eve.  I was reading in the Clarksburg newspaper this morning on how downtown areas such as Clarksburg would be bustling in the days and weeks prior to Christmas due to all the stores in the downtown areas.  This was before the malls, shopping centers, and the megastores that made their mark in the two or three previous decades.
Also in today's paper, there was an article about building that would likely be demolished in the near future due to public safety.  I would like to see these buildings demolished and something better take its place.  But that would be unlikely due to most traffic just passes by on the expressway above the city overlooking many of the buildings that lie empty or underutilized.
Some of the buildings slated to be demolished were once grand houses that are now empty lots.  One such grand house demolished in Clarksburg was the Nathan Goff House which is now a pretty little park on Dominion gas property that is not open to the public.  Another structure expected to be demolished was a former Sheraton Hotel that had been converted to a West Virginia State Office Building and a new state office building is expected to take its place.   Another former hotel, the Waldo, has been owned by the Vandalia Foundation in hopes to be renovated or restored.  But it is most likely to see the wrecking ball.   Finally, Central Junior High is expected to be demolished.  This is a building that has been visible to many due to its location next to the expressway.

I have scant personal memories to most of the buildings other than driving or walking by them occasionally, but to many people there are many great memories.  Let's hope there are more memories to be made in the future.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Traveling as a teacher in the summer

Ever since becoming a Social Studies teacher in 2009, I've had the opportunity to travel to workshops and seminars each summer.  Most of these workshops will pay at least reimbursement for travel or a stipend for attending.  In this post I will explain workshops I will be attending in the near future and hopefully will post updates as the trips occur.

Part of Gettysburg Cyclorama
Lincoln Memorial
In the summer of 2009, I had the opportunity to attend a Gilder-Lehrman workshop at Gettysburg College with the topic "Lincoln and the Civil War."  This was really the first time I've had first hand experience or training as a teacher with the Civil War.  Along with classroom sessions, we toured the Gettysburg Battlefields, toured the newly opened Visitors Center that included a "backstage" tour of the cyclorama , and then onto Washington, D.C. to visit traces where President Lincoln had visited such as the Old Soldiers' Home and the Lincoln Memorial.  It is said that Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation at a cottage at the Old Soldiers' Home.  That location was used instead the White House because of it location being cooler than where the Presidential mansion was located.  There was much reading associated with this workshop, but it got me more interested in the Civil War.

In 2010, I was blessed to go on my first overseas trip as part of a teacher group.  I went to India as part of a group of West Virginia teachers through Davis and Elkins College. This opportunity cost participants $500 for the week.   There were about 25 of us that went to a fews days of "briefing" to get ready to go to India about its culture.  About a month later in July we went to India.  India is a society much different from the United States and any other place I have ever been to.  The society is very poor, polluted, and chaotic.   But I was able to see architectural wonders such as the Taj Mahal and the B'hai Temple.  Going to India made us blessed to be Americans.  These are experiences that I routinely share with  students in my classes.

Also in the the summer of 2010, I had the opportunity to have training for "We the People" program presented by James Madison University and the Center for Civic Education.  This training program gave us the opportunity to learn how the "We the People" textbook is to be used and how to participate in student competition.  Part of the program also included a trip to James Madison's Montpelier estate. Participants were given a stipend for attending, room and board, and paid for transportation.  This program has ceased to exist due to funding cuts from Congress.  I do use the textbooks in my Government classes.
James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA


At the DMZ looking onto North Korea
In 2011, I was able to go to South Korea as an educator through The Korea Society for two weeks.  This was an intensive study group of 35 teachers from throughout the United States.  I was blessed to attend this workshop.  We stayed in Seoul for a week in hotels and travelled for another week in the countryside to tour UNESCO World Heritage sites and even the Hyundai shipbuilding yard.  We had a BYU professor who was fluent in Hangul (Korean) that led our tours and we had lectures by different professors and leaders at University of Korea on different topics.  We participated in the folk arts of Korea, learned to make and drink tea, took part in grand meals,  and even dressed like traditional Korean royalty! By far, this was a thorough workshop to attend.   They paid for everything and even gave us spending money for days on our own.  Best of all, we were able to go to the DMZ to probably the most tense territory in the world!
Also in 2011, I went with the TAH group to Washington, DC.  It was a beautiful week to go to D.C. with a Potomac river tour from Alexandria to Georgetown.  We visited the typical Washington sites and went to the Newseum for a workshop.  This was definitely a unqiue opportunity to understand the role of media in society.  We also visited George Washington's Mount Vernon and George Mason's Gunston Hall.

The Summer of 2012 was very busy for me.  I went with a Teaching American History group from West Virginia. We started off to Montpelier overnight in the cottages they have there and a brief tour and workshop.  Then we travelled by bus to Atlanta, Georgia.  There we went probably the coolest June days Atlanta have ever had!   There we visited Morehouse College and were intrigued with their culture on campus.  We also followed the steps of Martin Luther King in Sweet Auburn were the Martin Luther King Historic Site is located with his childhood home, visitors' center, and Ebenezer Baptist Church.  We also visited the Carter Presidential Library
Ebenezer Baptist Church
Stone Mountain

, CNN Center, and World of Coke among other locations in Atlanta.  We also spend a day at Stone Mountain.

I also went on a EF Tour trip to Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, and Hawaii for two weeks.  This was a trip I paid my way and it was with a student group through my school.  I am not going into this trip because this was a more personal trip rather than part of any workshop.
Chicago Theater
The Loop in Chicago
To complete my summer teacher workshop experiences, I took 5 flights from Honolulu to Chicago.  In Chicago I attended the Historical Skyscrapers workshop at the Santa Fe Railroad Building.  This was a workshop through the National Endowment for the Humanities.  This NEH workshop took us through the history and development of Chicago, tours of historical skyscrapers and other historical buildings, and art through the central loop.  The Taste of Chicago was also taking place during the same week.  This was a great workshop for me due to my great interest in architecture.

This summer is almost just as busy.  Next week I will be touring Washington, D.C. with another group.  I am looking forward to going to the Lincoln Memorial and going to the place where Dr. Martin Luther King spoke his "I Have a Dream" speech that will be celebrated 50 years ago in August. We will be visiting the Supreme Court, the Capitol Complex, the National Archives and the National Portrait Galleries as well as George Washington's Mount Vernon.
I will have a day home basically to do laundry and stock up for the next two weeks.
I will be departing to fly to San Francisco towards the end of July to attend a Gilder-Lehrman workshop on the History of the Supreme Court workshop that will be held near Stanford University.  I won't have time to visit San Francisco, but I hope to see some of the sights of the Silicon Valley.  After this workshop I will be attending a workshop on Frank Lloyd Wright in Mason City, Iowa.

Hopefully in the next few weeks I will add new posts to this blog to share my experiences over the next few weeks.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Architecture of Downtown Clarksburg


I recently took a walking tour of Clarksburg taking a look at some of the architectural elements of the city, particularly downtown.  I knew there was a great deal of historical architecture in the city, but in recent decades, the downtown core has gone through a decline of businesses in favor of retail establishments along the interstate.  So the core of business in downtown Clarksburg today is primarily banking and law offices due to the location of the Harrison County Courthouse in downtown.

I am going to post some pictures with some comments about each.  All of the photos were taken with an iPhone 4S.    I would like to see a regular walking architectural tour of downtown Clarksburg in the future led by docents who know the historical background of the buildings and their construction.  Some information can be obtained from this outdated website:

Quality Hill Historical District National Register of Historica Places Nomination Form:
Hotel Waldo has been abandoned for many years.  The current owner is the Vandalia Foundation who lacks funds and a suitor to renovate this structure.  The City of Clarksburg and Vandalia has been at odds for years over the condition of the building.

Hotel Waldo

Clarksburg Post Office.  Most of the distribution has been moved from this building to the EastPointe Distribution center in the past year.  The Post Office still has a retail store in the building, but Federal offices and courts are located in much of the building.  I didn't get a great photo of this building due to the fact it was business hours and I didn't want to get in trouble for photographing a Federal building.

Clarksburg Fire Department.  This building originally had arched doorways, but as fire engines got larger, the doorways had to become larger.

The Goff Building is located next to the Harrison County Courthouse.

The former Empire National Bank Building.  Over the years, Empire National Bank had been absorbed by One Valley Bank, then BB&T Bank.  BB&T built a new facility nearby.  A law firm currently operates out of the building.  MVB Bank is now renovating the first floor and drive-thru and will open there later in the year and the law firm will operate from upstairs.

Rose Garden Theater.  Formerly the Robinson Grand.  This theater has not been used in years.

Masonic Lodge.  A large fire destroyed the adjacent building  to its east several years ago.  The east side of the building sustained heavy fire damage and has since been repaired.  Many lodges have built large buildings in the early 1900s and rented out much of the building to offices and retail.

Clarkburg Baptist Church.  They recently completed a family life center in the past two years.  Previous additions include classrooms.

Sephia photos of many of these buildings are located on this website: 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Friday, January 20, 2012

My Look at Apple Jumping into the Textbook Business

It has been less than 24 hours since Apple has announced enhancements to its iBooks app and now has an  iBooks Author app for the Mac platform.  I see some great promise and great reservations in this process.  It could be a boon for those teachers who are very creative and have some technology wit in using iBooks Author.  But many people are criticizing this new app as not being friendly to everyone and only can be applied to the iPad.
Let's start with iBooks Author.  I just played around with it for a few minutes.  There are six templates available with cover art that are placeholders and can be easily replaced.  My first concern is that you can't simply copy and paste photos from different locations, but you actually have to attach by going through files.  I do like the fact that you are able to set up a table of contents and glossary.  It can be published in iBooks, PDF, and text format.  I may be tempted to use this over the summer and create mini-units based on material that I cover in my classroom.  I must admit I am not very creative when it comes to graphic design and this app can even help you create basic animation.  Since I am a Social Studies teacher, I could create timelines and attach photographs or link details with them.
iBooks Author templete chooser
Here is my reservation about this process:  Copyright.  It is funny that Apple releases this app the day after the internet protests of SOPA and PIPA which the basic premise of these bills is to give credit to those who deserve it.  I would be using a variety of resources to put together one of my mini-units.  How do I give credit?  Could I consider this content mine?  These are things adults are unsure of and we are expected to teacher our children this as well.  I don't think this was addressed by Apple.
Another concern I have is access to the material that has been published.  Are schools going to provide iPads to all students.  An iPad is easily $500 each and to be used effectively as a learning device all students should have access to it at all time (in and out of school).  Apple has said that several textbook publishing houses are going to sell textbooks on iTunes/iBooks at $14.99 or less.  So would this be $14.99 or less for each student copy.  Also, Apple says that any book published through iBooks Author must be sold through the iBookstore.  I would assume Apple would get a 30% cut of the price.  Could I sell and distribute my book for free?
Another concern I have is do these $14.99 books have the same content as what we normally would have in our hard-copy textbooks?  I envision the publishing companies setting up packages for teachers and districts to customize their iPad textbooks.  The World History textbook I use has 25 chapters, but I only use 10-12 chapters of the text every year.  So I have students carrying an 8-9 pound book they only use less than half of it in a year.  I don't see the textbook companies allowing teachers to omit any content, but they would be willing to have additional content added at a price and promising continuing service through the 7-year contract.
Going back to creating my own textbooks, there are open-source material out there that I could use.  I'll only create content that my state content standards and objectives cover rather than from a textbook company catering to Florida, Texas, California, and New York.  I can make sure internet links work to make sure content is up to date (yes, history content changes every once in a while).  I can also add activities I use in my classroom.
I also see school districts hiring specialists to use iBooks Author to create units specifically for their school districts and bypass textbook companies.  This could change the whole way textbook companies operate and cater to school districts.
I would like to see a book that I publish be in a similar format as Amazon Kindle books that I can read on different devices and be able to sync up to the location where I left off on another device.
There is a lot of work to do on this iBook Author app and iBook textbook format.  Hopefully in future versions, Apple will see what the needs and wants of the teacher community and make changes for the better.
These are just early, brief observations from me on the topic.  Add any comments you have about iBooks, iBooks Author, or even iTunes U (which I have not discussed) below.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Infographics and diagrams that cane be used for the classroom.