Thursday, July 26, 2007

How to Videos

As the experiments in the digital world continue this week I've been working on creating some how to videos for history teachers. YouTube already has lots for different subjects you can view and it's also a chance for me to try my hand at creating and uploading a video.

So with out further ado: How to Scan a War Letter!

Ok so it wasn't all that impressive and the video quality is a bit week, but everyone starts somewhere and I was happy with the audio quality. I also was able to do most of the work with a few programs that I downloaded like Audacity and my trusty mic, Snagit (a screen capture program), and my basic windows media editing file. There is definitely still lots to do, but fortunately Chris in our office here also put me on to

Great site, lots of fun stuff, and some really well made How to videos like these below. The bar has been set!

VideoJug: How To Share Your Digital Photos Online

VideoJug: How To Set Up Your Own Blog

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

History Podcasting - part 1

Last year at the Ontario History and Social Sciences Conference, I spoke with Pat Baker, a teacher at Leaside High School in Toronto. She was working on a couple of great projects, one of which was podcasting war stories.

It's a great project and really gives a sense of how students can create their own podcasts that force them to really engage with history and be creative.

I've been working on some guidelines on how to get started creating podcasts and it goes roughly as follows.

  1. Get a microphone. I bought my own mic from a local computer store. You can get a good quality mic for 25-40$, and probably for less than that. I got a Logitech USB microphone that I find has really good sound quality, and because it is a USB mic it is easy to plug in and get started.
  2. The next step is to get a recording program. I've been using Audacity which is a free open source program. It is pretty straightforward to use (play, record, etc) and you can point and click to move files around, copy and paste, etc. I found it easy to correct mistakes by deleting sections as well.
  3. Once you have a mic and audacity and created a short clip, you will want to save it as an MP3 file which requires one additional download. You need to download the LAME Mp3 Encoder library. Once you have this click on File, Export as MP3, and the once you add a name the program will ask you to find lame_enc.dll. Just make sure you remember where you saved the file. You only have to do this the first time and then you're good! Check out this tip sheet for more info on this step.
  4. The next step is getting your podcast online, and before I can explain that, I have to do it myself. If you have your own website than it is easy enough to just post your podcast and link to it. But since we're doing this on the assumption that you might not have your own site, we're using a few examples from podbean and ownmedia. Check out our sample podcast up at podbean.
So we are up and online, but that's only just the beginning. Check back soon for Podcast part 2.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Google Maps and the Exploration of Canada

Hopefully this will be the first of many entries over the summer as we explore different resources on the Internet that can help history and social sciences teachers.

Let's start with Google Maps (as a historian I should probably provide some background here). Google Maps has been around since early 2005 and is a great program for upgrading those old pull down maps, even if it will never equal the vintage 1957 bumpy relief map of Canada I have behind me in my office.

I started using Google Maps last summer with the help of Prof. Bill Turkel at Western. Using entries in the Beaver magazine, The Canadian Geographic Names Database, and, I attached a geocode to each of the articles giving them a location. The idea behind this was that people would like an easy to use and search map to find history articles about their area. You can still see the demo here.

How did I create this map - as follows:

Step 1: Read the article and determine what is the most relevant location associated with it.

Step 2. Search for the location using one of our handy online tools. For lakes, rivers, and geographic locations you can use the Geographic Names Database, and for streets, cities, towns, and specific addresses you can use

Step 3: When you search for these locations you will be given a geocode which matches to some place on planet earth - consisting of a latitude and longitude.

Step 4: I would punch these into my map source code and voila! That sounds easy but it requires some knowledge of programming which I had cobbled together along the way. I'm going to go into this further in the future.

Fortunately, Google has been hard at work refining the program over the last year and it is now a lot easier to create functional maps that can be used in lectures, etc (We still want to create our own maps though too, let's not get to lazy about this.)

The trick is finding something worth showing. Last year as part of my search through the annals of the Beaver magazine I found a great three set article by P.D. Baird. Essentially Baird had created a one stop guide to Canadian arctic expeditions. I really liked it and have been waiting to try it out for some time.

Now with Google Maps you can easily point and click to create markers, lines, and shaded areas - and you can save all of your maps so they can be easily pulled up for specific curriculum material. In this case I simply used the articles (available online through the Beaver index here.) and then eyeballed the lines to roughly diagram out the voyages.

Aside from being amazed at the early explorers, it creates a fun way to learn about Arctic exploration. The best part of all - students themselves can create these maps!!!! All of the digital history projects we are exploring this summer will be ones the students can do themselves, which is really the key to all successful online projects.

Keep an eye on my Explorations of the Arctic Map, as I will keep adding to it over the next few days, and start playing around with your own historic maps - things like battle sites, settler locations, archaeological sites, immigration patterns - whatever you can think of, and be sure to post a comment so you can share them with a wider audience.