Third Piece of the Puzzle

I have made progress within my final project. This progress has mainly consisted of research. However, my research has been an exciting journey. I first began by delving into the various museums that exist in Washington, D.C.  On their web pages, I looked for exhibits that were being held both in-person and online. This was crucial because people who cannot visit the exhibit in person need to have a way to complete the scavenger hunt. An example of one of the exhibits is the First Ladies Exhibit which is online and on display at the National American History Museum. The other aspect I have been working on is the selection of objects for the scavenger hunt. This has been a difficult decision for me to make. My plan is to take different objects from each exhibit. These objects as a group represent a larger narrative and each individual object represents a certain part of that narrative. So, it has been difficult to decide which objects best represent the narrative I am trying to tell. The next step for my project is compiling the objects together and placing them in order. After this, I will begin creating the clues for each scavenger hunt. Also, I have decided that I will include a page on the scavenger hunt’s website that includes the answers. Although this would allow people to cheat, I still think it will provide useful information. This information would include the history of the object and the role it played in the narrative.

An object that I have decided to use is Jacqueline Kennedy’s costume pearl necklace. This necklace can be found in the First Ladies exhibit at the National American History Museum. The reason I chose this necklace was because of the neck it faced. Jacqueline Kennedy was an incredibly strong woman. My focus for the scavenger hunt in the American History Museum is women’s roles in history. I will use this necklace to represent how women can be and were viewed as fragile.

      Jacquline Kennedy’s Necklace

I have made some progress in my final project, but I have also been considering changing my project idea. My current project is a digital/in-person scavenger hunt. These scavenger hunts would be accessible online and could be used for an in-person museum trip. However, due to recent events, I would like to create a digital tool that I would be able to use every day. I have acquired a new job at a historic house giving tours. I think that it would be interesting to design a digital education tool that I would be able to use on tours.

Education Blog Posts

Second Piece of the Puzzle

Now that some time has passed, I have been able to think deeper about my final project. Digital media and digital tools will be incredibly important for my teaching tool. My project idea will be to create a scavenger hunt within museums that focus on a person or an event. I plan to make 3-4 scavenger hunts in total, but each will be located at a different museum. Each item within the scavenger hunt will illude to why this person or event is essential in history. The clues given will also relate to the person/event’s historical significance. The clues are the key to engaging my audience in historical thinking. I hope the clues will encourage users to ask questions and analyze how/why they relate to the person or event. This experience can be achieved by anyone. My target audience includes two groups. The first is young families, (with 1-2 kids), looking for a bonding and educational experience. The second group is for high school friends who frequent museums but also love a challenge or puzzle. I believe this tool will help both groups engage with one another the history that is on display. These two groups need to have experience with handling technology to access the location of the scavenger hunts. Also, it is crucial to follow the clues to find the described object. The order of the items relates to the overall history that these items represent. Therefore, whoever is securing the scavenger hunt must be able to follow the digital instructions. This might alter my idea because it would be difficult for those who struggle with technology to access my project. I believe the best digital environment for this project would be an app. Each museum would have its section that includes all its scavenger hunts. Although I do not possess the skills for app building, I hope that my Omeka site for this project will serve as a jumping-off point for this tool’s future.

Education Blog Posts

The History of History Teaching

Although our portrayals and access to history have changed, there have been one main element that has always remained at in the heart of teaching history over the decades. This element is the avoidance of conformity to preconceived notions. The separation of our personal lives from the history we are studying is incredibly important to historical thinking. This ties with the post I created last week titled Historical Thinking. So far, I have found Sam Wineburg’s research and articles to be incredibly interesting. I believe he makes many valid arguments as to why this is crucial within historical thinking. Looking at this week’s readings, Edward L. Ayer’s “Everyone Their Own Historian” was very fascinating. Ayer’s quoted C. Vann Woodward’s speech made in 1995 which discussed the role of the historian within society. “The historian must never concede that the past is alterable to conform with present convenience, with the party line, with mass prejudice, or with the ambitions of powerful popular leaders.”[1] Ayers continued this idea by explaining how and why this statement was important. The historian is granted the ability to create history with whichever evidence is presented, no matter how imperfect. The historian’s separation from history creates more honest research.  Lendol Calder and Tracy Steffes’s “Measuring College Learning in History” continued this idea. Their article discussed how historical thinking is attained within the classroom. One issue that is seen on various occasions within the classroom is the illuminating strangeness that the past can hold for certain students.

“We want to destabilize their assumptions about the past without making the past so strange, so other, that they write it off as either too weird or simply impossible to make sense of.”[2] Students often struggle with separating their preconceived notions about certain historical figures or events. This can lead to the inability to comprehend the evidence placed before them. Mills Kelly’s Teaching History in the Digital Age offered tips to help encourage students to participate and engage in historical thinking. Kelly’s work analyzed how and why it is difficult to teach history in the modern age. Teachers often just teach history as a set of names, dates, and locations, which rely solely on memorization. This habit leaves students with the pressure to find the correct answer, instead of interpreting the evidence placed before them. Kelly proposed how teachers can introduce digital media into their classes.“The best way to use digital media to teach them to see history as we see it is to create learning opportunities that make it possible for our students to do history—to practice it as we practice it—to help them make history, using their own creative impulses, rather than simply giving us what they hope is the correct answer to a question we have posed.”[3]

The articles this week focused on how and why historical thinking is important inside the classroom. They also proposed how and why teaching history within the digital age has changed. Overall, the articles this week were essential to our learning of historical thinking.

[1] Edward L. Ayers, Everyone Their Own Historian. Journal of American History Volume 105, Issue 3, December 2018, Pages 505–513,

[2] Lendol Calder, Tracy Steffes. “Measuring College Learning in History.” Social Science Research Council. May 2016.

[3] Kelly, T. M. Teaching History In the Digital Age. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2013. EPUB.


Education Blog Posts

Possible Final Project Idea

A possible idea for my final project incorporates my own experience in previous history courses and what I have learned throughout the digital humanities certificate course. My proposed idea is a community blog. In a sense, this blog will serve as a digital history collaborative scavenger hunt. My intended audience is those who enjoy American history and scavenger hunts. The age group for this particular project is 25-35. Each week on the blog a mystery document or object will be posted. Primary sources will depend on the theme of the week. However, it will include familiar and unfamiliar documents. These could include the Declaration of Independence to diary entries. Objects could include Betsy Ross’s Flag to Abraham Lincoln’s slippers.  This document or object would serve as the theme for that week’s study. Throughout the course of the week, people will work together to identify the origins of the document or object. Once the correct origin has been identified, I will post a confirmation. Under the confirmation will be proposed questions for participants to answer. Participants at this time will be able to submit questions concerning the document or object. Other participants and I will be able to answer these questions. The goal of this site is to provide a communal analysis. However, I know that there are already developed issues with blogs such as trolls/unmonitored chat. I am worried that this idea may not produce as many meaningful historical discussions as I would like.

Education Blog Posts

Thinking About Historical Thinking

Throughout our readings for the first week of class, we evaluated the difficulties in teaching History to students. The readings have taught me that it has been difficult to measure the level of learning completed by students in their history courses. According to Sam Wineburg, Mark Smith, and Joel Breakstone, authors of the article “What Is Learned in College History Classes?”, professors struggled with connecting their classes to produce a whole picture.[1] Individual professors could excel in their classroom, but as a whole, they only made fragments of a collective understanding. Seeing this occur in many classrooms across the United States, the American Historical Association has introduced the concept of historical thinking into classrooms. Historical thinking includes reading, questioning, contextualization, and analysis. All these skills work together to produce different narratives when addressing a primary document or object. These concepts push students to engage deeper with the material. Within Wineburg’s article, “Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts”, he provided examples of historians who research and think about history differently. An example he used was Carl Ginzburg, author of The Cheese and the Worms. This book is a micro-history produced by Ginzburg that reflects how historians should approach the study of history. “If Ginzburg and others are right, the goal of historical study should be to teach us what we cannot see, to acquaint us with the congenital blurriness of our vision.”[2]  The perception of the people who are being discussed within history classes should be a priority. As historians, we analyze how and why their perception of reality was created. Discussing events in the context that they occurred, provides excellent insight into the minds of the people who endured those events.

To entice students to participate in these intense discussions can be difficult. Most likely, you may find yourself in a position where you are teaching material to a student who has no previous knowledge or background on a certain historic topic. Therefore, it is more difficult to provide them with a deeper understanding of historical significance. The three questions I have developed throughout the course of these readings are:

  1. How do you introduce and have meaningful discussions of difficult topics, such as slavery and genocide, within History?
  2. How is “historical empathy” created and maintained?
  3. How to engage with the past without the present/ our own experiences dominating the narrative?

I cannot produce a possible answer for the first question, but I believe I have some ideas for the other two. My answers to the other two questions are connected.

Historical empathy is created when we place ourselves inside the minds of the people who endured a certain period. Through this model, we analyze these people and events through a humanistic approach. Wineburg used the example of a student named Derek who was examining primary sources about the American Revolution. In his response, Derek attempted to reconstruct the mentalities of the colonists and to view them as people. However, Derek failed to separate his own notions of war and behavior from those established in the context of the reading. This is related to my third question. Wineburg provided another example that portrayed this question. A professor, Bob Alston, analyzed documents from Abraham Lincoln and his contemporaries. The main idea presented in this example was that we cannot rush to determine meanings or judgments when discussing historical figures and events. we need to approach the past and learn from it, instead of using it to confirm our own beliefs.

[1], Joel Breakstone Mark Smith, Sam Wineburg, “What Is Learned in College History Classes?”, Journal of American History, Mar. 2018, Vol. 104, p. 983-993.

[2] Sam Wineburg, “Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts.” The Phi Delta Kappan 80, no. 7 (1999): 488–99.


Education Blog Posts

Pre-Course Introductory Blog Post

Hello, my name is Josie Barcley and I am a first-year graduate student at George Mason. This is my third class in the Digital Humanities Certificate. Over the course of the other two classes, I have gained skills in Omeka, WordPress, and Audacity. I enjoyed building my Omeka site for my podcast project last semester. It was a cool experience to build a digital site for an actual public project. I am interested in learning how to incorporate these skills in a teaching and learning environment.

My goal for this course is to learn how to use digital teaching and learning tools in the context of history. I have never taken an education course, so I am approaching this class with a very open mind. I am excited to learn how to engage students in the studying of history. In the future, I hope to work in a museum. However, I do not know which role I would like to fill. I am hoping that this class will open the door to new possibilities in museum education and programming.

My Digital Project

Final Portfolio Post

This semester has been filled with nothing but new experiences. During this semester I learned how to write, edit, record, and publish a podcast. The entire process was somewhat new to me, especially when it came to editing the episode. Thankfully with the help of Dr. Kelly and Audacity tutorials, I believe I produced a good and enjoyable first podcast episode. One of the most enjoyable and difficult experiences I had during this process was finding public domain audio clips to put in the episode. I believe that audio clips in podcasts can help with the transition of the story. My search for free public domain audio clips was long but rewarding. I found two audio clips, one was of waves hitting a ship and the other was of the wedding march. I used these clips for the transitions in the story. The audio clip I struggled with the most was the main theme for the entire show. It had to embody the sense and tone of the whole series, which is why it took me so long to settle on one.

The main thing this semester taught me was patience, the value of working together, and being okay with asking for help. From researching to publishing the actual episode, I had to learn how to be patient. Every phase of creating a podcast takes time. I am a person who likes to finish a task right after I start it. So, when I had to slow down my process it made me feel anxious. However, through that experience, I developed more in-depth analysis and was overall happier with my final product.

Another lesson I learned during this semester was how important it is to work together. I never knew how important this was in the field of history. The monthly critiques and updates with our entire class allowed us to bounce our ideas off one another. These comments helped spark new ideas for all our projects. Also, I worked with a co-host for my episode. This made the over episode and recording process more enjoyable.

The last lesson I learned this semester was that it is okay to ask for help. This is something that I have always struggled with in my academic career. Asking for help is not something that should be discouraged. Dr. Kelly also taught me that if you need anything, whether it’s just advice or permission, all you must do is ask. The worst thing that can happen is that someone says no. If that is the case, then you’ll look for solutions elsewhere. Or you can ask, and they will say yes. Overall, this semester taught me that not asking for help or permission can become an obstacle when progressing in a project.