Josh White
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  • Raleigh, NC
  • United States
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Josh White replied to John Lee's discussion Plural art and global learning in the group Global Learning, 2011
"I would most definitely categorize this learning experience as both global and pluralistic in nature. Contemporary art has largely been influenced by post-modernist philosophy resulting in a relativistic nature of the style. There exist, therefore,…"
Jun 20, 2011
Josh White replied to John Lee's discussion Plural art and global learning in the group Global Learning, 2011
"William,   I think you bring a valid point to the table in arguing that art might become something else when it is taken to the public arena and becomes a political statement of sorts. However, in some regards, I think Bansky is known for the…"
Jun 20, 2011
Josh White replied to John Lee's discussion Plural art and global learning in the group Global Learning, 2011
"Palmer,   This image immediately brings to mind the Americana and nostalgia that you mentioned in your commentary. I am automatically carried back to the roadsides of the 1950s when life was good, the war was over, and consumerism and…"
Jun 20, 2011
Josh White replied to John Lee's discussion Plural art and global learning in the group Global Learning, 2011
"Kelvin,   Extremely provocative image and excellent commentary on it. I would agree that this image is a critique of Christian circles and the seemingly "two-faced" nature of religious leaders. I am reminded of the character…"
Jun 20, 2011
Josh White replied to John Lee's discussion Plural art and global learning in the group Global Learning, 2011
"Melissa,   Very neat mural! I also see what seems to be indigenious meeting colonizers in this mural. It seems as though on the left hand side of the mural, some of the indigenious people are looking out to sea while others have a smug…"
Jun 20, 2011
Josh White replied to John Lee's discussion Plural art and global learning in the group Global Learning, 2011
"Alison,   Excellent image because I think it can definitely be interpreted in so many ways, thus the pluralistic nature of this assignment. I see some religious overtones to this piece. It seems almost like a conversion experience in some…"
Jun 17, 2011
Josh White replied to John Lee's discussion Plural art and global learning in the group Global Learning, 2011
Jun 17, 2011
Josh White replied to John Lee's discussion Being cosmopolitan in the group Global Learning, 2011
"Joshua Slocum was a sailor, shipbuilder, and adventurer best know for his circumnavigation of the globe in his immortal ship, The Spray, completed from 1895-1898. His biography offers some interesting notions about cosmopolitanism including ideas…"
Jun 7, 2011
Josh White replied to John Lee's discussion Children imagine the world in the group Global Learning, 2011
"Alison,   I thoroughly enjoyed the map that you picked to highlight where the children had written their pleas to humanity about ending injustice. You had some great captions that went along with the maps you picked. I think the idea of role…"
Jun 7, 2011
Josh White replied to John Lee's discussion Children imagine the world in the group Global Learning, 2011
"Melissa,   Great job on your analysis of the map done by the student from China. You explained how this student brought a certain perspective to the table (as all students do in our social studies classes) and was able to depict it. It is a…"
Jun 6, 2011
Josh White replied to John Lee's discussion Children imagine the world in the group Global Learning, 2011
"Kelvin, Excellent interface! I have never used Prezi before but found it to be really neat! You did a good job of relating the maps back to concepts that we have already covered in the class including pluralism, treatment of acting locally and…"
Jun 6, 2011
Josh White replied to John Lee's discussion Children imagine the world in the group Global Learning, 2011
"William,   Your captions/comments for the map produced by the student from Iran and the one from the child from Chile were fantastic! You did a good job interpreting those maps and offered some thought provoking ideas. I especially liked the…"
Jun 6, 2011
Josh White replied to John Lee's discussion Child imagine the world in the group Global Learning, 2011
"See PowerPoint of Maps/Comments Below.             The map entitled “The Earth Began to Cry in a Profound Grief” by Elena Skochkova of Russia depicts a war torn Earth in which the hands…"
Jun 5, 2011
Josh White replied to John Lee's discussion Pluralism, freedom, and social media in the group Global Learning, 2011
"Lanette,   Your words in this post were quite prophetic, especially when you predicted that these protests and demands for more freedom would jump from country to country. When you wrote your post, just Egypt (who has now ousted Mubarak),…"
Jun 1, 2011
Josh White replied to John Lee's discussion Pluralism, Social Media and Freedom - continued in the group Global Learning, 2011
"After reading through the comments made by the students in the Spring 2011 section of ECI 524, two major changes caught my eye. First and probably the most interesting, Syria was only mentioned in one post and that was in relation to its level of…"
Jun 1, 2011
Josh White replied to John Lee's discussion Pluralism, Social Media and Freedom - continued in the group Global Learning, 2011
"(Picture taken from the article “Not Over Yet” at “The Economist Online” - http://www.economist.com/blogs/newsbook/2011/05/protests_syria)             Protest pictures like…"
Jun 1, 2011

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Learn Digital History Blog

Teaching about Historical Reconstructions using the Vail Telegraph Key


The reconstruction of historical inventions can provide a powerful context for students to explore how inventions affect society. In fact, the social impact of the invention of the telegraph ripples through to today. It set the stage for the invention of other communications technologies such as radio, television, and the Internet. The ability to send messages across wires in a fraction of the time humans were accustomed had a profound impact on society. Rossiter Johnson captured the spirit of that change in an 1882 poem written in tribute Morse and the telegraph. The poem describes limits of humans imposed by nature, but imagines that with the invention of the telegraph those limitations begin to fade away.

But one morning he made him a slender wire,
  As an artist’s vision took life and form,
While he drew from heaven the strange fierce fire
  That reddens the edge of the midnight storm;
And he carried it over the Mountain’s crest,
And dropped it into the Ocean’s breast;
And Science proclaimed, from shore to shore,
That Time and Space ruled man no more.

Students often have myopic views about how technologies impact their own lives. While it is true that students today seem to live in a constant state of ‘revolution’ regarding new technologies, an understanding of history can temper our enthusiasms. By studying records and relics from the past, such as Johnson’s poem, students can build up a long view of technological innovation and understand how the telegraph fits in that history.

Students can also use these experiences to explore important historical skills related to cause and effect. A reconstruction of the Vail telegraph key provides students with an opportunity to examine the development of scientific knowledge and challenge the narrowly constructed textbook history of the telegraph.

The history of the telegraph is typically transmitted to students as a neat and tidy story about Samuel Morse and the 1844 transmission from Baltimore to Washington DC of the message “What hath God wrought?” But, history is never so simple. Behind the story of Morse is the complex history of the invention of the telegraph, and that story is impossible to tell with Alfred Vail.

A social studies activity exploring this complicated history might begin with the simple question – Who was on the other end of the message sent by Samuel Morse on May 24, 1844? Of course, it was Alfred Vail. From there, students might explore Vail’s 1845 book length survey of the history of the telegraph, The American Electro Magnetic Telegraph: With the Reports of Congress, and a Description of all Telegraphs Known, Employing Electricity or Galvanism.  The book, which has three parts, includes a detailed description of the telegraph system developed by Vail and Morse; letters, reports, and other correspondences about the development of the telegraph system; and a contemporary history of the telegraph. Students can analyze this source to develop questions for inquiry about the development of the telegraph in the 1830s and 1840s.


From Hathi trust and Harvard Library at http://hdl.handle.net/2027/hvd.hw1wl0


The Lincoln Telegram project provides another avenue for exploring the newly invented telegraph and, specifically, how it affected the course of the Civil War and its participants.

The Lincoln Telegrams Project


The Lincoln Telegrams project (http://lincolntelegrams.com) includes digital versions and transcriptions of 354 telegram memos written by Lincoln from March 10, 1864 to his death in April of 1865.  The telegram memos function as source material for helping students and teachers understand how to analyze historical sources using the Hicks, Doolittle, and Ewing’s SCIM-C method (http://historicalinquiry.com). Direct access to the telegrams, either via the web or through an iPad app with the same content, allows students to explore the historical context and follow the ways in which the telegraph affected communications during that era.

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