OAH Council of Charis Newsletter: Issue #5

Computers in History

Michael J. Galgano, Editor
James Madison University

The computer has brought significant changes to the discipline and has quickly become an essential tool for historians. The OAH Council of Chairs Newsletter is prepared in Virginia, transmitted electronically to Indiana, and produced using computer technology and each of us, to varying degrees, recognizes the machine's grow- ing value. This issue offers insights and suggestions about present computer uses and future directions. What constitutes co- mputer literacy for undergraduate history majors? What kinds of computer exercises are most helpful in teaching students? What resources are available to assist faculty?

In the first essay, Professor James B. M. Schick, Editor of History Microcomputer Review, discusses some current examples of computer use in and out of the history classroom. One of the leaders of the OAH workshops on using microcomputers in history, he is an articulate advocate of wider computer appli- cations and his essay includes sound, practical advice.

Professor Richard W. Slatta, also a founder of the OAH workshops, has written extensively about educational computing. In his contribution, he first examines the rationale for a computer-based research and writing course for undergraduate majors, then comments on his own course syllabus at North Carolina State University. Finally, he provides a variety of sources to assist departments in developing courses and programs to suit particular needs.

Designed to assist departments in making computer-related decisions for classroom and research, these essays advocate fuller computer use. The Newsletter staff is interested in learning your ex- periences, successes and failures, in applying this technology to the discipline, and will print any responses in future issues.

What Will the Historian of 2001 be Like? What Will the History Survey Class of 2001 be Like?

James B. M. Schick
Pittsburg State University

The span of a dozen years does not seem so much in prospect, but glancing back on this nation's progress since 1977 and the changes in the life of the history professor since smiling Jimmy Carter strode down Pennsylvania Avenue suggests that there may be much in store for us before the twentieth century releases its grasp on us. What developments will bring significant changes in the way historians go about their tasks by the beginning of the next millennium? Foremost among them, at this vantage, stands the computer.

The computer has the potential to reorganize the discipline, to alter the manner in which historians discover and present their new knowledge, whether in the more familiar track of note cards scrib- bled in a musty archive/research library to rough draft/finished typescript to article/book and lecture/notes/exam answers, or in the path of database searches, spreadsheet ``what-ifs,'' statistical visualizations, electronic tablets and notebooks, hypertext, and simulations, just to mention some categories of software that will interest professors and their students in the years ahead.

Of course computers are now affecting the way historians conduct research (searching a bibliographical database or entering data sets for eventual manipulation) and write (word processing has or shortly will become the sine qua non of the scholar). dBase III Plus and PC File + (databases), Lotus 1-2-3 and Quattro (spreadsheets), along with WordPerfect (standard, full-featured word processor) and Nota Bene (abundantly endowed, scholarly word processor, the eventual norm for the dis- cipline in the same sense that Kate Turabian's Manual governs style), now have their devotees, professors who, like knights following the banner of a feudal king, proclaim one standard, one worship, as their own. By 2001, or about then, the marketplace will have sorted out the winners, and both fewer choices and more powerful applications should characterize the software available for scholarly pursuits.

But by that time historians may also have come to realize new ways to communicate with each other and with their students. Hardware and software developments will encourage this process. Mainframe ganglia are now attaching themselves to various brands of micro- computers as work stations and microcomputers are growing in memory, speed of operation, and capabilities that emulate and sur- pass the room-sized computers of years past. These systems will enable us to conceive bigger projects and to break off segments to display and work with in front of and with the involvement of our students. Further, we will, using the new writing tools provided by the outliners, writer's helpers, and mini word processors reaching the market today, find new ways to get students to conceptualize, organize, and write reviews, term papers, and in-class projects. Telecommunications will transform the manner in which historians publish their work, hold conventions, maintain contact with each other in on-going research projects, conduct discussions with students, and serve as resources for classes around the nation.

``Hypertext,'' a three-dimensional way of understanding and explor- ing text made possible by the computer, and Hypercard, a batch of electronic notecards arranged and accessed in many different ways, will annotate and expand historical material documents and es- says to serve each user, some of whom will proceed through it in set paths and some of whom will blaze new trails. Footnotes should cease to be appendages best hidden at the back of the book and lurk just below the obvious surface of the copy, waiting for the adventurous to peer into the basis for a conclusion or the meaning of a termor passage. And beyond that note may lie more interpreta- tion, elaboration of points of controversy, additional examples, and still more layers of fact and explanation. The established scholar will navigate at one level of sophistication and need, while the apprentice will maneuver more slowly, more shallowly per- haps, and the first-year student will barely skim the surface.

Historical simulations, augmented by more memory, better graphics, aural and visual information stored on compact disks and videotape, will increasingly become a metaphor for communicating the past. Think of the last television miniseries treating historical ma- terial: what had been a solidly researched book became in the hands of screenwriter, director, and media mogul, a colorful, off-target disaster awash in bosoms heaving, buckles swashing, drama building to commercial, and smiles gleaming, and enmeshed in ana- chronistic vocabulary, motivation, and meaning. What would happen if the historian was in charge, from the beginning, either doing it herself or telling the programmer what was and what was not acceptable?

The achievement, I suspect, would be more to our liking and would communicate more of the authentic stuff of history: real choices, real people, real outcomes, and real issues to ponder and learn from. Commercial computer simulations, as they stand or through what I call ``historicizing'' to adapt them to the professor's needs, are already available to tell the story of the past. Software to create historical simulations exists which will give the historian real control, and do much of what I sketched above, some requiring little knowledge of computers on the user's part and some recompensing the added time spent in learning processes with more dazzling results. With regard to the rest of the future I have envisioned, historians will need to wait only a couple of years, 1990 or 1991 at most, for the means to let their historical fancies take flight.

Not only are more students arriving with computer skills though you would not know it by asking: they instinctively understand the lessons of military service (``don't volunteer'' and ``give them only name, rank, and serial number'') but they are also accustomed to different ways of learning or rather, receiving cerebral stimu- lation. Fortunately, historians have new tools to reach them, switch them on, and dazzle them with the mysteries and joys of history, good, old-fashioned, down-deep-in-the-sources, intellectually-honest history. In addition students have many new ways to communicate what they have learned.

The Microcomputer Workshops begun with the OAH/FIPSE Project at the OAH were given at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Plymouth State College in New Hampshire, Gaulladet University in the nation's capital, and at Drexel University in Philadelphia. These sessions attempted to take beginners (mea culpas rising like hosannas) from fear to self-confidence with the new technology and to propose ways to use word processors, database, spreadsheet and statistical packages, and telecommunications soft- ware with students. Further, the participants learned ways to adapt commercial historical simulations and how to use a simple Apple II program, the Simulation Construction Kit, to make software they could use in their own classrooms. These workshops emphasized the concrete: practical suggestions, real history, today's students, and today's software.

The workshops gathered historians, including community college teachers, graduate students, and university professors, some with experience in computing and most without, from a broad regional area and for a two-day period immersed them in the computer world.

In 1989 we have new software and hardware to explore, new ways to reach our audience, and new opportunities for sponsorship. The new software includes: ``hypermedia,'' presentation graphics, more powerful simulation construction software, commercial simulations, writer's helpers, and more. As before, the workshop will emphasize hands-on experience and products available for use in your class- room now. From our initial focus on the Apple II, we will now also explore the use of IBM and Macintosh computers with college history students. In this way we can be of greater service to you and help you find software to use in your classroom.

The workshop leaders can now tailor the workshop to better meet your needs. Do you need a quick, one-day introduction or two-day sessions geared entirely to beginners, to those familiar with scholarly applications but wanting to consider classroom uses for computers, and to the historian fully versed in computer-assisted instruction wanting to move beyond present skills? Regional and state historical meetings offer a perfect setting for a computer workshop, as well as history departments looking to learn new skills, take a mid-semester or mid-year break for faculty develop- ment, impress the dean or academic vice-president, or anticipate a school-wide move to ``computerdom.'' Historians of any time and place can apply what they learn to their own teaching situation. The workshop could involve all in attendance, limited by the number of available machinery, of course, and serve as the focus of a convention or as an available resource for professors in attendance. The workshop could serve participants from one department or those within a metropolitan area, state, or region.

In any case, you get the services of historians who have used com- puters in their teaching for many years, have written widely on the subject, have given computer workshops on their own as well as jointly, and have spoken and given demonstrations at OAH national conventions on computers in higher education. Larry Douglas of Plymouth State College is the newest among us to take up computers, and he can help ease the transition to familiarity with this developing technology. Rich Slatta of North Carolina State Uni- versity at Raleigh has long experience in using databases, statistics, and scholarly wordprocessing, and he served as the founding director of the ScholarNet telecommunications network linking historians and social scientists around the nation. Jim Schick of Pittsburgh State University in Kansas, founding editor of the History Microcomputer Review, was recently awarded a grant by the Commission of the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution in Washington, D.C., to develop a computer simulation of the Philadelphia Convention and the ratification process.

We are committed to history and to classroom applications of this new technology. The twenty-first century is only a dozen years away and the future is approaching rapidly. Let us know how we can help you.

For particulars on hardware requirements, costs, and scheduling the workshop contact: Professor Richard W. Slatta, Department of History, Post Office Box 8108, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, 27695-8108.

For information on products mentioned in the text: dBase III Plus (Ashton-Tate, 20101 Hamilton Avenue, Torrance, California 90506);PC File+ (Buttonware, P.O. Box 5786, Bellevue, Wash- ington, 98006); Lotus 1-2-3 (Lotus Development Corporation, 55 Cambridge Parkway, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02412); Quattro (Borland International, P.O. Box 2396, Telluride, Colorado 81435; Educational Sales: 408-438-8400); SPSS/PC+ (SPSS Incorporated, 444 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60611); WordPerfect (WordPerfect Corporation, 288 West Center Street, Orem, Utah 84057); Nota Bene (Dragonfly Software, 285 W. Broadway, Suite #500, New York City, New York 10013); Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 5th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1987); Hypercard (Apple Computer, 20525 Mariani Avenue, Cupertino, California 95014); Simulation Construction Kit (Hartley Courseware, 133 Bridge Street, Dimondale, Michigan 48821).

Microcomputers in Historical Research and Writing: Course Suggestions and a Sample Syllabus

Richard W. Slatta
North Carolina State University

For historians and history majors, computer literacy requires at least the skillful use of word processing software. But additional skills are important, as well. These include the ability to use software to organize textual and statistical data, to present information in graphical formats, and to conduct searches of electronic databases. Integrating microcomputer software into a historical research methods course gives students additional skills and reinforces the fundamentals of sound research and writing technique.

History majors, like any student today, need microcomputer in- struction regardless of future vocational plans. Basic computer skills can be taught by non-historians in a computing lab. But history teachers can and should include computer literacy training in their curricula. Research tools and concepts can be integrated in a way not possible with generic microcomputer instruction. Students learn to ``do history,'' and they get appropriate on-the-job training with a new electronic toolkit of software applications.

In an historical methods course, teachers can encourage students to be systematic and overt in conceptualizing, designing, and conduct- ing a research project. Information must be categorized and fitted into software programs. Students must make important decisions about the nature of their sources and about their future plans for the information they have stored. During the writing (and re- writing) phase, grammar and style checkers, a thesaurus, and other writing aids push students toward systematic, repeated revision. Students must abandon the common ``night before'' approach for at least one research paper.

I believe that history students become better researchers and writers with microcomputer-based training. Based on their pub- lished responses (History Microcomputer Review, 3: 2, Fall 1987), students also find the approach beneficial. Fundamentals of sound historical research are reinforced throughout the process. Using software makes students more aware of the many decisions that go into source selection, data organization, analysis, and writing. The microcomputer-based methods course removes the research process from a mysterious black box and breaks it into logical, manageable steps. Students learn better what they are doing and why they are doing it.

In the sample syllabus below, each student completes a short re- search project. The research topic is not critical, because the course focuses on the research and writing process more than on the final product. Students use a variety of software applications. Individual research projects must use both textual and numerical data sources. Census volumes and statistical abstracts offer ready sources of quantitative data.

Joint projects could be assigned. For example, a group of students might create a disk-based research bibliography with keywords. Students could create an electronic data file from a printed refer- ence book, such as Helen J. Poulton's The Historian's Handbook: A Descriptive Guide to Reference Works (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1972), or Dale R. Steiner's Historical Journals: A Handbook for Writers and Reviewers (Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio, 1981).

Class should be held in a computer laboratory, with one machine per student. Our lab is equipped with IBM PCs, but any category of hardware can be used. Divide class time between discussions of the reading, hands-on keyboard tutorials, and software demonstrations. Study questions guide class discussions of historical and his- toriographical questions. Mix discussions with work at the key- board for each session. Students should use their assigned software for in-class and out-of-class writing and tutorials.

Select ``shareware'' or inexpensive software programs that students can afford to purchase or are permitted to use for educational ap- plications. More expensive programs, owned by the instructor or computer lab, can be demonstrated. I chose a special student edi- tion of Framework, Ashton-Tate's integrated software program. The program provides most major types of applications on a single disk costing about $25. Norton's Textra Writer with Online Handbook (about $20) would be another good choice. Inexpensive software and shareware can be obtained from many sources. PC SIG (telephone 800-245-6717) has a library of more than 1,000 disks. Borland International has a special Scholar's Program offering educational discounts on its many fine programs. I purchased their Quattro spreadsheet, $250 list price, for $40.


[For this article, I have added comments in brackets to the syl- labus.]

Books and Software Required for Purchase

Jacques Barzun and Henry F. Graff, The Modern Researcher, 4th ed. (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1985).
Bryan Pfaffenberger, The Scholar's Personal Computing Handbook(Little-Brown, 1987).
Framework integrated software, special limited version, booklet and 2 diskettes (McGraw-Hill, 1985, about $25).
Richard W. Slatta, ed., ``History and Microcomputers,'' collection of photocopied articles. (Other readings can be selected from the appended bibliography.)


Part I: Basics of Microcomputer Use

Tutorial exercises with PC Tutor (shareware) and ``Exploring the IBM Personal Computer''

[Many students come to the computer with trepidation. Ease them into keyboard activity, with simple, fool-proof exercises. PC Tutor provides a complete introduction to operating system commands, keyboard layout, etc. As confidence grows, so will a willingness to experiment with new tasks.]

Read ``Framework'' booklet, pp. 1-25; Pfaffenberger,Scholar's Handbook, ch. 1-2; Slatta, ``Teaching Historical Research Methods with a Microcomputer,'' The History Teacher, Nov. 1984.

Part II: Basics of historical research

Part III: Research Design

[A piece of writing, whether for a history journal, popular magazine, or book, should make sense. In The Modern Re- searcher, Jacques Barzun and Henry Graff caution that ``facts and ideas in disorder cannot be conveyed to another's mind without loss. This is because the mind is so constituted that it demands some degree of regularity and symmetry.'' Outlining and cutting and pasting are the traditional techniques by which writers organize and reorganize their work. Word processing and outlining software teaches organi- zational techniques. Students can instantly reorder their work in many ways with a minimum of difficulty.]

Part IV: Data Organization and Storage

Part V. Data Retrieval and Analysis

Part VI. Data Presentation and Historical Writing

Part VII: Electronic Editing and Rewriting

Part VIII: Project conclusion: Submit final research paper. Oral presentations of findings. Written and oral evaluations of research strategy, execution, software strengths and weaknesses.

Addendum: Bibliography of Readings on Microcomputers and His- tory

Note: These are abbreviated citations, with only first au- thor and short titles given. The list focuses on the word processing, database management, and telecommunications needs of historians.

Brauer, Kinley, ``Bibliography on History and Microcomputers,'' American History, 1, 1985.
Cole, Bernard C.,Beyond Word Processing (1985).
Collegiate Microcomputer (quarterly journal). Collins, James L., Writing On-Line: Using Computers in the Teaching of Writing (1985). Falk, Joyce Duncan, ``In Search of History,'' History Teacher, 15: 4, Aug. 1982.
, ``America: History and Life,'' Database, 6: 2, 1983.
Glossbrenner, Alfred, Complete Handbook of Personal Computer Communications(1986).
. How to Look it Up Online (1987).
Historical Methods (quarterly journal).
History Microcomputer Review (quarterly journal).
Heim, Michael, Electric Language (1987).
InfoWorld (weekly tabloid free to qualified subscribers).
Jensen, Richard, ``The Microcomputer Revolution,'' Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 14: 1, Summer 1983.
Lawrence, John Shelton,The Electronic Scholar (1984).
Lyman, Peter, ``Introducing Computers to Humanists,'' Scholarly Communication, 1, June 1985.
McCaa, Robert, ``Microcomputer Software Design,'' Historical Methods, 17: 2,1984.
Miller, David W., ``The Computer's Place in Historical Research,'' AHA Perspectives, Jan. 1982.
Organization of American Historians, OAH-FIPSE Project, History in Context (bibliography, 1987).
PC Week (weekly tabloid free to qualified subscribers).
Reiff, Janice L., ``Numeracy, Computer Literacy,'' Historical Methods, 17: 4,1984.
Research in Word Processing Newsletter (monthly newsletter).
Rowney, Don Karl, ``Microcomputers in Historical Research,'' History Teacher, 18: 2, Feb. 1985.
Slatta, Richard W., ``Data Base Management Software and Historical Research,'' History Microcomputer Review, 1: 2 Fall, 1985.
, ``Database Design with dBase III,'' Social Science Micro- computer Review, Summer 1985.
, ``Free Software,'' Link-Up, Feb. 1986.
, ``Telecommunications for the Humanities and Social Sciences.'' Microcomputers for Information Management, 3: 2, June 1986.
, ``Database and Filing Software for Scholars,'' Collegiate Microcomputer, Nov. 1986.
, ``Historians and Telecommunications.'' History Microcom- puter Review, Fall 1986.
, ``Telecommunications for Historians: ScholarNet.'' OAH Newsletter, May 1987.
Social Science Computer Review (quarterly journal).
Sommers, Elizabeth, ``Microcomputers and Writing,'' Computers and Composition, 2: 4, August 1985.
T.H.E. Journal (monthly magazine free to qualified educators).
Tucker, Melvin J., ``Historians and Tomorrow's Library,'' History Teacher, 17: 3, May 1984.
van Hartesveldt, Fred R., ``Using Computers in Lower Division History Courses,''Teaching History, Spring 1985.
Vinovskis, Mavis, ``Training in Quantitative Methods,'' Historical Methods, 17: 4, 1984.

OAH Council of Chairs to Meet at AHA in Cincinnati

The OAH Council of Chairs has scheduled an informal luncheon meeting for Wednesday, December 28, 1988 at the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in Cincinnati, Ohio. Everyone is welcome to attend. Reservations for lunch will be taken at the OAH offices in Bloomington. If you would like to attend the lunch, please send a check for $20 (payable to the OAH) to Michael Regoli at the OAH before December 19, 1988.

Bradley Commission Report

At its November meeting the OAH Executive Board endorsed the recently released report of the Bradley Commission on History in Schools. Entitled Building A History Curriculum, the report includes major recommendations to state and local policymakers, university departments of history, local school boards, and textbook publishers. A limited number of single copies of the report are available from the OAH for $1.00 postage and handling. Larger quantities may be ordered from the Educational Excellence Network, 1112 Sixteenth Street, N.W., Suite 500, Washington, DC, 20036.

OAH Lectureship Program

It is not too late to arrange for an OAH Lecturer to visit your campus during the Spring semester or too early to be thinking about next year!

The Lectureship Program was established by the OAH Executive Board in 1981. Approximately 70 present and past Executive Board members as well as Organization members appointed by past presidents currently participate in the program. The lectureship fee of $750 is paid directly to the OAH; the host institution also pays for the lecturer's travel and lodging. A list of lecturers and additional information may be obtained by contacting the OAH Lectureship Coordinator, 112 North Bryan Street, Bloomington, IN, 47408.

OAH, NCPH to Meet in St. Louis in 1989

The eighty-second Annual Meeting of the Organization of American Historians will be held Thursday, April 6 to Sunday, April 9, 1989 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Adam's Mark-St. Louis will serve as convention headquarters for the OAH and the National Council on Public History (NCPH) and will house convention registration, book exhibits, the OAH Job Registry and all program sessions.

The NCPH Program Committee has put together six tours of St. Louis and its environs. From magnificent turn-of-the-century railroad stations to a focus on the city's port of entry for German immigrants into St. Louis, the tours will highlight the richness and diversity of this robust midwestern city.

Rosalyn Moss Travel Consultants, Inc., the official travel agency for the 1989 OAH/NCPH Annual Meeting, has negotiated discounted airfares on Trans World Airlines for convention attendees traveling to St. Louis between April 3 and April 12, 1989. To make your reservations, call RMTC toll-free at 1-800-645-3437; in New York, 1-516-536-3076.

For more information about the 1989 OAH/NCPH Annual Meeting, please contact the OAH Convention Manager, 112 North Bryan Street, Bloomington, Indiana, 47408.

The OAH Council of Chairs Newsletter is published bimonthly by the Organization of American Historians, 112 North Bryan Street, Bloomington, Indiana 47408-4199, (812) 855-7311, and is available on a subscription basis ($5/year). The opinions expressed by the contributor(s) do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of the Organization of American Historians. For further info- rmation, contact the Production Editor, Michael Regoli, at the OAH offices in Bloomington. Copyright 1988 by the Organization of American Historians. OAH Council of Chairs Newsletter Organization of American Historians Indiana University 112 North Bryan Street Bloomington, Indiana 47408-4199 Address Correction Requested FIRST CLASS MAIL