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Monthly Archives: December 2014

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Book Review: Kingston—The IBM Years

IBM_Cover          IBM’s arrival in Kingston triggered a period of massive change for the town and its residents. At its peak, the company employed 7,100 people in the mid-Hudson Valley. Kingston—The IBM Years is a collection of essays and photographs that brings this turning point in Hudson Valley history to vivid life. Featuring essays from six different authors, this book examines the impact of IBM from various perspectives including professors, novelists, journalists, and first-hand accounts from former IBM employees. Collectively, these vastly different chapters work together to create a panoramic vision of Kingston during these years. The photographs that accompany these essays are as evocative as the essays themselves, capturing the mood and lifestyle of an era.

The first essay, written by Harvey Flad of Vassar College, details the rise of IBM in Poughkeepsie and Kingston as a primarily military company. The S.A.G. E. system developed here in 1957 was the first of its kind, an expansive air warning system relied on by the United States Air Force. The essays that follow relate similar signature achievements of IBM in Kingston, including the production of the FAA nationwide airline control system and the invention of the first interactive software systems, software that laid the groundwork for computers as we know them today.

There is a wealth of information here about the sociological effects of IBM in the Kingston area, but information is not the sole purpose of this book. What makes Kingston—The IBM Years so unique is its exploration of the personal and the intimate, as it looks beyond mere facts and statistics and gives us a glimpse into the real lives of the people involved. Perhaps the most fascinating portion of the book is the essay by Lowell Thing, a former employee of IBM Kingston who experienced firsthand the changes detailed in the other chapters. The small details that Thing provides, such as how his daughters learned to swim at the IBM recreation center, bring the history from the regional to the personal. The book gives a wholly human perspective on a period of massive change in Hudson Valley history.

The publication of Kingston: The IBM Years was coordinated with a multimedia exhibition put on by the Friends of Historic Kingston on the same era. The organization described the program as its “most ambitious annual exhibition ever,” and ran it from May to October. More details can be found about The Friends of Historic Hudson at www.fohk.org. The book may be ordered online at www.blackdomepress.com

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Allegany to Appomattox: The Life and Letters of Private William Whitlock

Allegany to Appomattox

The Life and Letters of Private William Whitlock

By: Valgene Dunham

   The 188th New York Volunteers was a regiment from upstate New York that formed towards the end of the Civil War in October of 1864. One of these late war volunteers was a Private William Whitlock who corresponded with his wife “Lide” throughout the course of his service. Allegany to Appomattox is a compilation of these 40 letters between the two which tell the story of the 188th. Background information and narration is provided by William Whitlock’s great grandson Valgene Dunham, the author of the book. Dunham has a background in the sciences so this is his first historical writing. The excitement that comes with this coupled with his personal connection to Whitlock can be seen in his writing.

Dunham is very detailed in his writing providing a plethora of background information surrounding the letters, which is mostly very useful but at times can seem a bit extraneous. In works such as this where we have a compilation of personal letters we often have a microhistory that tells us what the everyday experiences of soldiers were for example and this book is certainly no different. In focusing on these letters and the life of William Whitlock as our microhistory we can learn a good deal about the experiences of the 188th New York and what role they played in the Civil War. For example Whitlock chronicles his battle with a nagging cold over the course of a handful of letters which was tough to kick during the cold winter of 1864.

Dunham organizes the letters by topic in the book which does a nice job of using these letters to speak to the greater events occurring like the Battle of Hatchers Run, Siege of Petersburgh, and the Battle of Five Forks, which the 188th was involved in. Anyone interested in the individual aspect of the late years of the Civil War or looking for very detailed descriptions of those conflicts would benefit from this book.

– Joe Candarelli

New York State Reading Association Annual Conference 2014

On November 9th-11th, 2014 I had the privilege of attending the New York State Reading Association annual conference in Syracuse, New York. The conference was an educationally rewarding experience where I had the chance to present one of my latest projects in addition to attending many other presentations, workshops, and networking opportunities that help current and future teachers (like myself) meet professional development needs. This year’s theme, Literacy within the Disciplines, reflected the need to seamlessly integrate content and our literacy instruction in order to address Common Core Standards. My presentation focused on the theory of summarizing and the results that I found when implementing particular literacy strategies into my lesson plans. After scaffolding the different steps to creating a summary, such as determining important information vs. interesting information, note taking strategies, and GIST summaries (generating interaction between text and schemata), I saw that the student I was tutoring still struggled with being concise yet cohesive. As a result, I concluded that students need additional instruction on how to annotate readings concisely as well as writing concisely. Presenting my research and results was rewarding in and of itself, but only grew as I was offered to submit my research to The Language and Literacy Spectrum Journal of the NYSRAC.

In addition to presenting my own research, I was able to observe several panels on different topics ranging from music literacy to science and ELA intersected instructional strategies. One in particular that I found the most unique and inspiring was “We Are Readers, Writers, Artists, and Producers! The Power of Radical Youth Literacies and Community Engagement,” by Marcelle Haddix. Ms. Haddix, from Syracuse University, presented on the topic of helping teachers learn how to develop 21st century writers and radical literacy workshops. With increased demands placed on under-resourced, low performing schools to meet high stakes standards and various assessment benchmarks, there is little time for authentic writing that captures the interests and experiences of young people. Instead, more emphasis in writing instruction is placed on making sure that students are able to “pass the test” and graduate. These goals were not and should not be mutually exclusive. The talk highlighted the experiences of young writers, teachers, parents, artists, and community members who partner together to cultivate spaces for authentic writing practices within an urban community through the Writing our Lives, a youth writing project for youth grades 6-12 in the greater Syracuse area.

With afterschool writing programs, summer writing institutes, book clubs, digital composing programs, staged theatrical performances, and an annual youth writing conference, Writing Our Lives provides an example of a civically and community engaged approach with aims to address the problem of the achievement gap for urban youth, one that aligns with CCLS for authentic writing for real purposes and audiences. Although Syracuse is located outside of the Hudson River Valley, Writing Our Lives demonstrates the meaningful impact on students’ civic engagement as a direct result of teachers centering instruction on young peoples’ interests in addition to contemporary and local issues. By doing so, teachers bestow upon their students a higher sense of agency as well as higher expectations. As I reflect upon the presentation, I felt that it serves as a valuable lesson to all social studies teachers. Teachers should work to help their students make connections about what they’re learning in their social studies/history classes and what is going on in the world around them, both regionally and globally speaking. As students are exposed to the events outside of the classroom, teachers should help their students develop the ability to articulate their ideas and advocate their opinions in a professional and academic manner.

-Rosemarie Martens