We are pleased to introduce you to Japantown PDX, a free iPhone app that grew out of our work with the Nikkei Legacy Center. The free iOS app documents the vitality of this once thriving “Nihonmachi” and its sudden disappearance in the spring of 1942 when all persons of Japanese ancestry were removed from the West Coast and placed in America’s concentration camps during WWII. In addition to telling Portland’s Japantown story, the app explores the remarkably diverse Old Town neighborhood in tour stops that honor its African American, Chinese and LGBT roots.
Our goal was to design a user-friendly app suitable for all technical “abilities.” We began by surveying the Nikkei Center’s rich collection of historic photos for location-specific images. The most notable and well-documented became our tour stops. When we had historic exterior shots we photographed the contemporary scene replicating the view. Thus users can watch historic Japantown street life reappear in “then and now” dynamic photographic dissolves. Each stop has multiple historic and contemporary images, text and an audio narration. We had many historic photos that told the story of a vibrant community, but they lacked location. We decided to include them in the app as a “Gallery Section.” The app also allows users to share image content with built in Facebook and Twitter buttons.
Then and Now Photo Japantown PDX
We also wanted to weave in an underlying narrative – the story of WWII’s Executive Order 9066, the forced incarceration of the neighborhood’s Japanese Americans first at the “temporary” Portland Assembly Center and eventually at the Minidoka concentration camp located in southern Idaho. While the app is location based, we elected to give it an narrative arc that begins with an opening audio greeting voiced by Jean Matsumoto who grew up in the pre-WWII Japantown. Jean and her family were among over 110,000 Japanese Americans that were removed from the West Coast and incarcerated without trial. The app details other stories of forced relocation and re-population of the the neighborhood after the war and invites users to learn more by exploring the exhibits at the Nikkei Legacy Center in the heart of historic Japantown.
Our class served two roles in the app development – the entire class became our focus group – discussing what they thought needed to be in the app – both from the perspective of user experience and their growing knowledge of the history of Portland’s Japantown. Three student’s worked more directly – narration (Aram Glick), audio recording (Collin Soderberg-Chase) and logo (Samuel TS Kelly). Peter Pappas worked closely with Todd Mayberry to select content and images.
The other key team member was GammaPoint LLC a Portland-based mobile app developer. GammaPoint was interested in designing a user-friendly platform that would allow organizations to develop their own tour apps with a minimum amount of assistance. Our project served as their beta. We worked with GammaPoint on developing the tour design, generating prototypes which were then evaluated by my students and Nikkei Center. For example, we discovered that while we had a wealth of video interviews of former Japantown residents, their file size bloated the app. We used plist files to upload data to GammaPoint and tested their new web-based upload tool. It has now evolved into GammaPoint’s App4Tour which promises to be an affordable way for users to create their own multi-media rich tours with minimum of technical assistance.
Ten engaging questions and historic documents empower students to be the historian in the classroom. The units draw from a fascinating collection of text and multimedia content – documents, posters, photographs, audio, video, letter and other ephemera. “Stop-and-think” prompts based on CCSS skills guide students through analysis of the primary and secondary sources. Essential questions foster critical thinking. All documents include links back to the original source material so readers can remix the content into their own curated collections
It’s a great resource for use in the classroom, and it serves as a model for teacher or student curation of historic content into interactive digital DBQ’s. For more on the content design, click here. For more on how we used iBooks Author, click here.
American and World History chapters include:
“Red Scare Propaganda” by Kristi Convissor and Christina Steiner
“Anne Frank: A Timeless Story” by Erin Deatherage
“Easter: Irish Uprising 1916” by Peter Gallagher
“Images and Emotion: WWII Propaganda” by Aram A. Glick
“Music and the Anti-War Movement of the 1960s” by Samuel T.S. Kelley,
“Cross-Cultural Contact: Native American and European” by Tom Malone
“Visions of Freedom: The American Revolution” by Collin Soderberg-Chase
“The Fight for Civil Rights: Women’s Suffrage in Visual Media” by Heather Treanor and Cory Casanova
“The Power of Propaganda” by Kyle Stephens
“Media and War: An Analysis of Vietnam War Propaganda” by Damian Wierzbicki.
For my DBQ, I chose the topic of Anne Frank. Her story has reached so many people, young and old. In my opinion, it is a story of youth, resilience, and re-imagining the world for the better. I think that I chose this because I was curious to see how the diary could be used as a primary source material in place of a piece of literature. I look forward to adapting it for a lesson.
It became difficult to find corresponding images for her diary entries that gave students enough information to consider the questions. I found that attaching some sort of outside historical source would perhaps be more helpful. I look forward to finishing our iBook.
One of things that I learned while creating this DBQ is making sure the purpose for students is clearly defined. There are times when we teach that that bright light shines down from above to us teachers in the middle of a lesson and, suddenly, we get a marvelous idea. Then, there are times that we kick ourselves for not planning or reflecting more before the lesson takes place. Knowing your purpose ahead of time may lead to more marvelous ideas; therefore, more fun and excitement for students while learning.
This DBQ is intended for students to be able to use this set of images, concepts, and questions in addition to a Holocaust study or, perhaps, a The Diary of a Young Girl: Anne Frank. It should be used as a supplement resource to any social studies classroom.
This DBQ is part of our class-produced multi-touch iBook. Available free at iTunes.
The DBQ assignment turned out to be much more difficult than I had originally intended. I initially wanted to combine the assignment with my fall work sample on the Roman Empire. I set out on a determined path to create a DBQ assignment based on Roman architecture, frescoes, and speeches. It became apparent quite early that this would be difficult. The point of the DBQ assignment is to use a primary source that will help students to answer broad questions about the historical time period in which it is set. These primary sources contain enough information that they alone can be used to answer the questions. This was the most difficult aspect of the project for me. Most of the images I had chosen were great sources about the rise and fall of Rome. However, they all required a lot of background knowledge to answer the questions about them. For instance, a fresco that depicted a Roman trireme manned by foot soldiers was supposed to show the students how the Roman army was used even for naval battles. However, while this was obvious to someone who already knew that fact, it was less clear to someone completely new to the topic. This meant that a student would not be able to answer the questions using just the fresco. I was actually able to use the Roman DBQ assignment for my work sample, in fact it tied really well into my lessons. It was not a true DBQ though, so I created a new one about the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war.
The new DBQ does a much better job of using the documents and songs to generate questions that the students can answer using only the given sources. Despite this, I had trouble coming up with overall questions about the unit. I kept refining the topic until I had a good theme to work with. I was already using some music as evidence, and I added a couple songs to make the music of the time central to the DBQ. This also changed the main idea of the DBQ, which shifted from a focus on the civil rights movement to the general anti-war movement (although civil rights were still very important to the DBQ).
Overall, I learned a lot from this assignment, especially about using documents that are most conducive to the student’s knowledge level. Using a famous or popular document doesn’t really help the student to begin answering questions on their own. It is much more important to use a document that allows the student to be the historian and reach logical conclusions about the time period. I am excited to continue to use DBQ’s to teach students to examine, analyze, and interpret the documents in ways that will engage their critical thinking skills, and let the students do the work of a historian when trying to establish facts and conclusions about the time period.