Tuesday, June 28, 2011

#ISTE11: Should We Hang On to Our Horses?


Finding a moment to relax and reflect on the past few days at ISTE 2011, I'm realizing that my time in Philadelphia has been akin to drinking from a fire hose. With hundreds of sessions to choose from and an equivalent number of vendors, the landscape for educational change through expanding use of technology is as incredibly vast as it is exciting. But at the same time, it's frustrating.

I can't help but come back to one of the five critical challenges in the Horizon Report 2011 K-12 Edition:

A key challenge is the fundamental structure of the K-12 education establishment — aka “the system.”

The contributors to this important annual report imply that traditional schools and their respective staffs are soon to find themselves irrelevant if they don't adapt to the changing methods and opportunities students have available for learning. School communities that hesitate will find themselves in a similar position as if the United States Army had decided to continue using horses while the rest of the world's military adapted to the technological change of the motorized vehicle - dead in the water.

Spending time at ISTE has certainly made one thing even more clear for me than ever before: the process of learning is changing and digital technology is helping drive that change, driving it perhaps at a rate faster than many of us will be able to keep up with, especially if we hang on to our horses.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Third Arrives to Defend Washington, DC

The Third Michigan left Grand Rapids on June 13, 1861 and travelled by train and steamer to Washington, DC where it arrived three days later.

It reached its destination on the sixteenth of June and, trudging down Pennsylvania Avenue through horrid heat, passed theWhite House, where it was said that on the east portico both President Lincoln and General Winfield Scott could be seen sitting in plain view. However, the city was ill prepared to receive the arriving throngs of troops, and this inefficiency led to a shortage of tents and blankets for shelter.
Soldiers crowded the streets of Washington’s downtown area and quickly became unwieldy and undisciplined. Finally, after several days, encampments began to spring up on the outskirts of town. The Third Regiment occupied Camp Blair and spent its first days drilling and digging earthworks around the city at Georgetown Heights. - Courage Without Fear, p. 37

They were tired, hungry and weary when they marched to Chain Bridge just above Georgetown on the Potomac river, where they set up their first wartime encampment on the bluffs overlooking the river. The camp was first called Camp McConnell (after the colonel of the regiment) but then quickly changed to Camp Blair (after Austin Blair, then governor of the state of Michigan).

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Chain Bridge was one of the key Potomac River crossings into Washington from Virginia.  (The other two were Aqueduct Bridge, near the current Key Bridge, and Long Bridge, around the site of the 14th Street Bridge today.)  The bridge was originally constructed in 1797 by Georgetown merchants who wanted to compete with the port of Alexandria.  The bridge enabled them to transport goods directly from Virginia into Georgetown.   In 1808, a chain suspension bridge was built at the site -- this bridge became known as the "Chain Bridge," but the name stuck and carried over to subsequent bridges.  The original Chain Bridge collapsed and in 1852 was replaced by the crossbeam structure that existed at the time of the Civil War.  - Ronald Baumgarten

The bands, the crowds, the patriotic fervor of late April soon give way to war's harshest reality: death. The first man to die was William Choates of C company, who died on July 1, 1861, not amidst the glories of battle but in the throes of fever. He was buried near Camp Blair, and is presumably buried there still.


(1) Chain bridge photos and description from "All Not So Quiet Along the Potomac" blog by Ronald Baumgarten

(2) Description of the Third's movement from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Washington, DC from "Courage Without Fear: The Story of the Grand Rapids Guard" by David Britten, Xlibris, 2004

(3) Photo of Third Michigan in camp at the Chain Bridge from "The Third Michigan Infantry Research Project" by Steve Soper

(4) Other material from "3rd Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment" Wikipedia site

Friday, June 10, 2011

150 Years Since Third Michigan Left Cantonment Anderson

"Organizing a regiment of infantry for war was no easy task. It was expected that Grand Rapids would provide five of the ten companies required." - Courage without Fear: The Story of the Grand Rapids Guard
 On June 13, 1861, The Third Michigan, a regiment of Infantry comprised mainly of Grand Rapids area men and led by Colonel Daniel McConnell, broke camp at Cantonment Anderson and marched several miles north to the newly constructed train station, headed for the seat of war. This moment ended two months of struggle organizing and training over 1,000 men in response to President Abraham Lincoln's call for troops. Over the next three years, the Third would find itself engaged in no less than twelve major campaigns and twenty-seven engagements. By the end a little more than half would be alive or remain fit for duty.

The Third’s engagements include Blackburn’s Ford, Bull Run, Yorktown, Williamsburg, FairOaks, Savage Station, Peach Orchard, Glendale, White Oak Swamp, Malvern Hill, Second Bull Run, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Wapping Heights, Auburn Heights, Kelly’s Ford, Locust Grove, Mine Run, Wilderness, Todd’s Tavern, PoRiver, Spottsylvania, North Anna River, and Cold Harbor.

Fifty years after the Third departed Grand Rapids, an aging group of veterans led by the regiment's own Major General Byron R. Pierece gathered on the site of what would soon become South High School and dedicated a monument marking the "hallowed ground" where it all began.

On Saturday, June 11, 2011, another group will gather at that same site to re-dedicate the original monument along with a new historical marker to help educate current and future generations on the role played by Cantonment Anderson in the war of the rebellion.  I'm honored to have been asked to play a small role in the re-dedication and will be speaking specifically on the Third Michigan's trials and heroic experience.

You can read my compilation of the Third's organization at Cantonment Anderson and its Civil War experience in a free e-book version of Courage without Fear: The Story of the Grand Rapids Guard.  It's contained in Chapter 2 beginning on page 24.

"(The Third) reached its destination on the sixteenth of June and, trudging down Pennsylvania Avenue through horrid heat, passed the White House, where it was said that on the east portico both President Lincoln and General Winfield Scott could be seen sitting in plain view." - Courage without Fear

Update: Remembering the 1,040-man West Michigan regiment who fought in Civil War 150 years ago | http://t.co/YwPDFRO MLive.com by Garret Ellison

Want to learn more about the Third Michigan? Steve Soper's blogspot contains wealth of personal/organizational details. http://is.gd/Fjudiw