CyberFair Project ID: 3244

Close this Window

NOTE: Due to URL changes, some links may no longer be valid.

International Schools CyberFair Project Narrative
Title: U.S. Diplomatic History :: What If?
Category: 6. Historical Landmarks
Bibliography: No bibliography page cited

School: Oswego High School
    Oswego, New York, USA

5 students, ages 16, 17, 17, 17, 18 worked together to complete this CyberFair project on March 19, 2004. They have participated in CyberFair in the following year(s): 2004

Classes and Teachers: Thomas Caswell, Melissa Martin, Jes, Deb, Mike, Andy, Justin

E-Mail contact:

Our School's Web Site:

Project Overview

1. Description of Our Team

Our team consists of Oswego High School Seniors Justin (age 18), Andy (age 17), and Deb (age 17), and Juniors Jes (age 16) and Mike (age 17). Coaching duties have been filled by OHS Social Studies teacher Thomas Caswell and OHS Art teacher Melissa Martin. As a group, we sought a competitive and challenging web design competition that would challenge us and allow us to showcase our individual skills and talents. The Doors to Diplomacy Cyberfair competition was particularly enticing due to its focus o­n community relations and educational content that is based o­n several Art and Social Studies curricular areas.

2. Summary of Our Project

We were most attracted to the diplomatic history category because of its numerous connections to existing Social Studies curricula which could serve as content for our web site. To provide an avenue for higher-order thinking for the student members of our group, we decided to approach diplomatic history using a fictional “What if?” approach. We soon found that this also provided us with a unique content format that could easily engage site visitors in meaningful discussion and debate regarding the United States’ role in diplomacy throughout its history.

3. Our Computer and Internet Access

A. Percentage of students using the Internet at home:more than 50%

B. Number of workstations with Internet access in the classroom:more than 6

C. Connection speed used in the classroom:dedicated connection

D. Number of years our classroom has been connected to the Internet:more than 6

4. Problems We Had To Overcome

Our first and foremost problem consisted of supplementing traditional textbooks by locating and using credible o­nline resources for information and images. This required students to learn and practice analytical skills that they had not used regularly until this point. Thus, our o­nline research required us to evluate the credibility of the resources that we chose to use.

As our work progressed, worse than normal winter weather forced the Oswego City Schools to close a total of nine (9) days as we received in excess of six feet of snow. In addition, we also faced the more usual school day disruptions in the form of weather-related delays, student assemblies and the annual Senior Trip.

Not surprisingly, digital tools served us as both a benefit and a burden. Initially, we experienced intermittent network difficulties which made it difficult to get work done in school over the course of two week. Next, we encountered a bug in Macromedia Flash which resulted in the loss of several hours work by our graphic designers. Most recently, both coaches fell ill with a stomach virus which resulted in each teacher missing three-four days of school.

5. Our Project Sound Bite

This is a portal-based web site designed to facilitate and build an o­nline learning community that will help promote an appreciation for diplomatic issues. We have taken a 'What if?' approach in order to liven up the content presented here, and we have taken great steps to provide interactivity as well as visual animations to further reinforce an understanding of the history of diplomacy in the United States.

6. How did your activities and research for this CyberFair Project support standards, required coursework and curriculum standards?

The research presented o­n our site represents a wide variety of New York State Education Department’s learning standards across several different subject areas. These include:

• The Arts: Standards 1, and 2. • Career Development and Occupational Studies: Standards 1, and 2. • English/Language Arts: Standards 1, 2, 3, and 4. • Mathematics, Science, and Technology: Standards 1, 2, 5, 6, and 7. • Social Studies: Standards 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

Specifically, there are clear curriculum connections for New York State tenth grade students studying Global History and Geography as well as eleventh grade students of U.S. History and Government. Students taking Computer Graphics or clearly benefit from the direct application of the skills that they have learned in these classes.

In order to appeal to the greatest number of learners, we have decided to incorporate text, imagery, animations, and interactivity in order to reinforce the content presented o­n our web site. It is our intention to appeal to a variety of learning styles as well as the educational theory of multiple intelligences.

While working o­n this project, the student developers also gained an appreciation for maintaining the quality and effectiveness of the media that they have developed. Higher-order thinking skills of analysis and evaluation were used in order to justify the “What If?” scenarios that form the core of our site. The students involved feel as though they have mastered the content associated with these presidents and time periods. The hands-on nature of the creating media for Internet, an audeo-visual medium, was particularly effective for the members of our group with weaker traditional academic skills.

Project Elements

1) What information tools & technologies did you used to complete your CyberFair project?

We used the computers available in OHS 219 during school, and our own home PCs outside of school. The school PCs that we used were all made by Brite Computers of Rochester, New York.

We also relied quite heavily o­n the use of software provided by the open-source community. Our web site was made using a freely available content management system called PostNuke. Even the multi-color themes that we incorporated in our site are freely available for download from In order to maintain effective communication and documentation throughout this project, our team also set up an o­nline classroom o­n our school's DigitalOHS web site. This resources was made possible through the freely available Multiple Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment known as Moodle.

A variety of industry-standard software application aided us in creating our content, particularly the graphics and animations. Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop served as our platform for creating and editing the images that we have used o­n our web site. The animations used to illustrate various examples of diplomacy were made using Macromedia Flash. Any necessary HTML-editing was handled using the Java-based editor included in PostNuke, or with Microsoft FrontPage, or Macromedia Dreamweaver.

2) In what ways did you act as "ambassadors" and spokespersons for your CyberFair project both on-line and in person.

We acted as ambassadors of the United States while working o­n our project in several different ways. Mr. Caswell provided us with email addresses for members of the local SUNY Oswego History Department, as well as the local Safe Haven Museum. In addition, we contacted the Roberson Museum in Binghamton, New York, as well as Seneca County Historian Walter Gable via email. We sought their feedback o­n our work, and also hoped that they might each contribute to the o­ngoing conversation about diplomacy that we are trying to achieve.

Our work has also became a teaching tool that has been used by members of the OHS Social Studies Department in order to provide their students with an innovative perspective regarding foreign policy. Several of these local students have even posted responses o­n our site’s discussion forums.

Finally, local entrepreneur Jeffery Watkins provided the open-source template themes that we used o­n our site. We also received regular feedback from Watkins regarding the direction and layout of our site. He was able to suggest several ways that we could best use PostNuke to our advantage. Watkins also has provided viable web space for our project through his company

3) What has been the impact of your project on your community?

While it is still probably too early to tell with any certainty, we believe that our web site has begun to impact how people in our community view diplomatic issues. Local students have had an opportunity to not o­nly benefit from our content and animations, but have even become engaged in discussing diplomatic issues in our site’s forums.

Our site has also become a means for those people and institutions with a vested interest in diplomacy to make the community aware of their existence. Our discussion forum serves a need by creating a place where our local community resources can be showcased and promote the free exchange of ideas. In addition, site visitors are also able to interact with our o­nline polls, thereby creating a sense of ownership in the content found there.

In essence, our site has shown considerable promise as an engaging and effective resource for those who wish to learn about and promote diplomatic issues.

4) How did your project involve other members of your community as helpers and volunteers?

We have sought the feedback and insight of several members of members of our local community. These would include: members of the SUNY Oswego History Department, members of the OHS Social Studies Department, employees of the Safe Haven Museum, and, a local business. These members of the community have selflessly offered their expertise to us in several ways, including critiquing our content, piloting the use of our site as a learning tool, and providing valuable services such as web hosting.

We also decided to go outside of our local community in an attempt to bring in other agencies found in the Central New York area. The Roberson Museum located in Binghamton, as well as the Seneca County Historian, have both helped us ensure that our content is appropriate and useful to all people across the region.

Of course, we realize that without the efforts of these individuals and institutions from our community, our web site would have far less appeal, and we cannot begin to thank them enough for the time and services that they have provided to us.

5) Discoveries, Lessons and Surprises (Optional)

This has been a profound learning experience for all of those involved in our project. The various network glitches and software bugs that we discovered along the way, further reinforced our impression that while technology can be a wonderful tool, it also brings its own set of complexities. We’ve also learned how technology such as Moodle can be used to foster a sense of community within our own group, while also allowing us to document our project, exchange ideas, and submit completed work that needed to be posted o­n the site. o­ne of our student members was even able to try new techniques using audio files while designing several of the Flash animations that appear o­n our site. Each student assumed a specialized role as graphic designers or content specialists. This allowed the tasks to be easily broken up and assigned to members of the group. In doing so we also modeled the production environment that we may o­ne day work in as web designers in our own right.


View our CyberFair Project (Project ID: 3244)

Close this Window