Liberal Studies This Week

Sharing your experience as an online student

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Friday Fun - Bed Jump

Okay, finals are next week and soon you will need to relax. For some, I'm sure the one thing they want to do is to crawl into bed and sleep for a week. This blog thinks you should jump rather than crawl into bed. Well, it just thinks you should jump.

Oral History at UIS (SSU)

One of the best kept secrets at UIS is that in the early days of our university, we had an active Oral History office. I’m far from an expert on this topic but my simple description of oral history is that it is an effort to interview people who have observed and participated in history (also known as everyday life while it is happening.)

You can find a guide to our Oral History collection here

There is a mix of transcriptions you can read and recordings of original interviews which were never transcripted. Some of the oral histories were parts of extended project and others are just interesting stand-alone interviews. I spent an hour or so reading an interview with one of the original SSU librarians (UIS was SSU in its earliest days.) It was remarkable interesting to hear how a university library collection comes into being. Once you have a million volumes, you never really think about the day in which you didn’t have any books, or even shelves.

Among the many projects, there is a series of interviews with people who have lived through the 1908 race riot in Springfield. You can read some of these transcripts but also find some of the recordings in iTunesU. Just open iTunes and search for 1908 race riot. You’ll find the oral history recordings under Revealing Voices which will be listed in the iTunesU section.

Say 'cheese'.

If your family is like mine, you’ve reached the time of year when your picture will be taken as often most celebrities. You can’t fix an awkward facial expression but you can really tweak most photographs so that they look like a professional took them. I’m pretty good with Photoshop and nearly everything I learned came watching the Photoshop Workbench.

The workbench is a regular series in which Mark Johnson takes a photograph and makes it better. What I like about the series is that it doesn’t feel like a how-to or instructional series. Instead, it’s like watching over the shoulder of a really talented guy at work. As you watch the videos, you may not ever need to do exactly what he does to a specific picture, but watching him will demystify the tools so that you feel comfortable playing with them yourself.

You can find his website here. Yes, there is an ad for his DVD on this page (I bought it a couple weeks ago even though I’ve already watched most of them years ago, so yes, they are that good:) If you scroll down though, you’ll see the workbench videos.

If you are brand new to Photoshop, I would recommend some of his earlier videos. They are hard to find so here is a direct link. This is a 9 part Photoshop 101 and some of them are pretty techie but I’d recommend parts 6 through 9 – part 9 is really great.

What’s that, you don’t have Photoshop? It’s too expensive? Come on, it’s only a thousand dollars! That’s a reasonable price to pay for professional looking snapshots but, it you don’t have the money to spare, remember that you are a student and can get big discounts on software. The thousand dollar Photoshop is only $176 if you buy it from the U of I.

If even that is too much money, you can download GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) here. This is an open source photo editing program. It doesn’t work exactly like Photoshop but many of the underlying concepts are the same.


If you know Dan Bornt, send him an email and congratulate him.

He's recently been informed that he has won first place in the Lincoln Forum's essay contest. This is a national competition with recent winners from Cornell, UNLV, DePaul, Harvard, and Southern Illinois University.

You can read more about the contest and the Lincoln Forum at