College of Education builds Web site on WWII stories
Belvin Robin was a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II as a navigator and bombardier. He was the surviving son of three children and went on to have a son, who would become an associate professor at the University.
"He came to embody all the hopes and aspirations of his parents since he was the only child left," said Robin’s son Bernard Robin, associate professor of instructional technology.
Belvin Robin developed cancer shortly before his son joined UH’s faculty. Bernard Robin realized that his father – along with many others – had stories to tell and needed to be documented.
"I remember my dad had told a few stories while I grew up but I never really paid attention," Bernard Robin said. "And by the time I was ready to listen, his cancer had progressed. And before I could ask all the questions that I had he was gone."
Now College of Education graduate students have developed a Web site to share and preserve the stories of World War II.
"We hope that people will come to the Web site and share their stories," Bernard Robin said.
Bernard Robin and his graduate students have worked with the Education and Outreach Department at Houston PBS. He said the site’s purpose is to support and be a supplement to Ken Burn’s documentary The War.
The 14-hour documentary mini-series gives personal accounts of veterans and how World War II affected their families.
"We’re losing 1,000 (World War II) veterans a day in this country," Ken Burns said in an interview with U.S. News and World Report. "Our kids think we fought with the Germans against the Russians. It’s horrible, and I couldn’t abide."
Former students in Bernard Robin’s class studies educational uses of digital video said they want the site to be used for educational purposes.
Students started the Web site project by first generating interest in World War II among teachers to use as a teaching tool.
Then the students uploaded the HTML text into a professional Web site with graphics.
"I feel that the stories of those who served and lived through World War II are an important tool in helping us remember the value of the freedoms we have in this country," said Daniel Sellers, Web site developer and history senior. "As the number of these valiant men and women in the world declines, we are rapidly losing an invaluable part of our history and our national heritage."
"This Web site will hopefully help preserve the experiences of some of those people who lived in extraordinary times," Sellers said.
Visitors are welcome to share their stories, Bernard Robin said.
They can do so by creating an account, and then answering the appropriate questions. Visitors can also upload video, audio and pictures to complement their stories.
UH doctoral student Danna Eichenold submitted her story – a mini-documentary that explores how rations were dispersed during World War II.
Her story included interviews from uncle and aunt Mount Enterprise residents Charles and Mary Lou Danheim, who shared their perspectives of the war when they were adolescents.
"It was interesting to hear some of the stories," Eichenold said. "There are (stories) I haven’t heard in a while like Mary Lou telling me that fabric was hard to get a hold of and that they had to make underwear and shirts out of feed sacks at that time," Eichenold said.
Bernard Robin said he hopes that more teachers will utilize the documentary and the site.
"It is something different for me, the coolest part is that people in the Houston area are submitting their text files and pictures," he said. "It’s gratifying to know someone is watching this stuff."
UH students, faculty, staff and the community are encouraged to share their stories by visiting www.thewar.coe.uh.edu.
Ken Burns’ The War series will broadcast until Nov. 14 through more than 300 PBS stations. For local listings of The War visit www.pbs.org/thewar/broadcast_schedule.htm