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[edit] Brief Summaries

Giving Literature Virtual Life by Patricia Cohen

Patricia Cohen’s article focuses on how humanities departments are beginning to use digital humanities to a greater extent in their teaching repertoires. This is especially unique in that it allows a bridge of sorts to bring the students’ knowledge of new media together with the professor’s knowledge of the subject. In accomplishing this she describes several projects that are underway with regard to this. Some examples of these include: At Bryn Mawr College students are able to play with blocking scenes at the Globe Theatre; At the University of Virginia students are able to digitally examine the university’s first library collection and how knowledge was classified; and at Swarthmore College where students are editing online databases of Victorian magazines and comparing the experience to reading the originals. She also mentions how some students are being allowed to use digital projects as their thesis. Interestingly, even though some argue that such a work is “apt to have less focus, fullness and heft than a conventional senior thesis”, unlike the traditional thesis, it can live on outside the classroom.

New Media Technologies and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: A Brief Introduction to this Issue of Academic Commons by Bass

This is not so much an article as an introduction to the issue of Academic Commons that it is featured in. Generally speaking it is a call for an examination of the ways in which new media technologies may be integrated into pedagogy. Bass indicates that it is rare for those interested in new technology and those interested in teaching and learning come together. In doing so, in realizing the full implications of such a convergence, it is not becoming almost necessary to merge the culture of inquiry and the culture of experimentation together around new media technologies. He quotes Michael Wesch in saying that we must “confront the crisis of significance and bring relevance back to education”. Ultimately the purpose of the studies contained in this issue of Academic Commons is to “open up education” and provide a “bridge to the future” through the integration of new media technologies.

Capturing the Visible Evidence of Invisible Learning by Bass and Eynon

This 3-part article focuses on the methodologies and findings of the Visible Knowledge Project (VKP) that was a collaborative effort among over 70 faculty members (the majority were in the Humanities) nationwide (US) wherein they experimented with using new media technology in the classroom and pooled their findings together. Ultimately, the project sought to make visible the “intermediate processes” that are involved in learning and that are often invisible; their invisibility owing to the traditional model of assessment as being focused on the final product (usually in the form of a paper). The experiments were grouped into three primary areas regarding new technologies: Reading and Engaging ideas through sources and texts (e.g. online digital texts and sources), Dialogue and discussion in a social digital environment (forums, blogs, etc.) and Authorship (using multimedia to create things as part of experiential learning).

In broad terms the study found that by using new technologies we can change the way we think about learning itself; that making the invisible processes visible actually deepens learning. In all, they found three key types of learning to be enhanced through the use of new media technology. Adaptive learning (adapting tools of the discipline), Embodied learning (affective and personal knowledge is integrated into the process and product), and socially situated learning (where students are given the opportunity to participate in a large conversation and identify their place in the community). In the end, the authors conclude that we must get our whys, hows, and whats in their proper place, asking “why to facilitate how, and let what generate from there.”

Making Common Cause: Electronic Portfolios, Learning, and the Power of Community by Kathleen Yancey, Barbara Cambridge and Darren Cambridge

This article is a conclusion from Electronic Portfolio 2.0: Emergent Research on Implementation and Impact, edited by Darren Cambridge, Barbara Cambridge, and Kathleen Blake Yancey. Since it is part of a larger work it can be forgiven for not exactly defining for us what an ePortfolio is. In any event, this article outlines some of the conclusions made by the National Coalition for Electronic Portfolio Research (NCEPR) regarding the place of ePortfolios in a rapidly changing “post-modern” university teaching/learning environment. The authors point out how ePortfolios, while largely a Western phenomenon, are beginning to be used by non-Western educators who will provide invaluable insight into the uses and roles ePortfolios can play in an international student milieu.

Additionally, the authors posit that ePortfolios are ideal for formative assessments and that eventually they could come to replace “the test” as an ideal form of summative assessment. This, they say, is because ePortfolios give a better indication of actual learning both to students and evaluators. Finally, the authors assert that as we make the move into “post-modern universities” [where only our feelings and opinions count for anything – sorry, that's me], ePortfolios are more inclined to welcome students’ experiences and give us a greater insight into learning. Thereby acting as a bridge that will lead post-secondary institutions into the future of education.

True Facts-False Facts T. Millis Kelly

Kelly’s first person account is an excellent piece that delivers on the “engagement” factor he purports. This article is concerned with the problematic teaching of historical methods. Kelly introduces two reasons students might possibly be disengaged with the material, which he claims was producing less than satisfactory rigor in the students work. Kelly claims that “when it comes to teaching historical methods, historians have lost their sense of fun, their sense of playfulness” and that in today’s world “the approaches to history itself—are increasingly disconnected from the lives our students live.”(Kelly’s statement resonates with Bass and Eynon’s (3-part article). Kelly’s decision was to redesign the course by devising a historical “hoax” based in facts yet, skewed! The “facts” that the “hoax” was based upon were retrieved from “libraries and archives rather than websites, in part because the sources they needed just aren’t online.” Kelly concludes that his students learned research and reporting methods such as the issue of using triangulation. By violating the very principle of trustworthiness in research, Kelly taught his students to twist one or two parts of the triangle just enough to come to a feasible yet not historically accurate conclusion. Using blogs, and numerous new media sources the “hoax” was revealed on the last day of classes. The article concludes by looking at “ethics beyond plagiarism” history as collaboration and the nature of (primary) historical sources, also (maybe most importantly) his “students all learned that creating history, whether it is “real” history or a “hoax”, is hard and takes a lot of work.”

Creating and Using Virtual Environments to Promote Historical Thinking KEE & D A R B Y S O N

Kee and Darbyson ask the proverbial question, “How can historians and history teachers best use virtual environments (VEs) to support the teaching and learning of historical thinking?” I believe educators of all disciplines will be asking these same types of questions, if they are not already doing so. Helping students think critically, and develop cognitive skills sets is (or should be) the number one priority. As Kee and Darbyson so aptly acknowledge that the “larger academic interest in VEs for learning and the research this has spawned.” Which brings us to one of our class discussions concerning the level of knowledge, content and even flexibility that is needed to thrust forward into the functioning of VEs and that, the authors contend, “ requires that we engage the work of game theorists.”'

After defining Virtual Environments, Kee and Darbyson dive into the perspectives of educators on using VEs for “learning.” While some present arguments against, Kee and Darbyson put forth a compelling argument citing the understanding and usage of content, developing better learning strategies and research on brain functions that all point towards the “potential of VEs.”

Brevity demands that I highlight the rest of this article as the potential encapsulated in this work needs more space than is allowed in this forum. (No… not just because of Dr. Kee’s authorship!) (It really is interesting! Thank goodness!) The authors (cited in text) ask the question, “But what about history learning, and historical thinking in particular?” Interesting… yet, in my opinion “How can we best use VEs to support the teaching and learning of “first order” knowledge?” is fascinating!

From content to gaming to historical practice to “What Coffin calls “biographical recounts revisit the events of a person’s life, focusing on important moments or turning points and providing insight into the person and his time period.” The possibilities, in my mind… in our minds… are endless.

In Relation to the other articles: Kee and Darbyson explain Expositions. “A factorial explanation explains the factors that contribute to an outcome;an exposition puts forward a point of view or argument. Historians and history teachers can use VEs to create an exposition, in the same way that we have previously used research papers, which require that students investigate primary and secondary sources and then assemble an essay to persuade the reader of a thesis.” I believe the questions that we posed below will cover these points yet this definition is worth noting. The concluding points in the article are worthy of note and should be read before class. I, for one, wish I had read this article at the beginning of the semester!

CODING THEORY: Balancing Technical and Theoretical Requirements in a Graduate-Level Humanities Computing Program Gouglas, Sinclair& Morrison

Gouglas, Sinclair and Morrison have created a insightful conversation about how “scholars (have) adapted various techniques to facilitate their research.” Yet, as these authors suggest scholars “have reflected on the manner in which such techniques change their object of study.” As per our class discussions, anyone who has used text analysis software, has experienced what Gouglas, Sinclair and Morrison are espousing. Quantitative research is often driven by software and as the authors point out, most researchers now know that their data depends on the type of output as well as input.

The authors explain that “each tool changes both the object and the objective of study.” YEA!! for Gouglas, Sinclair and Morrison as they proclaim… “Introducing students to this complexity requires more than seminar discussion, traditionally the backbone of graduate teaching.”

The authors insist that “hands-on experience with the technical tools used to analyze a problem more effectively illustrates the challenges these tools pose.” It seems so simple! The main development of the article rests on the explanation of university courses that the authors devised and taught. “The University of The Master of Arts in Humanities Computing at the University of Alberta is a two-year interdisciplinary graduate degree, bringing students together from fourteen different departments in the Arts faculty as well as from the School of Library and Information Studies.” Very interesting! The students were introduced to technical exercises with “PHP (a programming language) provide general insights into the skills required for work in stylometrics. Additional stand-alone assignments deal with photo-editing, HTML coding, XML, and multimedia production.” (easy for them to write!)

After much discussion concerning course content, Gouglas, Sinclair and Morrison explain how they approached and investigated the ole’ science vs. the humanities argument. C.P. Snow’s The Two Cultures anchored this discussion and as the authors point out, the students had a “a richer understanding of scientific and humanistic discourses.” Therefore the students were better able to “search for nuances in this binary system and to seek ways to transcend it, including through humanities computing.” The rest of the article covers many of the same subjects that have been discussed in our class. These pages are worth reading as they describe the different skill sets that are taught in digital computing at University of Alberta.

In the conclusion the words of the authors are to the point. “In this process, we are beginning to realize that the relationship between technical training and disciplinary apprenticeship through seminars – between the ‘coding’ and the ‘theory’ of our title– constitutes perhaps the central problematic animating our teaching.” It is my belief that “between the ‘coding’ and the ‘theory’…” is perhaps the place where all the bad stuff lives!

Welcome to Handy4class! Dr.Candace Figg

Dr. Candace Figg is my supervisor in the department of Education here at Brock. Her work entails the teaching of teachers by helping them to bring “emerging technologies into the classroom to enhance student learning.” She explains that this is often difficult for teachers, veterans and teacher candidates alike. With “so little time and training” teachers need help in working with technology in a classroom setting. Her ‘Handy4class’ project allows the contributors to help in “developing activity ideas and lesson designs, collecting resources, providing product updates, suggesting strategies for integration, and providing instruction support for efforts to use technology in instruction.” They concentrate on Web 2.0 tools, mobile computing and supporting one another through intense discussions. Dr. Figg is from my University, the University of North Texas as well as the University of Texas, where she received her doctorate. She is one of the most dedicated instructors I have ever met. Her philosophy concerning grad students is one of freedom and exploration. Check out the web site and pass it on! http://www.handy4class.com/h4c2011/ http://www.handy4class.com/h4c2011/quicksteps/ this is amazing!!!!!!

Missing Articles

The missing articles have been uploaded to the Wiki and can be found here:

Coding Theory

Creating and Using Virtual Environments

Note: The version of Mills Kelly's chapter available on the playingwithhistory site is not the most recent. For those interested in the most complete version, download it here.

[edit] Questions to consider

[edit] Question 1

Do you agree with the idea of digital projects as being legitimate as a replacement for the more traditional methods of assessment and production such as the paper? (How will the Academy respond?)

[edit] Question 2

Meta-Question: What elements of invisible learning have been made visible in this course and how effective have they been for you in deepening your learning?

[edit] Question 3

Are we simply pandering to the lowest common denominator by integrating things like embodied learning and other new media practices into the classroom and assessments? Is it too touchy-feely (or wishy-washy)?

[edit] Question 4

Does allowing students an equal voice in a socially-situated environment blur the lines on authority in a discipline? Does everyone automatically become an authority because their voice is being heard? Why or why not?

[edit] Question 5

BONUS: check out [[1]]. What are some ways that a music video like this be used as a spring-board for learning especially with regard to the types of learning and technologies that Bass and Eynon talk about (e.g. a website that details the meaning/veracity of the lyrics)

[edit] Question 6

How does perspective vs. perception positionally fit into Kelly's article? How does this apply to your work?

[edit] Question 7

What has your experience been in learning research methods, methodology?

[edit] Question 8

At what point does a teacher become an entertainer? Or as I like to call them, an edutainer? Is this different from the perspective of students vs. teachers?


For your thoughts only.... How much are you willing to learn, what are you willing to do in terms of mastering the DIGITAL in Digital Humanities?

[edit] Discussion

[edit] Dave

Great questions (as I've come to expect from this class) - I'll tackle the first one since I know it is of particular interest to one of our seminar leaders this week. I do indeed foresee a time in the not too distant future in which digital projects or constructs will be as acceptable as the traditional essay. The reason, obviously, lies in the ever changing nature of the state of both technology and pedagogy. The old guard who cling tenaciously to their "books" and "major papers" will have to give way to the complexity and creativeness that the new DH world affords the student. The entire concept of this class underlines the ability that we have to go beyond the static form of scholarship that von Ranke understood and adopt such new methods of expression since it is proven and available on a wide scale. The crux of your question is "do I agree with the idea of digital products being legitimate as a replacement?", and at this time I would have to say no and I'll explain why. The ability for universities to accept, assess and grade such products is currently beyond the scope of the majority of the faculties. I hope that there will be an option for the substitution of well thought out, challenging and immersive DH projects to be used as an alternative to the traditional paper, simply because I think the results could be very interesting. The bigger issue is what will be the standards and how will these projects be graded? The current system is not equipped to handle such a radical shift in a discipline such as history, and yet history seems tailor made for such a paradigm shift.

As an aside, I love the use of Boney M to underline the Bass and Enyon concepts in Bonus Q 5, but had you considered my personal choice? Conquistador As to the lyrics in "Rasputin", I have an issue with his death (poisoned, yes; shot, certainly; where is bludgeoned and ultimately drowned?) And was he really Russia's greatest love machine? I will need some kind of citation on this.... I will give more (serious) input on the questions the Bass and Enyon article raise later on.

[edit] Sean

I'll follow Dave and also comment on the first question, or rather the term "replacement" in the first question. I too, like Dave, think that with the degree to which digital technologies have influenced academia in the past few decades it is only a matter of time until digital projects like Rajchel's are accepted as legitimate. Certainly the ability to keep subjects relevant to digital students as well as the ability to make research accessible to the wider world as opposed to only academics are both key reasons why such a shift is appropriate. That said, I think that such projects need to be carefully constructed and appropriate to the topic being studied. I think that particular types of research can certainly be re-examined and supplemented by digital technologies - however, there are also specific studies or considerations for which the use of electronic resources or presentation wouldn't be appropriate. For instance, re-living the performance of a Shakespearean or Roman play in its original setting would be wonderful and appropriate - while (I know this is debatable) experiencing Dickens online isn't the same as in its original newsprint. Materials need to be viewed in their context - they are bounded by it and should therefore be assessed within it - and so with many areas of study DH helps get us closer to this context, while in other fields it would only serve to pull us further away. Regardless - certainly digital resources can and should serve as legitimate supplements to academic research, and in some cases it will do much more. However, DH is more of a supplement rather than replacement.

In terms of assessing individual projects, this is an issue which will always exist, but I don't think that it is prohibitive to being able to use digital resources. I suspect that it is enormously difficult to qualify differing degrees across the various departments which currently exist, but that has not stopped the traditional faculties from doing so. How does Graduate Studies qualify a photographic portfolio for Visual Arts compared to a research essay in the Humanities compared to statistical analysis in Biology? The fact is each department has a standard and it is simply a matter of identifying a similar, but appropriate level of expectation and work for those who take a digital option. This is something which I think needs to be remembered in the rush to keep academia "relevant" to students who have grown up digital. Relevance is good, interest is good, access is good - but none of these are more important than ensuring that there are still expectations for research and academia. It is not that digital technologies or resources are inappropriate or disruptive, but that we need to find the appropriate balance in terms of their usage.

Two important questions to ask in this debate are: How do people learn? What is learning?

[edit] Grant

I'm going to address your third question. In short, no I don't think we are pandering to the lowest common denominator by incorporating new media practices into the classroom. Instead I find it to be a new way of teaching, opposite to the traditional textbook and overhead methods that we are so accustomed to. Bass and Eynon's article perfectly displays how new media technologies can be a great benefit to the teaching of difficult subjects. For example, using a comment section alongside a difficult passage from a historical text, devleoped by Sharona Levy, is an excellent new teaching method. The comment section of Word allows students to identify different levels of difficulty, such as vocabulary-based and interpretive ones. The learning is much more hands on and gives students a chance to engage in the text more thoroughly. It also helps them to better understand historical texts as they identify areas of difficulty and thus can learn what those words means or what the author meant at a certain point. New media practices merely open up new avenues for learning and understanding certain subjects or engaging in specific texts. These more "hands on" teaching styles allow students with different learning abilities to become much more involved in the classroom and fully grasp a certain topic. They can also give students a chance to better understand a difficult subject or passage, becoming more engaged in what they are dealing with through a hands on experience. I'm going to leave it at that... short and to the point.

[edit] Ryan

Digital projects in place of traditional assignments... Of course it makes sense. It's slightly out of touch with the times to say that an essay has more use in today's society than say a website. All of the exact same information can be conveyed so I ask, why aren't students designing websites instead of writing essays? It's like Sean says, it really comes down to questions. What do we want students to get out of their education? What constitutes learning? Shouldn't the university education be transferable to society at large? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for learning for a love of learning but again ... you can't discount the rest of society. We're all products of it, whether we like it or not. Education should be USEFUL. Education can only be useful if it reflects the society in which it's situated. In this case that means getting on board with all things digital. It's all well and good to hold on to traditional methods, I understand. But that can only last for so long before the simulation says there's a tipping point. Must we let the disillusionment with higher education endure any longer? Do we HAVE to let it reach the tipping point? It seems clear to me that we are on the verge of a paradigmn shift. Dave, you say the current system is not equipped to handle the shift. Well sir, it's coming. Wouldn't a good way to ensure at least a semi-smooth transition for universities be to start broadening their horizons? Isn't that better than the alternative where disillusionment reaches critical capacity and there's a tipping point?

There's already grumbling among the general public that a university education simply isnt worth the price tag anymore. It's out of touch with the needs of the potential students. As Mills said "traditional approaches to history itself - are increasingly disconnected from the lives our students live." There's little to no enthusiasm among entering students. The university's adhereance to outdated techniques aren't helping their graduates when they have finished. Much of this could be remedied by actually reflecting society. People today are connected 24/7, this is true of students and the rest of society. Teaching and learning should reflect this fact. It doesn't make sense to disconnect in order to write an essay or 'learn.' Why not have the students remain connected and do their work? Universities (and schools in general) need to stop forcing students to disconnect while they are learning. If we can remain connected while still developing the same hitorical skills we would otherwise, we as graduates will transition back into society with much greater ease. Not only will the transition come easier but we will have a means by which to speak with the rest of society. So I say again, of course digital work is a legitimate replacement. Let's not lose touch here.

[edit] Dave

I'd like to feed off of Sean's concluding questions concerning how people learn and what is learning. Too often we (as humans) fall into the same old trap. We do things the same way we've always done them because, well, that's the way we've always done them. This is a recipe for mediocrity, if not outright disaster. To truly be innovative, there has to be a break with past modalities that have run their course and tackle new methods that will engage the participant more directly. The use of computers has been inconsistent in the field of education and the main reason has been the difficulty of those already entrenched in their pedagogical careers to accept this new tool in the classroom. Add to that the cost factor (initially) and the lack of control that the teacher has when the students know far more about the digital world than they ever will and you have a recipe for a fractious application across the board. Even in the hallowed halls of higher learning, where most (ok almost all) of the older classrooms and seminar rooms lack any sort of digital infrastructure and you again have the difficulty of applying these tools to teaching.

My colleague Ryan pointed out that I said that the current system is not equipped to handle the shift to a new form of final paper or project and I stand behind that statement; this is not to excuse the University, but rather to point out the lack of innovation in higher education at the university level. I appreciate that universities are scrambling to catch up to the current world by using facebook, twitter and web based interface systems such as Sakai. Good for them, but it is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. "How do people learn [today]" is what Sean was asking and I can only speak for myself, but I have always been an active learner. Show me something or tell me where to look it up, let me play around with the concepts of something or do a random stream of consciousness search for related topics and I develop a deeper and more complex understanding of the subject. Along the way, I also pick up a lot of useless info, but it always finds a home in some other project, so useless applies only for the time being. I sense that many students would also be these active, not passive "lecture to me, then I'll do the readings, then I'll answer the 3 questions in the syllabus" learners and the new methods of making visible the invisible methods of learning as described in Bass and Enyon's article clearly underlines the need to figure out what makes learning more involving for the student.

The old methodology of the lecture/seminar/paper may change dramatically before we call it a career, and I would welcome it - wait for it - if and ONLY if the products that result from the new methodologies are as valid as the traditional monograph and paper that we have used since von Ranke and Humboldt (hell since Thucydides). This is where the second part of Sean's question comes into play in regards to this week's readings: what is learning? Is it the same for everyone? Obviously not, or we'd have a much bigger Grad class. Fair enough, but what is learning? Are the new methods going to make knowledge more accessible to every student? Is that a good thing, or as one of the questions asks: does that bring everything down to the lowest common denominator? (I paraphrase question 2) I do strongly believe that the goal of teaching with DH needs to continue to insist on the same scholarship and expectations of academic excellence that we employ currently or else we may as well throw everything up on the web and then get all of our information from Wikipedia. Imagine that nightmare - the voices of a million people with opinions is better than 1 expert who has devoted a career to the subject? Imagine if we were to find ourselves posting information with our colleagues on a web-based platform that allows a huge amount of latitude and opinion rather than cold hard fact....wait a minute.....

[edit] Melanie

I would like to address question 4. I don't believe that allowing students to have a voice in the classroom necessarily blurs lines of authority. I would take our own class as an example. We all have the chance to give our opinions and put forth our ideas, but I don't think any of us would consider ourselves to be the authority figure on par with or in place of Professor Kee (except Spencer haha). But the concern of 'everyone' becoming an expert is a valid one I believe, at least on some levels. The hoax created by the students in the Kelly article reveals potential concerns of the authority of digital information - while it's fantastic that everyone has access to it, everyone can also create, maintain, and change that information as well, not always with the best intentions in mind. I would ask myself, however, if this is really a concern about authority, or a concern (which I believe is raised in Kelly as well) of people not paying closer attention to what they are reading/interacting with digitally. The hoax the class created fooled a lot of people, but as is pointed out at the end of the article, there was information available if one looked critically enough, for example at Jane's blog, that showed it was not authentic. I can see the validity of a concern about authority when everyone has potential access to the data, but I think this concern raises an equally important question of the necessity of critical thinking and reading skills when encountering online data, and if these skills are being put to good use.

I would also like to chime in the discussion of digital projects/learning techniques replacing traditional ones. I think Ryan raises a valid point in saying that our education needs to be useful; however, I don't think we are giving enough credit to traditional methods in creating useful individuals. If someone can create a website to display data, rather than writing a paper, wonderful - but, if you can't write well, it doesn't matter how fantastic your web page looks, it will be pretty useless. I agree that the incorporation of digital projects could offer a great alternative route of expression and assessment (when we have to framework to assess it on equal terms with other work), but I don't think we can completely discount some of the skills we learn in the 'traditional' university system.

[edit] Val

These are all important questions. My answer to question one would be yes, I think that digital projects can legitimately stand alongside (perhaps not replace) traditional methods for student assessment like the paper. Of course in order for this to work, universities would need to develop standard guidelines, goals, and outcomes for such projects and be prepared to determine what is an acceptable digital project and what is not. More than keeping the subject relevant, as Sean put it, I think looking legitimately at digital projects as scholarship equal to the paper means better preparing students for the job market and opening up more opportunities for them. I think universities fail to arm their students for the job market because of the lack of diversity in scholarship. In essence, universities, and the research paper, train people and give them the skills to work…. in the university. We can’t all be grad students, professors, or scholarly researchers. One of the most important skills however the university imparts on its students is an ability to think and approach things critically. Now this is an important skill for anyone in their future careers, whatever that may be. And I would argue that acquiring the skills to think critically can be done through a traditional paper and through a digital project, and that really is the only thing that matters (at least for those who don’t want to be grad students or university professors). Whether a student is writing a 20 page paper or editing a 30 minute video, she or he can make an argument, consider sources, evidence, attach meaning, challenge leading interpretations, etc. As Wesch put it, teachers should be teaching subjectivities, not subjects, meaning teachers should be teaching “ways of approaching, understanding, and interacting with the world,” and in my opinion there are a number of mediums (including the paper and digital tools) that can be used to do so. In our present age, this is the true function of the university. Universities aren’t really training students to become “historians,” “geographers,” or “sociologists,” anymore. They are teaching them ways to understand the world and to think about it critically. Digital projects, like any research project, can help students to lean these skills.

[edit] The Ghost in the Machine

In life I was a stodgy old history professor...never content with anything but a paper...but now I can see the grand vistas of intellectual endeavor I could have explored had I only opened my mind up to the possibilities...*sigh* Mark well my words oh ye academic progeny...lest ye suffer the same fate as I and only be read by a small handful of people before I was to die...woooOooooOooo

[edit] Spencer

This is going to be a flurry of references and responses. First, I think Dave prefaced much of the discussion well by asking, "what will be the standards and how will these projects be graded?" Perhaps the question is broad, but I think it must necessarily be so. For instance, to what form of scholarship are Sean's "expectations for research and academia" connected? Are standards in history tied to undergraduate essays, or something much greater? If the latter, then why essays rather than digital projects? Have universities invested too strongly in essays as demonstrations of standards? (I refer here to the typical undergraduate essay in the humanities, which we are {hopefully} beyond in our graduate studies.)

I agree with Val in arguing that scholarship can take on multiple forms to accomplish the particular goals of a discipline, an idea she identifies as present in Wesch's article. For the past two years, I've argued that undergraduate essays are nearly as useless as multiple choice exams. Journal articles, books, book chapters, and other publications might have similarities to essays, but they are not essays. The conventions of an undergraduate essay cannot be transferred wholly intact and unmodified into other writing, even within larger scholarship. Mark Sample wrote about this very topic on his blog. As Melanie points out, the ability to write is an important ability we would do well to develop in our time at university; but is that ability best achieved through producing an essay? Adherence to scholarly standards should not be confused with clinging to arbitrary modes of expression.

Getting away from the questions of digital modes of expression, I think questions 4 and 6 are inextricable because they address two assumptions that too often invade the academy. First, that authority is a top-down system flies in the face of the principles of scholarship. In this case, authority refers solely to the relationship between two scholars. Students who invest and engage with a discipline are scholars right alongside professors. The significant difference is that professors have experience and have internalised the practices and standards of the discipline. Their authority derives from their ability to act in the discipline; should a student act similarly, their authority is established similarly. As much as we can question the authority of a historian who plagiarises, we can exalt the scholarship of a student who embodies the expectations of our discipline.

Second, the Lying About the Past course forced a conclusion reached by students and Mills himself: right doesn't make right. Historians taken in by the false history were caught napping in their own field, partly because they were not critical, but also because they were unprepared to investigate the digital presentation of information. A professional historian can take offense at being outsmarted by "rascally kids" (paraphrase) and their lie about America's last pirate, or learn from the experience that there can be no resting upon laurels in a discipline. Constant vigilance through good historical practice keeps the discipline from sluggishness and contentment with itself. /endrant.

  • Note: Some responses to the Hoax in addition to the link above: here and here.

[edit] Stacey

I fully and completely with Val on the idea of universities allowing students to have non-traditional written assignments as final assessments because of the shear fact that not all of us are going to be scholars or professors or researchers. University isn’t just about teaching us to write essays but teaches us how to approach things/situations with critical eye. So why not allow us to do digital projects more often, I bet students’ grades would approve drastically if we were given a chance to be more creative in the classroom. Allowing students to be more involved in the learning process allows us to become more engaged because we can be individuals and not just another number in a classroom. Not to mention the fact that it would be much more fun to mark unique assignments! (I’d probably require less wine when marking.. Haha.) Both in the Cohen article and Kelly’s chapter demonstrate how successful unique digital projects or methods are in the humanities classroom. I really like the example of the undergraduate Shakespeare English class in Cohen’s article because it demonstrated that the students were still engaging in the texts online and in some cases were much more engaged in the discussion. I really like the idea of online forums or wikis for classes because not only does it give everyone the chance to participate and earn their grade fairly but also it allows students to have the chance to take the time to think about the discussion and their individual contributions. It allows for new cans of worms to be opened as well. Students can ask new questions based on the contributions of others without the 50 minute or even 3 hour time limit. I really loved Kelly’s article this week! The idea of creating a false history/character within a classroom in order to learn differently and think critically as historians is something I had never considered. Doing something that is essentially taboo in our field or even in academic setting actually proved to be very effective for Kelly’s learning outcomes for his students because of the variety of sources and approaches his students were able to take. This is my favourite thing about the Digital Humanities, the idea that we can do something against the traditions of education and produce the same and even sometimes better outcomes. I don’t know if everyone else feels like this at some points, but honestly somedays I am sick of reading and writing and not being able to be creative in my own learning. I like that DH offers us a chance to change things from being stuffy and traditional to being practical and expanding our minds with new methods of doing things!

[edit] Heidi

I just spent waaaay too much time on youtube watching cool teaching resources. And on that note... here are some of my thoughts... To avoid beating a dead horse, I am going to avoid going too far into question one. Such a great question, and I think it is one we have been debating (be it in class or mentally when doing our DH readings). I think that Ryan absolutely nailed it. Digital projects are our future, because (as we are seeing week after week) DH is our future. I think this debate of how it can be evaluated is perhaps still in its infancy which is why we have such a difficult time coming to any real conclusion. As we see in the Cohen article, many ppl will argue that a digital project does not have the depth that a written essay would BUT we also see in our readings that many will argue that we must be ready to accommodate these changes or risk being left behind. It all comes back to why people choose to go to university. Relevance is of the utmost importance, and we have seen in the copious amounts of DH job postings that DH is the way of the future. I think question four is a very interesting point to ponder. Does giving students a 'louder' voice take away from the authority that a teacher or professor has? I don't think so. I think one could argue this just as easily in reference to seminars... if they wanted to. We're allowing students to voice opinions but the validity of what they are saying is still going to be questioned. I think this also comes back to the importance of critical thinking, which has been discussed. Joe Student sitting next to you spewing out random information is not going to be taken as seriously as an expert who is teaching you, regardless of how 'social' the environment is. Question 5: I see your Rasputin and I raise you Depeche Mode [2] My fellow medievalists will enjoy that little tune, and I suggest everyone checks out this youtube channel created by history teachers. As you will see, they have created videos on a wiiiiiide variety of historical themes/events. They use popular songs and change the lyrics, which I always think is fun for everyone. I will continue to say the same things over and over about resources and teaching. I think that (as we have seen in the articles) you have to keep things fun and relevant for students. I am less concerned with content and more concerned with the questions and dialogue that it facilitates. It gets students asking new questions which is a beautiful thing that DH can provide us (and it leaves everyone humming fun songs). I think of this like tools such as nGram. Is it the be all end all? Nope. Can it get us talking about/asking new things? I think so. I hope we get into question 8 tomorrow. I think this is a neat question. My new goal in life is to be an edutainer. Now I'm going to watch more history-made-cool-and-hip videos. See you tomorrow!

[edit] Post-Seminar Summary

In this week’s discussion we looked at teaching and learning by dividing the class into four groups. Each group represented one of four different formats that could be used as a final project or thesis as a submission in a university class. The four groups were paper, web site, games and video/documentary. These four groups were comprised of classmates selected before the class to represent a format that was not particularly their first choice. This proved to be fun and sparked lively debates as each group argued for their formats!

The relevancy of this week’s articles can be seen as a culmination of a central theme. The need to finally acknowledge that there are many types of learners and many different types of learning.It was decided that these factors needed to be addressed, especially in today’s economic climate. Also, the movement towards different types of formatting in our schools and universities is inevitable.

This week’s readings brought us to the point where we could see the necessity of incorporating different modes of communication (formats) into our classrooms. Each group brought forth their format and discussed its unique qualities and challenges of implementing them in the classroom. This was discussed in the form of basic skill sets needed in order to implement the format of each group. Not only were the skill sets discussed a far as the technical knowledge needed to implement the formats, but the knowledge set of the intended audience, the need for specialized equipment and the need to protect, store and upgrade the formats was debated.

As the groups progressed in their discussions the merits and drawbacks of all four formats emerged. Skeptics of one format or another seemed to contemplate the merits of all four formats as the discussion came to an end. It was then decided that paper, as it is, could perhaps bridge the knowledge divide by providing the staple with which to branch the other three. All of the class noted and even acknowledged that perhaps partnership concerning resources and formats (including educators and students) benefit from collaboration. Which brings us to next week's readings!

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