Digital Pedagogy


I was very energized by today’s session and have lots of ideas for my Digital History/Humanities course, as well as for making my other courses digital inflected. I think right now I need to try to keep myself from trying to do too much this fall–need to start with small steps! I have a clearer idea now of what I can do with my DHH course, and how to accomplish it. I am going to develop a pre-course skills assessment survey like Jeff McClurken’s, and get it off to the students so that I can get that information before classes begin. I also plan to identify some sources students can use for building digital projects; I have a few in mind already.

I do want to have my capstone students do their final papers on Word Press, but I may have them do a sort of hybrid with the paper and links, images on Word Press but also printed as a more “traditional” research paper–kinda how the JAH and other print journals do digital scholarship. Have to think on that a bit and see what my students think.


Source: Digital Pedagogy

Uses of distant reading?

I have to say that text mining was rather less fun than I had expected. Yes, the Ngram and Bookworm and Voyant were fun for searching terms (see previous post), but I am having difficulty figuring out what I would use the topic modeling for. Using an (admittedly) small sample of texts, it didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know about my research. But that is perhaps because I am fairly far advanced on this project; I’ve done the research, am familiar with all the sources, and have done some of the writing. So maybe the best time for this distant reading and topic modeling is when you are beginning a new project and want to run a bunch of texts through the old topic modeler. I am trying to think how it might’ve helped my research if I had had the ability to do this for the gift project. If I had been able to load hundreds of articles on gifts, etiquette books, diaries, etc. and see what relationships popped up in topic modeling, it could have set up some questions for research. This might have structured my research earlier and saved me some time in slogging through all these documents to come up with the key concepts to frame my argument. As it is, I think my current research is too far gone to benefit substantially from this. But perhaps there are dimensions to this that I’m not considering; I’m willing to be proven wrong on this.

For my DDH project, which is my course on DH, I would like to create an assignment using NGram and/or Bookworm, so that students would be able to see the rise and fall of words/phrases over time. I’m not quite sure what the assignment will specifically consist of at this point, but I will work on it. I think Voyant is a bit tricky, and the topic modeling even moreso, for an introductory undergrad course in DH.

I think the middle portion of my course will be “playing with digital tools.” I am hoping the students will all have laptops so that we can do these sessions in class like we have done in this seminar. If not, I will have to try to get the library classroom or one of the labs (which are in short supply, especially for humanities–one of the many problems at my campus and, I am sure, other campuses).

Source: Uses of distant reading?

Spatial History & Mapping

This was an incredibly busy day–my head is still spinning! I am looking at my notes and see Lincoln’s warning: “Data mapping is hard.” He was NOT kidding! I had a rather hard time wrapping my mind around how to do this, and had some problems with the data set and the Google Fusion tables, although it worked eventually.  I don’t have the kind of research data for which this kind of mapping would be useful, but I could see uses for it with census data for a community project.

I liked StoryMap once I got it working and would like to play with it a bit more. I started a story about where I have lived, but only got one slide made. There was a Chautauqua County woman who served in the Civil War and I am thinking this could be a good little tool to tell her story–I will have to talk to our county historian about this. This seems also to be a good tool for students.

I had fun with the geo-rectifying tool, but I suspect it was a fairly easy assignment since my section of Boston still had mostly the same streets and landmarks. I think it would be more difficult for a city that had grown substantially between the 1930s and today  (Phoenix, for instance). The rectified maps reminded me of the way HistoryPin displays; I guess it is in some ways the same basic technique except you are pinning buildings and monuments to maps.

I got Geolocations uploaded to Omeka. I’m on a DH renga at Fredonia and we are thinking long term about a county history/landscape project. I was thinking that this might be a useful tool to start to play with and conceptualize such a project.

I’m looking forward to text mining, which seems (possibly) more relevant to my own research on gift giving.

Source: Spatial History & Mapping

Using non-textual sources

Well, I would write about using material culture sources here, but since this is digital history and we did soundscapes and music today, I know we are supposed to talk about that. As it happens, I do use a lot of music for teaching, particularly in my 20th Century U.S. Culture course. For this course each class features a “song of the day” from the relevant era.  When I first began to do this more than ten years ago, I chose all the songs and played them, providing brief background and contextual information. Later I began to ask the students to each select a day and song and present the song. With the advent of YouTube, this has become much easier for all of us, of course. I provide a master list of song choices, but I also allow the students to choose a different song for the given period (with my approval). I ask them to present their song along with some history about the song, the composer and singer, and the historical context.

After learning about today, I am thinking that when I teach this course next spring, I will ask the students to trace their song at this site as well, so that they can see who else has recorded it, and how it has changed over time. I also liked the discussion of transgression in popular song, and am thinking I could  set this assignment up more fully than I have in the past. One way might be to look at what popular songs do, and how they express and transgress social and cultural norms. I loved the Postmodern Jukebox and think that I could use the site to showcase some of the things that songs can do. In short, I think I can make this assignment more effective by tweaking it, using the insights and tools from Mike O’Malley’s presentation.

Source: Using non-textual sources

thinking about my course

One of the points in the early readings that has stayed with me is the need to have students reflect about how doing history digitally differs from more traditional methods, and how it can change the way we do history. So I’m thinking that my course, which is for undergraduates will have a 3-part structure (with the first part most fleshed out right now):

1. Introductory: What is DH? How does it change history/humanities? This will include readings about DH; intro to various types of projects; explorations & discussions of DH projects; and much discussion/reflection on how these change history/humanities.

2. Learning and playing with some easy DH tools.

3. Working on a class DH project.

Digital History Project

So, my project is not as groovy as a lot of the ones I heard about today. It is specifically teaching-oriented. I want to create a home site for my Digital History/Humanities course, with readings, schedule, etc. It’s not glamorous, but it does have a degree of urgency, since I am introducing this course starting August 26. I have seen other course set-ups using Wikidot and I am drawn to the relative simplicity and elegance of the WordPress format. I used the .com version for a course blog last semester, but did not explore all the capabilities. I have been impressed by the site for this institute, and would like to “borrow” from it for a model for my course site. I hate to be derivative, but I figure that at least it’s a starting point.

I have envisioned this course as an introduction to DH (both for the larger humanities and for history specifically) for undergraduates,  with some readings on definitions, concepts, and methods; exploration of DH sites; teaching some very basic tools. I have been thinking about using HistoryPin to begin a project to create a historical walking tour of the towns of Dunkirk & Fredonia. I want to have a community engagement element in the course and I already have relationships with the local history professionals through internships and class projects. This project (or the HistoryPin element)  is subject to change, depending on what catches my eye in this institute.

I liked the discussion today about “threshold concepts” that transform our thinking. One thing I’d like to do with this course is to blow up my students’ notions of digital tech, to move them beyond the social aspects into the new possibilities created when we “mash-up” history and technology. I was struck also by a point made in the discussion in the JAH forum about teaching graduate students DH: You have to be careful that your course is not just about “playing with technology.” You must also get them to think about how DH changes history. I know that I’ll be doing a lot of reflecting on just that  during this two weeks. And I want to be sure that I incorporate this into my course; I’m thinking that one assignment will be to have them explore a DH site/project and consider how it challenges their understanding of history and how it differs from the ways that they have traditionally encountered and understood history.

Source: Digital History Project