The History Engine: Doing History with Digital Tools

by Robert K. Nelson, Scott Nesbit, and Andrew Torget

(Originally Posted September 9th, 2009)

The History Engine as a Teaching Exercise

In a recent article about the contours of history department curricula across the country, Steven D. Andrews notes that

Many students do not “do history” until deep into their college careers, sometimes in the last semester of their senior year. It is only then, in some kind of seminar class, that students experience the process so familiar to historians: identifying their own questions, selecting their own sources, pursuing those sources and constructing arguments, documenting the research process, producing multiple drafts and rewrites, and finally presenting the work in a formal document. For some students, the first comprehensive use of the skills of a historian may be the final act of their education.

This delay in introducing to students the practices of historical inquiry is at odds with what many, perhaps most, historians would prefer, a lamentable if understandable product of the distinct goals of lower- and upper-division courses. The former tend to emphasize, as Andrews suggests, “accumulation of information” about historical context, the latter the acquisition of the “thinking skills” of historical research, reasoning, and argumentation. It is often logistically challenging, sometimes impossible, to ask students to “do history” in lower-division classes simply because there is a lot of information for them to accumulate. Covering, say, roughly two centuries of American history in a survey course affords little time to ask students to engage in original research and formulate their own questions. The length of the “formal document” that Andrews mentions–perhaps a fifteen-page term paper or an even longer seminar paper that’s modeled on the articles that historians themselves produce–doesn’t help. It is, more often than not, simply impractical to ask students in lower-division history courses to engage in that kind of time-intensive, ambitious research and writing exercise (to say nothing of the daunting prospect of grading many longer student research papers in larger sections).1

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From Knowledgable to Knowledge-able: Learning in New Media Environments

by Michael Wesch , Kansas State University

(Originally Posted January 7, 2009)

Knowledge-able
Most university classrooms have gone through a massive transformation in the past ten years. I’m not talking about the numerous initiatives for multiple plasma screens, moveable chairs, round tables, or digital whiteboards. The change is visually more subtle, yet potentially much more transformative. As I recently wrote in a Britannica Online Forum:

There is something in the air, and it is nothing less than the digital artifacts of over one billion people and computers networked together collectively producing over 2,000 gigabytes of new information per second. While most of our classrooms were built under the assumption that information is scarce and hard to find, nearly the entire body of human knowledge now flows through and around these rooms in one form or another, ready to be accessed by laptops, cellphones, and iPods. Classrooms built to re-enforce the top-down authoritative knowledge of the teacher are now enveloped by a cloud of ubiquitous digital information where knowledge is made, not found, and authority is continuously negotiated through discussion and participation.1

This new media environment can be enormously disruptive to our current teaching methods and philosophies. As we increasingly move toward an environment of instant and infinite information, it becomes less important for students to know, memorize, or recall information, and more important for them to be able to find, sort, analyze, share, discuss, critique, and create information. They need to move from being simply knowledgeable to being knowledge-able.

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The ERIAL Project: Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries

by Andrew Asher, Lynda Duke and David Green (Originally Posted May 17th, 2010) 

About the Authors

  • Andrew Asher is the Lead Research Anthropologist for the ERIAL project. Asher holds a PhD in sociocultural anthropology from the University of Illinois and has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Poland, Germany, and the United States.
  • Lynda Duke is Associate Professor, Academic Outreach Librarian in The Ames Library, Illinois Wesleyan University. Duke is the Lead Research Librarian for the ERIAL Project IWU Team.
  • Dave Green is Associate University Librarian for Collections and Information Services in the Ronald Williams Library at Northeastern Illinois University. Green is the Project Manager for the ERIAL Project.  

Introduction Librarians and teaching faculty often think they know how students conduct their research and many have specific ideas on how students ought to conduct their research. However, with the increased ability to access information online and the corresponding changes in libraries, the question of what actually happens between the time a student receives a class assignment and when he or she turns in the final product to a professor is especially compelling, and one that is not as straightforward as it first appears.

Two years ago, five Illinois institutions (Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU), DePaul University, Illinois Wesleyan University (IWU), University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), and University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS)), began working together to investigate this issue. The Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries (ERIAL) Project was organized around the following research question:

What do students actually do when they are assigned a research project for a class assignment and what are the expectations of students, faculty and librarians of each other with regard to these assignments?

The primary goal of this study is to trigger reforms in library services to better meet students’ needs. Traditionally, academic libraries have designed library services and facilities based on information gleaned from user surveys, usage data, focus groups, and librarians’ informal observations. While such tools are valuable, this project employed more user-centered methods to form holistic portraits of student behavior and needs, directly resulting in changes to library services and resources. Read more

Technology as Epistemology

by Peter Schilling, Amherst College

(Originally Posted December 12th, 2005) 

Early in the 20th century Gertrude Stein wrote that America was the oldest country because it was the first to arrive at the new Century. Today’s students have formed their habits of mind by interacting with information that is digital and networked. They are, in a way, older than their teachers, whose relationships with information are governed by earlier generations of technology. There is more. Not only do our students possess skills and experiences that previous generations do not, but the very neurological structures and pathways they have developed as part of their learning are based on the technologies they use to create, store, and disseminate information. Importantly, these pathways and the categories, taxonomies, and other tools they use for thinking are different from those used by their teachers.

Schilling_Figure01_215(http://www.userfriendly.org indicates use in this manner is not an infringement of the creator’s intellectual property.)

To say that “new technology is changing the way we think” is as obvious as it is ambiguous. While it may be popular, and accurate, to complain that Microsoft Word’s grammar checker has a greater influence on American English than any teacher, curriculum, or book, I would like to consider the relationship between technology and thinking explicitly in the context of education, where the mission is to help students learn to think.

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A Catalyst For Change: Developing A Blended Training Model For The Liberal Arts Institution

AUTHORS

SchulzCarrie Schulz is the director of Instructional Design and Technology at Rollins College.

 

 

 

jvargasJessica Vargas is currently an instructional technologist at Rollins College.

 

 

 

annalohausAnna Lohaus is currently an instructional technologist at Rollins College.

 

 

 

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Beginning as an institutional experiment, Rollins College developed a professional development program to assist faculty in redesigning an existing course as a blended offering. This training program asked faculty to use the best delivery methodologies for objective-based learning in their blended course design. It is in this training that faculty learned how to divide their class time between online and face-to-face while incorporating technology to augment learning.

This case study explores the process developed at Rollins College for providing professional development to faculty who are interested in building blended courses. It also evaluates the implementation of said program. This case study specifically addresses the program’s successes and areas for improvement using the results from an institutional survey conducted during summer 2013 and multiple summative evaluations collected during various instances of blended learning training program.

Student data collected in spring 2013 tentatively indicated that the program resulted in increased levels of student engagement as well as the amount students felt they learned. Data collected from faculty observations also coincided with this result. Finally the authors address the current progression of this program and the future effects on the faculty, students, and the culture of the institution. Such analysis can provide other institutions with the resources necessary to begin developing an institutional model for blended learning while still identifying the common challenges and benefits involved in this particular adaptation.

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THE DIGITAL DATABASE: A MODEL OF STUDENT, STAFF, AND FACULTY COLLABORATION

AUTHORS


boylstonSusanna Boylston
Boylston is the collection development librarian at Davidson College and oversees digital and print collections, e-resource access, and license negotiations. She’s also worked as a reference librarian and taught numerous information literacy sessions. Her current areas of interest include the development and use of digital collections to support student learning, patron-driven and curriculum-driven collections, digital humanities, and the history of book and periodical publishing.

ChurchillSuzanne W. Churchill
Churchill is professor of English at Davidson College. She is the author of The Little Magazine Others & the Renovation of Modern American Poetry and co-editor, with Adam McKible, of Little Magazines & Modernism: New Approaches. She has published on modernist and Harlem Renaissance magazines, poetry, and pedagogy in various journals and collections. She is also founder and editor of the website Index of Modernist Magazines (http://sites.davidson.edu/littlemagazines/).

EshlemanKristen Eshleman
Eshleman is both practitioner and director of instructional technology at Davidson College. The anthropologist in her is drawn to the intersections between technology and culture. Her current interests in digital scholarship include digital storytelling, data visualization, and text encoding. Her constant interests involve keeping up with her info-lit librarian husband, recreational running, all things Carolina, and guiding her daughter to be a responsible digital native.

ABSTRACT


With their emphasis on small classes, student-faculty relationships, interdisciplinary study, and undergraduate research, liberal arts colleges seem like ideal environments for the digital humanities. Yet these institutions often lack the resources, infrastructure, and research emphasis needed to generate and sustain digital humanities projects. Recognizing these limitations, Bryan Alexander and Rebecca Frost Davis recommend that small, liberal arts colleges forge a “separate path” in digital humanities: “one based on emphasizing a distributed, socially engaged process over a focus on publicly shared products.” At Davidson College, however, we have forged a path that actually combines a collaborative learning process with a publicly shared digital product. Collaboration is the key to our success.

Since 1999, several generations of Davidson College students have built an online, open-access bibliographic database, an Index of Modernist Magazines, as part of a collaborative research seminar. The Index serves as model for how faculty, librarians, and instructional technologists can collaborate to create, support, and sustain undergraduate digital research projects that promote undergraduate learning while furthering scholarship in new areas of study. It also attests to the value and importance of bibliographic research in an era of proliferating digital information and archives. This case study discusses the pedagogical practices that make the Index of Modernist Magazines a model of sustainability (the project is ongoing and ever-expanding), scope (it is manageable for students while also requiring significant research), and impact (it allows students to contribute to a vibrant, expanding field of scholarly inquiry).

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Digital Projects and the First Year Seminar: Making Blended Learning Work at a Small Liberal Arts College.

Authors

Pete Coco is the digital learning strategist at Wheaton College in Norton, MA, where his work focuses on faculty development with a technological bent. He holds an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and an M.S.L.I.S. from the University of Illinois.

Leah Niederstadt is assistant professor of museum studies/art history and curator of the Permanent Collection at Wheaton College in Norton, MA. An anthropologist by training, she holds postgraduate degrees from the University of Michigan and University of Oxford. Her research focuses on expressive culture in Ethiopia and on the management and use of academic collections.

Coco_Niederstadt

Photo credit: Jack Brotherton, Wheaton College Class of 2017.

Executive summary

To blend her first-year seminar at Wheaton College, Assistant Professor Leah Niederstadt collaborated closely with Digital Learning Strategist Pete Coco and other technology and library staff to deliver a course focused on digital projects. As the seminar explored the concept of cultural property, students spent considerable time on two digital projects tracing provenance, the chain of custody for cultural objects, and repatriation, the process by which misbegotten cultural objects are returned to their rightful owners. By altering the goal of blended learning away from reduced seat time and toward enhanced seat-time, Niederstadt and her students were able to succeed in creating two ambitious digital projects without losing class time for other important uses. These included student-focused discussions, training relevant to the course’s core digital projects, field trips, and workshops led by a variety of staff, all covering content germane to the course topic and to the process of adjusting first-year students to college.

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Discipline-Specific Learning and Collaboration in the Wheaton College Digital History Project

Authors

KTomasekKathryn Tomasek, Associate Professor of History, Wheaton College (Massachusetts).

 

 

 

hamlinScott P. Hamlin, Director of Research and Instruction, Library and Information Services, Wheaton College (Massachusetts).

 

 

 

StickneyZephorene L. Stickney, College Archivist & Curator of Special Collections, Wheaton College (Massachusetts).

 

 

 

WheatonBookMegan Wheaton-Book, Assistant Archivist and Records Manager, Wheaton College (Massachusetts).

Executive summary (Abstract)

A long-term project that has combined undergraduate students’ transcription and markup of local archival sources with goals for online publication of those sources, the Wheaton College Digital History Project employs high-impact educational practices to teach students basic skills of historical research. The process-oriented goals of teaching and learning have been to some degree at odds with the product-oriented goals of archival-quality publication, but the project has been largely successful in achieving its educational goals.  Cross-institutional collaborations have been essential to the ability of Library and Information Services to develop a publication tool and markup recommendations to facilitate the goals of the project.

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Can Humanities Undergrads Learn to Code?

A recent NITLE Digital Scholarship Seminar, “Teaching DH 101: Introduction to the Digital Humanities” prompts a response from two undergraduates at the University of Pittsburgh.

We were surprised to hear during the December 16, 2011 NITLE web seminar on undergraduate digital humanities (DH) instruction a recurring motif along the lines that coding (markup and programming) is so difficult that undergraduates trained in the humanities cannot learn it quickly or successfully, and so potentially alienating and anxiety-provoking that it should be regarded as too advanced to be considered a core component of the undergraduate DH curriculum. As two undergraduate humanities majors (English Literature and Linguistics) with no prior technical background, we would like to share our own experiences with learning and using computational tools. We hope that our very positive experience will encourage faculty elsewhere to give their undergraduate students the opportunity to become deeply and seriously involved with this exciting and rewarding aspect of DH scholarship.

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The Globally Connected Language Classroom: A Case Study of an International Project in Two Intermediate Level German Courses between Denison University and the American University in Bulgaria

Global Project Partners and Authors:

dillmann_gabrieleGabriele Dillmann, Julian H. Robertson Jr. Endowed Associate Professor of German, Modern Languages Department, Denison University, Granville, OH, 43023, USA (Dillmann@denison.edu and dillmanngabriele@gmail.com)

Gabriele Dillmann teaches German language, German, Swiss and Austrian literature and culture, and special seminars on psychoanalytic theory in the Modern Languages Department at Denison University. In her teaching, she makes use of the newest technologies to enhance not only student learning in regards to all things German, but also to help her students learn skills in intercultural competencies and global learning. She is dedicated to CLAC pedagogy and team-teaching as a pedagogical approach. Her scholarly interests are increasingly vested in how digital technologies shape how we learn and teach now and in the near future. Her more traditional scholarship is in the area of German Romanticism and psychoanalytic theory, specifically suicide studies. Last year, she was awarded the Robertson Endowed Chair at Denison for her work in teaching, service, and scholarship.

StantchevaDiana Stantcheva, Associate Professor of German, Department of Arts, Languages, and Literature, American University in Bulgaria, 1 Georgi Izmirliev Sq., Blagoevgrad 2700, Bulgaria. (dstantcheva@aubg.bg and diana.stantch@gmx.de)

Diana Stantcheva earned her M.A. in German linguistics, Spanish studies, and New German literature at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, and received her Ph.D. in German linguistics from the same university. Dr. Stantcheva also has an additional teacher qualification for German as a Foreign Language from Humboldt University in Berlin and is a certified and sworn translator and interpreter of German and Bulgarian. Dr. Stantcheva has taught at Humboldt University in Berlin, at Goethe-Institute Sofia, and was a research fellow at Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, Germany. Since fall semester 2005, she has been teaching at the American University in Bulgaria. She teaches all levels of German, from beginners to advanced, as well as specialized language courses. Dr. Stantcheva has published two books and several scholarly articles and chapters in the areas of phraseology, lexicography, corpus linguistics, and linguistic historiography. Her current researchinterests are in foreign language didactics, phraseology, lexicography, corpus linguistics, language and gender, translation studies,terminology, and linguistic historiography.

Abstract

The language classroom is a most fruitful place for intercultural, global learning. Digital technologies allow us to make intercultural connections like never before and in the process language-learning benefits from real communication about real issues. Connecting two language courses globally requires overcoming many obstacles and challenges (time difference, collaboration, technology, funding, resources, etc.) but a strong belief that the benefits outweigh the costs serves as a constant source for pushing on.

The goal of our project (started in Fall semester 2013) was – and continues to be – to enrich our connected courses with an intercultural perspective through the direct exchange between students and faculty members as we discuss shared small group assignments via Google+ Hangout and Google doc shared writing assignments (of course, “traditional” technologies such as email and skype compliment the exchanges) all the while expanding and enhancing student’s language skills in German.

Our paper provides a research summary, describes in detail how we pursued the described goals with a special focus on the digital technologies we used and their pedagogical value, and gives a candid assessment of what worked well and what needs further exploration. We also briefly discuss the next step of the project, namely aligning the courses synchronously via video-conferencing technologies in addition to the Google+ Hangouts.

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