Lecture: Teaching and Learning with New Media

I’ve not posted on this blog in a while (see ProfHacker.com and http://mcclurken.org/ for other goings on).

However, I was honored to be asked to give one of the inaugural lectures in the Teaching Excellence series begun this year by UMW’s Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning.

What follows is the video and a list of the links mentioned in the talk.

Thanks to all for the opportunity and the questions. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.

Overview

  • What is New Media?
  • My Goals in using New Media tools
  • Examples of Classroom Use
  • Assessing the Impact
  • What Can You Do?
  • What is New Media? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_media

    UMWBlogs

  • Blogging – Teresa Coffman (EDUC) and Steve Greenlaw (ECON)
  • Blog as course management toolSue Fernsebner’s Freshman Seminar: Toys as History
  • As site for collecting hard-to-find research sources for students –Steve Harris’s Hist 485: Researching Russian and Soviet Resources
  • UMWers & New Media

    Low Levels of Technology Use

  • Wiki for discussions in all my courses
  • Blogs as Individual/Group Reflections
  • Blogs as Research Logs (Historical Methods/Digital History)
  • More Intensive Uses of New Media Tools

  • Examples of Individual digital projects — US History in Film
  • Class Museum of history of technology projects (http://historyoftech.umwblogs.org/)
  • See also Krystyn Moon’s 19th-Century Museum – http://amst312.umwblogs.org/
  • Adventures in Digital history course
    Digital Toolkit
    • 2008 Class & Projects http://digitalhistory.umwblogs.org
    • – Historical Markers Project (HMP) — [6]
    • – James Farmer Project (JFP) — [7]
    • – James Monroe Papers Project (JMPP) — [8] and [9]
    • – Alumni Project (AP) — [10]

    Adventures in Digital History 2010 — http://dh2010.umwblogs.org

    • UMW Images Project
    • Life and Legacy of Mary Ball Washington
    • James Monroe’s Letters as Minister to France
    • City of Hospitals: Fredericksburg in the Civil War

    Student Impact Survey — From November 2009Contact me directly for details

    Archiving Social Media Conversations of Significant Events

    This is a rough proposal for another session at 2009 THATCamp that grew out of conversations with a number of people in my network about the role of social media in the recent events in Iran.

    I propose that we have a session where THATCampers discuss the issues related to preserving (and/or analyzing) the blogs, tweets, images, Facebook postings, SMS(?) of the events in Iran with an eye toward a process for how future such events might be archived and analyzed as well. How will future historians/political scientists/geographers/humanists write the history of these events without some kind of system of preservation of these digital materials? What should be kept? How realistic is it to collect and preserve such items from so many different sources? Who should preserve these digital artifacts (Twitter/Google/Flickr/Facebook; LOC; Internet Archive; professional disciplinary organizations like the AHA)?

    On the analysis side, how might we depict the events (or at least the social media response to them) through a variety of timelines/charts/graphs/word-clouds/maps? What value might we get from following/charting the spread of particular pieces of information? Of false information? How might we determine reliable/unreliable sources in the massive scope of contributions?

    [I know there are many potential issues here, including language differences, privacy of individual communications, protection of individual identities, various technical limitations, and many others.]

    Maybe I’m overestimating (or underthinking) here, but I’d hope that a particularly productive session might even come up with the foundations of: a plan, a grant proposal, a set of archival standards, a wish-list of tools, even an appeal to larger companies/organizations/governmental bodies to preserve the materials for this particular set of events and a process for archiving future ones.

    What do people think? Is this idea worth pursuing?

    Day One of Faculty Academy–Got Inspiration?

    As always, I’m inspired by UMW’s annual Faculty Academy, in its 14th year. I’ve been presenting here every year since I started full time at Mary Washington in 2001, yet I always seem to get more out of the sessions than I ever give in the presentations.

    Others have done recaps, but I’ll do a brief overview of my takeaways from today.

    The day began with brief introductions and a welcome recognition of the talents of our DTLT staff by acting provost Nina Mikhalevsky.

    We quickly moved into the first set of concurrent sessions. I attended Digital Resources and Global Studies: Working Projects, with Susan Fernsebner, Joseph Calpin, Alexandra deGraffenreid, Steven Harris. These faculty and students from my departent of History and American Studies showed how much has changed since I was the only history faculty member to attend Faculty Academy just four or five years. Sue and Steve talked about their projects to collect digital resources (or offline sources catalogued in digital form) related to their particular areas of interest, specifically the history of China and Russia/Soviet Union. Especially intriguing to me was the role that the two students played in shaping the structure of the resource sites, the categories that were used, and the general involvement in the creation of what we might describe as the information architecture of the sites and the resources. Excellent work all!

    The keynote address by James Boyle of Duke Law School, “Cultural Agoraphobia: What Universities Need to Know About Our Bias Against Openness” was a delightful romp through the history of computer technology and the internet (making me think that there is a class to be taught in the “history of the ‘future'”) as well as an argument that our default position should not be closed/proprietary/walled, but open/shared/commons. His point that academia, a group invested in the sharing of information, has been the most closed, most inaccessible group in sharing that information hit home with me. Much to think on there.

    Lunch was enlivened by a mock debate on “Is the CMS Dead?” that went nothing like any of us had expected. Jim Groom of EDUPUNK fame attacked CMSs in his usual passionate way as restrictive of innovation and old. John St. Clair both brought down the house with his laugh-inducing descriptions of Jim and other individuals, and made the argument that there are various teaching styles, some which lend themselves well to Blackboard, and some which don’t, but that we should respect both.

    PSU’s Cole Camplese presented a new version of a talk I heard him give at the Chronicle’s technology forum a few weeks ago, now entitled, “If this is scholarship, then we’re all doomed” (an allusion to a quote from a Chronicle forum audience member who was resisting Cole’s multi-modal argument about social networking (YouTube and/or Twitter) as both creation and conversation).

    Finally I sat on a panel about grappling with one’s own digital identity via purchasing individual domain names and (potentially) mapping onto current UMW resources. I think it was a fascinating conversation with the audience and between the panelists. Very cool.

    After a leisurly evening disecting Jim’s next move, most of us retired for the evening. Tomorrow is another day.

    AAHC–Teaching with Digital Tools

    I’m pleased to be part of a roundtable on “Teaching with Digital Tools” at the American Association of History and Computing conference at George Mason on April 4.

    The panel (with the classy Clioweb (Jeremy Boggs) and UCLA’s Joshua Sternfeld), we’ve decided to avoid formal presentations and to organize our discussions around six key questions about the subject. We’ll each give our answers and look to the audience for comments and further questions.

    • What are your goals in terms of using digital tools in teaching?
    • What evaluation standards do you employ in evaluating your students’ digital work?
    • How do you balance teaching historical content and teaching tech skills?
    • How have you integrated historiography into your teaching methods?
    • Tell us a particular assignment involving digital tools that was very successful (or very unsuccessful). What was it, and why do you think it was successful/unsuccessful?
    • What do you see as the future of teaching and technology?

    I know we’re missing some things here, but these seem like a good start. What would you ask?

    Past and Upcoming Presentations

    I’ve been fortunate enough to do a number of presentations this academic year, on a variety of topics.

    • I had a great time presenting on teaching with WordPress blogs at WordCampEd DC last November (along with Jeremy Boggs, Automattic’s Jane Wells, and CNDLES‘s Rob Pongsajapan). The morning finished with Jim Groom’s call to arms (blogging/EDUPUNK–actually those don’t do it justice–it was an inspired call to innovation). I just needed to warm up the crowd, and I think I did my job well. [Seriously, I got lots of good questions about methods used, strategies to get students to actually blog, and problems with “controlling” what students say in these blogs. It was a warm, welcoming crowd and I was humbled to be in conversations with the participants and my fellow presenters. Thanks especially to CHNM’s Dave Lester for setting the whole event up.]
    • Then in January, Jeremy Boggs and I presented as part of a large panel of scholar teachers at the American Historical Association national meeting in New York. Our topic was Teaching History in the Digital Age. [My links for the presentation are here and the session was nicely reviewed by history-ing.] Although the conference organizers had placed us in a tiny room (~30 seats), we filled the room and had people sitting on sideboards, the floor, and standing in the hallway. Hmmm, perhaps historians do want to know more about this digital thing. In any case, my presenters were fun, their presentations fascinating, the audience was engaged, and we had a terrific Q&A afterwards. About all you could hope for in an AHA presentation….


    I’m also hoping to present on 1) digital history and 2) strategic planning for digital resources and technologies at the AAHC in April and THATCamp II in June, though I’m still waiting to hear about the proposals for those conferences.

    Also in April I’ll be presenting at HASTAC III at the University of Illinois on “‘Uncomfortable, but Not Paralyzed’: Challenging Traditional Classroom Boundaries with Undergraduates and Digital History.” Having never done a lightening talk (and being famous for running over) I’d appreciate any strategies readers of this blog have for doing lightening talks (~5-7 minutes).

    And in late May, I’ll be presenting to Mary Washington alums on Digital History projects as part of Alumni College associated with UMW’s Reunion events.

    It’s a busy fall and spring, but I’ve been having a great time doing these presentations.

    Digital History and Undergraduate Digital Literacy

    As so many of my posts, this began as a comment on someone else’s blog that grew unwieldy as a comment…. In this case, I was joining a discussion about teaching undergraduates digital history begun by the wise Mills Kelly at edwired and continued in the comments by Sterling Fluharty of PhD in History and others. Mills expresses concern about the lack of attention to the question of undergraduate teaching in a recently published panel discussion in the Journal of American History about “The Promise of Digital History” . [As Mills points out, it’s quite a useful panel other than this glaring omission of teaching undergraduates.]

    So, my comment (and now this post) is an attempt to explain from my perspective why digital history is important to teach to undergraduates.

    My goal in teaching undergraduates digital history is to offer students new ways of approaching their own research and thinking and writing. Our department has agreed that “digital literacy” is core to our expectations for our undergraduates (along with critical thinking and reading, the creation of original ideas, the deployment of evidence to support one’s arguments, and the ability to present those arguments in sophisticated written and oral forms).

    Now, I know the notion of “digital literacy” has been overused and has multiple definitions, but I actually like the phrase for people’s familiarity with it and for that very richness of meanings. So, I’ve viewed the goals of my undergraduate digital history course through some of those definitions.

    • One goal of my digital history course is to teach the most conventional form of digital literacy: How does one find and evaluate online materials for scholarly (and non-scholarly) uses? How does one begin to sift through the massive content that is available in an systematic and/or creative way? What are the pitfalls and perils, the promises and potentialities of the online information experience?
    • Another facet of digital literacy is the notion of digital identity: This is a class that, through individual and group online presence (often blogs and wikis, but many other tools are available as well), explicitly engages students in discussions of their digital identity. How should we present ourselves to the online world (personally, professionally, and intellectually, but also individually and in groups)? [In future iterations it might even encourage them to create their own centralized online presence that wouldn’t necessarily be housed by the university (or restricted by a single course). We’ve been engaged recently at UMW in a number of discussions related to this notion of enabling students to take control of their digital identity. See Jim’s post and comments for one take.]
    • Increasingly I have become convinced that a key, but often overlooked, aspect of digital literacy is a willingness to experiment with a variety of online tools, and then to think critically and strategically about a project and to identify those tools that would be most useful to that project. [Note that I’m NOT talking about training in a specific tool or even a set of tools. This is not an MS Word or Blackboard skills class. This digital history class offers students a “digital toolkit” from which to choose. There certainly needs to be some basic exposure and technical support, but part of the goal is to get students to figure out how to figure out how a new tool (system, software, historical process) works on their own.]
    • Broadening the previous point, one of my desires for students is for them to be comfortable with being uncomfortable as they try new things. Figuring how to deal with constantly changing technology is something we all are dealing with, yet in higher education we often put students in new situations only when they first begin. Before long, they’ve got the process and procedures down and can churn out 8-10 page papers in their sleep. Yet what kind of preparation is that for the larger world? I know, I know. There are much larger philosophical and practical and even political issues at work here. But my point is simply that it’s good for college classes to shake students (and faculty) out of their comfort zone. Real learning happens when you’re trying to figure out the controls, not when you’re on autopilot.
    • Finally, I think digital literacy for undergraduates in history should encompass at least some exposure to the complex new approaches to research in the discipline offered by recent advancements in computing, including text-mining or GIS (if only because that those methods are influencing a new generation of scholarship that students will need to understand to assess). As they become more accessible and widely used, there will be more opportunities for students to also engage in the application of these tools in their own work.

    Now, one of the issues raised by Sterling on Mills’s blog post was whether the goal of an undergraduate history class was to train students for particular jobs. My response to that is both practical and pedagogical. No, I don’t see this course as preparing them for particular jobs. However, I do see the class as preparing students to be adaptable citizens and workers, with a sound grounding in who they are (on- and off-line) and a willingness to try new things, to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Having said that, I’ve had several alums of my first digital history class get jobs that were direct results of the skills (and portfolio of projects) gained in the class. In some cases it was because of a specific tool that they’d worked with; in others it was because of the package they were able to present to their potential employers. Certainly those students felt like the class had been worth it for them.

    Finally, although I’ve been talking specifically about one class, aspects of these ideas have made their way into most of my classes, as well as those of several of my departmental colleagues, including that of our methods class for majors. Still, I suspect there will be a need for (at least) one class in my department that is explicitly focused on Digital History for a long time to come.

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    A Semester of Digital History — Formal Presentations

    The formal presentation of my seminar’s Digital History projects will be part of the History Department’s end-of-the-semester symposium. All four groups will present on Friday, April 25, at 3 PM in Monroe Hall 202.

    Those of you in the area, please come see them present. We don’t just want to present these projects to the class, but to the department, the university, and the alumni community.

    [Over the weekend, I showed the projects to the Alumni Association Board of Directors and they were well received.]

    Quick update on Digital History

    The semester and several of my larger responsibilities are coming to a head at the same time, but I wanted to pass on a quick update on the Digital History Seminar. My sense with 4 weeks left in the semester is that although some of the project groups are beginning to reach a stopping place, that most of the groups are beginning to comprehend how much they still have left to do. This realization is causing some tensions in the groups, especially as some people look around and think that they are further along in their work than other members of their group. There is also the issue for some groups of trying to coordinate the various efforts and approaches of 4-5 different people. And I suspect there are some groups still trying to hammer out their vision for their project.

    All of this is okay, all of this is expected, and only part of it has to do with the technological aspects of the class. I think these groups, though some may have some stressful moments ahead, will build on the significant work already accomplished to finish some impressive projects.

    Brief Update — End of Week 5

    I’ve been kept from blogging here lately by managing various class details and two searches, among other things. Still, I wanted to post a brief update of what’s going on in the Digital History Seminar.

    All four groups have submitted proposals (“contracts”) with their plans for the projects and how they will complete the project. [They did this via GoogleDocs that each group had used to write the contract.] These contracts included a description of the project, an annotated list of the digital tools they were planning on using, and a timetable for the completion of the major components of the project.

    My observations, in brief, after reading these contracts:

    1. In most cases, the proposed projects are more ambitious than those I would have assigned had I been very precise about what I wanted. [I was intentionally broad in my initial descriptions of the projects.] Although one or two of the groups may have to ultimately scale back their goals a little bit, thinking creatively and ambitiously about these projects is exactly what I hoped for these students. They have done that.
    2. The tools they’ve chosen to use are mostly those that DTLT and I presented to them as part of their digital toolkit. [Omeka, GoogleDocs, SIMILE/Timeline, WordPress (via UMW Blogs WPMU), WindowsMovieMaker, scanning, etc. There are a few exceptions that were outside that list (e.g., Adobe Contribute for a site that’ll be part of the school’s official site), but that’s okay. The groups at least had a chance to think about which tools made the most sense, given what they wanted to do.
    3. The schedules were often very ambitious, and that was the most common comment I made to the groups. Still, in almost every case the group members wanted to forge ahead with their ambitious set of deadlines, hoping that it would keep them on track throughout the semester.

    Each group received my comments and has until tonight to revise their contract for my approval. [They can still make changes, but they’ll need to have a good reason to do so after this point.] Next week we’ll continue our weekly discussions of a topic related to digital history (this week’s topics are Copyright and Wikipedia) and we’ll see the first groups present status reports to the class as a whole. Not only will these weekly reports force students to articulate where they are and what they’ve been doing, they will also provide a forum for students to share their problems and successes with their classmates.

    Honestly, I can’t wait to see the products these groups produce. If anything, I’m more excited now that I’ve seen their proposed contracts. I was talking to a group of alums this weekend about the project and many of them expressed the wish that they were back in school again. [This kind of project is infectious. Be warned!]

    The one thing that I’m slightly let down by has been the relatively light blogging of the process by many of the students. [Some have been quite good.] But, since that blogging is a major part of the way I can assess their work (and ultimately leads to part of their grades), I’m a little surprised. Still, that is a minor issue (and one that I’m working on) that I think does little to detract from projects that have the potential of being some of the best student work I’ve ever been a part of. [I don’t think I’m being overly hyperbolic here, but I’m not exactly unbiased either. Besides, I said this would be a brief post, and look at it now…. :-]

    Week 2 — Still Chaotic

    This week the digital history seminar addressed information architecture and web site design, the open-source presentation software Omeka, and looked at other examples of digital history projects. [With the help of DTLT’s programming, semantic web touting, open-source and server guru, Patrick, of course.] Finally they split into their groups to continue brainstorming about their projects.

    I suspect the notion of information architecture is still a bit overwhelming as they are just beginning to narrow down the possible choices for their projects. Figuring out how to lay out their data in a structured way is difficult to comprehend if what that data might be is still not clear. I think they really liked Omeka, though they’ve been running into some problems figuring out how to use it. [I’ve mostly told them to just play with it on their own in the test install Patrick set up, something they’ve had mixed success with.]

    For two groups (the James Farmer project and the James Monroe Papers project) the process of deciding on the scope, nature, and form of their project is both enriched and complicated as they are working directly with interested faculty members who have expertise in their area. These two faculty members came to meet with those groups on Thursday and began the process of working with them. Getting to know each other, getting a sense for what each can bring to the process, and getting a feel for various expectations were all part of the process of that meeting.

    I’m still very excited about the class and I continue to enjoy going in each day. I’m a little concerned that content is still secondary in the students’ minds as they struggle with the various tools and skills they’re being shown. I’m going to need to continue to remind them (and me) that the digital tools and skills are just different ways of presenting what they want to say.