Friday, May 8, 2015

Self Evaluation

I am right in that in-between moment where the formal class meetings are over and my opportunity to assess the final projects has not quite come yet. I thought I would take a couple of minutes and review how the course went this second time through. The syllabus, should you want to check it out, is available here.

The "tools" presentations are far and away the most useful part of the course. They allow students to investigate an array of useful (and less useful) Big and Small digital tools that they can incorporate into their work right away. Collectively, they also teach the lesson that solutions are out there--or can be developed. I will keep this practice during the next iteration of the class.

I was very glad to have changed the final project into a collectively-prepared grant application rather than individual assignments. The class presentations on Tuesday night were terrific and really showcased how much the students have synthesized over the semester. This feature stays.

I was also pleased with how useful the readings were. I felt much better informed about the selections this second time through. I think that the order should be rejiggered next time through, however. The Big Data and Relational Databases weeks should definitely be flipped. Digital Archives and Full-Text Databases belong later, Twitter and Storify earlier. Related, I was disappointed that none of the students took to tweeting about the class. Almost all the Tweets with #HIS717S15 are my own.

One small change I have not yet been able to think through: when I assign students to make a change to Wikipedia, do I really need to run it by the Wikipedians first and set up a class page and sandbox? My theory is that I don't, for a couple of reasons. Students in this class are all graduate students; the assignment is minimal (make a change and watch what happens), no more than anyone might do on their own; I figured out this year to require that the change be "truthful," which helps to prevent vandalism. One of the most interesting points that came out of our discussion about this Wikipedia assignment was the way it caused the students to really review the site, as they looked for topics that needed fixing.

Finally, the portion of the course that I again feel is least successful is the blog. Although creating a dedicated blog site was an improvement over having each student maintain his or her own blog, the process was still not integrated into the class as a whole. In my wild pedagogical imagination, the students will keep up with their blog posts and responses and bring those conversations into the classroom. Although the students were fairly dutiful about posting, it did not feed back into the classroom in the way that I wished. More fodder for next time. And I hope there will be a next time (although not in 2015-2016).

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Week 14: Conclusion

Last night was the last class for History 717, Spring 2015 version. In addition to two terrific presentations from the students about their semester DH projects, we discussed the course as a whole. Here are our class notes on What We Learned This Semester:

What did we learn about digital history this semester?

Evaluating DH projects in terms of metadata, funding, and front and backmatter of the websites.
Challenges DH faces in academia and public history
Perishability of DH
Emphasis on projects to market themselves: how do we build this into future curricula? What do you do about platforms being ephemeral?
problem of credit for tenure and promotion
How digital tools can expand your ability to work with historical documents, reconceive ways of working your topic--think outside the box
A lot of ways to be more organized and more efficient
Presentations on different tools
Learning a new tool doesn’t have to be scary
Blogging can be used professionally, not just LiveJournal
How conservative/luddite/resistant are we?
Potential for tools learned
Don’t have to be part of an institution to be part of a historical project (gold star)

What do you wish you had learned?
Closer connect DH with the does it become public history
How does a database work?