Tag Archives: DH Tools

DH Pedagogy Blog Post: Student Empowerment Through Experimentation

It was interesting to get a peek under the hood into crafting DH curriculum in this week’s readings. Ryan Cordell gave a very clear outline into his trial and error with his early Intro to DH course for undergraduate students. I appreciate his honesty in explaining how and why his department rejected his initial course proposal, and also in his almost confession that DH readings and theory don’t impress undergrad students. They’re unimpressed by the word “digital” because their entire lives are already lived online; although we learn in Risam’s ‘Postcolonial Digital Pedagogy’ that the term “digital native” used to describe students today is complicated. In fact, Risam introduces us to the idea that the fallacy of this is “the assumption that the increased consumption of digital media and technologies produces a deeper understanding of them.” No teacher can assume that all of their students are coming in with the exact same skillset at the start of a semester. Just as those students shouldn’t assume that they have more advanced tech skills than their teacher. Cordell reveals how much he learned from his students’ projects over the course of a semester, and suggests colleagues should follow his same pedagogical approach.

I found a few parallels between the Cordell and Risam pieces. One of these is the attitude they share that DH pedagogy shouldn’t teach specific tech skills to students, but to let students access the skills that they would need by working with an assortment of tools. Risam created the metaphor of the student as a carpenter, building their own knowledge structures from the ground up. Giving them a huge advantage to be able to identify gaps. I found it inspiring that students should be encouraged to create and explore, emphasizing the role of production over consumption. Cordell explains similar thoughts, and argues that that’s the best way to overhaul DH pedagogy.

I agree with the recommendation from both writers to have students experiment through access to many different tech skills. And I appreciated that we were given this same freedom in our Intro to DH course. Just like in the way we were encouraged to approach our praxis assignments for this course, it’s recommended that DH pedagogy should start small by having students working with a focused group of tools initially, experimenting across different modalities, gradually building their toolbox within their own universe. Both writers also agree that student-produced projects are more valuable at showing DH skills learned during the course rather than a final essay, allowing students to better showcase their engagement with the material through interaction. Risam describes how power dynamics in the classroom should shift in this way, rather than having students just learning for the sake of regurgitation at the end which I think is very empowering for the students.

One final theme mentioned in the readings that mirrors our course is teaching students to have a healthy attitude towards failure. When working on both our mapping and text praxis projects we talked about scope creep and how our expectations changed as we worked with the tools. We didn’t always succeed, and it’s OK that this happens. Risam brings this up by looking at the relationship between “blue sky thinking” versus “practicality of implementation”. Like most things in life, things rarely work out the way we intended them to. Teaching students to navigate roadblocks while pursuing the end goal is invaluable to their long term education and overall success. Being able to experiment and make our own way with these DH tools that are (mostly) new to us, is the best way to learn how, why, and when to stir things up and create our own digital spaces. I didn’t have the space here to delve into all of this week’s readings, but I found them insightful and I think educators across all fields can benefit from the recommendations from these pieces.

Hypothes.is and Distance Learning

I’ve always thought of annotations as another form of marginalia. Annotating a text with insightful comparisons and word definitions was, at least for me, part of the private and intimate reading feeling. Though sometimes I would share these observations and findings with others, for the most part, it was a practice done on my own; it was part of my learning process. However, I’m learning now that this process is something to be shared; done in conjunction with others. Especially during distance learning, these digital annotations can be a social activity that has the potential to create and maintain lively discussions.

On September 29th, I attended the ITP Skills Lab session on the use of Hypothes.is: Doing Collaborative Text Annotation Online with Hypothes.is with Julie Fuller. During the workshop, Fuller shared with everyone how this tool, if used effectively, could be used as part of every teacher’s pedagogical technique. Hypothes.is whose mission statement is “to enable a conversation over the world’s knowledge”, was founded by Dan Whaley, is a free, open-source, digital tool that allows you to annotate almost anything on the web. Through this mission, Hypothes.is has become a great way to not only read but also learn collaboratively in a virtual environment. I was surprised by the examples presented during the workshops of students communicating openly, critically, and organically, just through the process of annotating a piece of text for school.

Host Fuller and an experienced educator who uses Hypothes.is explained that this tool can be a low stake way for students to participate in class. Those who are particularly shy in the classroom can still voice their opinions by adding an insightful annotation or replying to others. However, they also emphasized the importance of not using this tool or other pieces of technology just for the sake of it. In order to be effective, educators must always keep the learning objectives in the forefront.

Educators wanting to model the usefulness of the tool and its easy to use interface may do so first by creating a group. The group will host all of the students’ annotations, and the search function will serve well when the educator wants to take note of everyone’s participation for grading purposes. The instructor might need to scaffold this technique by first explaining the purpose of annotations, setting clear expectations, and showing examples. The host method that a great method for getting started with Hypothes.is is for educators to pre-populate the text with questions and prompts like asking students “gloss” over new vocabulary. Through this method, students learn and understand that annotations can serve as a way to help each other to digest difficult texts.

After this workshop, I was able to meet and speak with Hypothes.is ‘s VP of education, Jeremy Dean, during my Doing This with Novel course by professor Jeff Allred. During his visit, Dean emphasized the importance of defining Hypothes.is as a digital tool instead of a platform like Facebook. We also spoke on annotating on the web and fact-checking fake news, how the team is working on annotating videos on Youtube through transcription, and the constant struggle of public knowledge and ownership.

I’m excited to use this tool not just as a student here but also as an educator.

Zotero Workshop

Zotero has been suggested as a tool and resource in the orientation meeting for the MA in Digital Humanities, as well as being mentioned in passing in class and in workshops. But my initial, limited understanding of it was as a tool for creating reference lists and managing citations, and that seemed like something that would be useful at some point in a somewhat distant future, so I put it in the back of my mind.

When I saw last week that the Mina Rees Library was doing a Zotero introductory workshop during my lunch hour, I thought, why not? And I’m so glad I did. Jill Cirasella, associate librarian for scholarly communication and digital scholarship, led the workshop, and you could tell right from the start that Zotero is a tool she is passionate about using and helping others to use as well. She took a few moments to ask all of the participants what programs we were in and our research interests to tailor her introduction workshop for each of us.

For me, she said it was great to start using Zotero now, early in the master’s program, so that I could start building my own personal library for future referencing. Articles I add to my Zotero account now could be useful for research several years later, and beyond. Which, yes, of course. How did I not think of that? Future references lists don’t appear out of thin air; they are the result of prior and present research.

Zotero is a free, open access tool used to gather and organize research. Through Zotero, you can create a personalized library from which you can easily cite articles and generate reference lists in papers. Most of the main referencing styles (e.g., APA, Chicago, MLA) are stored as templates, and you can easily toggle between different styles if you are submitting articles for different purposes with different styling preferences.

Essentially Zotero exists in three parts that are all in communication with each other: a website with cloud storage, a desktop application with word processor plugin, and a search engine extension. Once you create your account online and download the appropriate applications and plugins for your setup, most of your work with Zotero will likely happen through your search engine extension and your desktop application and word processing plugin. Jill strongly suggested we set up the Zotero application to automatically sync to the website, where personal libraries are almost instantly backed up to cloud storage, both as a failsafe in case something happens and also so that you can work on your library from anywhere. Zotero saves the content you are interested in remembering, including all of the metadata, links, and associated files (e.g., PDFs). Zotero is free to use, but the amount of cloud data available for free is limited, so Jill suggested not including associated files in your automatic syncs as this could quickly use up all of your free storage.

The thing that has me most excited for Zotero is the ability to create group libraries. In these blog posts and in our class discussions, people have been bringing up new materials to check out. I think a class library in Zotero could be a great way for us to put all of those sources into one place for all of us to easily access. What does everyone else think about using this as a group tool for class?

For anyone interested, I highly recommend attending a future Zotero introduction workshop. The next one on the library workshop calendar is on September 23 from 2:00 to 3:00PM. The library has also written up a guide on how to use Zotero.