DIGITAL PEDAGOGY IN THE HUMANITIES: CONCEPTS, MODELS, AND EXPERIMENTS
A curated collection of downloadable, reusable, and remixable pedagogical artifacts.
Hashtag for news and updates: #curateteaching
Update March 27, 2019
The project is currently in the final stages of copyediting along with construction of the digital platform. The platform will feature a robust set of user tools including the ability to save and create a private collection. Artifacts and keywords will be searchable, but more importantly, individual artifacts will be tagged for expertise level and artifact type. Each keyword will also includes cross reference to other keywords. The project will remain open access in its final form; the GitHub and the MLA Commons open peer review sites will both remain available for study.
- Rebecca Frost Davis, Saint Edward's University (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Matthew K. Gold, The Graduate Center, City University of New York (email@example.com)
- Katherine D. Harris, San José State University (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Jentery Sayers, University of Victoria (email@example.com)
New digital methods of critical analysis are reshaping academic practices in profound ways as scholars use digital tools and platforms to rethink their assumptions about what can or should happen in higher education classrooms. In digital humanities courses, scholars are helping students use data mining to examine large textual corpora, with the goal of interrogating assumptions about literary genres; in composition and rhetoric classes, students are examining new rhetorical modes used in networked spaces of communication such as Twitter; scholars in several disciplines are using online platforms to connect their students with one another; and literature scholars are helping students use digital tools to collaborate on the kinds of projects that were once the domain of solitary scholars.
Even though the number of academics experimenting with new modes of digital teaching and learning is increasing dramatically, scholarly examples of digital pedagogy remain limited. Aside from rare instances such as Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, which has been an important locus for digital presentations of digital pedagogy work for many years, most cases in which scholars have attempted to collect their pedagogical work into a coherent shape have been in the form of collected editions of text-based essays—secondhand forms of analysis that are effective in presenting an instructor's perspective on a class but less so in showcasing student work and highlighting the digital forms it takes. Furthermore, such works typically exist in an isolated state, rather than in an open-access space dedicated entirely to the scholarship of teaching and learning. They also tend to privilege the physical classroom over emerging domains for hands-on learning, including the humanities lab, the library, and the open Web.
Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities seeks to redress this situation by providing a radically new presentation of student work and model assignments that foreground the very aspects of networked communication that make digital pedagogy projects so compelling in the first place. This collection aims to make visible what traditional methods of publishing the scholarship of teaching and learning have hidden from view—the possibilities of digital technology embodied by this work.
This project is intended to reach a broad audience in higher education, with particular appeal to experienced and novice teachers in the humanities, including those in digital humanities, writing, and rhetoric. The collection will also speak to the growing field of the scholarship of teaching and learning by providing both content and context for pedagogical experimentation. At the same time, we recognize that current disciplines evolved during the print era and that their boundaries have become increasingly permeable in the digital age. Digital technology has accelerated epistemological shifts that necessitate drastic reconsideration of pedagogy. For example, the emergence of large data sets and the concomitant need to aggregate, manipulate, analyze, and visualize them has affected humanists, social scientists, and scientists and requires new methodologies and pedagogies. In this shifting climate, Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities speaks to a wide, cross-disciplinary audience, one that is keenly concerned with how the digital context calls for deep changes in how we teach and learn, without assuming that digital technologies determine our situation or function as simple solutions to social and cultural problems.
While digital pedagogy has long been a research area in computers and composition, digital rhetoric, and writing studies, the subject is just beginning to be explored in digital humanities. Several developments, however, point to a widespread emerging interest in digital pedagogy within digital humanities, including the creation of the Zotero group for digital humanities syllabi, the Digital Research Tools Directory, and MERLOT. Recent MLA conventions have featured high-profile and well-received sessions on digital pedagogy. The National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education has worked to disseminate digital pedagogy across disciplinary boundaries by offering regular webinars, publishing blog posts, and establishing the Digital Humanities Council. ProfHacker and online journals such as Syllabus Journal, Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy, and Hybrid Pedagogy address digital humanities pedagogy.
Such developments build in part on earlier engagements of the humanities with online learning. Teaching Literature and Language Online (2009), for example, edited by Ian Lancashire for the MLA series Options for Teaching, features case studies in languages and literatures that include examples of digital humanities methodologies in the classroom. In one essay, Stéfan Sinclair and Geoffrey Rockwell suggest applications of text-analysis tools for modern languages, and in another Martha Nell Smith discusses how to teach with electronic archives. Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities builds on Lancashire's collection of reflective essays by featuring pedagogical projects in their original forms, with a contextualized focus on how digital methods of analysis, critique, and networked communication change pedagogical practices.
The open-access collection Learning through Digital Media (ed. R. Trebor Scholz [Inst. for Distributed Creativity, 2011]) offers a compelling example of the use of digital tools in the classroom, but the contributions are brief, consist mostly of reflective essays on teaching, and focus on very particular technological tools. Debates in the Digital Humanities (ed. Matthew K. Gold [U of Minnesota P, 2012]) includes calls for increased attention to pedagogy in the digital humanities, and several contributors recommend particular projects that should be more widely known, but the book does not focus explicitly on pedagogy or include the kinds of case studies proposed in this project.
As the only consistent source for scholarly discussion about digital pedagogy, the journal Kairos has begun to archive pertinent sessions from both the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) and the Computers and Writing Conference. Finally, Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Practices, Principles and Politics (ed. Brett D. Hirsch [Open Humanities, 2012]) is a compelling collection but also privileges reflective essays over the everyday artifacts and resources of teaching and learning.
Though all these projects point to growing interest in digital pedagogy, none of them provides a central, high-profile venue for work in the field across and outside disciplines. Major scholarly societies, such as the MLA, the American History Association, and the CCCC, have already embraced the need for critical approaches to digital pedagogy. Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities will offer a new way of preserving syllabi, assignments, projects, results, assessment strategies, and experiments that complement and extend the growing body of resources in this area.
Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities redresses the lack of effective case studies in digital pedagogy by creating an open-access, born-digital publication that aggregates digital experiments by practitioners and presents pedagogical projects in their original forms. As part of the project, a group of experienced instructors have curated sections around important keywords, such as “remix, “play,” “collaboration,” “race,” and “failure.”
Each keyword has a curator, who uses a template constructed by the general editors to introduce a particular term relevant to digital pedagogy and the scholarship of teaching and learning. The term is then supported by ten pieces of pedagogical artifacts from the field, including sample syllabi, prompts, exercises, and lesson plans, which are then augmented by annotations and brief explanations by the keyword's curator. Each resource is also provided in a modifiable, CC-licensed format (e.g., .txt, .doc, MP3, HTML, MPEG-4) for exporting or downloading, remixing, and replication. Readers are invited to submit their remixes as well as their reflections on attempted replications (e.g., in their own classrooms). Consequently, Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities is designed to accommodate such remixes and replications. Over time, the general editors may work with the MLA to explore a model for printing (perhaps on demand) keyword sections of the collection as pamphlets, including the keyword's introduction, the sample materials initially provided, and their attempted replications.
Although these curatorial spaces are provisionally arranged according to the keywords that the editors and curators agreed on, the project takes advantage of the affordances of the digital form to allow readers to respond to, rearrange, regroup, and remix sample projects along a range of axes. Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities includes a multimodal, freely available curated collection of approximately 500 to 550 artifacts (broadly defined) related to digital pedagogy. Here, an artifact implies everything from an image-based tutorial to a text-based essay to a video-based mashup to a PDF syllabus or assignment. Most artifacts already exist elsewhere on the Web, and some are curated under more than one keyword, reflecting the interplay between terms. Tied together by pedagogical threads, these artifacts are searchable, downloadable, and described to foster dialogue across approaches.
The resulting project is a living collection of innovative pedagogical artifacts and practices that are of interest to a broad range of scholars and teachers who are exploring inspiring and enlightening ways for their students to approach academic work.
In “‘This Is Why We Fight’: Defining the Values of the Digital Humanities” (in Gold's Debates), the digital humanities scholar Lisa Spiro identifies a set of core values that have animated work in the digital humanities: openness, collaboration, diversity, experimentation, collegiality, and connectedness. Not surprisingly, these same values are evident in the teaching done by digital humanities practitioners and in part account for the feasibility of this project, which highlights, curates, and interprets freely available pedagogical materials on the Web. Since digital humanities practitioners often teach experimentally in open and connected online environments, publicly share their teaching resources, and encourage their students to collaborate through digital networks across geographic distance, a diverse array of resources already exists online. This project extends and brings focus to this digital humanities spirit of transparency by aggregating and unpacking those diverse materials in a single space and providing a broad audience access to discussion of how digital pedagogy is practiced differently across campuses, institutions, and countries.
The keywords chosen for this project complicate disciplinary boundaries, through a taxonomy based not on traditional disciplines such as history or English (or even digital history or digital English) but rather on broad terms with multivalent thematic resonances across a range of subjects routinely taught in the humanities, sciences, arts, and social sciences. Although many examples will come from traditional humanities disciplines, the collection encourages conversation across disciplines by pulling examples from disciplines outside the humanities. Thus the curating of a keyword like “play” affords examples of innovative pedagogy in courses from fields and communities as diverse as game studies, drama, and information science. “Praxis” might combine examples of applied, creative, and critical work by both students and faculty members. This focus on thematic issues across disciplinary boundaries results in a collection with broad applications to different types of courses and to pedagogies that are enacted across a range of departments and programs, as well as stimulating pedagogical conversations across those disciplinary divides.
Taken individually and in combination, keywords build up a detailed picture of the practice of digital pedagogy. Some keywords, such as “multimodal,” “coding,” “storytelling,” or “text analysis” focus on new or reinvented methodologies enabled by digital tools and media. Others, like “collaboration,” “community-based,” “failure,” “play,” and “praxis," express how the character of pedagogy has changed in a digital context. Still others, such as “museum,” “library,” “open online course,” and “public,” emphasize new locales for pedagogy beyond the classroom.
Several of our selected keywords form complementary pairs. “Play” and “work” explore pedagogical artifacts surrounding the use of gaming in the classroom while also providing resources that explore and theorize the labor involved in constructing gamed environments. Likewise “play” and “failure” both articulate an approach to learning that privileges process over final results. Keywords such as “interface,” “remix,” and “network” provide examples of teaching resources that explore the networked fabric of new media platforms and together provide a multivalent view of the spaces in which networked pedagogical experiments occur. “Race,” “queer,” “ability,” "gender," and “sexuality” resist assumptions that digital technologies and pedagogies operate outside cultural, material, or social conditions. They also offer concrete examples of combining cultural criticism with technical competencies through teaching. Such combinations resonate with calls by Elizabeth Losh, Tara McPherson, and Alan Liu in Debates in the Digital Humanities to interrogate further the relation of knowing and doing in digital humanities.
The advisory board helped shape this project by giving advice on the initial proposal, the list of keywords, and potential curators. As the project developed, the board gave feedback on the curator model, publication venue, possible partners, and platform. As Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities moves into open peer review, the board will play a key role in offering peer review and encouraging the wider community to do so as well. Finally, the advisory board will review keywords and curated examples for consistency, coverage, and gaps. Its input will ensure that the project continues to reflect the current state of digital pedagogy.
- Cheryl Ball, West Virginia University
- Bryan Carter, University of Arizona
- Tanya Clement, University of Texas, Austin
- Brian Croxall, Brigham Young University
- Douglas Eyman, George Mason University
- Paul Fyfe, North Carolina State University
- Gail E. Hawisher, University of Illinois, Urbana (professor emeritus)
- Jason B. Jones, Trinity College
- Virginia Kuhn, University of Southern California
- Cynthia Selfe, Ohio State University
- Lisa Spiro, Rice University