Posts Tagged assignment

Assignments and Architecture: Pedagogy in the Digital Age

Title slide that reads 'Assignments and Architecture' with a hand-corrected print-out on one side of the screen and a upward-facing shot of a building on the right half. The link on this image is for the assignment as the photograph of the building is one that I took.

tl;dr: I gave a talk about digital pedagogy.

Today I want to share a talk. That’s not all that unusual, as I’ve been in the habit of posting such presentations since I began blogging here in 2009. What’s unusual about this one—at least for me—is that it’s a talk that evolved as I gave it as a keynote at three different universities.

Although it’s taken me longer to post this talk than I would have liked, I want to share my framework for theorizing digital pedagogy. This is the rubric I use when working with faculty here at Brown to design new classroom research projects. We can create new and exciting, team-based research projects for our students. Once you’ve tried this, it’s really hard to go back.

I first spoke about “pedagogy in the digital age” at Fordham University in November 2013. I was invited by Glenn Hendler, who is chair of the English Department, to give this talk as well as a more practical workshop on teaching with technology in the classroom. It was one of the first times I had been given the opportunity to tackle either subject in such a broad way, and the setting of Fordham in NYC definitely inspired the direction that the talk took—that, and an episode of 99% Invisible that I had just listened to. I very much enjoyed the conversations at Fordham and was glad of the chance to put together my thoughts about digital pedagogy into a more coherent argument.

When I was asked a few months later to give the keynote at the September 2014 Liberal Arts Scholarship and Technology Summit (LASTS) at Penn State, I took the chance to further refine the talk and its argument. I was invited by Christopher P. Long, who was at the time Associate Dean for Graduate and Undergraduate Education at Penn State and who has since moved to Michigan State as Dean of the College of Arts & Letters. I’ve always admired Chris for the genuine excitement and positive energy he brings to conversations, so I was flattered and happy to spend the time with him and the Penn State community. (Also, land-grant schools tend to have the best ice cream.) My visit for LASTS was combined with a talk at the Center for American Literary Studies’s Symposium on #Alt-Ac, which I wrote about previously. My keynote was recorded, if you want to see the high kick at the end.

Shortly after the presentation at Penn State, I was thrilled to be invited to speak at both St. Olaf and Carleton Colleges in Northfield, Minnesota (home of Malt-o-Meal; the whole town smelled like Marshmallow Mateys!). The two colleges have received a Mellon Foundation grant for collaboration between the two schools, which sit opposite one another across the Cannon River. One of the outcomes for the grant was the Bridge Crossings Events, which focus on integrating and supporting digital technologies into teaching, learning, and research. I made some more changes to the presentation, as well as did some research on the architecture on both campuses, and joined faculty, librarians, and IT staff at both schools in February 2015 for a discussion of Digital Humanities on the Hill. I really enjoyed my visit, thanks to the great library and IT staff at both schools, although I was shocked at how little winter gear people in Minnesota needed compared to a guy from Georgia. If you’re into comparative media experiences, you can also watch the video of this version of the talk. No high kick, I’m afraid.

Again, my thanks to Fordham, Penn State, and St. Olaf and Carleton Colleges for inviting me and giving me the chance to pull together years of praxis into three performances.

N.B. It’s worth saying that there are two images in this slide deck that are potentially NSFW: artistic photographs of nude sex workers, circa 1912.

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Introduction to Digital Humanities

I was thrilled to learn this summer that I would be teaching again in the fall. Both the English department (where I’ve taught previously) and the Library (where I’m a CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow) had supported the idea during the previous year, but this is the first that we’ve been able to make it work out. I was even happier that the English department was willing to support my teaching “Introduction to Digital Humanities” as a junior-level course. Not only do I continue to work on digital scholarship in the classroom as well as during the rest of my fellowship duties, but I got a chance to design a new course.

It’s always struck me as dishonest that my syllabi don’t have “Acknowledgments” sections like books or some journal articles. These courses tend to have obvious lines of evolution. I had some clear inspirations as I was working, including courses by Meagan Timney, Jeff McClurken, John TheibaultMichelle Dalmau, and many more. Both Ryan Cordell and Paul Fyfe were designing similar syllabi at the same time as me, and I corresponded with each of them individually about his ideas and mine. Others wanting to go about designing a digital humanities class need to be aware of the two tremendous resources that are Lisa Spiro‘s “Digital Humanities Education” Zotero group and the CUNY Digital Humanities Initiative’s collection of syllabi. Lisa’s presentation at Digital Humanities 2011 was especially useful for me to hear as a preliminary to most of this work. In beginning to design one of the assignments, I realized that I needed to know more about textual studies than I already did, and I asked for assistance in a previous post and at DH Answers, where several friends weighed in. Finally, Erin Sells shared with me her assignment for mapping novels.

There appear to be as many ways to teach DH as there are definitions of the subject. Along with reading some of those definitions—print and blogged—I’ve decided to organize the class around a few different projects. We’ll begin with geospatial work, building an interactive map of Mrs. Dalloway. The next big project is a cross-campus collaboration between my class and four others that are reading House of Leaves this semester: Paul Benzon (Temple U), Mark Sample (George Mason U), Erin Templeton (Converse College), and Zach Whalestoe Whalen (U of Mary Washington). Our students will be reading the book at the same time; we will have some joint Skype sessions between the classrooms; and we’ll be attempting to build something as convoluted as the House itself, which Mark has already blogged about. My initial inspiration for asking for people to participate in this project was just to see if it could be done. And then Mark’s post on sharing in the digital humanities solidified the idea. What this project will investigate is the degree to which digital networks can change our experience of reading a print text, albeit one that resists being comprehensible by a single reader.

The last assignment for the semester will tackle Carol Ann Duffy’s poetry. We’re fortunate to have her papers in our Library. In these papers is a letter about her 1999 volume, The World’s Wife. She is writing to her publisher to explain why she taking the volume from one press to another. In explaining her reasons, she mentions her belief that the volume is very different from the previous ones that she’s written. We’ll spend the last month of the semester testing this assertion—first with close reading and then with text analysis. For a final project, the students and I will write a joint paper about our findings, an assignment inspired by Gideon Burton’s recent ebook project.

As the number of links here should make quite plain, the creation of the syllabus was very much a joint effort. That’s just setting the stage for what I anticipate will very much be a collaborative experience with my students. It’s going to be a semester-long experiment, which is the best thing I can imagine doing at the moment.

The syllabus itself is available after the jump, and you’re welcome to watch the course website for developments.

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Assignment: The “American Century” Geospatial Timeline

For the last several years, I have been interested in representing time and space visually in the context of literature courses. During my final year as a graduate student, I was a fellow in Emory’s Center for Interactive Teaching. There, I had the freedom to spend many hours exploring several web widgets for doing just this that were developed by MIT’s Simile Project and since spun off as independent Simile Widgets. I found the tools fairly powerful, but not especially well documented–particular for someone who was a coding dilletante at best. The result was that along with building several timelines, I also wrote a tutorial for building your own custom timelines.

Since I didn’t have a class to experiment on, I got in touch with Jason B. Jones, whose blog had first alerted me to the Simile Project. Jason was teaching a course on the Victorian period, and he quickly crafted an assignment using a timeline that I coded for his class. Jason wrote about our collaboration on his blog.

When I got my own survey class last year, I adapted lifted Jason’s assignment pretty much whole-cloth and had my students create a timeline to accompany our exploration of American literature following the Civil War. When I was given the chance to teach a similar course this semester, I wanted to represent not only time but also space. For last summer’s THATCamp, I had spent some time experimenting with Google Maps integration with the timeline, and I’ve now made some real additions to Jason’s assignment to incorporate the geospatial elements.

Why do I like using this assignment? I give my students three reasons.

  1. In a survey of American literature, one of the key goals is to get a sense of how the literature lies in context with everything else that is happening. These events shape the literature in question, and creating a timeline lets the students go beyond what I bring up in class to explore developments in art, technology, politics, and more.
  2. It lets me give them one less paper. (This is what really sells them, since I will have frequently thrown several other weird assignments at them that they aren’t sure about.)
  3. I believe that every student–even English majors–that graduates from college should be able to read and write HTML, to work in a spreadsheet, and to have a little experience with databases. Such literacy is frequently overlooked but will be vitally important in a world in which it is increasingly difficult to find employment with a liberal arts degree.

The timeline and map that we’re working with are now live with a few examples that I have provided. (You’ll need to scroll the timeline to the right or left to find a date. Or you can use the search box at right.) Students will be adding data in the coming month. I’m hoping that in this version of the assignment we not only get a sense of temporal context but also spatial context. Will we see that the events that we have chosen as important move Westward in connection with Westward expansion? Do particular decades have more important events in one portion of the country? We’ll see.

As part of my project to promote open-source pedagogy, I wanted to post the new assignment. And if you feel like tackling your own timeline, I’d be more than happy to answer questions.

Timeline Assignment

Steps

  1. Be sure that you’ve given me an email address that you actually check. By 1/30, you will receive an e-mail inviting you to collaborate with me on a Google Docs spreadsheet.
  2. Choose two years between 1865-2010. One year must be in the range 1865-1935 and one year must fall in the range 1936-2010. You can see the list of available years below. When you have chosen your years, edit our wiki page to strikethrough your chosen years (strikethrough is the option to the right of italics) and then email me your two chosen years. Do this by 2/5.
  3. Identify EIGHT historically significant events from each of your two years.  (Births, deaths, legislation, wars, inventions, publications, . . . ).  For each event,
    • find a related image online and get the URL for the image. Do NOT get the URL for the page on which the image appears.
    • find a link where one can learn more about the event (no more than half the links can be to Wikipedia)
    • find a location (city, state) for the event
    • find the latitude and longitude for this location using these instructions and Google Maps
    • write a ONE- or TWO-SENTENCE description of the event. Descriptions may not be longer than two sentences.
  4. In the Google spreadsheet, enter the FOUR most significant events for each year, filling out the various fields with the appropriate information.  (See below for details.)
  5. For each of your two years, send me an email with the full list and a two-paragraph document. The first paragraph should explain how you chose the full list of 8 events, and the second paragraph will explain how you cut it down to 4.
  6. The information from the first year must be posted to the timeline and the document emailed to me by 5pm on March 4. The information for the second year must be posted to the timeline and the document submitted to me by 5pm on March 25. Of course, completing the assignment early is always fine.

The Spreadsheet’s Fields

Using the spreadsheet is easy, but it also requires the data to be input in a very particular way.  For best results, follow these instructions exactly:

  1. Always add your information to the BOTTOM of the spreadsheet.
  2. The first field, “{label}” is the text that will be visible directly on the timeline.  It should be short: 3-6 words (where a title of a novel or poem can count as one word).  To make a title appear italicized, type it exactly like this (without the quotation marks): “AuthorName, <em>Book Title</em>”  Don’t worry about the fact that it doesn’t look italicized in the spreadsheet, and DON’T USE THE SPREADSHEET’S ITALICS FUNCTION!
  3. The second field, “{start-date}” is mandatory: when did the event happen?  Fill this in: yyyy-mm-dd.  You must use 2-digit months (01, 02, 03) and 2-digit days.
    • For example, April 8, 1999 would be entered 1999-04-08.
  4. The third field, “{end-date}” is optional: If the event happened over a span of time, when did it end?  Again, use yyyy-mm-dd format.
  5. The fourth field, “{description:single}”  is where you put your one- to two-sentence description.  Also, wrap the sentence–or some portion of it–in your “more information” link.  Here’s how to do it (the quotation marks in the pointy-brackets are REQUIRED!!): <a href=”LINKGOESHERE”>SENTENCE GOES HERE</a>
    • For example, General Ulysses S. Grant meets with General Robert E. Lee at the <a href=”http://americancivilwar.com/appo.html”>Appomattox courthouse</a> where Lee signs the terms of surrender that effectivley ends the civil war.
  6. The fifth field, “{image:url}” is where you cut-and-paste the url for the related image.
  7. The sixth field, “{EventType}” is where you identify what kind event this is: Politics, Military, Science/Technology, Economics, Literature, Arts, Biography.  Only use one Event Type. If you think that your event doesn’t fit into any of these categories, please email me before you start using a ne one.
  8. The seventh field, “{event_LatLng} is where you put the latitude and longitude that you strip from Google Maps using these instructions.
  9. The eighth field, “{event_place}” is where you put the city and state where the event takes place.
  10. In the ninth field, “{decade}”, please type the decade in which your event takes place. Please format these as 1860s, 1870s, etc.
  11. The tenth field, “{initials}” is where you put your initials, which will help me with the bookkeeping.
  12. After you have entered your information in the spreadsheet, make sure that it is displaying properly on the timeline and the map.

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Final Version of the Annotated Zotero Group Bibliography

I just wanted to post a quick note in a follow-up to last week’s post about my Annotated Zotero Group Bibliography assignment. I’ve finished the assignment, which you can see below. I appreciated all of the comments that I received on the blog and on Twitter about the initial draft. I especially drew ideas from Mark Sample‘s annotated bibliography assignment for his Fall 2009 course. (I’m still working to figure out how to best acknowledge Creative Commons credit on assignments that create for my classes.)

As you’ll see, I decided against having my students read a full book for the assignment, opting instead for articles and book chapters. The last time I taught this class, 95% of the class read the same monograph–primarily due to its length. Since I’m hoping to let the students use this assignment to pursue an idea that they find interesting in class, it seemed important to not focus as much on the length of the sources (although they will certainly be conscious of length).

I also decided to allow only two students to write about each source. This seemed important so that we could honor the concept of what an annotated bibliography is. No one needs duplicate entries on multiple sources. Still, getting a little bit of perspective seemed worthwhile. I quite like Bill Wolff‘s suggestion to have students comment on each other’s entries, but I decided I didn’t have the time to implement that twist this semester.

Finally, I decided to have 3 due dates for the assignment. Doing so will allow me to trouble shoot any problems the students are having with the assignment before the crush at the semester’s end. Moreover, I hope it will disincentivize the tendency for rushed students to glom onto each others’ sources. My one misgiving is that I hate to have students read articles about House of Leaves before we have finished reading the text. But so it goes.

Annotated Zotero Group Bibliography

This assignment asks you to summarize and critically assess 6 sources and contribute them to a shared, collaborative, online bibliography using the Zotero 2.0 beta plug-in (www.zotero.org) for Firefox.

Why an Annotated Bibliography?

Annotated bibliographies get students experience with some of the important steps of literary scholarship: finding secondary criticism and digesting it. While I could (and might!) just assign the standard end-of-term research paper, the unintended consequence of doing so often results in students looking around for any quotations they can throw in to meet the arbitrary requirement of sources. I hope that annotated bibliographies provoke students to read the other sources more carefully: reading for the source’s own argument rather than how it can fit into one’s paper that is due in 12 hours. An annotated bibliography requires you to take more time, giving you a chance to see what kinds of conversations go on amongst scholars of contemporary literature.

Part 1: Find
For each of the 3 units of the course, you will find 2 articles or book chapters that comment or expand on the texts and/or subjects we have been considering. An online source must come from a peer-reviewed journal. To find such articles, use the Clemson library databases, such as Arts and Humanities Citation Index, the MLA International Bibliography, JSTOR, Project Muse, and others.

Once you have found your sources, use Zotero to create the bibliographic entry for the text. For most databases as well as books in the Clemson library, it is very simple to have Zotero “grab” this information. Store your sources in a new Zotero collection (so that they will easily stand out from any existing citations you have gathered in the past).

Part 2: Annotate and Tag
For each of source, you will write an annotation that is a minimum of 2 paragraphs. The annotation should provide a summary of the major concerns of the text, perhaps with a representative quote or two, and should indicate how the piece contributes to your body of knowledge about its subject.  For example, you might write about how Hamlet on the Holodeck imagines the changes that will be made to fiction through the ever-increasing use of the computer and also discuss how Murray’s work amplified your conception of the reader’s active role in making meaning from any text.

Once you’ve written your annotation, you will add it to your Zotero entry as a Note. You should also tag your entry with 5-10 relevant keywords or “tags.” These tags can be based on the subject of the source but can also be for other relevant metadata, such as author, title, etc. Finally, add two more tags: (1) your full name and (2) the unit this source is for. Please format the latter as “Unit 1,” “Unit 2,” and “Unit 3.” (N.B. Please notice that you can tag both the entry and your Notes. Your 5-10 tags should be added to the entry. Your name and the unit should be added to both the entry and the Note.)

Part 3: Share
After you have completed your entry, you will drag your source into our class’s group library, Reading Technology (English 465). Once the entry is there, everyone else in the class will be able to see it, and we will have begun to build a shared resource.

If you want to make a change to an entry after you have added it to the group library, you will have to edit it in the library. Changes made to your library will not sync with the group’s library. If you’ve made changes, then, perhaps the simplest thing to do is to delete the copy from the group library and then drag your new copy over. Just make sure you don’t delete others’ work.

Important points

  • At least two of your sources must be on something other/broader than one of the literary works that we’ll read.
  • Only two people may write about each source. If someone has already added the source to the library, add a new Note to the source in the group library that contains your annotation. Be sure to add a tag to the source and to your note note with your full name. See if the original contributor missed some of the tags that you had added to the source, and add those as well.
    • If two people have already written about a source, you’re out of luck. There is no need to wait until the due dates to get started on this assignment. You can also add a source and tag it with your name before you’ve completed the rest of the assignment as a way of staking your claim. Remember, however, that changes you make to your own collection after staking a claim will not automatically sync to the group library.
  • To make sure you don’t lose any of your work, please keep a regular document file somewhere with all of your abstracts. This is a new assignment for me, and I’m sure we’ll run into snags.

Due Dates

The following dates are when your two sources for each unit must be posted to the group bibliography. They must be posted by 2pm, when class starts.

Unit 1: Tuesday, February 9
Unit 2: Tuesday, March 23
Unit 3: Tuesday, April 20

Beginning Steps for Zotero

  1. Download and install Firefox (http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/personal.html), if you don’t already have it
  2. Download and install the Zotero 2.0 beta plug-in for Firefox (http://www.zotero.org). N.B. You must use the 2.0 beta plug-in. I have been using this plug-in for months and have had no stability issues whatsoever.
  3. Watch the video explaining Zotero at http://www.zotero.org.
  4. Register for a Zotero account at https://www.zotero.org/user/register/.
  5. Join our class group at http://www.zotero.org/groups/reading_technology_english_465.
  6. Connect your browser’s installation of Zotero to your account, as directed at http://www.zotero.org/support/sync.
  7. If you’d like to know more about Zotero, watch a few more screencasts at http://www.zotero.org/support/screencast_tutorials.

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Annotated Zotero Group Bibliography Assignment

In the last few years of teaching, I have been persuaded by a few friends to include annotated bibliographies as assignments in some of my classes. Such an assignment gets students experience with some of the important steps of literary scholarship: finding secondary criticism and digesting it. While I could just assign the standard end-of-term research paper, that often results in students looking around for any quotations they can throw in to meet the arbitrary requirement of sources. I think that annotated bibliographies can provoke students to read the other sources more carefully, reading for the source’s own argument rather than how it can fit into one’s paper that is due in 12 hours.

In this semester’s Reading Media and Technology in Contemporary Literature and Theory course (I know, it’s an awful name), I have decided to ask my students to contribute to a group Zotero library. This has the advantage of teaching them a very useful tool as well as allowing us to share our knowledge with one another.

In particular, I am wondering:

  1. Should I require students to read not just articles, but one full book?
  2. Should I stipulate that a particular source may be posted only once and by only one student?
  3. Should I give them a single due date for the assignment or due dates following each of the three units?

Here’s a draft of the assignment, and I’m interested to hear what you think.

Annotated Zotero Group Bibliography

This assignment asks you to summarize and critically assess 6 sources and contribute them to a shared, collaborative, online bibliography using the Zotero 2.0 beta plug-in (www.zotero.org) for Firefox.

For each of the 3 units of the course, you will find 2 articles or books that comment or expand on the texts and/or subjects we have been considering. An online source is only acceptable if it comes from a peer-reviewed journal. (Feel free to run sources by me if you are not sure that they are scholarly.) You should write a minimum of 2 paragraphs on each source. The write-up should provide a summary of the major concerns of the text, perhaps with a representative quote or two, and should indicate how the piece contributes to your body of knowledge about its subject.  For example, you might write about how Hamlet on the Holodeck imagines the changes that will be made to fiction through the ever-increasing use of the computer and also discuss how Murray’s work amplified your conception of the reader’s active role in making meaning from any text.

At least one of your sources must be on something broader than a single text/author.

Once you have created your entry from your source in Zotero, you will place your write-up in the “Abstract” section of the source’s entry. You should also tag your entry with your name using the “Tags” field. Finally, you will need to drag and drop your source into our class’s group library.

Steps

  1. Download and install Firefox (http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/personal.html), if you don’t already have it.
  2. Download and install the Zotero 2.0 beta plug-in for Firefox (www.zotero.org). N.B. You must use the 2.0 beta plug-in. I have been using this plug-in for months and have had no stability issues whatsoever.
  3. Watch the video explaining Zotero at http://www.zotero.org.
  4. Join our class group (http://www.zotero.org/groups/reading_technology_english_465).
  5. If you’d like to know more about Zotero, watch a few more screencasts at http://www.zotero.org/support/screencast_tutorials.

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