Using Digital Humanities in the Classroom: A Practical Introduction for Teachers, Lecturers, and Students

Chapter 10: Finding Internal Support Communities

Tips for Building a DH Community at your University

In our chapter, we quote from Aimée Morrison’s blog post, “How to Ask for Stuff: Email Edition.” Though its immediate audience is graduate students, this post provides a smart template for opening conversations with potential collaborators within your institution.

If you wish to create a listserv, working group or reading group, search online for the plethora of articles about successful writing groups. Even if you actually desire to create a working group, for example, these tips will mostly be applicable. Try Thirteen Ways of Looking at Writing Groups, a list of best practices from the University of North Carolina. You might also find helpful Chris M. Golde’s Tips for Successful Writing Groups, adapted from a presentation he gave at an Association for the Study of Higher Education conference. It focuses on graduate students but presents solid advice for any writing group.

If you are planning an event, read Bob Dalton’s helpful slideshow about the various types of brown bag luncheons, which can help you design a luncheon or luncheon series that feels cohesive and reaches your goals. Doug Johnson’s Top Ten Secrets for a Successful Workshop, which gives practical advice for keeping your audience’s attention and improving memory retention after the event.

If you are going to contact a librarian, familiarize yourself with current organizational trends in academic libraries. Two articles that can help explain the fundamental changes that higher education libraries have undergone in the past twenty years of so, read “The Changing Nature of Work in Academic Libraries” by Kimberley Robles Smith and Beverly P. Lynch and “Multiple Roles of Academic Librarians” by Justine Alsop and Karen Bordonaro.

If you are concerned with communicating with information technology services, try James Kerr’s 5 Things Your Information Technology Staff Won’t Tell You, which will give you a peek into the perspective of a tech support professional.

Sample Digital Public Space and Local Archive Projects

In this chapter, we mention that you don’t necessarily need a well-stocked library or rare book collection at your home institution in order to work on site-specific, locally-driven class projects. You can turn your material surroundings digital and help your students to interact more thoughtfully with their own immediate physical, literary, and social environments through assignments that pick up on local details. Here are just a few examples of such projects from around the web: These projects only begin to scratch the surface of what can be done with local environments and digital tools in the classroom, and there are many more wonderful similar assignments that could equally serve as examples (perhaps even some in your own field!). We want to emphasize here, though, that many digital tools, from maps to text mining tools can be applied to your own institutional context and to your own city. We would encourage you to explore the resources that your institution has available even if those might not initially seem extensive or related to your own research. You can help your students to understand and even (as in the OCADU example above) actually improve their own university experiences by engaging with both the physical worlds around them and the digital tools we have mentioned throughout this book.

Facilitating Interdisciplinary Work

The digital humanities, with its emphasis on the humanities, and its tendency to encourage collaboration with computer scientists, engineers, and geographers, is inherently interdisciplinary. Of course, there are some good reasons for being careful about using the term, even strategically, particularly if your institution is particularly siloed. Some DHers emphasize the necessity to continue self-identifying within one’s discipline (read such an argument here, a post from Ryan Cordell). At the Modern Language Association conference in January 2016, a roundtable addressed such issues in a panel devoted to DH-specific arguments about interdisciplinarity from experienced DHers (Wendy Chung, Patricia Hswe, Micki Kaufman, Laura Mandell, T-Kay Sangwand, and Annette Vee). You can read the Storify from this roundtable to see the arguments that were aired.

Some classes in the digital humanities are designed to highlight and take advantage of DH’s ability to cross disciplinary boundaries. For instance, see William G. Thomas’s iteration of this type of course, for which he has shared his syllabus online. If you are introducing your students to disciplinary by collaborating with a colleague from a different discipline or are drawing from your own extra-disciplinary interests, refer to these two open-access essays in The American Literary Scholar in the Digital Age, which we reference in the book chapter: Amy E. Earhart’s “Challenging Gaps: Redesigning Collaboration in the Digital Humanities” and Kenneth M. Price’s “Collaborative Work and the Conditions for American Literary Scholar in a Digital Age.”

While these two articles are designed for DH specialists, you may find research or arguments from pedagogy specialists more helpful for beginning to work out interdisciplinary topics or collaboration as it relates to your everyday life in the classroom. Rick Szostak has freely posted his fantastic introduction to doing interdisciplinary work for Issues in Integrative Studies. Carleton College’s Science Education Resource Center has a somewhat dated but still helpful bibliography of research on interdisciplinary teaching, while San Francisco State University’s Top Ten Suggestions for Interdisciplinary Teaching boils down such research into a convenient list. Finally, Heather Coffey’s overview of research on interdisciplinary teaching discusses the advantages of interdisciplinary teaching as well as its dangers (most importantly, that it may not be seen as fragmentary or shallow, or may encourage territorial or defensive behavior from one collaborator). For further research on interdisciplinary teaching in general, the term “integrative learning” will also be a helpful search term.

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