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

Chapter 5: Planning Classroom Activities

Activity Ideas Beyond this Companion

The resources below focus on a particular type of activity (e.g., participatory projects or gamification) in order to provide a different way of thinking about classroom activities than was used in the book chapter "Planning Classroom Activities," which orders activities from the shortest to longest time required. Still, in case you're here for more ten-minute activity ideas, there are many more interactive, digital ways to foster class discussion than we were able to discuss at length in the chapter. Kahoot, for example, allows you to create short modules (such as quizzes or discussion prompts) that students can individually answer on their own devices; meanwhile, the answers or results from the whole class's participation can be projected from your podium for all to see. Students might even be tasked with creating their own "kahoot" (their own modules), which would encourage peer-to-peer learning. AnswerGarden is an even simpler tool; you enter in a question, while the other users answer them, and AnswerGarden automatically generates visualizations of their answers. And for C and S, no matter what kind of classroom inspiration we want, we like the Cult of Pedagogy, which has a plethora of great posts, including our favorite, the Big List of Classroom Discussion Strategies, which blends discussion and activity. For more tutorials about particular activities, check out the Modules and Workshops page from the Proceedings of the second Digital Pedagogy Institute.

Resources by Activity Type

Video Annotation
Video annotation allows users to append film clips with commentary, links, images, or even other film clips. If your students are interested in engaging with video in this way, explore 
The Peanut Gallery or VideoAnt. The Peanut Gallery is a fun in-browser application that works on the Chrome browser. The user speaks into a computer microphone to add intertitles to a selection of silent films that are already uploaded onto the site. Such an activity would allow students to perform a critique or interpretation of the film through their chosen intertitles, or it could be used in a film class to give students a fun way to theorize the purposes of intertitles.

VideoAnt is a project from the University of Minnesota that allows users (either by themselves or in collaboration with other users) to edit, annotate video clips. It associates your Google+, Facebook, or Twitter identity with your YouTube channel so that you can edit video clips that are either uploaded onto your computer or already on YouTube. Their help page provides documentation, and they also share their own ideas for using it in the classroom for a variety of purposes, including to facilitate accessible, multimodal lecturing and innovative group work. Also see our sample materials below.

For a few more activity ideas about incorporating video production, annotation, or editing, check out this great list of ideas from Alec Couros.

Archives and Museum Collections
If you plan on a field trip to an archive or special collection in your area, you might wish to review these general tips from King’s College about approaching archives with your students. If you would like to search for relevant archives in your area, you might try WorldCat’s guide for a global context, or Archives Hub in the UK.

For an archive-based activity in the event that you don’t have access to an on-site archive or special collection, you might find virtual classroom visits can give you and your student a digital approximation of an archival experience. Similarly, you can find specific images or objects on Flickr in a special category on institutional images (find more about Flickr below).

Social Media
Twitter receives a lot of attention from DH pedagogues, and for good reason. If you find yourself still needing tips and tricks after reading Chapter 5, read Mark Sample’s ProfHacker post, as it provides a broad overview. Experiment beyond Twitter, though, with less-prominent social media platforms, such as LibraryThing, (explore their Zeitgeist function, which collates all their user data) and Pinterest (read this Partnership paper on classroom uses for Pinterest, written by Kirsten Hansen, Gillian Nowlan, and Christina Winter; and Sarah Muthler’s “The Educator’s Guide to Pinterest”). Don’t forget image-based social media platforms, especially Flickr, whose many affordances (especially image annotation) make it more than just a respository. Get started with this comprehensive survey of classroom uses of Flickr, this lovely visualization, and this listicle featuring 18 interesting uses for the program.

Participatory Projects: Digital Events and Citizen Humanities
As we mentioned in the chapter, one way of contributing to DH work with your students is by participating in initiatives that invite contributions from the public. Crowdsourcing for particular kinds of research (especially labour-intensive tasks like transcription or labelling) is becoming increasingly common in DH work. Sometimes known as “citizen humanities,” there are various projects, including Operation War Diary, Shakespeare’s World, annoTATE, Science Gossip, Notes from Nature, and Old Weather, which invite engagement with newly digitized archival documents and datasets. If you have been inspired by our chapter to create an activity based around Wikipedia, Melanie Kill’s “Teaching Digital Rhetoric: Wikipedia, Collaboration, and the Politics of Free Knowledge” provides a lot of food for thought.

Gamification activities will be highly dependent on subject matter and on the suitability of your course content to game-like engagements. For inspiration, you might consider two examples of gamification: a gamified version of Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Early Design by art historian Elizabeth Goin and Keri Watson’s role playing game exploring the development of modernism in the fine arts in late 19th-century Paris. Beyond asking students to design or play educational game, you can also gamify your classroom by adding “badges” or competitive elements. For more information, begin with Liz Kolb’s post on Edutopia or Amanda Ronan’s guide on Edudemic. If you are interested in wargaming in particular, James Lacey’s “Wargaming in the Classroom: An Odyssey” is a great resource.

Maps and Timelines
Most educators being with Google’s mapping products (the latest instantiation is My Maps). Brian Croxall’s mapping assignment is a classic example of using Google’s mapping software in the literature classroom, but don’t stop your search for mapping tools there! Storymaps is an ArcGIS-based app that allows you to combine narrative with geographical data. Historypin is a community-based program, while Neatline is a CMS plugin that works with Omeka. For a broader introduction to digital mapping in the classroom, read Johanna Drucker's introduction hosted by the UCLA Center for Digital Humanities. Regarding timelines, Brian Croxall again was a pioneer in using new timeline tools in the classroom; look at his fantastic sample assignment, along with this tutorial for interactive timelines. To see an example of how one instructor uses multiple platforms, we highly recommend Amanda Golden’s “Navigating Modernism’s Visual History.” If you are more interested in all kinds of visualization, browse through this Annual Visualization MOOC.

Critical Making
If you are intrigued by the idea of critical making, begin with Diana Rendina’s impressive set of resources at Renovated Learning. This post by Aaron Vanderwerff focuses on Arduinos (microcontrollers, like tiny computers, that can be used for any number of purposes). This is a very popular way to start your journey in critical making and physical computing, but you'll want to see if this sort of activity, which often requires access to flexible space and a budget for buying materials, is achievable within your institution. If you seek more on the topic, Garnet Hertz’s “What Is Critical Making?” presents a well-researched and intellectually ambitious theory of making. “Critical Making: Design and the Digital Humanities,” a special issue of Visible Language guest-edited by Jessica Barness and Amy Papaelias, contains a number of theoretically oriented reflections on critical making. In addition, this special cluster in Studies in Romanticism, “Blake and Digital Making,” edited by Ashley Reed, Jon Saklofske, and Roger Whitson, offers a model for forging new connections between discipline-specific issues and critical making.

Text Annotation
In our chapter, we recommended as a platform for enabling group annotation. The company’s own Jeremy Dean has written an introduction to using it in the classroom, and they also provide a “Quick Start Guide for Teachers” if you want to jump in. For other options beyond, read Lee Skallerup Bessette’s ProfHacker post on classroom digital annotation. In this post for Studies in the Novel, Michael Griffin has helpfully summarized his use of the annotation platform A.nnotate. His ingenious pairing of collective annotation with a multimodal activity shows how flexible and modular DH activities can be. Consider combining these annotation activities with any of the other activities; for example, students could annotate texts with data or ideas they generated by using the Most-Frequent-Word Analysis activity, just below.

Most-Frequent-Word Analysis
Wordle is featured in our chapter as a quick way to get started with MFW analysis by generating simple word clouds. In our sample activity, tutorial, and assignment sets, we recommend Voyant as a powerful but intuitive platform that requires no downloading or special software, but only access to the internet. The Voyant team, lead by Stéfan Sinclair and Geoffrey Rockwell, is especially good at providing documentation. They provide not only a comprehensive Help section, but also a Getting Started guide and an Examples Gallery that showcases what others have already done with it. If you have not experimented with Voyant lately, you may have missed their most recent update, which has added some great new features, as Lee Skallerup Bessette has reported in ProfHacker.

Advanced DH Activities
Character network graphing visualizes relationships between characters to reveal which ones are more or less fully connected with one another. It reveals quite a bit about plot structure, as Franco Moretti famously argued. Eduhacker has published an innovative and (relatively!) fast workflow for creating these network graphs by using Google Fusion Tables. To explore your other advanced options, turn to Ted Underwood, who has written an accessible introduction to text mining, which is an umbrella term for using texts as a source of data. Topic modeling, which uses probability to find themes across multiple texts, is also a powerful way to turn texts into data. For an introduction to topic modeling, start with Megan R. Brett’s basic introduction, and then proceed to Miriam Posner’s advice about what topic models (once you have them) can tell you.

Our Sample Activities

ScannerPro Activity Set

Explanation of activity for the instructor 
Prompt to disseminate to students 
Tutorial for how to use this tool (PowerPoint)
Tutorial for how to use this tool (Keynote)

In this activity, students learn how to use a smartphone application to take high-quality images of physical texts and generate plain-text (OCR) from them.

Twitter Activity Set

Explanation of activity for the instructor
Prompt to disseminate to students
Tutorial for how to use this tool (PowerPoint)
Tutorial for how to use this tool (Keynote)

In this activity, students remotely stage a Twitter event that dramatizes course readings or concepts in a public setting.

Voyant Activity Set

Explanation of activity for the instructor
Prompt to disseminate to students
Tutorial for how to use this tool (PowerPoint)
Tutorial for how to use this tool (Keynote)

In this activity, students use Voyant, a simple, in-browser, most-frequent-word analysis visualizer to investigate the thematic and grammatical structure of a course text.

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