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


Debates and Conversations

Definitions of digital humanities abound in the scholarly literature. Some useful starting points in historicizing the definition of digital humanities can be found in Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth’s early and since updated Blackwell Companion to Digital Humanities (Blackwell, 2004), which positions itself at the vanguard of the discipline as one of the first dedicated companions to the field. The introduction to the volume traces the lineage of what has also alternately been called computational humanities, humanities computing, and, more recently, digital scholarship. Matthew Kirschenbaum’s “What Are the Digital Humanities, and “Why Are They Saying Such Terrible Things About It?” is considered a classic of the definition genre, while Melissa Terras, Julianne Nyhan, and Edward Vanhoutte’s collection Defining Digital Humanities: A Reader offers a bouquet of answers, as does Johanna Drucker et al.'s Digital_Humanities, available for reading online here. For a more historical perspective on the discipline, refer to Amy Earhart’s Traces of the Old, Uses of the New (U of Michigan P, 2015) and Alan Liu’s “The Meaning of the Digital Humanities.”

Beyond published books and articles, digital humanists continue to debate the definition of the field on their blogs and other digital platforms, including posts by David Golumbia, Brian Croxall, and Gerald R. Lucas. The CUNY Digital Humanities Resource Guide is a near-comprehensive resource, and it even includes a dedicated section on definitions of the digital humanities. Princeton has also hosted a such a guide. For a fun approach, Jason Heppler’s What Is Digital Humanities? provides a new definition every time you refresh the website. And each year in April, look out for the new crop of definitions of the digital humanities that the annual “Day of DH” solicits from participants (follow @DayofDH on Twitter for more information).

Open-Access Introductions to the Digital Humanities

This list, which we have organized by date of publication, only includes influential, open-access (OA) collections: in other words, books that you can read online, right now, for free. Many digital humanists are passionate about providing and disseminating open access works (for more information, read Peter Suber’s introduction to OA). We mentioned Susan Schriebman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth A Companion to Digital Humanities (Blackwell, 2004) but they also have a second, more specific volume, A Companion to Digital Literary Studies (Blackwell, 2007), which, as the title suggests, focuses on literature. Another influential collection, Matthew K. Gold’s Debates in the Digital Humanities (Minnesota, 2012), is organized thematically around controversies or problems in the field.

There are two OA collections that specifically provide information and arguments about teaching with the digital humanities. Brett D. Hirsch’s Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Practices, Principles, and Politics (OpenBook, 2012) was the first, and, appropriately, it is wide-ranging and features well-respected authors. Daniel J. Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt’s Hacking the Academy: New Approaches to Scholarship and Teaching in the Digital Humanities (Michigan, 2013) is not focused only on pedagogy, but it is also a very useful resource, as it collects a large number of short, intense, provocative pieces meant to kickstart your own personal philosophy for teaching with the digital humanities.

Other Introductions to the Digital Humanities

Beyond these foundational collections, there are others you can turn to: David Berry’s Understanding Digital Humanities (Palgrave, 2012) offers a truly interdisciplinary collection of essays, while Eileen Gardiner and Ronald G. Musto’s The Digital Humanities: A Primer for Scholars and Students (Cambridge, 2015) covers practical issues (such as those concerning publication and access) not covered in other collections. Two newer books focus on literature: James O’Sullivan’s edited collection, Digital Humanities for Literary Studies: Theories, Methods, and Practices (Penn State, 2016), as does the Literary Studies in the Digital Age, the continuously updated anthology sponsored by the Modern Language Association. Finally, for his recent single-author monograph, Literature in the Digital Age: A Critical Introduction (Cambridge UP, 2016), Adam Hammond has thoughtfully written a very helpful teaching guide. (This teaching guide is open access, though the book itself is not.)

For scholarship on digital pedagogy beyond the monograph, refer to Diane Jakacki’s excellent link roundup, “Digital Pedagogy: Select Readings,” which features journal articles, along with some blog posts and syllabi, that reflect on and theorize teaching with the digital humanities. These two library guides, one from the University of Kansas and one from the University of Delaware, offer helpful overviews of digital pedagogy as well. More helpful resources can be found in the remainder of this document. For example, in Chapter 2’s resources, we list digital humanities journals that publish work on digital pedagogy, while in other chapters, you will find samples you can use for writing syllabi (Chapter 4), designing classroom activities (Chapter 5), and creating digital assignments (Chapter 7).

Above all, if you're looking for more teaching ideas and maybe even challenging theoretical frameworks for the work we do as digital pedagogues, dive into MLACommons' Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments, which is a now-evolving and exciting resource that should be bookmarked on your browser and referred to frequently! Also, the Proceedings from the second Digital Pedagogy institute (originally held in August 2015). Their Resources page is useful because it provides links to associations, blogs, and other online resources, but we especially love the Modules and Workshops page, which contains groups of tutorials, documentation, and blog posts about particular DH tools used in the classroom. Each presentation is even recorded and available online (Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3)

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