My final project is going to be related to an American Women’s History course which I will be teaching during the Fall 2017 semester. I have taught this course three times before, and I am going to use two textbooks, one which is more narrative and one which includes pieces by historians. In addition, I will be asking the students to read, analyze, and synthesize a variety of primary sources. Finally, I will be asking the students to add items to and create exhibitions for my A Woman of the Century site. The biggest challenge that I face is that this course is online. I’ve taught hybrid courses before, but not one which is totally online. In addition to teaching American Women’s History, I will be teaching historical research methods and Omeka.
For the final project, I want to focus on a lesson related to A Woman of the Century. This lesson brings up questions related to both the content (structural) and method (procedural) aspects of teaching the course and to teaching and learning digital humanities.
How should I teach this course? Lendol Calder’s work criticizes the idea of “covering” content. Yet, if I do not specifically address material in class, will the students read the texts to get context for their projects? Lecturing will be more challenging in the online format, and students will need to be more independent and responsible. How can I motivate them to want to learn as much as possible about the topic?
The content question leads to the methodological question. What will I teach them about historical thinking and historical research? I am thinking of having the students watch the movie version of A.S. Byatt’s Possession. When I used that once before, students came to understand the inductive research process and how exciting historical research can be. The movie helps to illustrate the connections between people and how the research process can work. I’d also like to use an example of how I do research on a project to help them see how the process works with both print and digital sources. I can only hope that they will begin to ask questions and begin to enjoy the research process.
How can I teach digital humanities to undergraduates, as part of history course, in an online atmosphere? What do I want students to learn?
I’ve been pondering these questions for quite a while. Just this week, I have started to work on arranging a one-time in person class, with a video for students who are not able to come. Now, I have to decide exactly how to approach teaching the students DH. Should I give a general overview of current projects? Should I focus on Omeka, which will be the platform they will use? Will these students who spend so much time online embrace this new way of learning history?
How can I teach the importance of metadata? In our class discussion this week, Dr. Kelly noted that I should not mention the word metadata to the students, because that may not be familiar to them. When I read the articles about the Threshold Concept, something they need to realize the importance of, I decided to take this metadata challenge head on. As part of the final project, I want the students to come to understand why metadata is important. Yes, this is a challenge, but I believe that once they understand why, they will add lots of metadata to their items.
When I created the A Woman of the Century site, I included a Questions to Ponder page to help people begin critical thinking about the book and the women. I believe that asking questions is crucial, and I included questions which range from simple to complex. Some of the more complex questions are:
Why were these women included in A Woman of the Century?
Who was excluded from A Woman of the Century? Why?
What is A Woman of the Century not telling about the lives of these women? How can we find out?
What trends can we discover as more and more women are included in the project?
Each of these questions is extremely challenging. The first two require critical thinking ability and a great deal of contextual knowledge. The third question also requires the ability to know where to find the information that the critical thinking poses. Question four requires all of the above, the knowledge of to utilize Omeka’s tools to gather the required information, and the ability to synthesize.
By the time that they are done with this project, I hope that my students are able to answer these questions and many more!