Digital History — Spring 2010

March 31, 2010

Digital teaching, digital learning…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ths117 @ 6:28 am

I have to say, I really enjoyed the readings for this week — and I feel so privileged to have been able to explore Professor Pace and Professor Capshew’s course websites! Anyone who doubts that the web can be a powerful arena of pedagogy needs to check these resources out. (In fact, this feedback is so very late because I seriously underestimated the amount of time that it was going to take me to work through all the sites.)

I assume that you both will give us some background as to how you arrived at the point where you decided that your courses needed a significant digital element, but just in case — that’s something I’d really like to know more about! Had you taught these courses in a more traditional form, or were they “born digital,” as it were? If there was a transition involved, what factors really made you decide to embrace this technology? Were your projects developed “in isolation” (or with a co-teacher), or did you have significant support either from IU or colleagues at other institutions?

I’m also interested as to how/if the feedback from students has changed over time. The articles suggest that students generally appreciate the attempt to reach them in a format that is more “native” to many of them — but I’m wondering whether this willing adoption was always the case,  if it’ll continue to be so, and what the costs are of assuming that all students are prepared to work in this digital paradigm.  For instance, my initial impression of T. Mills Kelly’s article from 2000 was that it was dated — 40% of his kids don’t own their own computers?! …and then I thought more carefully about the assumptions of class and culture that were evident in that reaction. Still, obviously campuses have made enormous strides towards providing labs and rental equipment that close some of those gaps. (These days the great hardship seems to be intermittent wifi.) But I’d love to know if either of you have had any type of significant student resistance to this format or if you’ve found a learning curve that have changed how you approach digital pedagogy or the requirements of your courses.

Another question that these articles address (rather brilliantly, in some cases) is the problem of actually measuring whether digital pedagogy is more or less effective than traditional forms of teaching. Have either of you have experimented with these comparative methodologies? What means do you both rely on to gauge the effectiveness of new digital strategies and formats? And, while I realize that the plural of anecdote is not “data,” do you have any information about how students who are taught with these methods perform in their later history classes?

Finally, with continued reference to the larger collegial context: Professor Pace, in Amateurs in the Operating Room, you comment that one factor that may discourage adoption of the scholarship of teaching and learning is its incompatibility with pre-existing structures of faculty evaluation.  This question of how (or if) non-traditional forms of scholarship/research/service  “count” in the tenure process seems to be coming up again and again for me this semester, whether in your article, the other projects in the digital humanities that we’ve examined, or some of the “public intellectual” political/advocacy/activist work that I’ve been discussing in my AMST class. I wonder if you or Professor Capshew could provide some historical perspective on how institutional recognition of these very valuable types of work has changed or has changed since you wrote the article, or even since you’ve been teaching. Professor Capshew, using the model of your 2020 unit in the IU class, I’d also love to hear your predictions for how this might change in the future, as well. 😉

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