Curating Digital Pedagogy with a Purpose

January 27, 2017 § Leave a comment

Below is the slightly revised text with added citations of my presentation for the panel, “Curating Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities,” delivered January 5, 2017 at the Annual Convention of the Modern Language Association. The corresponding slides are available via slideshare.

Curating Digital Pedagogy with a Purpose

This evening, I want to focus on how the practice of digital pedagogy might help us achieve the broader goals of liberal education. What are the goals of liberal education? The Association of American Colleges and Universities, which represents nearly 1400 colleges and universities has issued a challenge that calls for undergraduate liberal education today to prepare students to solve unscripted problems—these are problems where the “right answer” is still unknown and where any answer may be actively contested (LEAP Challenge: Education for a World of Unstructured Problems).

In 2014 I served on an AAC&U working group (General Education Maps and Markers or GEMSs) that considered this challenge in the context of digital culture. In this world, we learn, and we take action through networks. Creation and publication is easy, and we have ready access to data driven by algorithms that personalize information for users and inform human judgment (Bass & Eynon, Open and Integrative). Our emerging digital ecosystem means that, increasingly, students will tackle these unscripted problems with digital data and tools—students must be able to partner with technology to analyze, transfer and apply learning, and integrate methods and knowledge from multiple domains to solve problems. Our group found that agency was a key ability that college curricula should intentionally develop. By agency I mean ensuring that students actively participate in defining, developing, and reflecting on their personal and educational goals and the ways to achieve them.   You might compare Carol Dweck’s concept of growth mindset (The Power of Believing That You Can Improve).

Let me illustrate how the practice of digital pedagogy might develop agency in digital culture by pointing to a few of the pedagogical artifacts gathered by our curators for the project, Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments (ed. Davis, Gold, Harris & Sayers).

For the keyword, “Annotation”, Paul Schacht points to a sample student conversation using social book, which allows users to highlight and comment on texts, share their annotations with a group, and even like them on Facebook. Schacht observes that annotation as a practice is not new, but digital affordances have sped it up and amplified the social aspects. Such annotation moves the humanities practice of reading and writing as a dialogue into the context of digital culture.

My second example goes further in moving humanities scholarship into digital culture. For the keyword, “Gaming”, Amanda Phillips curated a Talkthrough of Bioshock’s Fort Frolic. Essentially this is a YouTube video that repurposes the popular genre of the “let’s play” video for an academic purpose of analyzing the game. This model builds on the well-developed agency of YouTubers, which is enabled by low barriers to creation and publication. It transforms this genre—typically used to demonstrate game play and display engaging banter—to develop sophisticated analysis and repurposes participatory culture for humanities scholarship.

For the keyword, “Remix”, Kim Middleton shares the syllabus of Julie Levin Russo on the “Art of Remix” which similarly transplants humanities teaching into participatory culture. Collaborative student remix projects engage students in social creation and production for humanities learning. Russo also situates humanities teaching in remix culture by citing the syllabi and assignments that she has remixed to create this course. While she demystifies the mastery of the humanities instructor, she constructs her authority in remix culture by acknowledging her sources and demonstrating how remix can lead to a new creation. This model of reuse with citation should also inspire all of us to put a CC license on our course materials to make sharing and acknowledgement easier.

Finally, Maha Bali and Mia Zamora share the Peeragogy Handbook for the keyword, “Network”. This crowdsourced manual offers models and instructions for anyone who wants to learn with peers and without an instructor. The book itself can be commented on using the social annotation tool, Hypothesis and even forked and adapted using the software versioning tool, GitHub. While this manual enables the ultimate student agency by replacing the instructor with peers, humanities instructors might also apply these methods to let students co-create just one assignment.

Assignments like these let students repeatedly practice learning in networks, working with data, and solving authentic, unscripted problems. This mentored practice and intentional arc of learning are differentiators for the formal education we provide in institutions of higher education. In building student agency, all of these examples break down traditional academic structures by destabilizing the instructor’s authority, moving learning outside the classroom (physical or online in a Learning Management System), surfacing and sharing our teaching and research practices, moving the humanities beyond the ivory tower, and asking both our students and us as instructors to engage in our digital culture.

Works Cited

Bali, Maha and Mia Zamora. “Network.” Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments. Ed. Davis, Gold, Harris and Sayers.

Bass, Randy, and Bret Eynon. Open and Integrative: Designing Liberal Education for the New Digital Ecosystem. Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2016.

Dweck, Carol. The Power of Believing That You Can Improve. TED Talks. December 17, 2014.

The LEAP Challenge: Education for a World of Unscripted Problems. Association of American Colleges and Universities. 2015.

Middleton, Kim. “Remix.” Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments. Ed. Davis, Gold, Harris and Sayers.

The Peeragogy Handbook. Corneli, J. et al. eds. 3rd ed. Chicago, IL./Somerville, MA.: PubDomEd/Pierce Press, 2016. Downloaded from

Phillips, Amanda. “Gaming.” Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments. Ed. Davis, Gold, Harris and Sayers.

Russo, Julie Levin. “Copy This Class (The Art of the Remix).”

Schacht, Paul. “Annotation.” Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments. Ed. Davis, Gold, Harris and Sayers.

Social Book. Cited in Stein, Bob. “Social Book in Action.” Blog post. 18 August 2013. Web. 17 September 2015.

Zhu, Lily and Casey Sloan. Talkthroughs: Bioshock’s Fort Frolic.


Intercampus Teaching, Networked Teaching

June 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

As small colleges face limited resources that in turn limit student opportunities, we hear constant calls for collaboration.  For example, at the April 2012 conference, “The Future of the Liberal Arts College in America and Its Leadership Role in Education Around the World” Gene Tobin, a program officer of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation argued that:

Collaboration among liberal-arts colleges . . . must become commonplace to meet various challenges, including faculty development, globalization, civic engagement, and staffing less commonly taught languages. (“A President Surveys the Future of Liberal Arts”)

While it is easy to see the potential benefits of collaboration in these cases, in practice there are many challenges to those at liberal arts colleges trying to collaborate in such mission-centered areas as undergraduate instruction.

On Tuesday, June 4, three faculty members engaged in such collaboration shared their experiences in the NITLE Shared Academics™ seminar, “Intercampus Teaching, Networked Teaching.” In this post, I will share insights from the seminar in terms of the benefits, challenges, and best practices of such collaborations, as well as the questions that arose in the ensuing seminar discussion. « Read the rest of this entry »

My Latest at AAC&U’s Nation: Technology and Liberal Education: Yes and…

February 25, 2013 § 2 Comments

Originally posted February 25, 2013 at AAC&U’s Nation,

The theme of this year’s [AAC&U] annual meeting, “Innovations, Efficiencies, and Disruptions—To What Ends?,” includes rapid technological advancement in the list of challenges facing higher education today. This advancement offers alternative delivery methods that promise to lower costs but also require substantial investment in infrastructure. It promises to enhance learning both in and out of the classroom. At the same time, new digital methodologies are changing the face of the disciplines and reshaping academic practice.   Our students face a world in which knowledge is created and shared by both amateurs and professionals, in multiple media, across digital networks, spanning domains and communities. Living, working, and civically engaging in this context is materially different than it was fifty years ago. In particular, the change in agency in this participatory culturechallenges existing professional expertise by democratizing the creation of knowledge.  At the same time, the openness and dissemination enabled by digital networks threatens the traditional model of higher education—content experts passing knowledge in a controlled setting down to their students—by having one expert sharing expertise with everyone’s students. Combined with alternative methods of credentialing, such as badges, competencies, or prior learning assessments, these developments put pressure on one of the core elements of the higher education business model. « Read the rest of this entry »

Digital Pedagogy Keywords

February 20, 2013 § 1 Comment

This morning at the Austin College Digital Humanities Colloquium I’ll be doing a talk entitled, “Digital Pedagogy Keywords.”  This talk both thinks about how we define digital pedagogy through essential terms and unveils a new collaborative project, the “Digital Pedagogy Reader and Toolkit” that Matt Gold, Kathy Harris, and Jentery Sayers are proposing.  My slides are here:

If you are interested in contributing to this project or have an idea for a keyword, let us know.

Crowdsourcing, Undergraduates, and Digital Humanities Projects

September 3, 2012 § 8 Comments

Crowdsourcing could be a silver bullet for integrating digital humanities methods into the undergraduate curriculum.  Why?

“Crowd” by flickr user James Cridland

Crowdsourcing means getting the general public to do tasks. Jeff Howe explains the phenomenon in “The Rise of Crowdsourcing” (Wired Magazine, June 2006) by analogy with outsourcing.  This method of labor is growing for scholarly and cultural heritage projects, and that’s where it intersects with the undergraduate curriculum.  Collaborative manuscript transcription projects, like Transcribe Bentham, have received quite a bit of the attention, but there are a variety of opportunities out there for motivated students to engage in the process of digitizing, preserving, and studying collective resources and data.  For example, the Perseus Digital Library (whose flagship collections cover the history, literature and culture of the Greco-Roman world) has drafted a call to

Advance our understanding of the Greco-Roman World! Contribute to the Scaife Digital Library — improve existing materials and to create new ones! If you want to understand the present and invent the future then FREE THE PAST!

This call lays out a variety of ways to contribute, including translation, definition, citation, text correction, manuscript transcription, text markup, mapping, and clarifying ambiguous names, words or grammar. If your students answer this call or one like it, what will they gain?  Is this just grunt labor or are their potential learning outcomes? Why is this a silver bullet for DH in the classroom? « Read the rest of this entry »

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