Teaching Digital History

Thursday, May 8th, 2008 | Jeffrey McClurken

I’m very excited about the projects that have already been discussed, though I’d like to shift gears a little in terms of topics.

I’m interested in talking with others about their experiences teaching digital history/humanities to undergraduates (and graduates). I’ve experimented with a number of ways to involve students in the creation of group and individual digital historical research projects. In the past I’ve had students hard coding web pages in HTML or using Netscape Composer; others built their sites in wikis. These projects were typically part of content-based American History classes.

This year I set up an undergraduate digital history seminar, entirely based around the methods and practice of digital humanities. This course involved a great deal of planning and prep work (including emails to all majors before registration and a survey of digital skills and interest 6-8 weeks before the class started), and the help of a number of people outside the History Department, most notably, UMW’s Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies (including fellow THATCamper, Patrick Gosetti-Murrayjohn). With my DTLT colleagues we created a digital toolbox (including WordPress, Omeka, MIT’s Simile/Timeline, del.icio.us and others) from which the students were able to choose the appropriate tools for their own group projects. I’m happy to talk as well about the structure of the class, including questions of grading, work load and skills, and the four finished projects themselves.

More details about the class (and links to the projects themselves) can be found at digitalhistory.umwblogs.org and posts on my own blog.

I look forward with talking with other THATCampers about similar topics.

6 Responses to “Teaching Digital History”

  1. Bill Ferster Says:

    Last year, Scot French and I taught a similar course at UVA, called Jefferson’s Travels (www.JeffersonsTravels.org). We did this with Monticello, and chose a 6-week trip Jefferson took in 1786 to England to study.

    We had a dozen fourth-year history majors research the journey and create visualizations using primary source documents and a tool we’re developing at VCDH called the HistoryBrowser. You can see the work they did here: www.JeffersonsTravels.org/broswser.php?base=jt and a link to the syllabus here: www.vcdh.virginia.edu/courses/fall07/hius401-f.

    We’re doing the course again this fall, focusing on Poplar Forest, and the time he spent in Bordeaux around the same time as the English trip.

    I’d be interested in connecting with you and anyone else interested in student-generated digital history work. I think there is great potential in this kind of course, as it offers student a chance to engage in authentic digital scholarship.

    Perhaps an “unpanel?”


  2. margie Says:

    I would like to see something like this as well.

    I have taught a course in history and new media a few times but not in recent years. The last time, we focused on the early 20th century in Dayton and they presented proposals for designing an online exhibit. In the history and new media course, students learned basic html and then worked with Dreamweaver to build Web sites and with various applications to produce digital storytelling projects; the last time I taught, I had just – at the urging of our Center for History and New Media staff – begun to think about games. I found there was a need for more than one course — one to focus on using and assessing the history resources on the Web and tools like Zotero for undergraduates, another for producing digital history, and a third for the implications and new directions in regards to public history. However, ocusing on a specific historical exploration and working with a partner like Monticello, seems like it lets students learn about these areas in a selective, motivated way.

    I’ve been working on redesigning history courses to give students more choices, promote more active learning opportunities, and to introduce students to more digital resources and tools. While I’ve done this a great deal in the past, I feel like the landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. I want to learn more about making effective use of these resources particularly in introductory courses serving social studies education students.

    Is there such a thing as an “uncourse”?

    – Margie

  3. margie Says:

    Correction — I should have written at the urging of the WSU Center for Teaching and Learning staff–they gave a lot of support to this course.

  4. Paula Petrik Says:

    (At last a working password.) I’d like to join up with those who are teaching a digital humanities or digital history course. I teach the tech half of the PhD digital history sequence here at GMU.

  5. Matthew MacArthur Says:

    I will be teaching a new online course and would be interested in this topic.

  6. Liste non exhaustive des thématiques abordées lors des THATCamp | ThatCamp Paris 2010 Says:

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