scaffolding

For this week, I just created a preliminary schedule for the project. Here it is:

Website Project Timeline

Week 4

Submit topic preferences.

Week 5

Groups and topics assigned. Preliminary meeting with group to discuss division of tasks.

Week 6

Group meetings in class. You should have read the appropriate section of the Chamallas text and be prepared to share an idea for your group’s analytic statement.

Week 7

Draft and submit project prospectus. The prospectus should describe the problem or question that you plan to address and show why the question is problematic and significant.

Week 8

Groups will meet with instructor to discuss project prospectus.

Begin creating website. By the end of this period you should have created your bibliography page and your links page. You should have at least 5 sources for each.

Week 9

Choose a subject for the visual you will create and begin working on it.

Weeks 10-12

Draft analytic statement and create a visual to complement the statement. Post both the statement and visual on your website. At the end of this period, we will workshop each group’s website in class.

Week 14

Finish project and present it to the class!

exploratory writing

Once again, Bean’s chapter was useful, even though I already use exploratory journal writing assignments in all of my classes. I tend to give students directed questions that require them to grapple with some theme of the reading. We then use the journal entries as a starting point for class discussion. The quality of discussion has improved immensely since I began using journals. I collect them on a few unannounced days throughout the semester and grade each entry pass/fail. In the future, I may use Bean’s “Explanation of Exploratory Writing for Students” when I present the journal assignment to my students. I also may try using some of the other kinds of exploratory writing he describes.

For the purposes of my digital project, I might use some of his exercises for topic exploration to get students thinking about the project they’ll be pursuing. For example, I could imagine assigning, perhaps as a journal assignment, elements of his “Generic Exploration Tasks for an Argument Addressing an Issue” (p. 114). I also really like the “Thesis Statement Writing” exercise (p. 115) since many of my students seem have a hard time articulating a thesis.

Here’s my revised project assignment. I’ve taken into account feedback from last week’s seminar and have tentatively incorporated a little exploratory writing. Next week I’ll work on breaking it up into more distinct assignments.

——

Website Project

Overview
In this project, you will work with 1-3 classmates to create a website designed to inform the public about a policy issue related to the content of the course. As opposed to a traditional research paper, this project will be publicly available. Your audience will be the general public and you should approach the project as an opportunity to educate others about an important policy issue. Political and policy issues are best explored with others in public. This website project is one way to initiate such an exchange.

After consultation with you, I will assign each group a general policy area (e.g., employment, intimate partner violence, etc.). As a group, you will then decide on a focus for your website within your general policy area (e.g., comparable worth, mandated prosecution for intimate partner violence, etc). You should read the relevant section in the Chamallas text to get an overview of the area and to begin to generate ideas for your focus.

You will also decide together which tasks each group member will undertake. You will collaboratively create the website and then make a 25-minute presentation to the class about your website. Your presentation should include a discussion with the class about the content and ideas you present. Your presentation will be followed by Q&A with the class. You will use Google Sites, a website creation platform, to build the website; we will go over the technical aspects of this process in class.

This project is meant to develop a number skills, including the following:
-ability to work with a team
-written and oral communication
-digital technology skills
The project will also serve as an example of your work that you can show to potential employers.

Website Components
The website should have a home page and at least three additional pages.
1. The home page should include your team’s interpretation of the topic you chose to focus on in an analytical statement of about 1,500 words [still thinking about the best length]. Along with your group, you will write an analytical statement of about 1,500 words on a specific issue in the general policy area your are assigned.  Use the introduction of your statement to engage your reader’s interest in a problem or question that you would like to address in the statement. Show your reader what makes the question both significant and problematic. The body of your statement should be your group’s own response to this question made as persuasive as possible through appropriate analysis and argumentation, including effective use of evidence. Your interpretation must engage with and explain, at a minimum, two different scholarly perspectives on your policy issue. Midway through the course, you will submit to the instructor a prospectus that describes the problem or question that you plan to address and shows why the question is (1) problematic and (2) significant.
Make sure to include at least 2 visual sources such as images or videos in your analytical statement. Also, make sure to use footnotes to cite at least 7 scholarly sources.

2. You should include a page with a bibliography of at least 10 relevant sources, including the minimum of 7 that you used for your analytical statement and 3 additional ones, with links to any available online.

3. Your site should have one page with links to at least 10 other relevant websites.

4. Your site should have one page with a list of discussion-type questions related to your topic. You will use these to facilitate class discussion when presenting your topic.

5. You can also include additional pages of specific relevance to the topic you chose as you think they are needed.

Finally, your team will write a project overview paper, of 250-350 words, and hand it in on the day of the in-class presentation, on the following topics:
1.    Describe what you have learned about websites as sources of information through doing this assignment and how you will approach them differently in the future, if in any way.
2.    Reflect on the usefulness of creating websites as a tool for learning about and reporting on a political topic, in comparison to traditional research papers.
3.    Explain how this assignment impacted your skills and how you think it might benefit you going forward, if in any way, regarding both your college and your post-college professional, civic, and private life.

Your team will choose a few possible topics and discuss your choices in class. You will then decide on the exact topic together. At this point, I will assign some exploratory writing exercises to help you generate ideas. You will share these with your group members.
You will then collaboratively create the website, dividing the necessary tasks among the team members. This includes managing the project and monitoring its timely progress, conducting research, writing the various statements on the site, designing and adding content to the site, writing the project overview paper, and giving the in-class presentation. One person will act as the coordinator, managing the progress of the website project, coordinating the other team members, and communicating with me about your progress. Each team will make weekly two-minute reports to the class on the current status of the project. On some class days, we will have workshop sessions in which we will discuss your progress and workshop a given website.

Grading
The website will be graded according to the following criteria:
1.    Up to 50 points for the quality of the analytical statement including citing relevant scholarly sources
2.    Up to 10 points for the quality of the project overview paper
4.    Up to 5 points for a bibliography of at least 10 relevant sources
6.    Up to 5 points for links to at least 10 other relevant websites
7.    Up to 5 points for the quality of your discussion questions
8.    Up to 15 points for website layout and clarity
9.  Up to 10 points for your individual contribution to the project. These will be assigned by your group members. (You may receive negative points in this category if you do not adequately contribute to the project.)
10. One group will receive a 5-point bonus, to be determined by a class vote following the presentations to the class.
Your group presentation will be graded separately according to rubric to be distributed in class.

Google Sites Tutorials
Tutorials from Radford University. It includes 4 videos. #1, #2, and #3 are most relevant to your interests:
1) How to Create a New Google Site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1B_q_EiVHI&list=PL9B1A16826A62DD66&index=1&feature=plpp_video
2) How to Edit and Add Media to your Google Site http://youtu.be/HW3OElLssgE
3) How to Change the Appearance of Your Site http://youtu.be/DKXFDdwLLgA

Google Sites Help

http://support.google.com/sites/?hl=en

 

the assignment – take 1

I found Bean’s chapter really useful, not just for my proposed digital project, but for all of my classes. I’m sure I’ll use some of his ideas in other courses. For the purposes of my proposed digital project, his “problem-thesis” assignment is most useful because I would like the digital projects to be driven by students’ interests. I would like to give them some freedom to determine the exact topic.

Bean provides this example for a problem-thesis assignment:

Write an essay of X pages on any topic related to this course. Use the introduction of your essay to engage your reader’s interest in a problem or question that you would like to address in your essay. Show your reader what makes the question both significant and problematic. The body of your essay should be your own response to this question made as persuasive as possible through appropriate analysis and argumentation, including effective use of evidence. Midway through the course, you will submit to the instructor a prospectus that describes the problem or question that you plan to address and shows why the question is (1) problematic and (2) significant.

 

My idea is to modify this assignment for my purposes. I’m thinking of something like this for the analytic aspect of the website I am asking students to design:

Along with your group, you will write an analytical statement of about 1,500 words on a specific issue in the general policy area your are assigned.  Use the introduction of your statement to engage your reader’s interest in a problem or question that you would like to address in the statement. Show your reader what makes the question both significant and problematic. The body of your statement should be your own response to this question made as persuasive as possible through appropriate analysis and argumentation, including effective use of evidence. Your interpretation must engage with and explain, at a minimum, two different scholarly perspectives on your policy issue. Midway through the course, you will submit to the instructor a prospectus that describes the problem or question that you plan to address and shows why the question is (1) problematic and (2) significant.

I’ve incorporated something like this into the draft of my assignment. I’ve also drawn heavily on the resources by Glen Tsipursky, which I found through a friend who used them to create a digital project. I like the way Tsipursky breaks down the elements of the website for students. I’ve really drawn just on Tsipursky and Bean in creating my assignment. Here’s the current state of the proposed assignment:

Website Project
Overview
In this project, you will work with 1-3 classmates to create a website designed to inform the public about a policy issue related to the content of the course. After consultation with you, I will assign each group a general policy area (e.g., employment, intimate partner violence, etc.). As a group, you will then decide on a focus for your website within your general policy area (e.g., comparable worth, mandated prosecution for intimate partner violence, etc). You should read the relevant section in the Chamallas text to get an overview of the area and to begin to generate ideas for your focus.

You will also decide together which tasks each group member will undertake. You will collaboratively create the website and then make a 25-minute presentation to the class about your website. Your presentation should include a discussion with the class about the content and ideas you present. Your presentation will be followed by Q&A with the class. You will use Google Sites, a website creation platform, to build the website; we will go over the technical aspects of this process in class.

This project is meant to develop a number skills, including the following:
-ability to work with a team
-written and oral communication
-digital technology skills
The project will also serve as an example of your work that you can show to potential employers.

Website Components
The website should have a home page and at least three additional pages.
1. The home page should include your team’s interpretation of the topic you chose to focus on in an analytical statement of about 1,500 words. Along with your group, you will write an analytical statement of about 1,500 words on a specific issue in the general policy area your are assigned.  Use the introduction of your statement to engage your reader’s interest in a problem or question that you would like to address in the statement. Show your reader what makes the question both significant and problematic. The body of your statement should be your group’s own response to this question made as persuasive as possible through appropriate analysis and argumentation, including effective use of evidence. Your interpretation must engage with and explain, at a minimum, two different scholarly perspectives on your policy issue. Midway through the course, you will submit to the instructor a prospectus that describes the problem or question that you plan to address and shows why the question is (1) problematic and (2) significant.
Make sure to include at least 2 visual sources such as images or videos in your analytical statement. Also, make sure to use footnotes to cite at least 7 scholarly sources.

2. You should include a page with a bibliography of at least 10 relevant sources, including the minimum of 7 that you used for your analytical statement and 3 additional ones, with links to any available online.

3. Your site should have one page with links to at least 10 other relevant websites.

4. Your site should have one page with a list of discussion-type questions related to your topic. You will use these to facilitate class discussion when presenting your topic.

5. You can also include additional pages of specific relevance to the topic you chose as you think they are needed.

 

Project Overview Paper
Finally, your team will write a project overview paper, of 250-350 words, and hand it in on the day of the in-class presentation, on the following topics:
1.    Describe what you have learned about websites as sources of information through doing this assignment and how you will approach them differently in the future, if in any way.
2.    Reflect on the usefulness of creating websites as a tool for learning about and reporting on a political topic, in comparison to traditional research papers.
3.    Explain how this assignment impacted your skills and how you think it might benefit you going forward, if in any way, regarding both your college and your post-college professional, civic, and private life.

Your team will  collaboratively create the website, dividing the necessary tasks among the team members. This includes managing the project and monitoring its timely progress, conducting research, writing the various statements on the site, designing and adding content to the site, writing the project overview paper, and giving the in-class presentation. One person will act as the coordinator, managing the progress of the website project, coordinating the other team members, and communicating with me about your progress. Each team will make weekly two-minute reports to the class on the current status of the project. On some class days, we will have workshop sessions in which we will discuss your progress and workshop a given website.

 

Grading
The website will be graded according to the following criteria:
1.    Up to 50 points for the quality of the analytical statement including citing relevant scholarly sources
2.    Up to 10 points for the quality of the project overview paper
4.    Up to 5 points for a bibliography of at least 10 relevant sources
6.    Up to 5 points for links to at least 10 other relevant websites
7.    Up to 5 points for the quality of your discussion questions
8.    Up to 15 points for website layout and clarity
9.  Up to 10 points for your individual contribution to the project. These will be assigned by your group members. (You may receive negative points in this category if you do not adequately contribute to the project.)
10. One group will receive a 5-point bonus, to be determined by a class vote following the presentations to the class.
Your group presentation will be graded separately according to rubric to be distributed in class.

Google Sites Tutorials
Tutorials from Radford University. It includes 4 videos. #1, #2, and #3 are most relevant to your interests:
1) How to Create a New Google Site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1B_q_EiVHI&list=PL9B1A16826A62DD66&index=1&feature=plpp_video
2) How to Edit and Add Media to your Google Site http://youtu.be/HW3OElLssgE
3) How to Change the Appearance of Your Site http://youtu.be/DKXFDdwLLgA

Google Sites Help

http://support.google.com/sites/?hl=en

visualize it

Booker’s article used visuals to illustrate his arguments regarding the changes in land use in the San Francisco Bay. I think his attempts were partially successful. I should say at the outset that I am not really a visual learner and generally prefer to learn through text. That being said, I recognize the utility of visual tools and am well aware that many students are visual learners. Thus, it is pedagogically important to use appropriate visual tools.

Nonetheless, Booker’s article illustrates both the necessity of using visualizations well and just how difficult that can be. Several of his maps lacked keys and had a difficult to decipher graph at the bottom. I frequently come across poor graphics, even in well respected magazines. When it is done poorly, the utility of data visualization is undermined. Presenting complex data in visual form is difficult.

Can online and easily accesible data visualization tools help make this process easier? Maybe. I looked at visualizing.org and stat planet. I can imagine using both of them in undergraduate courses. Visuals like this one do a nice job of illustrating data that is relevant to what I teach.

I could imagine creating an assignment in which students created their own visual. I may include an option to create a visual in my planned women and politics digital project. In addition to visualizing.org, students could use something like stat planet to show the spatial dimension of data.

thematic research collections

I have to admit that I found this week’s reading uninspiring. The creation of Thematic Research Collections seems like a good idea, but Palmer’s take on their function was not very insightful. In fact, I have to quibble with Palmer’s definition and explanation of research. She writes:

Scholars are not only constructing environments where more people can do research more conveniently, they are also creating new research. Like other scholarship in the humanities, research takes place in the production of the resource, and research is advanced as a result of it.

What kind of research is the production of a resource? It certainly is valuable and has scholarly uses, but do we need to make a distinction between the gathering and curating of resources and the use of those resources to make a scholarly contribution or argument? At the least, Palmer does not consider this distinction and its potential importance.

In addition to reading Palmer, I browsed the Writing of Indigenous New England project on the Omeka site. It confirmed my sense that TRCs can be extremely valuable resources. That site has a substantial collection of writing and is organized both by collection and exhibit. Some sections could provide more context and the layout could be improved to make the site easier to navigate, but it has a nice variety of resources.

The Women Writer’s Project Collection also confirmed the utility of TRCs. I see that they are in the process of redesigning that collection, and it looks like the future collection will be easier to navigate. My favorite part of the collection was the lab section, which contained a number of interesting visualization tools, like this one.

cyberinfrastructure

For this week, I read Campbell, picked out an assignment from the DS 106 website that might be useful, and took very preliminary steps to setting up a wordpress environment for my future class.

Campbell has an interesting idea to require students to create their own cyberinfrastructure. Requiring this would address some of the problems we discussed last week in our discussion of the tension between templates and control. Although technology is ubiquitous very few of us possess the technical knowledge and ability to create or control an online environment. I don’t know that such a project should be required for all students, but I do think it would be a good thing to require for our new Digital Humanities minors!

In my future digital women and politics course, I am thinking of requiring students to create blogs and update them with reading reflections each week. This would get them used to wordpress and to creating online content so that the major digital course assignment would seem more manageable. The DS 106 website had a “find your voice” blog assignment that I would consider assigning at the beginning of my course. The assignment is:

The best blogs are ones that express a person’s personal voice: whether that be their sense of humor, wit, likes, dislikes that sort of thing. Find an example of a blog where the author’s voice shines through their posts and give a reason of why you like their posts. See if you can use this to inspire your posts during the semester.

This assignment could help students think about personalizing their blog and developing their own blog voice.

templates v. control

Arola makes several good points about the limitations of Web 2.0. In taking for granted the form/content split, Web 2.0 allows us to use technology without understanding or even thinking about the form our content takes. Sites like facebook highlight what other users (our “friends”) do and offer us some ability to individualize our self-presentations. But that ability is strictly limited. We cannot change the template of our profiles. We cannot move around its elements.

This blog has similar limitations. In individualizing my blog, I was able to pick my own picture and change the colors of the layout. But I could not easily change the fonts or the location of my header picture on the page.

The choice between a content management system–that is easier and more accessible–and a system that allows users to be creators and designers is important. In assigning a digital project in my course, I am not sure how much I want students to learn advanced technical skills. My main concern is that a real emphasis on the technical skills would come at the expense of course content.

At this point, I need to clarify exactly what my course assignment is going to be and explore the templates and resources that students could use in creating their sites. This would also help me clarify which of the Five Resources for Critical Digital Literacy to emphasize in my class. At the least, I’d like students to work on Decoding, Meaning Making, and Using. The extent to which we work on those skills is, however, dependent on the tool we’re using to create their projects and what the project is exactly.

interdisciplinary digital pedagogy

I am an interdisciplinary scholar and though I teach in a political science department, my courses are also somewhat interdisciplinary in their nature. Both my scholarship and teaching encompass the study of politics, critical theory, legal studies, gender studies, science studies, and more. As such, digital work and digital pedagogy fits quite easily into work in my multi- and interdisciplinary areas. Neither interdisciplinary work nor digital work are exactly traditional. Each seeks to shake up traditional scholarship by introducing new domains and methods of inquiry.

—-

In addition to Kirschenbaum and Raymond, I read Schweitzer’s “Women’s Studies Online Cyberfeminism or Cyberhype?” for this week’s seminar. Schweitzer discusses the potential for online spaces and assignments to further a feminist pedagogy that emphasizes collaborative learning. As Schweitzer describes it, feminist pedagogy also focuses on “coming to voice: making ourselves visible, recognizing ourselves as the subject of knowledge production and not simply its object or receptacle, and granting others a similar validation.” She argues that online learning environments and digital pedagogy can be used to further those goals.

Schweitzer details her experience teaching a course with a substantial web presence in addition to the traditional classroom presence. By having a participatory class website in which students were encouraged to add links and resources, the course Schweitzer described furthered her collaborative and participatory goals. She also required students to post reading responses on the course page, which made them public in a way that more traditional assignments are not. The benefit of this approach is that students start to become accountable to one another for their perspectives and learn to engage with others’ perspectives rather than just writing, in an isolating way, for the teacher’s eyes.

Additionally, the course Schweitzer taught included an open online discussion forum that allowed students to expand on discussions in class or raise issues not covered during class time. This was another way students could play a role in determining the scope of the course.  Crucially, the course’s online presence created opportunities for course participation that potentially challenged the exclusions and silences that often characterize discussion and participation in physical classrooms.

In contrast to Schweitzer’s feminist perspective on digital pedagogy, Raymond offers an analysis of a simulation exercise in a political science course. Based on his own experience of running a simulation exercise, Raymond concludes that simulations may not enhance student learning and that educators need to think more deeply about the pedagogical purposes of simulations. Nonetheless, Raymond’s article suggests that digital projects such as digital simulations can extend the work traditionally done in political science by getting students to engage in games of strategy and power as players. Rather than only reading about power and strategy, students can engage as simulated political players.

In both the context of political simulations and feminist courses with an online presence, the limitations of technology and the way it is used in practice need to be evaluated. Any political simulation is obviously limited by the very fact that it is simulated. What aspects of the messy and complicated political world are not represented in the simulation? What does the design of the simulation assume about politics and power? While Schweitzer describes the online space of her classroom as providing a space that does not replicate the marginalization and exclusion that often happens in physical classrooms, online space is not untouched by the same relations of power that often play out in physical space. How can online tools be used in a transformative way and not in a way that reproduces social hierarchies? The point I’m making here is simply that there is nothing inherently good or bad about technology. In incorporating digital projects into courses it is imperative to remain reflective about how technology is being used.

my project and the digital humanities landscape

This week’s readings, as my fellow seminar participants have pointed out, were pretty academic and were afflicted with some of the shortcomings of much scholarly writing. Nonetheless, the articles, especially the Svennson piece, did provide me with a stronger understanding of the diversity of Digital Humanities and a set of terms to conceptualize and categorize Digital Humanities practices. Thus, I’ll try to respond to this week’s reflection questions: “How might these texts inform your conception of scholarly work in the digital? Where do you imagine your planned digital project engaging the primitives and fitting into the landscape?”

Svennson’s Modes of Engagements are most applicable to my planned digital project. He breaks down the Modes of Engagement in the following way: Tool, Study Object, Expressive Medium, Exploratory Laboratory, and Activist Venue. My proposed digital assignment would mostly engage the digital as a tool and expressive medium (though I’m not clear on the exact division between these two modes of engagement). Part of the motivation for including an online and digital assignment in my course is to create different (more creative?) opportunities for students to engage with course content and express their own analyses on issues of gender and politics. Although I have not settled the details, the project will ask students to use digital technology at least as a tool to disseminate information and as an expressive medium.

There is also the possibility that the students’ digital project will involve the digital as an activist venue. In fact, my interest in the possibilities of digital pedagogy stems in part from the activist or transformative potential of technology. I always ask students to develop their critical thinking skills and analyses of the political issues we discuss. Despite the fact that many of my students refine their beliefs or come to a new consciousness regarding the issues we investigate, their critical stances are disconnected (at least when it comes to course assignments) from any sort of larger political activism or engagement. Though requiring students to publish something online is a minor kind of engagement, I think that it will slightly change students’ orientations to the issues. Making resources and their own analyses of issues like sexual assault, pay inequality, and such publicly available is perhaps a step toward a more robust political engagement. As I design my project and refine the details, I want to keep this activist possibility in mind.

digital pedagogy raises questions . . .

Taken together, the series of articles by Patricia Cohen raise questions that are also suggested by the Digital Humanities manifesto 2.0. Should we understand the use of digital technologies merely as a tool for learning? Or is the integration of digital technologies into the studies of humanities a more radical project that, as suggested in one of the articles, changes both the kinds of questions we ask and the way we answer them?

I’m inclined to think that these actually aren’t different questions because the tools we use generally have implications for how we think. (I’m interested in seeing how writing a weekly blog entry in response to a set of readings changes the way I engage with those readings and how I frame my responses.) Sometimes these interactions are subtle and difficult to detect; sometimes not.

The spatial humanities projects described in Digital Maps Are Giving Scholars the Historical Lay of the Land seem to be the kinds of projects in which the digital infusion would create important changes to the kinds of questions asked and the kind of knowledge produced. In fact, there is an emerging field of critical legal geography that is asking new kinds of questions about the relation between spatiality and law.

The projects described in that article also stood out to me as kinds I would be inclined to incorporate into a course. I can imagine asking students to build interactive, layered maps that tell a visual story about the landscape of American law and politics. Such maps could include, for example, information on specific laws, the parties in power in the branches of government, demographic data, and much more.

Would the visualization of American politics just be a new way of displaying information or would it change how students think about American politics? Would it prompt them to ask different questions? I think it is likely that such a projects would change how they think about American politics and that it would prompt them to ask different questions. New and different questions shouldn’t be fetishized simply for their newness, but I think it’s worth experimenting to see in what ways digital technologies can be used to shake up humanistic and social science inquiry.

Another issue that arises with the turn to digital humanities concerns the perhaps constructive tension between engaging students in new ways and also requiring them to learn and demonstrate knowledge in more traditional ways. Do some digital projects compromise the “focus, fullness and heft” (as a teacher quoted in Giving Literature Virtual Life put it) of more traditional projects like papers and theses? Does that model of presenting critical thought need updating? I would not want to adopt digital projects that compromised sustained critical inquiry and depth of knowledge, but I’m not sure that most digital projects do that. I think they require a different set of specifically technological skills that are becoming increasingly important for students to learn. They also require thinking in different ways and presenting, even constructing, knowledge in new ways. Which projects will foster deep critical thinking and the development of important new skills? Which ones won’t?