“But the mirror lied,” notes Gardner Campbell, referring to the “digital facelift” of today’s higher education. “Higher education,” he writes, largely has “failed to empower the strong and effective imaginations that students need for creative citizenship in this new medium.” Using e-mail and online courses seem to be end-all and be-all of digital literacy in higher ed, but are superficial at best. To correct this, he argues, students need to learn to work in and manage their own cyberspace as part of their college education, from orientation to graduation. Campbell writes: “To get there, students must be effective architects, narrators, curators, and inhabitants of their own digital lives.” Moreover, it’s imperative that university faculty and administrators lead the students by example in this endeavor.
Students are not necessarily internet savvy, argues Kristin Arola, even though they practically all use the internet. In fact, knowing how to create a homepage is like owning a landline telephone for most students. However, students need to experiment with web design, notes Arola, as well as other forms of writing beyond posting within pre-chosen templates they have become accustomed to using. Instead, students need to be experimenting with both “form” and “content” when designing digital projects. Moreover, she cautions that these pre-chosen formats we all are (over)using are about making technology efficient and utilitarian, not about encouraging or enhancing technological creativity.
Arola’s article is definite food for thought, given what we often see in student presentations are imitations of the same types of powerpoint presentations of their professors. Clearly, as educators, we want to encourage critical and creative thinking of these “canned” models, and to have students focus on the design of the presentation as a vital part of the content as well.
“What is Digital Humanities doing in English Departments?” asks Matthew Kirshenbaum. He offers a number of interesting reasons, such as the relationship of composition and computers, databases of texts, reading technology, textual analyses, the history of cultural studies via literature, and the collaboration of literature with other disciplines. These areas, he notes, are natural to English Depts., and hence computer technology and literature are not incompatible, but are highly so. Unfortunately, trends in higher education see English Depts. as anachronisms, relics of the past that are not up to speed with the 21st century “job skills” that contemporary students are seeking in higher education, particularly with the massive influx of computer technology. But he makes the case that English Depts. still are relevant, and are in fact more at the forefront of higher ed than meets the eye. Digital Humanities, in particular, are highly relevant for the 21st century.
Martha Castañeda’s article looks at digital storytelling in foreign language classes as an innovative tool for teaching foreign language skills, particularly incorporating reading, writing, drama, and technology into the foreign language classroom. These activities, she argues, are an excellent and nuanced pedagogical approach to the traditional foreign language classroom. She offers a number of examples to direct storytelling projects: such as memories, accomplishments, community or social concerns. She notes that the storytelling in the foreign language is the primary concern, of course, with the technology as secondary; hence, the pedagogical focus is crafting and refining the foreign language, typical of task-based assignments in foreign language courses. Plus, the projects are also multidisciplinary: that is, students learn critical thinking, media literacy, and basic reporting as well. Her case study in the article reports overall student enthusiasm for these projects, including student research into nuances of vocabulary and grammar in order to fine-tune their language for the recordings. Overall, she found that students exceeded her expectations for drafting, performing, and editing of the projects.
Unsworth’s article on scholarly primitives is looking at documenting and working with original sources via the digital humanities. The date of the article is interesting, 2000, demonstrating how forward-thinking the author is in terms of database searches and essentially bringing original scholarly materials onto the internet for analysis. In particular, I was intrigued with the comparative religious texts, showing the original and translated texts side-by-side. The benefits of having very old texts put into 21st century technology seems self-evident for teaching and research purposes for those who work with the humanities.
Svensson’s article explores the diverse digital terrain of the “digital humanities,” and examines some interesting political as well as intellectual questions of how to work with the digital format as the preferred medium of knowledge dissemination in the 21st century. Visual and aural and internet data are now part of scholarly work. As such, the question is where are the intellectual “boundaries” now? Should we have them anymore? Some universities, he notes, are at the forefront in digital humanities work. Further, the idea of “cyberculture” is particularly fascinating, in that computers are now centers of cultural creation and not just a computing tool.