For my digital project for Spanish 101, I have devised 3 categories, based a 4-point system: 4 points (= exceeds the standards), 3 (= meets the standards), 2 (= partially meets the standards), 1 (= does not meet the standards).
1.) Vocabulary: 1-4 points. I will first experiment with usage of 25 vocabulary words or more from the chapters to achieve a 4, 15-24 words for a 3, 10-15 for a 2, under 10 for a 1.
2.) Grammar: 1-4 points. This is very difficult to quantify, given that they are beginning students of Spanish. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that a 4 means very few grammatical errors, 3 an “acceptable” number of errors, 2 an “unacceptable” number, and 1 way too many.
3.) Project design: 1-4 points. This is perhaps easier, even though there is an “eye test” involved. 4 = well rehearsed, produced, edited. 3 = “acceptable” work, but could be better done. 2 = “unacceptable” work in terms of rehearsal, production, editing. 1 = poor quality, no time taken to rehearse, produce, or edit the video (essentially improvised).
Obviously, this is rough sketch. After a few projects, I will get a better sense of how to assess their projects. I’ll also evaluate if a 3-point system is easier, or perhaps a 5-point system is warranted.
For my dialog projects, I think I have a decent roadmap in place to work with, detailed in my previous post. My concerns and challenges are the following:
1.) Students rushing their dialogs and/or not checking their Spanish. Oftentimes, I see a complete disregard for spelling, verbal conjugations, calqued phrases from English, and vocabulary told to them by Google translator. The fix, I surmise, is to build in reviews as a safeguard to best avoid these issues.
2.) Students giving up on the technology and creating a rebellion in class: i.e. “Can’t we just do this in class? Yeah, we don’t like this either…”
3.) Should this project be on my You Tube site, or should it be on the students’ You Tube sites? There are pros and cons to each. Firsthand experience will likely answer this question.
Bean’s thesis-governed technique for writing has provided me some ideas in preparing a scaffolding plan for my digital humanities assignment for Spanish 101. For my project, I want students to prepare a basic dialog in Spanish, recorded on You Tube with Spanish captions. Here are the steps:
Step 1: Choose a topic. Following Bean’s thinking, here are some ideas to direct your dialog:
School: You want to get together for coffee with a friend. Talk about each’s class schedules and classes, then find a time to meet. When you meet, talk about one of the topics below.
Family: Who are your family members and what are they like?
Clothing and Colors: You want to or are going shopping for clothes at the mall. Pick out some clothing and colors you want to buy.
House and/or rooms: Talk about your house and/or the rooms and furniture in your house.
Step 2: Draft dialog. Use Microsoft Word and set the Language to Spanish to check for spelling. Provide draft to the instructor to check for correct vocabulary, grammar, and spelling.
Step 3: Record and edit video.
Step 4: Upload video to You Tube and edit with captions.
John Bean’s chapter 5 of “Engaging Ideas” provides some excellent guidelines for writing assignments in college-level courses. In particular, his “thesis-driven” guidelines are wonderful suggestions. As he aptly notes, too much freedom to write for many colleges students is actually debilitating: “these students are apt to produce wandering ‘all-about’ papers rather than arguments or quasi-plagiarized data dumps with long, pointless quotations…” In contrast, for students who are still learning to write, he advocates for a “thesis-governed argumentation” approach and for shorter “write-to-learn” assignments to prompt student writing before tackling larger projects.
I find Bean’s suggestions excellent. In particular, his check-list of critiquing the teacher’s writing assignment is very apropos: Is the assignment clear? How much time is required? Is the process explicit? Is it easy or difficult to grade? These are questions I need to ask myself when I put together writing assignments.
Carole Palmer’s chapter, “Thematic research collections,” examines an emerging, new kind of scholarship: digital collection. Interestingly, these thematic collections, she argues, are not simply support for scholarship, but instead are vital contributions to scholarship in this digital age. As Palmer notes, these collections “have the potential to substantively improve the scholarly research process.”
I find this idea fascinating, perhaps even an important evolution in research methodology, in that traditional research in the humanities and social sciences often has consisted in hunting down and discovering scattered materials around physical archives. The new digital researcher engages in all that traditional research, but also digitizes, curates, and presents it in a format that can be accessed from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Also, the archive can keep growing from colleagues or aficionados who wish to donate or share primary or secondary source material.
One example, from the omeka.net exhibit, “Heroes and Villians: Silver Age Comics at Atkins Library” showcases original comics and comic book heroes from the 1950s-1970s. The collection features access to original comic books published during that era, as well as a historical overview of comic books in the U.S., videos, and other resources for researchers. I found this a very fun archive, which has original material along with history and analysis of the material.
UNE’s website for the Maine Women Writers Collection is rudimentary in comparison. Everything is predicated on the physical library archive. And the website reflects that reality.
“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.
The “spatial humanities” mentioned in the “Geographic Information Systems” is an excellent resource for classrooms. For example, the National Library of Spain now has an interactive webpage for Don Quixote, mapping out his adventures with citations from the text. This is clearly an area of scholarship that can take classic literature, classic battles, classic event, etc., and bring them to life on the internet in a way never seen before. I can imagine, for example, an interactive geographical website demonstrating Napoleon’s invasion of Russia as described in War and Peace.
“Giving Literature Virtual Life” describes a Shakespeare class as recreated in a digital format. While the idea is certainly fascinating, I feel a bit more skeptical of this course. That is, there seems to be playing down the rich universe of human emotions that Shakespeare was so brilliant at capturing in his characters. Not to mention the skill of acting and interpreting those emotions in a live format. That seems to me the true heart and soul of a Shakespeare play.
In the article “For Bentham and Others…,” the “crowd-sourcing” method of transcribing handwritten documents is an interesting historical endeavor. Clearly using the internet instead of physical archives saves times and money for research. But the question, as raised in the article, is “can anyone do this”? While there are clear merits in having the transcribed versions, I’m curious if it would be better just to put the original material online and let researchers read for themselves?