Blog Entries and Commentary (totaling 30% of a student’s grade)
Each student will regularly contribute to a multi-authored blog by either posting an approximately 500-word response to the week’s readings/discussions or commenting on another student’s blog entry. For the 500-word entries, I will provide a question for students to consider. This question will be circulated during class meetings and will not be posted on the course site.
There are various ways to approach these open-ended posts: consider the assigned reading in relation to its historical or theoretical context; write about an aspect of class discussion that you don’t understand, or something that jars you; articulate an idea for a project and float it by your peers; formulate an insightful question or two about the reading and then attempt to answer your own questions; or respond to another student’s post, building upon it, disagreeing with it, or re-thinking it. When blogging, students should be sure to use evidence—from the assigned texts, what’s been said (by me or peers) during class, or what peers have blogged. Even though these entries should be viewed as thought experiments scaffolded toward a final project, they are also intended to be less formal than writing for an academic audience. On the blog, students should feel free to write as if they are communicating during a class meeting. For this class, the primary function of the blog is to document your ideas and share them.
Students will also be expected to comment on blog entries by their peers. (Peers will be determined by who is in a student’s cluster, or a group of students working together for the entirety of the term.) These comments can be brief (50 or so words). They will also be prompted by a question circulated during class (and not on the course site). At a minimum, comments should draw evidence from a peer’s blog entry (e.g., quote something the student wrote) and leave the student with a productive question to explore (e.g., “I find your understanding of the digital humanities interesting. Would you mind elaborating on what you mean by ‘building’?”). Comments should not focus on grammar and syntax issues. They should instead privilege argumentation (e.g., what a peer is claiming, what evidence is being used, or where a thought is going). Students are encouraged to respond to comments on their blog entries, especially by writing comments themselves. The best comments spark friendly dialogue, and dialogue should foster persuasive digital projects.
No competencies in blogging are assumed prior to enrollment in this course. I will instruct students in how to use a WordPress blog, and student work will be accessible well after the term is over. WordPress is a popular content management system used in education and industry alike.
(Parts of this section have been borrowed from Mark Sample’s “Pedagogy and the Class Blog.”)
Final Project (totaling 35% of a student’s grade)
The Final Project will be a proof of concept (e.g., a visible and interactive model) for a line of digital humanities inquiry that, with more time, could be developed and include more content. That proof of concept will be presented through both a website (e.g., an online portfolio) and an oral presentation, each of which will be composed collaboratively (in student clusters). I will circulate a detailed prompt for the Final Project; it will include instructions for how, exactly, to proceed with the assignment. Each cluster’s proof of concept will include: (1) a brief statement articulating the purpose of and the audience for the project, (2) the issue the project addresses, (3) at least three ways (e.g., geographical map, timeline, text analysis, video, and audio) of presenting evidence and claims, and (4) an outline for future developments (e.g., what, if given more time, the project could do and how). The Final Project will be public on the web, allowing those who are not in the course to view it once the term is over.
The breakdown of the Final Project is as follows: Final Presentation (10%), Final Project Content and Design (15%), and Final Project Description (10%). See the prompt for details.
Project Proposal (10% of a student’s grade)
Prior to submitting the Final Project, students will have the opportunity to draft and submit a project proposal, sketching out the issue the project will address, how, for whom, and to what effects. The prompt for the proposal will be circulated in tandem with the prompt for the Final Project.
Final Audit (15% of a student’s grade)
After the Final Project is submitted, students will conclude the course by auditing it. Whereas the projects are collaborative endeavors, the final audit will be individually composed. In short, it will function as a way to reflect on the course as one mode (effective or not) of learning about and practicing the digital humanities, with students documenting what worked and what did not. A prompt for the audit will be circulated during the second half of the term.
Participation and Reading Quizzes (10% of a student’s grade)
I will only pop a quiz when it appears that students have not done the reading or the work for the day. Since conversations are essential to the quality of this class, I expect that students shall work together (me included) to create an atmosphere of respect. University level discourse does not shy away from sensitive issues, including questions of race, gender, class, sexuality, politics, and religion, and neither will we. There are going to be differences in opinions, beliefs, and interpretations when we question texts and cultural issues. Students need not agree with the arguments in the course material or with what their peers or I have to say—in fact, it is important to think critically and question the course material. Still, they must do so intelligently and with respect. Respect for difference is instrumental to creating a classroom in which a variety of ideas can be exchanged and points of view can be explored. What is crucial to this course is that students are comfortable expressing themselves and their ideas. If, for whatever reason, they are not, then they should notify me immediately in class or visit me during my office hours. I understand that some people are more comfortable speaking in front of the class than others. That said, participation in office hours will also augment a participation grade.
A Note on Clusters
Since collaboration is central to the digital humanities (in fact, it may be its defining characteristic), the bulk of the work in this course will be conducted through student clusters. Collaboration need not be identical to “group work.” The purpose of the clusters in this class is not to simply get more done in less time. It is not to divide labor in order to merely increase efficiency. It is to work in such a climate that you learn from each other, question each other, and synthesize your ideas in a complex fashion, building upon and highlighting your individual interests and reluctances. While I will not require you to meet in your clusters outside of class meetings, doing so will of course increase your chances of doing well in the course.