Tag Archives: THATCamp

Is Digital Literacy Dead?


Among the many sessions I participated in at this year’s CHNM THATCamp, one of the most interesting to me was on the future of “digital literacy,” proposed by Jeff McClurken. The concept of digital literacy has continued to show up in University missions, QEPs, “outcomes,” and general pedagogical discourse–I know I’ve routinely encountered it in discussions about Composition 1 and 2 at Marymount, though we use the phrase “informational literacy.”

The premise of the session was the problematic sense that the concepts, attitudes, and skills of digital literacy are already organizing early education, and therefore, in college, students naturally have a familiarity with those concepts, attitudes, and skills. Partially, this seems to be a branch of the “millennial” and “digital native” arguments, which we all know are over-generalizations that misrecognize the pervasiveness of facebook use as a sign of critical thinking driven by digital embeddedness. (There’s the 2010 Cenage study, to start with, though there are some concerns about its source and methodology; if you have more links central to this debate, post them in the comments!)

The core ideas of digital fluency include, broadly, the ability to consume digital information, express ideas digitally, and analyze digital information. The  UMW QEP learning outcomes are particularly useful as a model, and they provide some helpful language if you’re interested in developing assignments. As I reflect on our crowdsourced notes, though, one of the things that strikes me is this portion of the UMW QEP:

Faculty will demonstrate a proficiency in teaching with digital and information resources by:

  • identifying specific digital resources which are relevant and important to the subjects they are teaching
  • understanding how digital resources can be used to create effective and progressive learning environments
  • improving and enhancing existing curriculum with the integration of digital tools and resources
  • developing assessment techniques and tools for student work that uses digital resources

This is perhaps the most important keystone in any university-wide approach to digital fluency, and it is unfortunately true that many faculty in higher education are not, themselves, digitally literate. A lot of this may stem from the pipeline effect of academic education and the tenure process. How do we begin to bridge this divide, bringing the conditions of possibility for student-centered digital literacy to the table? The discussion at THATCamp revolved generally around ways to address, integrate, and build digital fluency at our institutions, and two really interesting points emerged.

One of the most foundational impediments to full integration is linguistic–the continued distinction between an unmarked, prior, normative “literacy,” on the one hand, and a marked, secondary, different “digital literacy,” on the other. Today, it is no longer practically possible to be literate without being digitally literate, even if we don’t recognize literacy as digital literacy. What would happen if we functionally re-signified “literacy”?

The second point that we discussed was the fact that while we, as faculty, expect our students to radically shift the way they think about, for instance, eighteenth-century British novels (remember, of course, that most have never encountered any–outside, perhaps, of Robinson Crusoe–before your class). Students are understandably frightened of unfamiliar material, unfamiliar categories, unfamiliar language, unfamiliar methods. And yet, we expect them–rightfully–to leave the class with the unfamiliar having become, in some measure, familiar. It’s not okay for students to remain static in their thinking. Why, then, is it the norm for faculty?

Be uncomfortable, try something new, and sell that attempt to your colleagues. “Try again, fail again, fail better.”

What kind of a university would yours become if this were the case? What are the impediments failing better? And are those anxieties real anxieties, or are they what Amanda French called “the Perils of Pauline”? Is the faculty rut a symptom of the fear of academic openness?

Quotations from collaboratively-authored Google Doc


THATCamp Brownies: The Recipe


This recipe is essentially from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, though I experimented with the additions. It makes between 12 and 24 brownies, depending on how you cut them. Enjoy!

  • 2 oz of baking chocolate, the darker the better. For the chili brownies, I used this Guajillo Mexican Chili Chocolate, and I added a couple of whole dried chipotle chilis to the chocolate/butter mixture as it melted, then removed them. For the others, I used a base of Ghirardelli 70%.
  • 350 degree preheated oven and a greased 8×8″ baking dish.
  • 1 stick of unsalted, softened butter.
  • 1 cup of sugar. For the lavender brownies, I ground up a good tbsp of flowers, with a little of the sugar, until you get what looks like purple sugar.
  • 2 eggs, room temp, to be added one at a time.
  • 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour.
  • A good tsp of kosher salt. The recipe calls for a pinch, but you have to use about double if you use kosher.
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract. But I bet the brownies would be even better with fresh vanilla bean!

Melt the chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring intermittently, and take it off the heat just before everything is smooth–stir it around to finish melting off the heat, so that it cools just a bit. Put the chocolate and butter mixture into a fairly large bowl, and stir in the sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time (though when I messed up once and put them both in at the same time, I couldn’t tell the difference). Then, stir in the flour, salt, and vanilla until just combined. The mixture will be pretty gooey, but not runny. At this point, you can add most any additional flavorings you want–I used 1/4 cup of Maker’s Mark and a generous pile of toasted, chopped hazelnuts in one recipe, and in the chili brownies, a de-seeded and minced dried chipotle pepper. Scrape the batter into the greased baking dish, and bake it for about 23 minutes, give or take. Just before the brownies are finished baking, sprinkle any additional flavorings on the top–toasted hazelnuts, lavender flowers & kosher salt, more minced chipotles. Don’t overbake, though! Cool the brownie pan on a rack before cutting them up.


How to Regularize Good Discussion Participation


So, I’ve been thinking about my courses for Fall 2011 (yes, I know, the summer’s just started…), and given the energy residue from THATCamp CHNM, I wanted to get some ideas jotted down in a more accessible space than my moleskine.

There was a lot of discussion about backchannels this weekend, and while I’m thinking about employing twitter as an option for student-student interaction and for quick questions/statements about course content, assignments, etc. I’m having some internal debate about the level of my own participation–ideally, this would be a space where students could discuss amongst themselves, but I would worry about quality control. Or am I being paranoid? Has anyone out there used twitter as a backchannel for your classes without participating? Is it alright to lurk but not participate? What are the costs–and benefits–of lurking vs. participating, as an instructor? I think the best thing to do, of course, is to discuss it with the class–it is likely that many are not on twitter at all.

Another thing I always struggle with is creating specific tools/assignments to stimulate and strengthen discussion both in-class and outside of class. Lots of possibilities exist: students bring in/post a question about the reading every day (good use of twitter?), in-class writing about memorable images/moments to start discussion, free-form discussion about the reading–or previous class–for 5 minutes followed by a Q&A, and so on. But I’d like to have my students, especially those in the Patricia Highsmith seminar, do something a little more sustained. I’m considering having two tasks that students sign up for once or twice during the term:

First, one student would be responsible each meeting for selecting and posting a quote from the text on our blog, followed by an analytical reply. Then, before the meeting, the remainder of the class–including me–would contribute additional replies about the posted quote, which the discussion moderator or original poster would be responsible for organizing into a final reply to be brought into class.

This could easily be adapted for my introductory course on visual and cultural studies, too–instead of a quote, students would post a work of art, a photograph, an advertisement, a sound clip, a video clip, and so on, ideally one that they’ve encountered IRL/created rather than just pulled from the web somewhere. Replies would have to incorporate material/quotes/ideas from the assigned reading.

Second, I’ve been interested for a while in using mind-mapping tools like PersonalBrain to map discussions and lectures on the fly. I think that adding an additional technology, though–especially if we have a blog, as I’m planning–would be a little schizophrenic. Still, I love the idea of having one designated student each period responsible for taking notes, then organizing/revising them for presentation next class. I was inspired by HackCollege’s post on using Google Docs to tag-team note-taking in class, as well as George William’s ProfHacker post on the same and the crowdsourced session notes at THATCamp, which I find more of a boon every day. I wonder if anyone has done this actively as a part of a class environment? The note-taking doesn’t need to be collaborative, but it should definitely end up accessible to the class. I could also create note-taking teams of three or four, depending on the size of the class, and that team would be responsible for the notes. This would avoid the problem of a roomful of computer users clacking away every single class period. Any thoughts?

By the following class, when the notes are presented as an overview of the previous discussion, the google doc contents could become a post on the class blog. Then, at the end of the term, I could use Anthologize to create a class gift! Or is that too corny?

Here are some useful videos I might ask students to check out–or watch in class–when we go over the process:


THATCamp Prime 2011: BootCamp Sessions


Just returned from this year’s THATCamp at CHNM, and I have to say–wow. I’m exhausted but oddly energized, as are most other campers (if the twitter stream is to be believed!). For those who’ve never been to a THATCamp, you will find Alexandra Cartert’s excellent post on her experience enlightening. I, too, arrived early for the BootCamp training sessions on June 3, kicking it off with an introduction to a range of CMSes by Patrick Murray-John and Raf Alvarado:

This presentation will provide an overview of the content management system (CMS) as a software genre suitable for a variety of use cases in the digital humanities, from the traditional thematic research collection to hybrid scenarios involving crowd sourcing and data meshing. Beginning with a general discussion of the rationale behind CMSes in the first place, we place WordPress, Omeka, and Drupal in a comparative space wherein the strengths of each can be aligned with specific requirements and constraints. In each case, we present examples of work by peer scholars from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds.

While I’m pretty familiar with WordPress, and I’m getting there with Omeka, I’d always been too intimidated to explore Drupal–it’s much more modular and customizable than WP or Omeka, and it also functions structurally (and argumentatively) in a manner more rhizomic than dendritic or axiomatic. I was especially interested in the conversation about the relationship between structural logic and practical use, especially in the classroom–WP isn’t really useful, for instance, as an argumentative tool, whereas Omeka is, because it allows you to select and sequence items in a collection. Drupal, on the other hand, uses some of the descriptive principles behind Omeka, but because it isn’t limited by categories and tags, its content model is relational; nodes can grow over time, and users can view the relationships that develop and expand–but with a thematic structure. Drupal allows self-organizing content models, like WP, but where WP offers general organizational tools (categories/tags), Drupal offers highly specific, paradigmatic affordances (and yes, I had to look that up!). Omeka,offers more specificity, but it is syntagmatic in principle rather than paradigmatic.

Use Cases:
WP: course sites, personal portfolios, blogs
OMEKA: exhibits, simple thematic research collections
DRUPAL: collaborative projects, complex thematic research collections, data meshing

A good example of Drupal for complex thematic and collaborative projects is House Divided, a project at Dickinson College. There is a pretty steep learning curve for developing the architecture of a Drupal project, because everything has to be defined, but apparently it’s super-intuitive for users (including students) once all has been set up. I was very, very happy that my Gomatos project, which uses Omeka, does not have to be redone–Omeka is a happy choice for my scope and goals.

I really wanted to attend the BootCamp session on Recollection, but it conflicted with the CMS session. So, I’ll have to explore that over the summer, too!

You will leave this hands-on workshop with everything you need to start using Recollection. Briefly, Recollection is a free, Library-of-Congress-sponsored platform that empowers historians, librarians, archivists and curators to create and customize dynamic interfaces to collections of digital content. Starting from an example spreadsheet, you will use Recollection to generate distinct interactive visual interfaces (including maps, timelines, and sophisticated faceted navigation), which you can copy-paste to embed in any webpage. This workshop does not require any particular technical proficiency. Participants will leave the workshop ready to use Recollection to help understand and provide access to digital collections of cultural heritage materials.

After the CMS session, I went to Tom Scheinfeldt’s session on DH project planning and management, which was an eye-opener. While I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be managing any digital humanities projects in the imminent future, the lessons are portable to any number of circumstances one regularly encounters in academia, where human capital is everywhere.

This session will consider both the practical, day-to-day work and intangible aspects of managing digital projects in the humanities. Pragmatic lessons will include picking a project, building partnerships and engaging stakeholders, attracting funding, budgeting and staffing, setting milestones and meeting deliverables, managing staff, publicity and marketing, user support, sustainability, and the range of tools available to support this work. The session will also consider several intangible, but no less important, aspects of project management, including communication, decision making, and leadership.

“What lessons,” you ask? Aim high, but manage expectations (under-promise, over-deliver); be generous with ownership, credit, reward; don’t underestimate the value of a comfortable physical space; face time, even 5-minute drop-bys, are important; and follow-through, follow-through, follow-through!

There were so many great discussions during BootCamp, and I was able to participate in only a fraction of them. Luckily, Google Docs exists. And, I took notes. And, there are pictures. I’ll post more on THATCamp sometime after I’ve eaten these buffalo wings I’m making for dinner. Vegetables? What?

Descriptions from THATCamp.org

This session will consider both the practical, day-to-day work and intangible aspects of managing digital projects in the humanities. Pragmatic lessons will include picking a project, building partnerships and engaging stakeholders, attracting funding, budgeting and staffing, setting milestones and meeting deliverables, managing staff, publicity and marketing, user support, sustainability, and the range of tools available to support this work. The session will also consider several intangible, but no less important, aspects of project management, including communication, decision making, and leadership.

Hacking the Academy


Announcing Hacking the Academy, The Edited Volume: Table of Contents

One year after our call for participation at THATCamp 2010, we are pleased to announce the table of contents of Hacking the Academy, The Edited Volume. The contributions listed below will appear both online at a new open access website being developed by MPublishing and in print under the University of Michigan Press digitalculturebooks imprint. We will be contacting authors with permission requests for the print volume, but we also ask that everyone listed here release their original contribution under a CC-BY license to clear rights for the new website. (If you’re listed in the table of contents, please @-reply @Mdigitalculture on Twitter: “I license my work under CC-BY” and please add this license wherever your original piece appeared so we can move quickly forward. Thanks.)

We want to extend our sincere thanks to the nearly two hundred scholars who participated in this experiment. We apologize that we weren’t able to include everyone’s work in the print volume. Even those of you whose work is included may find it considerably abbreviated. These hard editorial choices reflect the constraints of space and the requirements of coverage and coherence we placed upon ourselves, not a lack of quality. Every contribution remains available on the main Hacking the Academy website.

The hard work of giving every contribution its due, editing and combining more than fifty independently authored pieces of all lengths and styles into a single, coherent, readable volume, and navigating the uncharted legal waters that a work like this presents took longer than we had wanted. We appreciate your patience and hope that the work we have done will make for smoother sailing for anyone crazy enough to try something like this in the future.

Thank you.

Tom and Dan

Hacking the Academy: The Edited Volume


Preface | Dan Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt

Why “Hacking”? | Tad Suiter

Hacking Scholarship

Getting Yourself Out of the Business in Five Easy Steps | Jason Baird Jackson

Burn the Boats/Books | David Parry

Reinventing the Academic Journal | Jo Guldi

Reading the Writing | Michael O’Malley

Voice: Blogging | Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, Mark Sample, Dan Cohen

The Crisis of Audience and the Open Access Solution | John Unsworth

Open Access Publishing | Kathleen Fitzpatrick

Open Access and Scholarly Values: A Conversation | Dan Cohen, Stephen Ramsay, and Kathleen Fitzpatrick

Voices: Sharing One’s Research | Chad Black, Mark Sample

Making Digital Scholarship Count | Mills Kelly

Theory, Method, and Digital Humanities | Tom Scheinfeldt

Hacking Teaching

Dear Students | Gideon Burton

Lectures are Bullshit | Jeff Jarvis

From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able | Michael Wesch

Voices: Classroom Engagement | Mills Kelly, David Doria, Rey Junco

Digital Literacy and the Undergraduate Curriculum | Jeff McClurken, Jeremy Boggs, Adrianne Wadewitz, Anne Ellen Geller, and Jon Beasley-Murray

What’s Wrong with Writing Essays: A Conversation | Mark Sample and Kelly Schrum

Assessment versus Innovation | Cathy Davidson

A Personal Cyberinfrastructure | Gardner Campbell

Voices: Learning Management Systems | Matt Gold, Jim Groom

Hacking the Dissertation | Ansastasia Salter

How to Read a Book in One Hour | Larry Cebula

Hacking Institutions

The Absent Presence: A Conversations | Brian Croxall and David Parry

Uninvited Guests: Twitter at Invitation-only Events | Bethany Nowviskie

Unconferences | Ethan Watrall, James Calder, and Jeremy Boggs

Voices: Twitter at Conferences | Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Jason B. Jones, Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, Amanda French

The Entropic Library | Andrew Ashton

The Wrong Business for Libraries | Christine Madsen

Re-imagining Academic Archives | Christopher J. Prom

Interdisciplinary Centers and Spaces | Stephen Ramsay and Adam Turner

Take an Elective | Sharon Leon

Voices: Interdisciplinarity | Ethan Watrall, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, David Parry


An Open Letter to the Forces of Change | Jennifer Howard

The Trouble with Digital Culture | Tim Carmody

via Hacking the Academy.