I've talked a little about critical making in a previous post. The use of animation is one example I've tried, but honestly I'm more fascinated by data visualization. I see data visualization as an extension of traditional historical narratives. This is an easy thing to say, but any serious consideration of the DH work happening across the country highlight the complex outcome scholars are able to achieve visualizing data. Maps are one example of the overlap between established historical artifacts and digital objects made to transmit information. The challenge for me is to align these activities with my classroom environment.
With the emphasis on teaching at my institution, my approach to the intersection of digital and history has evolved toward a practice of students using digital tools to demonstrate the knowledge they have acquired. With this as a guiding principle I reject the idea that data visualization in the classroom should be used to package lectures (and entertain). To be fair, I do a lot to include interesting visuals in the classroom. However, this isn't what I hear associated with data visualization in the classroom. There are vendors willing to sell me a range of tools to make course content. i'm not interested in that. Nor am I rejecting a flipped classroom. Instead, I'm suggesting the nature of technology in the classroom should not be defined by consumptive concerns. If creating an audience experience that makes students happy is the driving concern, I'm not sure the best learning is going to happen. My experience is that undergraduate students can engage with primary sources to create informative digital projects.
The classroom is flipped by their engagement in the creation of unique digital objects informed by their critical thinking, research, and analysis. While they do not create the "shiny" digital projects that define some digital humanities projects, the effort on display accomplish crucial goals linked to information fluency, critical thinking and analysis, and knowledge integration associated with liberal arts education for the 21st century. As I've pursued the idea of critical making in my classes, I've crafted distinctive projects aligned with learning outcomes for lower and upper division courses. If you examine my digital project you can see the result. One project that I developed and continue to refine is TRINITY. Trinity is map making project that ask students to use archival sources to create information rich map. This project is intended to act as digital companion project to a traditional research paper in an upper level course. Using Google Maps as our tool, this project allows students to craft a different kind of narrative using primary sources that supports a broader analysis of a historical problem. I'm returning to Trinity this semester after my first generation projects. I've thought of some refinements that I think will be helpful to frame the projects for the students while creating an intriguing experience for the viewer. You can see some examples of the first generation maps below. Look for the new crop of TRINITY maps at the end of the semester!