I'm on social media. This is not a secret, but perhaps some of the logic I employ for why I'm on social media is not clear. There are a few reason, but the most basic is that I see social media as part of my scholarly narrative. Thus, I tend to incorporate those activities into the broader contours of the things I'm teaching and researching. Of course, social media has a many elements that operate outside academic discourse. Indeed, there are plenty of questions about the use or misuse of social media in academia. Since I'm using it, I get questions from colleagues and reporters about social media. One question that I've gotten is about using twitter in the classroom. My first response is no, I don't use twitter. Indeed, if you examine some the common practice associated with Twitter in the classroom, it would make no sense for me. Technique such as allowing students to ask questions are not useful in a classroom with 10 students. Moreover, my efforts linked to digital tools is focus on creation and merely asking questions does not reach the benchmark I believe important. As a result, I did not have much to offer to those reporters that wanted quotes on twitter in the classroom. However, thinking about the implication of twitter as platform that can be crafted to support simulation allowed me to create an assignment use twitter. My Digital Flashback assignment asked students in my Decade of Decision 1890s course to imagine themselves in 1893. The twitter platform offered great opportunities to create an engaging narrative using archival documents. You can see the results below.
I use a critical making framework in my classes. The term is associated with scholars like Matt Ratto and Roger Whitson and it is closely linked to design thinking pedagogy. Critical making can be described as a process of material exploration and creation to promote understanding. By making objects linked to culture, the maker gains understanding about the subject. Critical Making is often associated with design and engineering education, but increasingly these activities are being incorporated into the humanities and social science because of the abundant of digital tools available to faculty and students. Traditionally, I describe this process in my courses as scaled cognitive exercises. Meaning, these projects require you to start an endeavor by exploring archival materials linked to the course subject matter and then use that material to create a final project using a digital tool. As a historian, I see the digital space as a natural arena to execute the historian’s traditional practice of engaging an audience with a narrative. My definition of digital humanities activities can be summarized as chronicling, preserving, and presenting historical narratives using a variety of digital tools. History traditionally recognizes the changing nature of communication and moves to understand the opportunities and challenges represented by those changes. Past experience demonstrates while new tools offer innovative opportunities, the core skills associated with historical study remain crucial. I experience with different modes on a continual basis. Project Insight was an attempt to use animation in class. Below you can see my introduction animation and several produced by students in African American History course. Produced in 2012, this project allowed me to think through some concepts connected to making as a mode of learning. The students started with a primary source reader and picked specific documents as the inspiration for these animations.