Category Archives: digital humanities

I am a teacher

photo of a powerpoint slide from a talk by Martha Burtis

Image is from Martha Burtis’ keynote talk at the Digital Pedagogy Institute that I attended earlier this summer. Her full talk is available here.

I am a teacher, and am happiest when I am grappling with how to share what I know and what I think with others.  Thus, I am fortunate that I hold a position where I am teaching nearly everyday–either through technology training or through teaching courses at ChapmanU.

With this new semester, as with each new semester, I am considering how I can improve my teaching skills.  And I’ve determined that incorporating a more regular reflective practice will be the best way that I can improve my teaching.  I’ve written about this a bit before on my blog, but I am now committing to make this a more explicit focus of my blogginb.

So, to start off, I will invoke one of my greatest mentors and fellow Friend, Parker J Palmer, who asks:

“How can I develop the authority to teach, the capacity to stand my ground in the midst of the complex forces of both the classroom and my own life?”

He clarifies, that by “authority” he means:

In a culture of objectification and technique we often confuse authority with power, but the two are not the same. Power works from the outside in, but authority works from the inside out. We are mistaken when we seek “authority” outside ourselves, in sources ranging from the subtle skills of group process to that less-than-subtle method of social control called grading. This view of teaching turns the teacher into the cop on the comer, trying to keep things moving amicably and by consent, but always having recourse to the coercive power of the law.

External tools of power have occasional utility in teaching, but they are no substitute for authority, the authority that comes from the teacher’s inner life. The clue is in the word itself, which has “author” at its core. Authority is granted to people who are perceived as “authoring” their own words, their own actions, their own lives, rather than playing a scripted role at great remove from their own hearts. When teachers depend on the coercive powers of law or technique, they have no authority at all.

I am painfully aware of the times in my own teaching when I lose touch with my inner teacher, and therefore with my own authority. In those times I try to gain power by barricading myself behind the podium and my status while wielding the threat of grades. But when my teaching is authorized by the teacher within me, I need neither weapons nor armor to teach.

Authority comes as I reclaim my identity and integrity, remembering my selfhood and my sense of vocation. Then teaching can come from the depths of my own truth—and the truth that is within my students has a chance to respond in kind.

His words remind me of something that I have grappled with so many times as I’ve stood in front of a classroom:  that feeling of vulnerability and exposure that comes from the unpredictability of human interaction, as well as the actual physical limitations of my own body to enact and enable a teaching experience.

Perhaps I feel this more keenly because of my awareness that my body can be awkward in the physical space of the classroom.  On days when I am using crutches it can be nearly impossible to deftly use the podium computer or to meander around the desks of the classroom.  Or on some days when I am physically spent and need to sit instead of stand, I feel the challenge of engaging students with my less-than-powerful physical presence.  And of course even on days when I am standing confidently there is the sense that my cyborg body is speaking louder than the words that I am sharing with the students.

But then there is the flipside of that, the fact that I am more physically vulnerable can break down the barriers that might be typical between professor and student.  If we all gather our chairs in a circle on a day that I need to sit, the students also move away from the spaces of their desks and the trappings of their classroom role.  On those days there is no barricade of podium and desk.  On those days learning can happen in ways that are quite different from the learning that occurs when I am delivering content from a screen.

Given that I have little control over the days that I can stand in front of my students versus those that I cannot, I try to do the best I can to prepare for whatever might happen when I enter the classroom.  A teaching exercise that I used in the past might have to be altered, or a student might need to run the technology if I cannot.  If nothing else, it keeps the teaching experience varied, fresh, and open to all kinds of learning possibilities.

So, to return to reflection about my teaching experiences this week, here is a list of a few moments that stand out:

  • Creating the class rules in my HIST 233: Disability in American Life course, in a way that fosters a welcoming experience for all class members
  • Giving each of my students in my Introduction to Digital Humanities course, their own WordPress site, as a sandbox domain where they can write/play/experiment and carry out the weekly practicum exercises for our class.
  • Supporting dozens of faculty in using the Chapman ePortfolios platform for creating their T&P dossiers, and in doing so, helping them to create the best-possible digital representations of their scholarly efforts.  The wide gamut of content that faculty can embed and link to from their dossiers is not only remarkable, but represents the best and brightest work done by early-career scholars at our university (and never ceases to inspire me to do better work myself).
  • Leading a workshop on how to use Classroom-Response Systems at a time where we had a major technical snafu that resulted in my presentation being derailed.  Having to accept that the workshop was unrecoverable in that moment (there was no graceful alternative) and not letting my frustration about something that I couldn’t control, completely derail the conversation about how instructors could use technologies for student-response.
  • Allowing students to choose the platform for their collaborative sharing:  one class created a closed Facebook group and the other opted to create a Slack Team.
  • Having my Intro to DH students read the “Letters to a Future Student” from my previous classes.  Seeing that this exercise increased their enthusiasm for what they will learn this semester as well as their sense of courage to try new/hard technologies.

As I think about this list and all that has already happened in this Fall semester thus far, I am feeling pleased about my efforts.  As Palmer reminds us,

Good teachers join self, subject, and students in the fabric of life because they teach from an integral and undivided self; they manifest in their own lives, and evoke in their students, a “capacity for connectedness.” They are able to weave a complex web of connections between themselves, their subjects, and their students, so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves…

Creating an activist Twitter bot

the L Word on TwitterIn my workshop at Digital Pedagogy today, we discussed how and why someone might want to create a twitter bot.  The uses of such bots can vary widely–they can be playful (such as the Billy Joel bot, which tweets out song lyrics) or can expose hidden behavior (such as the Valley Edits bot, which shows edits to wikipedia from Silicon Valley).

I wanted my bot to do something similar to the bot that corrects people who tweet about “illegal immigrants,” offering corrective language.  However, I wanted my bot to call attention to everyday words that denigrate the experience of disabled people.  So I chose to target my bot on people who tweet the word “lame.”  It took about 30 minutes to create the bot, most of which was time spent on signing up for the various services that I would need to create a new Twitter/IFTTT/Buffer accounts.  Here’re the step-by-step instructions if you want to do something similar:

  1. Sign up for a new Twitter account (a few tricks: you can use your regular gmail account by adding +something to your name.  For example, I used janaremy+something@gmail).  Also, you will need a cellphone number when you sign up, but you can recycle your own cell number from your regular twitter account by texting “stop” to 40404, and then re-use your cell number for your new account.
  2. Sign up for Buffer, which can schedule your generated Tweet content.  In Buffer, add your new twitter account and choose the schedule that you want to use for your content.  As an example, I chose to publish my content 8 times per day, and Buffer then selected the appropriate schedule for that frequency. (note: so that Buffer would accept my new twitter account, I had to follow a few people and also gain a few followers–so be prepared to have a few friends who will be willing to follow you):Buffer schedule
  3. Sign up for IFTTT to create a ‘recipe’ to publish your content to Twitter.  In IFTTT, select the option to create a new recipe.  It will then ask you to define the following:
  4. If This: For your This, choose for the trigger to be Twitter, and then select for it to search for usage of the word lame:Trigger screenshot
  5. Then That: Select Buffer at the service, and then edit for the following content to be added to Buffer, to create an at-reply to the users who are using the word lame in their tweets: Buffer instructions
  6. After creating your recipe, select the option in the Upper Right corner to “Check Now” and then toggle over to Buffer and check if your tweets are populating:Buffer schedule
  7. A few other notes:  I linked to a few articles in my new twitter feed account that raise awareness about ableist language.  I am hopeful that this will educate people who receive @replies from my bot.   Also, I’ve already managed to piss off a random person who received a reply from my bot.  I suspect that this will happen fairly often, and I also suspect that Twitter may shut down the account, once it becomes obvious that it’s behaving as a bot and @-replying people that I don’t follow.  I’ll report back if/when it’s shut down…

committed

This is another post in the series about MyYearinIT.

Not too long ago I found myself in a “Strategic IT” meeting we were discussing where we each sit on the curve of change.  The discussion leader drew something a bit like this on his whiteboard and asked us each to come up and put a mark where we would be in the curve of adopting to technological changes.

He then asked: Were we on the leading edge?  Or did we follow the crowd?

graph of change

Various colleagues got up and put a mark somewhere on the curve, most of them right around the big bump (those who tended to jump on the bandwagon with everyone else) and a few afterwards (those folks said that they usually waited to whether a technology was likely to last before they adopted it).  I was one of the last people to go up to the sign and leave my mark.

This is where I put myself (note: I was the only person to draw a picture, but I’m dorky like that):

my boat, in front of the wave of changeI then told the group a story that’s become a touchstone for me…

When I first began canoeing on the ocean, it was pretty scary to be surrounded by wide open water.  The swell could be a low rolling bump that gave a gentle nudge to the boat or the entire ocean could be flat as a pancake, where you had to dig in your paddle to do all the work.  But of course there was also the possibility of really big swell.  And the first time I encountered that, it was unforgettable. Continue reading

learning about digital humanities, from the inside

For a long time I’ve been thinking how helpful it would be to have some of the expertise of my colleagues in IS&T, in my Digital Humanities course.  At a conference I’d heard about the benefits of embedding librarians within research courses, and it seemed to me that embedding technicians within a DH course would accomplish a similar aim, and would also reinforce the nature of DH as a collaborative discipline.

So today was my first foray in that vein, as Ryan (a member of our server team) attended my class and gave a demo of the inner guts of a PC and a server machine.

IMG_7695

 

IMG_7696It was successful enough that I will try it again in future classes, and may also call on other technical expertise from our IT department throughout the semester.  Because while I don’t think the students need to know all of the details of how a computer works, it is important for them to consider the limitations of various devices and platforms as they imagine the possibilities for their future research projects.

Because I am not an “IT Guy”

dhsocalheaderWhile I was at THATCamp DHSoCal last weekend, I heard numerous attendees refer disparagingly to their “IT Guy” or “those guys at IT.”  The references made me uncomfortable because I am an affiliate of IS&T at Chapman (and I’m not a “guy”) and because the term was generally used to indicate staff who are unhelpful and uninclined academically.  The term “IT Guy” often appeared in the same sentence as “Blackboard” to compound the insult.

Apart from my concern that Chapman faculty might feel negatively about me or others from my Office because of our IT role, this trend of dissing IT staff is especially disconcerting for those of us who inhabit the Digital Humanities.  Because, for our projects to be both attainable and sustainable we very much need IT support and resources.  Disparaging (or dehumanizing) those who have technical roles at the university can only widen gaps that might already exist in the organizational structure of our campuses, and thereby reinforce barriers to team-building and project progress.

Perhaps I am particularly sensitive to this issue given that I’ve worked so hard over that past four years at Chapman to gain the trust of faculty and staff.  That work has included my attempt to speak and write in ways that don’t alienate others by using technical jargon or assuming a certain level of academ-ese.  Also, I purposefully refer to IT staff by their names, roles, and/or titles rather than as the generic “IT guy” (just as I do when I discuss faculty or administrators).*

Because, while the divides between “operations” and “academics” are undoubtedly deep at many campuses, that does not mean that there should not be efforts to effect change, and using inclusive language to describe our colleagues is one big step towards doing so.

*at Chapman we have a CIO who is a woman, about half of IT directors are women, and many of the affiliated technical staff are also women–I suspect that it is a rare IT division that does not include many women.

 

 

 

She was told never to do these 5 things while she was getting a PhD in History, but she did them anyways. Click here to see what happened.

This list of links is for a round table that I’m participating in at the #WAWH conference this afternoon about writing online as a graduate student. So to mix things up a but I thought I’d try a bit of upworthy-style academic clickbait (instead of a PowerPoint)…

1) blog everyday

Confessions of a blogger historian

The blogging life

2) get personal

My bio

Writing about disability and religion and divorce and family (and poetry and flowers…)

3) get distracted by side projects

Technological tools for historians

The Making History Podcast

4) tweet at and about academic conferences

Getting Twitterpated at academic conferences

The Past’s Digital Presence Conference twitter feed

5) accept a FT alt-ac position instead of ‘going on the market’

Moving from a virtual space to an academic office space

Ten things I’ve learned from being a university administrator

Being interested and sharing, at DHSoCal

Screen shot 2014-04-25 at 11.30.31 AM

From https://docs.google.com/document/d/1n15ij8a5SZuZvOs4GVOPHLmH9eku7V5zeTV-7QLkMqw/edit#heading=h.fblu5pcck9xj

A few years ago, at THATCamp SoCal, a handful of us generated the idea for a regional Digital Humanities network.  Since then, the idea has gained momentum and we now have affiliates from nearly every university campus in Southern California represented our group.

I made the Word Cloud, above, from the notes of our latest gathering at UCSD.  As you can see from the Wordle, there are several key topics that emerged: teaching, projects, syllabus, students, data, funding, program.  What struck me the most from this are the words “interested” and “sharing” which point to how each attendee came to the meeting seeking a better understanding about how DH is being taught and practiced at other institutions and is interested in sharing what they are doing at their own.