Blog Post, Process Blog

Four Thoughts on Working With Twitter Data

My digital dissertation on historical thinking, social media, and the digital age primarily utilizes Twitter data to answer questions about students’ understandings of the significance of the practice and content of history. Working with Twitter data is new territory to me but I have a few thoughts on the process of cleaning and organizing the data thus far.

1. Twitter is a Hydra

Hydra: A mythological beastie with many heads. When someone lops off one head, two more appear. Also apparently exhales poisonous fumes. Heracles (Hercules) was only able to destroy the monster with the help of his nephew, who cauterized the stump of each head to prevent new ones growing.

The Greek hero Hercules battles a many-headed, fire-breathing, serpentine monster called the Hydra
Hercules, John Singer Sargent [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I didn’t know Twitter was going to be a Hydra, partly because the initial collection of tweets was super easy thanks to Ian Milligan, who generously set up and hosted a dnflow server for me this semester.1 (Because digital humanities people are awesome about helping new-to-DH scholars realize their projects.)

My students and I used a class hashtag (#hwc111) to organize our tweets and, once a week or so, I entered the hashtag into a search box on dnflow. The program created analytics regarding the most popular tweets, common images, and the number collected and I downloaded this data into a neat Google Drive folder.

The original data set was comprised of 10,486 tweets – but I knew that wasn’t all of them. Dnflow had trouble collecting retweets 2 and quoted retweets 3. Plus no one (myself included) tags their tweets perfectly all the time.

My initial, optimistic workflow looked a bit like this:

A young Bette Davis walks through a door, closes it, and collapses in hysterical laughter

  1. Compile all tweets from dnflow requests into a single spreadsheet.
  2. Review individual feeds.
  3. Add missing tweets.
  4. Categorize tweets based on which question in class, if any, the tweet responded to.

Simple, yes? Hilarious is more like it.

The second task “review individuals feeds” became an additional four sub-tasks and “add missing tweets” turned into adding not only un-tagged tweets, but also all replies by students because I decided halfway through that I wanted to explore whether a network existed among students and, if so, what it looks like. I also added new tasks as I started reviewing the data, such as creating a column to describe the media (GIFs, images, quotes from class readings) attached to tweets.

For this sort of work, the experience and assistance of other people is clearly beneficial. Something like Jessica Otis’s workflow for examining a conference network with Gephi would have been exceptionally helpful at the start of this process (and certainly will be helpful as I experiment with Gephi). To that end, I’ve documented the workflow that emerged for me (really, it’s more of a task list), available via Google Drive. Ideally, this will help other Twitter -data newcomers avoid similar pitfalls in the future.

2. How to be a historian who thinks with machines?

I ultimately added 1,671 tweets to the original 10,486 – about a 16% increase in the data set. I’m not sure yet whether or not this is a significant amount. (Though I’m sure some students or colleagues with working knowledge of statistics can tell me…)

I’m used to thinking like a historian in an archive, where documents are rare and every particular piece of evidence matters. This isn’t that kind of project, though. Instead, I’ll be visualizing and analyzing the contents of hundreds of tweets at a time. Will 16 extra tweets make a difference when analyzing a batch of 100?

My guess is that the additions may not make much of a difference to any text analysis involving large segments of the data set. Added tweets might, however, make a difference in the composition of the network of students. The new tweets might also contain some zingy and insightful quotes that allow me to make a point with a bit more panache. Like this one from a student processing the perspective and bias of the Greek historian, Herodotus.

I suspect I’ll return to the question of how much data is worth saving, adding, and exploring. This is an important question in the broader practice of digital history. How should digital historians balance a disciplinary preference for the particularities of individual documents with a methodology that requires setting aside the particular, at least initially, in order to extract generalizations from massive sets of evidence? What will that look like for this particular project.

3. Backtracking is disheartening, but necessary.

While reviewing the individual Twitter feeds created by my students, I came up with a clever idea I believed would expedite the review process: Save the missing tweets to a Twitter Moment a place to store and then return to record the retweets after completing the initial review of the feeds.

 

I tried this method over the course of two individual feeds and it seemed to be working. I also double checked Twitter’s support pages to ensure there was no limit to the number of tweets one could add; no limitation was obviously stated. I continued adding tweets to the moment as I reviewed my next 30 feeds and then proudly showed off my “Tweets to Add” Moment Peggy Olson from Mad Men slowly lowers her head to a desk in frustration.to my supportive spouse – at which point I discovered that approximately 50 of the most recently added tweets were in fact saved to the Moment.4

Ugh.

Paige Morgan and Yvonne Lam, who led the Intro to Data Wrangling workshop at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute, warned participants that starting over is always a possibility. Paige also noted in a recent talk/blog post: “I say that I work with data, but in some ways, it feels more accurate to say that I work with various types of mess.”5

I wholeheartedly agree with acknowledging that starting over happens and that data is usually some type of mess or another. And I suspect this won’t be the last time that happens. Backtracking is disheartening and time-consuming and that emotional toll perhaps could be better acknowledged in DH work – even if it’s a necessary part of the messy digital process.

4. It’s okay to leave some things for later.

In a recent chat with Veronica Armour, an Instructional Designer at Seton Hall University, I asked her what project management training she acquired before moving into her current field of work.6 Her answer was “not much” (which seems quite common), but she did recommend some online courses – particularly those that favor “agile management” over “waterfall management.”

Streams from a waterfall run down a bright green cliffside.
Sean MacEntee, “Waterfall,” CC BY 2.0, via Flickr

My understanding of these models is quite basic, but here’s the heart of it. Agile models make it possible and even desirable to move forward even if all the pieces aren’t yet in place; the object is to continuously work toward goals by testing, seeking feedback, and testing again as new information or materials become available. Waterfall models, by contrast, require everything from one step of the project to be completed before moving onto the next.

I’m definitely a “waterfall” person when it comes to my own projects. I don’t like the feeling of incompleteness and I prefer to explore every possibility before moving on.

But that is shaping up to be an ineffective way to work with data – especially data that acts like a Hydra. With the next few stages of the project, then, I’m hoping to become more okay with leaving things for later.


Notes:

Blog Post, Process Blog

#dh/#dhist: Party of One

Republished from Storify. This sentence is the link to the original publication.

A quick clarification of terms (with thanks to friend and colleague Paul McAfee who asked me to define on FB):

  1. DH is “digital humanities” – a broad umbrella term for projects that utilize digital tools and processes to forward research in one or more of the humanities fields.
  2. dhist is one of many hashtags for “digital history” on social media. Digital history is a subset of digital humanities in which digital tools and methods are used to explore historical content.
  3. Imposter Syndrome is the feeling that you aren’t actually capable of doing what you’re supposed to be doing/have chosen to do – and that sooner or later everyone else will figure that out too. It doesn’t always (or even often) mean the person doesn’t know what their up to – it’s just a persistent, nagging voice in the head to the effect of “not good enough.”
Blog Post

Digital Tools and Pedagogy – UB-SIM Workshop

[Feel free to view & download the slides here too: bit.ly/digtools_ped]

Welcome!

Welcome to the University at Buffalo, Singapore Institute of Management workshop on Digital Tools and Pedagogy. An hour doesn’t feel like enough to dig into both technology and how we teach, but we’re going to give it a go. Ideally this will be just the start of a collective, collaborative conversation about how we integrate our teaching concerns and practices with spiffy, useful, exciting digital tools. Here’s what we’re up to today:

  1. Introduction of Topic
  2. Goals for the Workshop
  3. Definitions: Pedagogy & Digital Tools
  4. Thinking Critically & Enthusiastically about Digital Tools
  5. Individual Reflection
  • What makes us enthusiastic about digital tools?
  • What makes us hesitant about using digital tools?
  1. Networking Our Knowledge
  • Padlet – on the web or via the app using this QR code:


Additional Resources

Digital Tools I’ve Used/Can Teach/Have Heard Of

Twitter

I’ve used Twitter for two semesters of my course and the platform is a major part of my dissertation research. I’m pretty comfortable discussing the uses and challenges of Twitter in the classroom. It’s less daunting than you might think, but does take some patience and preparation.

In addition, this Teaching with Twitter online course is how I got started, but there are lots of other resources out there.

The course has a fee ($400), but there are generous discounts for students & contingent/adjunct faculty (I think I paid $150 for the 6-week course)

Padlet (online corkboard; app or web-based)

Google Slides, Forms, Docs, and Sheets

Slides has an option for students to submit questions via a link, which could be helpful for participation

I’ve used Forms for long surveys, quizzes, and quick questions during class

My classes used Docs for submitting assignments – I can comment and they can write back in real time if they choose

I use Sheets for grading and share student grades via a web app (courtesy of this nifty tutorial)

Keynote slides

Apple only, alas, but very attractive layouts

I supplement with Toolbox for Keynote; paid, but worth it, I think

Bit.ly (useful for tracking how many students/participants have clicked a link)

Squarespace (blogging platform)

WordPress (blogging platform; self-hosted and free versions)

Zotero (research organization program)

Zotero has a little bit of a learning curve, but is a flexible and customizable way to compile references, articles, webpages, and notes for a research project.

Zotero databases are sharable, which means users can collaborate with other researchers – definitely useful for faculty or students.

Evernote (note-taking app)

Socrative (clicker app)

Today’s Meet (backchannel/forum/questions app, web-based)

Hypothes.is (web annotation, good for collective reading)

Canvas 

Learning/content management system

More flexible and inviting than UB Learns, I think.

Also free! Also open-source code, for any coders among us.

Voyant

Data visualization tool

Sometimes called the “gateway drug” to data visualization 🙂

For Thinking Critically About Technology & Pedagogy

There’s no good app for teaching” (Laura Moorhead, 2014, TED article)

Is it okay to be a Luddite?” (Jesse Stommel and Sean Michael Morris, 2014, Digital Pedagogy Lab)

Are apps becoming the new worksheet?” (Lee Skallerup Bessette, 2017, Digital Pedagogy Lab)

From Knowledgable to Knowledge-able” (Michael Wesch, 2010, TEDxKC talk)

The Digital Era: 50 Years of Technology” (Ben Myers and Erica Lusk, 2016, Chronicle of Higher Education, access available through UB Libraries)

Agile Learning (Blog by Derek Bruff; generally useful and inspirational stuff)

HASTAC (pronounced “hay-stack”; Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory)

Creative Uses for Digital Tools in the Classroom

Professors Assign Students to Post to BuzzFeed. You’ll Never Believe What Happens Next. (Gabriel Sandoval, 2016, The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Twessays and Composition in the Digital Age (Donna M. Alexander, 2017, Digital Pedagogy Lab)

Lying About the Past (T. Mills Kelly; this prof and his students “hoaxed” Wikipedia as a class project)

The Pedagogy Project (from HASTAC)

Business Strategy Game (used and recommended by a UB-SIM instructor, Paul McAfee)

Practical Advice/Resources

Ed Tech 4 Beginners (Neil Jarrett – practical stuff like apps and tools + some ideas for assignments/activities)

Teacher Tech (Alice Keeler – especially good for Google Apps)

This Week in Web 2.0 (Larry Ferlazzo – an ongoing series of recommendations for websites, apps, and cool things on the internet)

25 Awesome Apps for Teachers, Recommended by Teachers (TED-Ed blog, 2015 tho…)

Blog Post

Notes from #aha17: Day 2

A lighter day on my end – and in Denver, where the sun came out and I had a view of the Rockies from my window. Win.

My brain is pretty mushy from trying to figure out a bunch of digital history tools at the moment, but here’s the (briefer than yesterday) highlights:


Praise for a colleague

First and foremost, Jordan Reed, fellow Drew grad student and digital historian, was one of today’s most tweeted persons thanks to his presentation with SHARP (Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing)! Woot!


#aha17 #s110: Collaborative Digital History

Great panel/roundtable from Stephen Robertson, Jim Clifford, Ian Milligan, Emily Merchant, and Myron Gutmann – and the audience, which was gain full of live tweeters. (Seriously – such a joy to tweet with other people!)

The takeaways for me:

Digital history can be learned as projects are in-progress.

Woot! Every collaborator – even/especially grads and undergrads – deserves reward/credit for work

Because history is always-already collaborative – we just don’t tend to make that explicit

Do need to take care as we consider how to treat student collaborators, though. What work should be public? What work should be withheld? How are we ensuring that students have a clear and respected say?

Odds and ends about who we write for and what digital projects mean for securing jobs and/or gaining tenure


#aha17 #s117: Digital Drop-In

Pretty much sums up how I feel about this session:

Digital history is still a new community for me – but it is a community as far as I can tell. And a remarkably supportive, interested, and creative one in which resources are made to be shared.

Jeff McLurken welcomed me at the door, listened patiently to my project description and skills needs, and then pointed me to two different digital historians/humanists who had great suggestions for tools to use for data analysis.

I had the chance to speak with Ian Milligan again and he kindly re-demonstrated some of the web scraping tools from yesterday (Voyant and DocNow). I’m still putzing around with these tools and figuring out how to make them work for my needs, but I’m feeling on firmer ground with the dissertation after the drop-in session.

Blog Post

Notes from #aha17: Day 1

giphy
From GIPHY

It’s 4° F in Denver. So obviously one of the most shared images on Twitter this morning was Jon Snow. This sort of thing might be what led to these shenanigans on Channel 9 News: History Buffs Tweet About Snow, Hilarity Ensues.

It is my intention to write a brief summary of each day at #aha17 (American Historical Association’s Annual Meeting) in Denver – but goodness knows I never finish series of blog posts. So this might just be a one-off thing. Here’s the highlights from today. Readers, beware. Herein lies an excessive number of links…


Personal Odds and Ends:

I was so grateful when presenters shared links to slides today! It meant I could happily toggle between tweeting, exploring the digital projects discussed, and browsing slides and links.

Okay. I give in. I’ll start providing slides before class. (It’s good to be a pseudo-student sometimes…)


#aha17 #gsdh: Getting Started in Digital History

Link to AHA Program

I attended the session on Web Scraping, led by Ian Milligan (@ianmilligan1). If you’d like to browse the slides and links, Ian was good enough to provide all of the materials for the session on his website.

Web scraping, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, means pulling all sorts of basic info off of a website. For instance, if you use a web tool (like import.io) on a website like a database of song lyrics (such as this example from Ian this morning), you can run a URL with the web tool and it will extract information like song title, artist, and relevant links from the webpage. This information can then be exported into a Comma Separated Values (.csv) file – pretty much an Excel file with a different ending. That data can then be run through any number of analysis tools (we used Voyant Tools) to study things like word frequency, spikes in popularity, and the context of specific words, people, or places.

For me, I plan to apply similar tools and methods for my social-media based dissertation. We spent some time practicing web scraping social media using Doc Now, which lets you run a hashtag on a given day, pulls all of the tweets and related RTs, and then allows you to export the data for analysis. Super useful given that I’m hoping to analyze upwards of 200 tweets per class meeting this semester…

After the Web Scraping Workshop, we broke out for lunch and “table talks” hosted by faculty and alt-acs who shared their experience in public history, choosing digital humanities tools, sustaining digital projects, and funding digital projects, among other digital humanities (DH) topics.

I attended the informal talk on DH jobs led by Rebecca Wingo who offered helpful advice about what jobs were out there, what degree programs might be most useful, and what additional certifications/experience would be useful for pursuing a DH job. The takeaway for me was a confirmation of the usefulness of George Mason University’s DH certificate program (which I may be looking at in the future) and her suggestion to attend digital history training opportunities to acquire skills and experience as needed including:

For the second round, I headed for the Grading Digital Projects table led by John Rosinbum.  We talked about timeline assignments, rubrics, and citations and – good news for the next round of #hwc111 students – I’m more thoroughly convinced of the necessity of rubrics. So, rubrics coming for Spring 2017 blogging project! Also probably and more thorough and interactive conversation about why and how to cite sources on the web. Spread the news, dear students…


#aha17 #s22: Historical Sources as Data: Opportunities and Challenges

Link to AHA Program

Wowsa. When you attend a #dighist session, everybody live tweets! Which was a great thing because the presentations given by Kalani Craig, Lauren Tilton, and Brandon Locke were brilliant and useful and challenging.

All three presentations challenged listeners to consider how best to reach wider audiences in clearer ways by:

  • Bringing information out from behind paywalled collections (i.e., only available to institutions with money, like Proquest or JSTOR) in legal, but accessible ways through the use of good old copy-and-paste, data compilation, and natural language processing
  • Shedding light on lesser-known, but exceptionally important figures and places in history through network analysis and comprehensive metadata for images and sources
  • Making transparent our methodologies and sources so other scholars can assess and help us grow our process and data can remain reusable.

This session was, I swear, more compelling than I’m making it sound. I highly recommend checking out the projects driven by the presenters for a better sense of how innovative and important their work is:


#aha17 #s31: A Retrospective on Tuning: Where Have We Been and Where Should We Go?

Link to AHA Program

Yup, all the live tweets for this one are mine. Because when you don’t go to a #dighist session, sometimes you’re the only one tweeting. Ah well.

I’m still processing this one. I like the ambitions of the Tuning Project. The idea is to host, coordinate, and focus conversations about what faculty want history majors to be able to do when they finish the degree.

The aim of the three-year project has been to help establish guidelines useful to history departments across the United States and to foster a more natural language surrounding historical skills so students have a fuller stake in course assessments and outcomes. The project is faculty (not admin) driven, it has increased the AHA’s emphasis on teaching, and the panelists today seemed committed to bringing a wider variety of educators into the conversation in the future.

The focus of the project is also shifting from majors to introductory courses, which I (selfishly) think is a great move given that this is what I teach.

I’m not totally sold though. The project itself still requires a lot of explanation – at least for those of us who aren’t really part of history departments. I don’t know that there are a ton of resources or training on site for new college and university teachers to implement the suggested Tuning outcomes in effective ways (though Anne Hyde did note the increasing presence and usefulness of centers for teaching and learning on campuses). I’m also still not certain how much students value the language of transferable skills in general education courses… But then I haven’t really asked how they feel about it. (Maybe I will in the near future.)

It was a thought-provoking session one way or another and I’m grateful for the conversations led by Elaine Carey, Anne Hyde, Elizabeth Lehfeldt and Daniel McInerney in the field of history education.


Receptions

I finished out the day at the grad student reception (met a Masters student from University at Buffalo and chatted about pre-modern China) and the Twitterstorians/bloggers reception. It turns out that if you hang out long enough, you meet people who recommend awesome medieval Tumblrs, Baltimore tours, and scholars of history teaching and learning. Also they had Denver-brewed beer. Win.

Blog Post

“This is hard. It isn’t very linear.”

Class Blogging and Non-Linear Storytelling

The World Civ I classes I teach are embarking on the final stage of their blogging project this semester. This is a thoroughly self-directed project. Students can choose any topic within the time frame of the course (10,000 BCE to 1500 CE) and they can present their topic however they choose. Thus far, I have tentative proposals for Instagram feeds, Pinterest boards, Tumblrs, fashion videos, and songs and I am pretty darn excited to see where things go.

I also have a few groups clearly struggling to figure out how digital storytelling works. During our last workshop for the blogging project, I was working with one group to define a topic, a takeaway, and a creative medium they would be comfortable working with. In the midst of the conversation, one member of the group encapsulated the difficulty of pinning down this project. “This is hard,” they said. “It isn’t very linear.”

That, I think, is exactly the difficulty of creating good digital material. It isn’t especially linear and when you’ve really only been taught to think of writing in linear ways (intro, thesis, body, conclusion), it can be incredibly difficult to think about organizing information in a way that is connective but not linear.

The student’s comment prompts a number of questions for me (which I’ll record here in the hopes that I can come back to them sometime):

  • What’s the purpose of trying to think in non-linear ways if it feels so unnatural?
  • How can I teach non-linear and creative thinking?
    • Is there more prep and introduction I can give students to this sort of task
    • Undoubtedly, yes – but what prep should I give? The 5 Photos exercise might be a good place to start…
  • How do I help students locate models and assistance (outside of the class and myself) for trying to think and create in new ways?

The Dissertation Project and Boundaries of Storytelling

The last question is especially pressing for me as I try to work out the purpose and shape of my dissertation project. My project currently centers on how students understand and express the importance of a particular person, event, or idea in history. My working hypothesis is that the default definition of “historically significant” for most students at the start of a class has to do with whether or not something or someone is relatable.

I suspect this definition is, at least in part, a product of the pervasiveness of social media platforms that encourage us (the students and myself) to react to or comment on everything. I’m wondering if this preference for interactive material prompts us to consider our own reactions to content as co-equal in importance to the content itself. I think that might cause us to filter all information (past and present) through that question of whether or not something is personally relatable.

This is all very tentative stuff at the moment. In order to understand whether that hypothesis is reasonable, I need to ask students what they actually think about history and how they use digital media. No surprise there; lots of historians concerned with what students think about history or digital media have asked them before.

I think, though, that I’d like to play with the linear way historians usually ask students what they think about history and digital media. In academic work about historical thinking (see the work of Sam Wineburg, the edited volume Knowing, Teaching, and Learning History, or the Perspectives series, “Thinking Historically in the Classroom“) or digital media (I’m thinking especially of Henry Jenkins and Mills Kelly here), the research model is usually pretty traditional. The researcher formulates a hypothesis, designs a study, collects the data, analyzes the data, and publishes her/his findings. In the case of works about pedagogy, the author of a book or article might simply reflect on what they’ve observed in their classes.

In either case, the researcher has the final word when it comes to interpretation. That makes sense given the short-term nature of many studies and the clear knowledge difference between, say, primary- or secondary-school students and a researcher with a Ph.D. This process also produces perceptive frameworks for thinking about how people think about history, many of which as a springboard for my own work, so I’m not by any means trying to overturn this model altogether.

I am wondering, though, if it might be worthwhile to interrupt the linear research model by asking for feedback from participants about the conclusions of a study. I’m planning to work with adults (most of whom aren’t much younger than me) who possess the self-awareness to tell me if I’m misinterpreting their written or spoken responses in an activity. I’d love to make them collaborators in this process and seek their input throughout the project. I am also unsure how to accomplish that in meaningful ways.

I currently lack a model for that sort of collaboration and there are a lot of questions I would need to address to do this sort of work:

  • Would students (participants even be interested in providing feedback about conclusions?
  • What would it take to get students to agree to provide regular and helpful feedback about my work? Would I need to incentivize their participation bribe them with extra credit or the possibility of putting a line on their CVs as collaborators or research assistants of sorts? What are the ethics of that?
  • How would I incorporate their feedback? Who gets the final say about the interpretation of a set of data – the students who provided the data or me as the researcher?
  • How might student feedback shift the trajectory of the research or the shape of activities that are part of the research? [That last question matters immensely since I need to seek the approval of an ethics committee – an institutional review board (IRB) – for every aspect of the project.]

These are hard questions. I don’t know if that will possible to come up with good answers in the progress of this project or if I will be able to put any ideas about these questions into practice. I do think I agree with my student about the difficulties of this unfamiliar territory: “This is hard. It isn’t very linear.”

Blog Post

Things I Found This Week

1. Everything from the ROY ROSENZWEIG Center for History and New Media.

Seriously, the deeper I dig the more useful resources I find for my research and classes. But, most notably this week, I’ve discovered the work of T. Mills Kelly, Digital Humanities Now, and World History Sources as well as a fabulous app/software: Zotero.

I read Kelly’s Teaching History in the Digital Age in preparation for the dissertation and found myself Googling references, jotting down ideas for courses, and babbling happily to my spouse about things I found inspiring. I do have some reservations about the book; most of Kelly’s best case studies of digital humanities at work are drawn from small, historical methods classes, so I’m a bit uncertain how some of the practices he suggests would translate to a broad introductory/overview class, like World Civ, with a roster of 55 students. Concerns with issues like departmental parameters/expectations and how one instructor’s course fits with others in her department are also missing from the book. That being said, it’s an excellent introduction to pedagogical concerns and possibilities in the digital age.

Digital Humanities Now is exciting, first, for its content. The site pulls stories, blog posts, and articles about best practices, projects, studies, and thought pieces in digital humanities from RSS feeds around the web. Editors then pick and choose content to highlight any given week. There are also links to job postings, grants/fellowships, and CFPs/conferences on the site. The second exciting thing about DHN is that it invites readers to volunteer as “editors-at-large.” These community editors nominate content for the editor-in-chief to highlight twice a week and are then asked to provide some feedback about the process. This seems like a brilliant opportunity to participate in digital humanities work and I’m hoping to volunteer later in the summer.

And how have I not found World History Sources before?! I’m familiar with Fordham’s archive – which is incredibly useful – but World History Sources links to loads of additional archives and provides some resources/guides for educators and students reading primary sources. I think this may be, at least in part, the answer to doing digital history in a largish survey course. If nothing else, I’m looking forward to mining the archives and resources for new primary sources and better activities this semester.

Finally, check out Zotero – it’s sort of a cross between Endnote and Evernote. You can run the program through Firefox, storing everything in your browser, or you can download the standalone program and web browser plugin (available for Safari, Chrome, and Firefox) for Mac. The plugin is pretty neat because it detects author information available on a page and then gives you the option to download into your library or libraries in the app. The app also includes an options for note-taking, tagging, and connecting to related content in your library. All in all, very cool.

2. UCLA “A STUDENT COLLABORATORS’ BILL OF RIGHTS”

I utilized a number of student comments in my conference presentation, “Hey Prof, Is There a Crash Course for That,” last week and I’m hoping to continue including their insights in similar work. Ideally, I’d like to write this dissertation with my students. I think they’re terribly smart, they notice things I do not, and I think both the students and I benefit from dialoguing with one another about the content, methods, and evaluations in courses. With that in mind, I want to find ways to treat them with respect and value – so the Student Collaborators’ Bill of Rights seems a good place to begin.

3. You Cannot Do It All

Much as I’m enjoying delving into the digital humanities/pedagogy/ed tech stuff, it’s also frustrating to see all the possibilities and simultaneously recognize I cannot do everything in one semester. My wishlist for what I hope students learn in a class is extensive. I want them to learn how to read primary sources, how to write historically, how to identify bias/perspective in a source, how to discuss sources intelligently with one another, how to take notes, how to be considerate toward other cultures, how to be considerate toward one another, how to speak up in class, how to use the internet in savvy ways, how to write for social media, how to edit Wikipedia…

But that’s simply too much. So I’m finding ways to make peace with the fact that I cannot do it all and I’m hoping that, in conversation with other colleagues, I can begin to identify what skills my course is best suited to communicate.

Blog Post

Hey Prof, Is There A Crash Course For That?

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of presenting at the third Dean Hopper New Scholars’ Conference at Drew University as part of the panel, “The Digital Age in the Classroom.” My fellow panelist and I had similar concerns (I love when that happens): What does digitization mean for textbooks in the classroom? How do we balance content and critical thinking skills? How can we leverage new media/mediums for the benefit of our research and our students?

The conversation that followed our presentations was energetic; attendees had great questions for us and offered their own ideas about digital mediums in the classroom. I left feeling really excited about the conversation and deeply appreciative of how thoughtful other history educators are about their pedagogy.

The presentation would not have been possible without the input of my former students. They offered their impressions of the Crash Course: World History series (the subject of my presentation) in an informal survey leading up to the conference and their insights helped me more fully evaluate the potential impact of the Crash Course videos. So, if you are a student reading this: many, many thanks to you!

If you’d like to know more about my preliminary conclusions regarding the Crash Course videos and the digital age in the classroom, please check out the files below. I’ve uploaded a pdf version of my Keynote presentation; the videos used in the presentation are linked below as well. You can also read a rough, written text of my presentation (not verbatim, but close).

“Hey Prof, Is There A Crash Course For That?” PDF of Keynote (Intro Video for Slide 3 and “Alexander the Great and the Situation…The Great?” for Slide 10 – watch to 2:32)

“Hey Prof, Is There A Crash Course For That?” Text Only

If you find these ideas intriguing, if you’re using digital mediums and social media in your classes, or if we met at the conference, I’d love to hear from you. Please do get in touch via the contact form on this website.