Dickinson’s Marketing and Communications Office has produced a very nice short video about Dickinson College Commentaries, highlighting student involvement in the project. Thank you to all who helped make it, especially Connie MacNamara, who put it in motion, and to the featured students, Chloe Miller and Jimmy Martin.
The Dickinson Board of Trustees was in town for one of its annual meetings last weekend. In addition to a farewell to our extraordinary President Bill Durden, who is moving on after 14 very successful years, there was the usual slate of committee meetings and so forth. I was given the chance to speak to the committee on academic affairs for a few minutes about academic technology. MOOCs have been much on their minds, and were discussed at length at a previous meeting I did not attend. Rather than address this macroeconomic issue that is in important ways out of our control, I gave them a faculty perspective on what’s going on currently with academic technology at the College. Here is what I said:
Among faculty there is a growing realization that the internet, technology, and social media are not just things that distract our students, give them short attention spans, and allow them to do superficial research for papers—though the internet enables all of those things. New digital tools can actually help us do our jobs better, help us teach and do research more effectively. But how, exactly? That’s the question that hangs over all the many discussions regarding technology and education in a liberal arts college setting. The answers are discipline specific, and vary even from class to class in a given subject. But I think there are three broad benefits. In the liberal arts college environment, academic technology can
- Develop students into public scholars. Podcasting, blogging, and collaboration on faculty-led projects puts students in a situation where the audience is now not just me. I become the coach, not the judge. This has powerful benefits for the teaching of writing. My own experience with podcasting is that the initial drafts of the scripts are in a traditional, stilted academic style, but the second drafts involve massive re-writes and improvements, into a style that more closely approximates the kinds of writing they will have to do after college. It’s the best way to teach writing that I know of.
- Show publicly what the liberal arts can do. Traditionally, what the liberal arts does has been behind closed doors, very cut off from public scrutiny. In the age of $50k tuition it’s more important than ever to share the products and innovative teaching methods openly so people can see them. What liberal arts students learn to do is contextualize, analyze, and present information. These are things the internet really needs, and we can provide, a real social benefit that is consistent with our mission.
- Enhance collaboration and sharing among scholars. This is a true revolution, and I have experienced it over and over again with my own project, the Dickinson College Commentaries. People from all over the country and the world have come forward to contribute to this project. It has attracted everything from Oxford professors to freelance app developers to grad students, undergraduates at other institutions, high school teachers, amateur enthusiasts, and even a lieutenant in the US army. The kind of public impact one can make with a quality website in some cases outstrips–is of a completely different order than–what one can do in a print scholarly journal. Which is not to say that print is going away or is irrelevant.
The Dickinson-based projects listed on the DHAC website are doing these things in various ways. We are among the most active liberal arts colleges in the country in this realm, which is reflected in our winning the Mellon grant. But there is a lot more to develop. The Mellon grant allows for a postdoctoral fellow, and this will be extremely helpful in nurturing new projects and pedagogical techniques that will arise organically out of what we already do. Not all faculty are heading this way. These kinds of projects are often not viewed as earning promotion and tenure; we were all trained to go after the print publication above all; and of course there is widespread distrust of distance learning, and awareness of the downside of social media in terms of decreased attention span and focus for detailed academic work. But when it comes to doing things that genuinely enhance our mission, we have great support from our Academic Technology unit, and I think with increasing faculty leadership on these issues digital technology will be more and more seen by faculty as the great intellectual opportunity that it is.
Summer 2013 plans for House Divided include the creation of an audio archive of Abraham Lincoln’s selected writings, a series of short, instructional videos featuring Prof. Matthew Pinsker teaching key documents from the Civil War era, increased alignment with the Common Core Standards for Social Studies literacy, and the launching of Dickinson’s first open online course.
Since its public launch in 2011 at the start of the Civil War 150th anniversary, Dickinson’s House Divided project, directed by Prof. Pinsker, has experienced more than 500,000 visitors and over two million page views across its network of two dozen websites.
Its research engine contains 11,000 public domain images and tens of thousands more historic documents and records. The other related sites, such as digital classrooms, special exhibitions, and blogs, have evolved from this vast main resource (see Index Page). House Divided also maintains a significant presence on social media, including a Twitter following now approaching one thousand. Prof. Pinsker will carry out an ambitious expansion this summer, thanks in part to the digital humanities grant the College received this year from the Andrew W. Mellon foundation.
Across the House Divided network, its target audience remains K-12 and undergraduate classrooms, but the site also spurs a steady stream of requests from authors, journalists, genealogists, Civil War buffs and others. “The next challenge, beyond simply editing, refining and expanding the content,” says Prof. Pinsker, “is to find ways to relate the site to what is called the Common Core. These are nationally developed state standards for reading and math that have been adopted just in the last few years by 46 states.” The Common Core standards for social studies literacy emphasize close readings of primary source documents–an approach that fits perfectly with the nature of the House Divided Project. With help from the Mellon Digital Humanities Fund Pinsker plans to transform House Divided into one of the nation’s leading web-based Common Core resources for Social Studies and English teachers.
Dickinson College theatre professor Todd Wronski will prepare in August 2013 a series of freely available podcasts for Abraham Lincoln’s selected writings. Wronski will become in effect the “voice of Lincoln” for the House Divided Project. He has already recorded a podcast of Lincoln’s 1859 autobiographical sketch. The recording was recently used as part of a Common Core-aligned lesson plan that features several components of the House Divided Project, including a Dickinson History Department course on the 1860 election that was filmed by C-SPAN and relied heavily on a close reading of the sketch. This post offers a model for what is intended for 150 of the most significant Lincoln documents, including his most quoted letters and speeches.
With funding from the Mellon DH initiative a team of consultants at the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History, led by independent filmmaker Lance Warren, will help the Dickinson team create a series of short, instructional videos featuring Prof. Pinsker teaching key documents from the Civil War era (including many of the same Lincoln documents developed in the Wronski audio project). Warren and his documentary team have already created a series of such short instructional videos with Prof. Pinsker (including a virtual field trip to Gettysburg) that can be accessed here. These videos helped support a summer 2012 online professional development course that House Divided created with Gilder Lehrman.
Building on this experience, Pinsker will expand that partnership to launch Dickinson’s first open online graduate course in summer 2013. The videos will be used as the base instructional material for quiz-taking by auditors and also as freely available online resources for English and Social Studies teachers who want to “flip” their classrooms when teaching the Common Core. An example of how that might work can be seen here, with a video-based teaching unit on the Emancipation Proclamation.
As part of this effort to launch Dickinson’s first open online course, two Dickinson students will participate in shaping and evaluating the course materials and curriculum History 800, “Understanding Lincoln.” Dickinson will offer full graduate course credit for up to 100 eligible participants, and then free access to others who simply want to follow along. The Dickinson students will work closely with Pinsker in June 2013 to refine and test various course content and assessment materials; help support the initial launch of the course in July 2013, and contribute significant research and analysis to a planned pedagogical article by Pinsker about the experience of online liberal arts learning.
Meanwhile, House Divided also continues important digitization and transcription work on major printed sources from the Civil War era, such as the illustrated periodicals Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper and Harper’s Weekly Magazine and from many other leading period newspapers and books.
With support from Dickinson’s Mellon Digital Humanities initiative Dickinson student Jamie Leidwinger (’15) will be working this summer under the direction of composer, technologist, pianist, and entrepreneur Greg Wilder on his Isomer Project, an ongoing research project in computational creativity.
The Isomer Project is a suite of software tools that is the culmination of a decade of independent research and commercial development. Its aim is to combine musical models of human creativity with modern machine learning techniques to more fully understand and explore computational creativity.
Greg has taught a number of courses at Dickinson over the years, including advanced composition, music theory, aural skills, choral arranging, and computer music. As a founder and the chief science officer of Clio Music, he designed, developed, and implemented a proprietary autonomous music analysis and motivic data mining technology (“Clio”) capable of generating comprehensive models from music in any style or genre and comparing them for similarity.
The summer research collaboration will take place in Philadelphia, at Drexel University’s Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies (ExCITe) Center, which is a hub for teams of faculty, students, and entrepreneurs to pursue highly multi-disciplinary, collaborative projects. ExCITe project participants come from engineering, fashion design, digital media, performing arts, computer and information science, product design, and many other fields.
Co-working at the ExCITe center with its director Dr. Youngmoo Kim and his team of PhD researchers at the Media Entertainment and Technology laboratory, Leidwinger will be helping Wilder to develop the full potential of the Isomer software.
The immediate goal of the summer project will be to validate the boundaries of the Isomer software’s capacity for musical analysis, model representation, and algorithmic transformation using advanced machine-learning techniques. Leidwinger will be assisting with the curation and preparation of musical models, analyzing musical data for research validation, creating musical metadata, and keeping us up to date with blog posts via the Isomer web site and other social media outlets.
Metacreation (or computational creativity) is the idea of endowing machines with creative behavior. Metacreation, as a technology-driven approach to generative art, involves using tools and techniques from artificial intelligence, artificial life, and machine learning (themselves inspired by cognitive and life sciences) to develop software that is creative on its own.
An essential step in the development of a metacreation tool like Isomer is to validate its analyzed data and musical output (i.e., does Isomer capture the essential aspects of the musical models in terms of musical grammar, affect and mood?). In the past, Dr. Wilder’s technology has powered products for some of the largest companies in the music industry (e.g., Rovi Corp) and is now finding application in the creation of new art and academic research projects. Building on seminal research in musical perception and cognition (e.g. Leonard B. Meyer, Fred Lerdahl, Eugene Narmour, Emilios Cambouropoulos), Isomer relies on a comprehensive ontology of musical parameters. It accepts model input as raw audio, symbolic representation, or both, and extracts a range of analysis vectors that capture trends in terms of texture (timbre), pitch, rhythm, and form.
The Dickinson College Russian Department has launched a new multimedia project, Russian Rooms, which combines photography, text, and audio in an evolving archive with diverse pedagogical applications. The project’s primary aim is to provide a snapshot of contemporary Russian society by building up a series of photographs of Russians and their favorite rooms.
According to contemporary Russian philosopher Michael Epstein, the boundaries of private and public space are drawn differently in Russian and in the West: in Russia, private and public are demarcated far more sharply, and private space is warmer and more intense than in the West. This project seeks to test this premise. The site’s creator and curator is Maria Rubin, Visiting International Scholar in Russian. Prof. Rubin takes an intimate, close-up portrait of each subject standing next to or holding an object he or she values. She also takes a picture of the subject’s empty room. The viewer is invited to guess what sort of person inhabits the space, a curiosity which can be satisfied by referring to the portrait, the audio interview, and a transcribed version of the interview.
With support from an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Digital Humanities grant, Prof. Rubin will spend part of summer 2013 in Russia substantially expanding the archive.
In her teaching at Dickinson Prof. Rubin and her colleagues use these photo-audio pairs in various ways. The simplest is a “Guess Who?” game, in which students ask questions to find out who lives in this or that room. Another type of assignment includes listening to the interviews and making presentations about a specific person. Sometimes students are asked to read the texts and write descriptions of the people using grammatical constructions to be learned in a particular lesson. Alyssa DeBlasio, Assistant Professor of Russian, regularly uses Russian Rooms in her senior seminar on translation. There the students translate a simplified transcript of an interview into English, then practice simultaneous translation on the original audio.
Plans for the future include incorporating students into the project, particularly students studying abroad in Moscow, who can help conduct the interviews and write up the texts. When Prof. Rubin returns to Moscow she will remain in charge of overseeing the creation of the interviews and photographs, working from Dickinson’s program headquarters in Moscow, while Prof. DeBlasio will supervise the expansion and improvement of the site on the Dickinson side. The project will thus form an important bridge between Dickinson’s Russian programs in Carlisle and Moscow.
Having already explored different ages and genders, Prof. Rubin plans to expand the subject range to include Russian citizens of different ethnic backgrounds, a move that should prove a challenge to notions of public and private space explored so far. Newer inhabitants of Russia, such as Kirghiz and Uzbek guest-workers in Moscow city and in the Moscow county region, and native Muscovite Tatars and Chechens, have quite different notions of personal space, partly inherited from the Islamic house design and architecture of their homelands, but also compelled by the necessity of their sometimes harsh living arrangements in Russia: basements of tower-blocks, in wooden shacks on building-sites, etc. The project, so expanded, will thus allow Russian students all over the world to appreciate the diversity of contemporary Russia’s population, as well as to come to philosophical conclusions about overlapping conceptions of private and public space in one living area. All the material created in this project will become a part of the permanent teaching open resources of the Dickinson Russian department, and anyone else who wishes to use it.
Dickinson is very pleased to welcome Matthew Kochis as the new Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities. Matt comes to us from the University of Tulsa, where he is finishing up his PhD in English. While at Tulsa, he has been a digital editor for the Modernist Versions Project and project manager for the Modernist Journals Project.
In addition to his more traditional work in the field of British and Irish modernist novels, Matt has developed various kinds of expertise in the digital humanities, with a focus on textual editing. At the DH Summer Institute in Victoria BC in 2011 he produced an annotated version of the “Nausicaa” episode from Joyce’s Ulysses, work he continued at a five week NEH seminar in Dublin in 2013. As digital editor of the Modernist Versions Project he uploaded high-quality scans of the first (1922) edition of Ulysses, a resource which became a key part of the “Year of Ulysses” initiative, a digital project that hosts various version of Joyce’s work online. While managing the staff of the Modernist Journals Project Matt used ABBYY FineReader 9.0, an optical-character-recognition software, to convert scanned images of early twentieth century magazines, like Margaret Anderson’s The Little Review and Ezra Pound’s The Egoist, into searchable PDF files. He also improved MJP’s archive by performing TEI, XML, and MODS record encoding for the magazines.
At Dickinson, in addition to pursuing his own projects, Matt will work as a catalyst for faculty innovation by planning, promoting, and implementing strategies to encourage faculty discourse about pedagogy, e-learning tools, and the integration of digital media into teaching and scholarship. Matt’s gregarious and engaging personality should help a great deal in that task, and we are delighted to have his help in forwarding the already vigorous DH initiatives at the College.
This summer a team of researchers at Dickinson are beginning a multi-year project to develop a comprehensive digital resource regarding the Carlisle Indian Industrial School (CIIS). The project will bring together widely dispersed materials to aid research and study, and serve as a virtual home for the ongoing work of an active CIIS community of memory and inquiry. With support from an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Digital Humanities grant, and from the College’s Research and Development Committee, Jim Gerencser (College Archivist), Susan Rose (Professor of Sociology, Director Community Studies Center), and Malinda Triller Doran (Special Collections Librarian) will begin in summer 2013 by digitizing materials held at the National Archives in Washington, DC. In collaboration with student assistants, they will begin the process of transcribing documents, creating metadata, uploading materials, and analyzing the information.
The CIIS is a major site of memory for many Native peoples. Richard Henry Pratt implemented his vision for educating Native American students by removing them from their communities and bringing them to Carlisle, Pennsylvania. More than 10,000 Native American students from all over the country (and Puerto Rico) were enrolled at CIIS from 1879 to 1918. The school at Carlisle served as a model for many other non-reservation boarding schools across the country.
The CIIS and indigenous boarding school movement represents a very active area of research among scholars, teachers, students (both native and non-native), Carlisle-area residents, and descendants from across the U.S. and around the world. Scholars are working hand in hand with descendants of the CIIS students, who are learning from and contributing to this research. In the last decade, not only have many scholarly and popular books, articles and documentaries related to the CIIS been produced, but also a number of symposia and community events, such as pow-wows and commemorations, have been held. Dickinson College faculty members have been particularly active and involved with publications and events such as these.
The project aims at a comprehensive searchable database using the information contained in the digitized materials. Subsequent phases will develop the capability for user interactivity, so that individuals may contribute digitized photos, documents, oral histories, and other personal materials to the online collection. The site wll host teaching and learning materials utilizing the digitized content and database, and support the addition of original scholarly and popular works based on the CIIS Project resources.
Images: Press Department (circa 1902). Image from The Indian Industrial School Carlisle, Pa. 23rd Year, 1902. via flickr All rights reserved by DickinsonLibrary. Rose White Thunder, Daughter of Sioux Chief White Thunder, in Elk Tooth Dress, Carlisle (1883 – 1887). From J. N. Choate, photographer, Carlisle, Pa., A Souvenir of the Carlisle Indian School, 1902. via flickr All rights reserved by DickinsonLibrary
Clay Shirky, professor at New York University and one of the world’s leading thinkers on digital technology and its social and economic effects, will deliver the Poitras-Gleim Keynote Lecture at Dickinson College on April 25th at 7 p.m. in the Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium.
Shirky, who served as the Edward R. Murrow Lecturer at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in 2010, will discuss how Internet technologies can help improve American government and democracy. His writings have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, and the Harvard Business Review, and he has given talks at Oxford University, the U.S. State Department, and TED, where his speeches have been viewed by more than a million people. He is the author of several books, including Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, which was named one of the 100 greatest nonfiction books ever written by the The Guardian. Currently an associate professor in NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, he began his teaching career as the first professor of new media at Hunter College, where he developed the M.F.A. program in integrated media arts.
Shirky’s presentation marks the 50th annual lecture funded by the Poitras-Gleim endowment, a gift from Ted and Kay Gleim Poitras. The Student Senate Public Affairs Committee, which was created to absorb the Public Affairs Symposium and expand upon its mission of cross-disciplinary thought and discussion, is pleased to host Prof. Shirky’s visit. His address will serve as a capstone to a semester-long series of events—with addresses by, among others, Kris Perry, Richard Sander, and John Lott—organized by the committee and titled “The Next Great Debates: Perspectives on Emerging Problems.”
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Hey Dickinsonians, please join us in the Media Center for a NITLE webinar with the great Rebecca Frost Davis!
Rebecca Frost Davis, one of the general editors of The Digital Pedagogy Reader and Toolkit, will give an overview of this born-digital publication. Seminar participants will contribute to the project, which is aimed at aggregating digital tools used by adventurous practitioners and presenting pedagogical projects in their original forms.(Times EDT)
How have new digital methods, tools, and networks changed pedagogy? How should we define such digital pedagogy? What trends and practices in digital pedagogy cross disciplines? The Digital Pedagogy Reader and Toolkit, a born-digital publication with Rebecca Frost Davis, Matthew K. Gold, Katherine D. Harris, and Jentery Sayers as general editors, will aggregate the digital tools with which adventurous practitioners are experimenting and present pedagogical projects in their original forms. As part of the project, a group of experienced practitioners will curate sections around important keywords, such as “remix, “play,” “collaboration,” “race,” and “failure.” Taken together these significant terms define a new pedagogy for a digital age. For each keyword, curators will assemble a group of artifacts of innovative teaching and learning by highlighting particularly effective tools and pedagogical strategies, while incorporating examples of the resulting student work. This seminar will give an overview of digital pedagogy organized by keyword, illustrate the concept by looking at potential artifacts for one keyword, and invite the audience to contribute to this project by suggesting other keywords and artifacts.
Clement, Tanya E. “Multiliteracies in the Undergraduate Digital Humanities Curriculum: Skills, Principles, and Habits of Mind.” In Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Principles, Practices, and Politics, edited by Brett Hirsch. Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers, 2013.
Rebecca Frost Davis develops programs and conducts research about the digital humanities, digital scholarship, and the integration of inquiry, pedagogy, and technology for teaching and learning across the humanities. She also writes and consults in these areas, drawing on a deep background in helping faculty and staff at liberal arts colleges explore these areas via a variety of workshops and seminars. She has particular expertise in inter-campus teaching and virtual collaboration. She holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in classical studies from the University of Pennsylvania, and a B.A. (summa cum laude) in classical studies and Russian from Vanderbilt University.
Dickinson will offer a new course in Fall 2013, under the auspices of the Norman M. Eberly Writing Center, called “Writing for Digital Environments” (WRPG 211). It will be taught by Sarah Kersh. Here is the description:
In this course, students will think about the stakes of writing in a range of digital environments—blogs, online forums, personal collections (pinterest, tumblr, twitter, facebook, etc), as well as the politics and history of publishing, copyright, and the public domain. In addition, students will examine archives and the responsibility of “holdings” within a library or other institution. Finally, students will learn the technical skills to create a class website as they consider writing across different environments.
The course has no prerequisites, is appropriate for first-year students, and is writing intensive.