Category Archives: projects

Mellon DH Fund supports the creation and development of Urbanatural Roosting

By Ash Nichols (Walter E. Beach ’56 Distinguished Chair in Sustainability Studies & Professor of English)

My DHAC-funded Student-Faculty Summer Research Project (2015) was a complete success. My student researcher, Kerin Maguire, turned out to be a hard worker, an excellent researcher, and a writer with a prose style well in advance of her years. Over the summer, we produced a new website, Urbanatural Roosting: Planetary Living for the New Millennium, and wrote content for three (3) pages. Individual page links are included below the image:

unr

UrbanNaturalBibliography

These pages required extensive research—both library and online—as well as a wide range of reading from books, essays, and online materials. In addition, we added dozens of illustrations, often requiring permissions acquisitions, technical layout details, and digital design. We worked closely with the Dickinson Multimedia and I.T. staff to improve the look and technical details of the site as well.

Activities of Student Researcher

My student researcher, Kerin Maguire, was completely involved as a collaborator in every aspect of the work on our project. She researched, read, and wrote to at least the same extent that I did. In a number of instances, she was completely responsible for the addition of new material, from conception of the idea to all of the research, writing, and site design. In one instance, she even took her own photographs to illustrate the “Pine Barrens” section of our Natural Urbanatural Roosting page. Our page is her work as much as it is mine; this felt as completely collaborative as any student-faculty research project in which I have been involved. Even her academic plans for the coming semester—and two years—have been affected by our work.

Potential Long-Term Benefits of Project for Student

Kerin’s own words will form the basis for this part of our report. Please see the attached news story that appeared on the Dickinson Web-Page at the completion of our project:

Urbanatural Living, Digital-Style

The article clearly sets out a number of ways in which Kerin benefitted from our work together:

“It involved a lot of reading … Professor Nichols just kept handing me these stacks of books,” Maguire says with a laugh, “but now that I know a little more about this topic, I am interested and invested. It reels you in.”

Indeed, Kerin informed me as the project drew toward completion that our work had even had an impact on her future academic plans. She now wants to add environmental studies courses to her academic program as an English major:

As the weeks progressed, Maguire began to find connections to the work during non-research hours; an article in her hometown newspaper, for example, was the catalyst for her final post of the summer. She also uncovered environmental issues in familiar settings—in the pinelands of her home state, and along the fragile shoreline of Cape Cod, a favorite family-vacation spot, where the population has increased 400 percent in the past 40 years, creating significant pollution. “I go there all the time, and I never knew there was a problem,” says Maguire, who plans to keep contributing to the portal, at Nichols’ request. “Once you learn about statistics like that, how can you not want to share them with the world?

This is a perfect example of the way our project worked. I would assign a specific section of our web-portal to Kerin, or she would come up with her own suggestion, as in our “Cape Cod” entry or our “Artificial Reefs” section. One final quote from her will make clear the future benefits of our work together:

I have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge on the subject and am interested in finding ways to implement the concept of urbanatural roosting into my own life and that of my family. . . In addition to learning about fascinating subject matters, working closely with Professor Nichols improved my writing and research skills. . . I also improved my technological skills using WordPress, as well as editing and revising my work.

There is clearly nothing for me to add to Kerin’s own words in this regard.

Future Plans

Like my earlier website, Romantic Natural History: 1750-1859 (praised by the New York Times, the BBC in London, M.I.T., and others), the Urbanatural Roosting site will continue to grow over the coming years. I have assured Kerin that she is welcome to continue work on this resource at any time she would like. She is welcome to make additions to our existing pages or propose new cities for our Urban Urbanatural Roosting page or natural sites. I did the same in the past with students who worked with me on Romantic Natural History, and two of the three took me up on this offer and added to the site after their summer research assignment had ended. In addition, two of my research students have said that they got their first job after graduation at least partly as a result of being able to show their future employers the work they had done on our web-portals and web-pages.

Mellon DH Fund supports the creation and development of Eighteenth-Century Poets Connect

by Jacob Sider Jost (assistant professor, English)

In the fall of 2014 I applied for a semester-long grant to pay a student assistant, Mary Naydan, to complete a spreadsheet listing the works of 133 English poets active during the years 1730-1740.  This was a continuation of a project begun by Mary and me using a Dickinson summer student-faculty collaborative research grant in the summer of 2012.  Over the course of the fall, Mary logged 64 hours of research, gleaning bibliographical and biographical information about poets from a range of online sources (particularly the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, the English Short Title Catalogue, and Eighteenth-Century Collections Online).  Although not able to complete the full roster of poets in the time funded by the grant, she did complete approximately half of them—an impressive one poet an hour.

Pages - 0001 copy

I am confident that as with our work in the summer after her sophomore year, this experience will stand Mary in good stead as she looks ahead to graduate study in English or an allied field.  While Mary was in the digital archive researching eighteenth-century poets, our digital humanities postdoc Patrick Belk took the lead on organizing the data in a way that would be not only useful but publicly accessible, building a Drupal database to hold the data stored in our spreadsheets.

18cpc (2)

This database is accessible at http://dh.dickinson.edu/18cpc/.

            Thanks to Patrick and Mary, my goal of documenting, visualizing, and analyzing networks of print and patronage for eighteenth-century poetry has moved significantly closer to realization—with the unexpected benefit that thanks to Dr. Belk’s implementation of Drupal the project, while still in progress, is available to me and other researchers online.

Booksellers Network Viz3_2

18cpc

With that said, further research work and technical tinkering remain to be done.  My current timetable is as follows: this semester, Dr. Belk will smooth out the remaining problems with our data, not all of which imported successfully from our Excel spreadsheets into the online database.  Over the summer, I will finish entering the biographical and bibliographical data from the 60 or so poets who remain undocumented.  By the end of summer 2015, Eighteenth-Century Poets Connect will be complete as a publicly accessible online database documenting the poetic culture of Britain in the 1730s.  In the fall of 2015, Dr. Belk and I will work together to find the visualizations and other tools of analysis that make this data most useful, and it will be the work of the following year, 2015-16, for me to write an article for peer-reviewed publication discussing my findings.

Jacob Sider Jost

Mycenae Lower Town Excavations and 3-D Reconstruction

Prof. Christofilis Maggidis sends along this report on his work documenting the Lower Town at Mycenae. The 3-D scanning and reconstruction work was partly funded by Dickinson Digital Humanities grants over the summers of 2013 and 2014.

The archaeological investigation of the Lower Town of Mycenae (2001-to date) aims to reveal the relationship between the citadel/palace of Mycenae and the surrounding settlement, and to show land development and public works (fortification walls, roads, bridges, dams, irrigation, terracing). The Geometric settlement (houses, workshops, silos, graves) dates to the 9th-8th century BC; these Geometric ruins are the first and only ones discovered so far at Mycenae since Schliemann’s excavations in 1874, and establish the cultural continuity of the site in the transition from the end of the Bronze Age, after the collapse of the Mycenaean world, to the historical period of the Early Iron Age. The underlying Late Mycenaean urban settlement (fortification walls, gates, houses, storerooms, dams, etc) dates to the 13th century BC, This is the first time that the very existence of the Lower Town is archaeologically established.

[youtube_sc url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIEE7i8C_nE&feature=youtu.be”]

The Mycenae GIS database built by the Dickinson team includes geology, terrain and topography (based on digitized Hellenic Military Geographical Service topographic maps, geological maps, satellite photos, and Total Station points), geophysical survey (subsurface architectural features detected by remote sensing), architectural remains, archaeological contexts, features, and finds (embedded and catalogued by date, accession number, material number, layer/context number, geodetic coordinates, grid-square and locus, photos and drawings).

The G.I.S. geodatabase further integrates a 3-D digital reconstruction of the Lower Town. . This comprehensive 3-D digital model of the site will constitute an interactive learning tool, but also a pioneer and dynamic digital publication platform with a powerful database, incorporating and illustrating the architectural development of the buildings with all successive construction or modification phases, their finds, and their surroundings.

The site scanner shoots millions of georeferenced points from many different angles and locations to compose a highly accurate (5mm) georectified ground plan

The site scanner shoots millions of georeferenced points from many different angles and locations to compose a highly accurate (5mm) georectified ground plan

This past summer, all excavated architectural structures of the palatial workshops at Mycenae, including buildings, walls, floors, deposits, gates, and roads were scanned with a 3-D Terrestrial Laser Scanner, which was leased for a period of three weeks from the Demokritos University of Thrace (Prof. Nikolaos Lianos). The site scanner shoots millions of georeferenced points from many different angles and locations to compose a highly accurate (5mm) georectified ground plan, thousands of cross-sections of orthogonal axial tomography (like a Cat-scan), and a ‘walk-through’ rotating 3-D model of the site, which forms the basis for the 3-D digital reconstruction of the workshops. Next year, the plan is to scan and photograph from the air the whole valley of the Lower Town and the cyclopean walls of the citadel in the backdrop using a videocamera-equipped drone in order to digitally recreate the precise terrain and background for the 3-D town/citadel model which will then form the basis for the georeferenced 3-D digital model of the ancient landscape.

For more information about the Mycenae Lower Town Excavations, see here and here.

Lincoln’s Writings: Multimedia Edition

The Multi-Media Edition of Lincoln’s Writings at the House Divided Project offers 150 of Abraham Lincoln’s most teachable documents organized around five major themes and designed provide key alignments with the Common Core State Standards.

House_Divided_Lincoln_Edition

In addition to transcripts there are audio recordings of readings by the wonderful Todd Wronski of Dickinson’s Theatre and Dance Department. My favorite feature is the inclusion at the beginning of a paragraph on the context of each document by Civil War historian and House Divided director Prof. Matthew Pinsker. Here, for example, is his lead-in to the Emancipation Proclamation.

Context: The Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 culminated more than eighteen months of heated policy debates in Washington over how to prevent Confederates from using slavery to support their rebellion. Lincoln drafted his first version of the proclamation in mid-July 1862, following passage of the landmark Second Confiscation Act, though he did not make his executive order public until September 22, 1862, after the Union victory at Antietam. The January 1st proclamation then promised to free enslaved people in Confederate states (with some specific exceptions for certain –but not all– areas under Union occupation) and authorized the immediate enlistment of black men in the Union military. The proclamation did not destroy slavery everywhere, but it marked a critical turning point in the effort to free slaves. (By Matthew Pinsker)

Prof. Pinsker also offers a 12-minute close reading of the text of the document itself. And there is bibliography, and excerpts from other historians, writing about how they understand the document. Check out this excellent use of the web to richly annotate key historical documents!

 

Mellon DH Fund supports Innovation in Foreign Language Learning @ The Mixxer

MIXXER-600x250

The Mixxer, a Web application developed at Dickinson College by language technologist Todd Bryant, is a free educational resource allowing language learners around the world to schedule Skype sessions to fit their schedules, and helping Dickinson’s language departments harness technology to provide students regular conversations with native speakers. Having grown over the years to include 100,000+ international participants, The Mixxer enables Dickinson’s faculty to provide students the kind of experience that was once impossible in the classroom.

Last year, The Mixxer offered a MOOC to English speakers learning Spanish and paired the participants with a partner course of Spanish speakers learning English. Using open educational resources from COERLL, Colby College, Voice for America and the BBC among others, the language learners were introduced to new vocabulary and grammar points through texts and audio and then given activities to complete with their language partner from the other course. If you have ever taught or taken a language course, you can think of the language exchange as a replacement for the partner activities done most every day in class.

[youtube_sc url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CT0Sk1rPto” title=”Explanation%20of%20The%20Mixxer%20(1:57%20minutes)” modestbranding=”1″ autohide=”1″]

Explanation of The Mixxer (1:57 minutes)

With support from the Mellon Digital Humanities Fund, The Mixxer was able to build on its successes this summer, hiring three Dickinson education and language students to create free, online courses in German, French, and Chinese. The lessons are structured in much the same way as a traditional language class, with learners first being introduced to new content, given examples, asked to practice, and then finishing with some form of written assessment.

The German and French lessons, created by Ezra Sassaman and Caitlin DeFazio, respectively, assume some knowledge of the language – roughly one semester. The lessons in Chinese, created by Betsy Vuchinich, have been designed for beginning learners of the language, and use content primarily from the Confucius Institute and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. All three courses are complete, free to use, and currently available on The Mixxer site.

Additionally, Bryant and his team were able to hire a computer science major, Santiago Princ, to help with technical additions to The Mixxer. By using jQuery, Princ helped Bryant write a module that allows native speakers to quickly view, edit, and resubmit corrections to their partner’s written work. The language learner can then reply to the native speaker with further questions.

The module that Princ helped create extends the open-source Drupal platform, and has been published on Drupal.org along with an acknowledgement to Princ. It is viewable here.

Benefits to Students

Sassaman, DeFazio, and Vuchinich received training from Dickinson College associate professors Sarah Bair (Education) and Sarah McGaughey (German) on the basics of language pedagogy and the structure of language lessons. They then learned how to apply these principles to an online learning environment. They were also required to participate in the language exchanges themselves to gain an understanding of the lessons work in practice from a language learner’s perspective. The lessons are published under their name to which they will be able to refer if they decide to pursue a career or further education in language pedagogy.

By working with Bryant to create the module, Princ gained a solid and fundamental understanding of jQuery, a very common web developing language. More importantly, he now has experience working with open-source software along with the process of using community resources to diagnose and solve errors.

Bryant and Vuchinich also had the opportunity to showcase these resources at the CALICO / IALLT conference in Athens, Ohio (May 6 – 10), where they received praise from educators. Of particular interest was the news that they would use these lessons as part of three MOOCs to be offered on The Mixxer site (starting July 1, 2014). As before, learners from each course are able to connect with partners via Skype to complete the language exchange activities provided within each lesson.

For more information on The Mixxer, or foreign language learning with technology in general, you can contact Bryant by email here.

A New Allen & Greenough

With support from the Mellon Digital Humanities Fund and the Roberts Fund for Classical Studies at Dickinson, the Dickinson College Commentaries team has completed a new digital version of that perennially useful tool for Latinists, Allen and Greenough’s New Latin Grammar for Schools and Colleges, edited by J.B. Greenough, G.L. Kitteredge, A.A. Howard, and Benjamin L. D’Ooge. Boston: Ginn & Company, 1903.

Allen_and_Greenough_screenshot

The project involved re-scanning the book to have good quality page images, then editing a set of existing XML files kindly provided by the Perseus Project. We added to that the newly digitized index, which was not in the Perseus XML. The purpose there was to make the book browsable via the index, which is important for user utility, and absent in all other online versions. On March 23, 2014, Kaylin Bednarz (Dickinson ’15) finished revision of XML files for Allen & Grenough, and the creation of html files based on the new XML. She was assisted and trained in the use of Oxygen software (which converts the XML into web-ready html) by Matthew Kochis, Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities, who also helped with day to day project management.

In late March, Dickinson web developer Ryan Burke uploaded the html and XML files to Dickinson servers, and created the web interface for A&G in html. This revealed issues of formatting: indentations were often not preserved, resulting in lack of clarity. Some character formatting was not right, and footnotes from the original print resource were not clearly displayed. Forward and back buttons had to be put in for each of the 638 sections.

On May 20, 2014, Meagan Ayer (PhD in classics and ancient history, University of Buffalo, 2013) began work hand-editing Allen & Greenough html files, removing errors and fixing formatting, adding navigational infrastructure using Adobe Dreamweaver. A few missing XML files had to be added and converted to html, and those finishing touches were put on last week.

The differences between the DCC version of A&G and others available on the internet are:

  • Page images attached to every section
  • Analytical index makes finding what you need easier
  • Functioning word search for the entire work
  • Attractive presentation with readable fonts and formatting
  • Fully edited to remove spelling errors and OCR misreads (further error notifications appreciated!)

And of course the whole is freely available under a Creative Commons CC-BY-SA license. We plan to systematically link to this version of A&G in our Latin commentaries, and we are planning to have a similar work on the Greek side up soon:

Thomas Dwight Goodell, A School Grammar of Attic Greek (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1902). This excellent work was scanned by the Internet Archive. Last year Bruce Robertson of Mont Allison University kindly performed the OCR using Rigaudon, the output of which is available on Lace. At Dickinson the OCR output was edited and the XML and html pages created by Christina Errico. Ryan Burke has created the web interface. Meagan Ayer is in the process of editing and correcting the html pages. So look for that in the next few months!

Russian Rooms, Spring 2014

Russian Rooms is a multimedia project created and curated by Maria Rubin, Visiting International Scholar at Dickinson for the 2012-2014, showing portraits of average Russians in their home environment. You can read about each person and listen to an interview with them (in Russian) while viewing their portraits and the picture of the room they call their own. As discussed an earlier post, all the material created in this project becomes a part of the open teaching resources of the Dickinson Russian department, and is available to anyone else who wishes to use it.

In the spring of 2014 the students in Prof. Alyssa DeBlasio’s Russian translation class (RUSS 334) worked on translating these texts, and completed 15 additional entries. The work was carried out by four students: Chase Philpot, Abby Preston, Peter Sisson, and Maxim Demidov. Prof. DeBlasio reports that all the students did excellent work, and it was hard to pick one to highlight. When pressed, however, she suggested the following narrative, about a Tajik migrant worker in Moscow. The translation is by Abby Preston:

Roma is an illegal immigrant, a migrant worker. He came from Tajikistan to work in Moscow about ten years ago. Since then he has already changed jobs many times, and eventually he ended up in Moscow’s suburbs. In his homeland, Roma worked as a lawyer in a notary’s office and lived with his family in a historic stone house in the center of the city. Here in Russia he has worked as a guard, an administrator, a plant manager, and a construction worker.

Roma has lived in an old building in the greater Moscow area for almost four years, searching for a full-time job, getting acquainted with the locals, and earning money by working part time on the construction of country homes for some “new Russians”—Russians who became very wealthy after the fall of the Soviet Union. Roma would like to marry a Russian woman, but right now he is single. He maintains his room, cooks, and does laundry. He shares his room with a few other countrymen. During the day they work, and at night they sleep.

Photos by Maria Rubin. Source: http://blogs.dickinson.edu/russianrooms/2012/11/01/47/

For more, check out Russian Rooms!

Annotating with Poetry Genius and House Divided

David Foster Wallace's annotated copy of Don Delillo's Players, from the Harry Ransom Research Center in Austin, TX. http://bit.ly/1ef5ziL

David Foster Wallace’s annotated copy of Don Delillo’s Players, from the Harry Ransom Research Center in Austin, TX. http://bit.ly/1ef5ziL

From scribbled marginalia  to full-scale scholarly treatises that gobble the works on which they comment, text annotation is one of the most basic and diverse activities of the humanities. Its purposes embrace the intensely personal, the didactic, and the evangelical. It serves all kinds of communities, from the classroom to the law court, from the synagogue to the university research library.

The movement of text annotation to an online environment is still very much a work in progress. There are many platforms attempting to marry original text and a stream of added comments, some attractive and functional, some awkward. Crowd-sourced annotation is being tried in many corners, and sometimes it catches on (check out the remarkable wiki commentaries on the novels of Thomas Pynchon), sometimes they build it and nobody comes.

Rap Genius and its sister sites Poetry Genius and Education Genius are the most exciting recent entrants into this field. What distinguishes these sites is first the astonishing ease and flexibility of the interface. The mere selecting of a chunk of text allows one to add not just a typed comment but audio, video, links to parallel passages, embedded tweets, virtually anything digital. The other good thing about the Genius sites is the way they tap into existing communities of fans, readers, teachers, and students. Education Genius is well-funded by venture capital and has a staff that talks directly to teachers, works to make the site useful to students, and builds bridges with other sites and institutions.

A case in point is the emerging collaboration of Education Genius with Dickinson’s House Divided Project. An annotated version of Abraham Lincoln’s 1859 autobiographical sketch is now available at Poetry Genius, and represents the beginning of partnership between the House Divided Project and the Genius platform spearheaded by Dickinson College student Will Nelligan (’14). There is a general annotated guide to the sketch, which was originally written for a Pennsylvania newspaper when Lincoln was a presidential candidate, and also a version especially designed as an open Common Core platform. This is in keeping with the  strong educational outreach of House Divided and its director, Associate Professor of History and Pohanka Chair in American Civil War History Matthew Pinsker.

There is an audio recording of the sketch in the voice of Lincoln as recreated by Todd Wronski, part of a larger multimedia edition of Lincoln’s writings being undertaken by House Divided. In the Genius platform clicking on different colored text brings up an annotation. Here is one with an embedded video player. Note that annotations are fully “social,” in that one can give them a thumbs up or down, share in various ways, and leave a comment on the comment.

Clicking on different colored text brings up the annotation, in this case one with an embedded video player.

Clicking on different colored text brings up the annotation, in this case one with an embedded video player.

Some annotations simply add contextual information. Others, like the one above, hint at an interpretation, as a teacher might, in an attempt to get the reader thinking beyond the surface of the text. Others amount to polite essay prompts:

Lincoln Genius Screenshot 2

One can easily create an account and start annotating.

Lincoln Genius Screenshot  3

House Divided’s annotations often take the form of questions.

The idea of annotating with questions, in addition to statements, is a fine one, helpful to teachers and students alike. Note also the ability to brand annotations with the House Divided logo, which marks them as more authoritative and “verified.” The folks at Poetry Genius understand the power of reputation, and unobtrusively include it in the platform in a variety of ways.

The ease of annotation—one can sign up for an account in a moment and fire away—makes this platform well-suited to “class-sourcing,” the adding of content by students under academic supervision, and in fact that is how these particular annotations were created. High quality content created collaboratively for a well-defined audience in an attractive, open, and flexible format: digital humanities doesn’t get much better than that.

I am delighted to say that Jeremy Dean of Education Genius will be visiting Dickinson on April 17, 2014 to speak with a group of faculty and students about text annotation and to further develop this collaboration between the Genius sites and Dickinson College. If you would like further information about this event please contact me (francese@dickinson.edu).

–Chris Francese

 

Carlisle Indian Industrial School project update

College Archivist James Gerencser passes on this note on the progress and reception of Carlisle Indian Industrial School digital humanities project.

black and white photo of hundreds of school students sitting in rows in front a school building

Carlisle Indian Industrial School, date unknown

The CIIS project received some attention recently, and comments and questions from new visitors to the project’s website have been rolling in ever since. The interest was sparked by a short article in the online publication “Indian Country Today.” Rick Kearns, author of the piece, spoke with the project’s three co-directors back in December 2013, and he felt that a wide audience would be excited to learn about this new online resource. The article was posted on January 10, alerting an interested user community to our activities just as a team of interns arrived in Washington, DC to scan more documents (roughly 16,700 of them) at the U.S. National Archives.

As links to the article were shared by colleagues across the country via Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, we were pleased to see the high level of interest and enthusiasm for the project. In just the first week after the article appeared, the site registered 1655 visitors, while it had recorded only 337 visitors over the previous month.

Even more exciting than the general buzz, however, was this blog post by Larry Cebula, Associate Professor of History at Eastern Washington University. Dr. Cebula took some time to explore our website and discovered Lulu O’Hara, a student from Washington who was a member of the Spokane Tribe. In his post, Dr. Cebula used Lulu to demonstrate, in a very simple and straightforward way, how a researcher could examine the contents of a student’s digitized file and piece together a story of her time at the school. He then went a bit further by connecting Lulu to other materials available online, including a photograph on Flickr featuring Lulu’s school class from before she attended Carlisle, and a portion of an oral history included in a National Park Service educator’s guide.

Dr. Cebula’s post provides a great example of the potential for the project, demonstrating to users how a little additional searching can help turn a few interesting items into a larger story. For as much information as we plan to make readily available via the Carlisle Indian School website, we do not want people ever to assume that this is all there is to the story of the school, or to the stories of the 10,000 students who attended the school. Too often students and other researchers fail to take the next important steps to build upon what fragments of documentation they uncover, but Dr. Cebula shows how valuable and rich the stories can become with some additional effort. In the coming years, we look forward to assisting a broad public in bringing these stories to light.

–Jim Gerencser

Class-sourcing on Soviet Sustainability

Karl Qualls of Dickinson’s History Department reflects on plans to use digital tools in the teaching of Russian history and sustainability (re-blogged with minor edits from Teaching History)

Gleb Tsipursky of Ohio State University has advocated for the value of “class-sourcing,” that is, class assignments where students build websites, Pinterest boards, wikis, blogs, videos, podcasts, and other digital artifacts aimed at informing a broad audience about a specific subject.   In this post I would like to introduce how I have adapted Gleb’s project to my Soviet history course (Russia: Quest for the Modern, History 254) at Dickinson.

Gail Troussoff Marks ('73) and Karl Qualls, associate professor of history at Dickinson College, look over documents that Marks has contributed to the Dickinson archives. source: Dickinson College flickr http://bit.ly/16UZXd0

Gail Troussoff Marks (’73) and Karl Qualls, associate professor of history at Dickinson College, look over documents that Marks has contributed to the Dickinson archives. source: Dickinson College flickr http://bit.ly/16UZXd0

Dickinson  College has long been known for fostering global education and study abroad. More recently, we have taken up the call to teach our students and ourselves to be better stewards through the study and practice of sustainability. To this end, many faculty have been creating and reworking, to varying degrees, courses to highlight issues of sustainability in our fields. Given that most definitions of sustainability include not only environmental concerns, but also issues of human rights, access to political and economic power, and maintenance of cultures, the study of the Soviet Union seemed a logical course with which to begin.

Following Gleb’s lead, I have changed assignments in this course from a traditional research paper to a series of projects that will support students’ use of and contribution to our digitized knowledge base. In a series of steps, students will accumulate a bibliography on their topics, modify and annotate the bibliography, collect digitized sources (e.g. films, maps, timelines, photographs, etc.) that will help them tell a story, and then construct a lengthy multimedia blog post that will educate the broader public on their topics. Notes and bibliographies will be collected using Evernote so that students can easily sync their work between tablets and computers. Students will then share these Evernote assignments with classmates for peer review and with the wider world via the Twitter hashtag #h254 (after the course number) and other social media. Final projects will be posted to our blog in December and will be promoted via my Teaching History blog and on various social media outlets.

Updates on the course’s progress will appear every few weeks over on the Teaching History blog, and I’ll provide my thoughts on the pros and cons at each stage. Gleb will be providing his perspective in guest blog posts there as well.