History 311  Digital History

  • Dickinson College // Spring 2016
  • Denny 211 // Tue & Thu 3pm

Learn by Building

Online Resources

  • Ayers, Edward L. and William G. Thomas III. “The Differences Slavery Made,” AHR (Dec. 2003) [WEB]
  • Cohen, Daniel J. and Roy Rosenzweig. Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web. Center for History and New Media (2005) [WEB]
  • Cronon, William. “Learning to Do Historical Research.” [WEB]
  • Digital Scholarship Lab (University of Richmond) [WEB]
  • Dougherty, Jack and Kristen Nawrotzki, ed. Writing History in the Digital Age. University of Michigan (2013) [WEB]
  • Downs, Gregory P. and Scott Nesbit, eds. Mapping Occupation (University of Georgia) [WEB]
  • Keefer, Jeannine, ed. Image Research Guide (University of Richmond) [WEB]
  • McDaniel, Caleb W. Open Notebook History (2013) [WEB]
  • Pinsker, Matthew. “Lincoln Theme 2.0.” Journal of American History (2009) [WEB]
  • Pinsker, Matthew, ed. Dickinson Survey of American History (Dickinson College) [WEB]
  • Pinsker, Matthew, ed. Osborne Center for Historical Methods (Dickinson College) [WEB]
  • Rosenzweig Center for History & New Media (George Mason University) [WEB]
  • Rubin, Anne, ed. Sherman’s March and America: Mapping Memory (UMBC) [WEB]
  • Seefeldt, Douglas and William G. Thomas III. “What is Digital History?” Perspectives on History (2009) [WEB]
  • Thomas, William G. III. “Writing a Digital History Article From Scratch.” Digital History Project (Dec. 2007) [WEB]
  • Virginia Center for Digital History (University of Virginia) [WEB]

Course Policies

For details on all significant course policies, especially including those regarding attendance, participation, accommodations for disabilities, plagiarism and general learning objectives, please consult the course website:

Multi-Media Lab

On various Tuesdays throughout the semester, students will be tasked with creating an experimental demonstration of a multi-media platform. There will be six graded lab topics: social annotation, data visualization, podcasting, social media, mapping and video storytelling. Students will receive suggestions and online tutorials about these platforms or tools but they will have free reign to design their own demonstrations. To that degree, students may want to try to do so with an eye toward incorporating revised lab work into their final website presentations. For each presentation, however, students should focus on being able to embed their experiments in posts at the course website by 3pm on the designated Tuesdays. The purpose of these lab sessions is to learn by building –to experiment—and so students should feel encouraged to take chances. Results will be graded on effort and creativity alone. Students who try but fail to master a particular platform simply need to write up their lack of results in a kind of “lessons learned” blog post. The simple act of submitting on time, either a successful demonstration or “lessons learned” post, will nearly always result in an automatic “B” grade. More significant and creative efforts, however, will receive “A” grades. Late posts will be penalized 5 points per day. A student’s worst graded lab project will be dropped from final grade calculation.

Historiography Posts

Students will submit two online historiographical essays (about 1,500 words each) that should be posted at the course website by March 7 and April 18. The first post (March 7) should analyze how one particular digital tool or platform (such as GIS, blogging, digitization, etc.) has already affected various types of historical inquiry. Students should try to identify specific areas of impact. The second post (April 18) should focus on the interpretive trends within a particular field of historical inquiry (preferably related to the student’s final web project) and then try to explain how digital tools might affect these debates if applied effectively. In other words, the first post looks backward in the recent past while the second post peers ahead into the short-term future. Students may incorporate all or part of their essays into their website project. Late posts will be penalized 5 points per day.

Website Project

By May 17, students will create their own WordPress site on a historical topic of their own choosing (in consultation with Prof. Pinsker). These sites should include both original text and an array of multi-media resources and should be designed principally as teaching resources for the secondary or undergraduate classroom. Students may incorporate any previous course work from History 311. Websites will be evaluated on historical thinking attributes, contributions to historiography, quality of prose, and design elements. Late websites will be penalized 5 points per day. All websites should initially discourage search engines, but with the expectation that they might eventually be made public and hosted at the Dickinson server.  Models for websites are available at the Student Project Gallery at this course site.

Grade Distribution

Class Participation                   25 percent

Multi-Media Labs                    25 percent

Historiography posts               20 percent

Website Project                       30 percent


Day Date Discussion Topic Reading Assignment
Tuesday 1/26 NO CLASS
Thursday 1/28 Methods & Expectations Seefeldt/Thomas essay
Tuesday 2/2 Exploring the History Web Cohen/Rosenzweig, Exploring
Thursday 2/4 Becoming Digital Cohen/Rosenzweig, Digitizing
Tuesday 2/9 LAB: Social Annotation Genius,, Diigo
Thursday 2/11 NO CLASS
Tuesday 2/16 Wikis and Crowd-sourcing Topic 1
Thursday 2/18 Commons & Copyright Cohen/Rosenzweig, Owning // McDaniel, Open Notebook
Tuesday 2/23 LAB: Data Visualization Wordle, Tagxedo, DataBasic, Ngram
Thursday 2/25 Historiography 2.0 Pinsker essay, roundtable & exhibit with reminders A, B, C
Tuesday 3/1 LAB: Podcasting Audacity, Soundcloud
Thursday 3/3 Digital Scholarship Thomas essay and AHR article
Monday 3/7 Historiography posts due By 5pm
Tuesday 3/8 Online learning Topic 2
Thursday 3/10 Deep Web or Search vs. Research Topic 3
Tuesday 3/15 SPRING RECESS
Thursday 3/17 SPRING RECESS
Tuesday 3/22 Plagiarism in the Age of Remixing Topic 4
Thursday 3/24 NO CLASS
Thursday 3/24 Lecture: Eric Foner ATS, 7pm – 830pm
Friday 3/25 Lecture: Jeffrey Rosen Stern Great Room, 12pm-1pm
Saturday 3/26 Teacher Workshop: Gregory Downs, Matthew PinskerAnne Rubin Stern, 9am to 3pm
Tuesday 3/29 LAB: Social Media Twitter, Storify
Thursday 3/31 Best Practices: Beyond the Valley of the Shadow Virginia Center for Digital History
Tuesday 4/5 Best Practices: Inventing the Digital Toolbox Center for History & New Media
Thursday 4/7 Best Practices: Mapping American History Digital Scholarship Lab
Tuesday 4/12 NO CLASS
Thursday 4/14 LAB:  Mapping ArcGIS, Google Maps, World Map
Monday 4/18 Historiography posts due By 5pm
Tuesday 4/19 Big Data  Topic 5
Thursday 4/21 History Blogging Topic 6
Tuesday 4/26 LAB: Individual Projects
Thursday 4/28 LAB: Individual Projects
Tuesday 5/3 LAB: Video Storytelling iMovie / Moviemaker
Thursday 5/5 Lessons & Legacies  
Tuesday 5/17 Websites due By 5pm