”…history may be better suited to digital technology than any other humanistic discipline. Changes in our field far removed from anything to do with computers have helped create a situation in history where the advantages of computers can seem appealing, and perhaps even necessary. At the same time, changes in information technology, far removed from any consideration of its possible uses for our discipline, have made it possible for us to think of new ways to approach the past. The new technologies seem tailor-made for history, a match for the growing bulk and complexity of our ever more self-conscious practice, efficient vehicles to connect with larger and more diverse audiences.”
— Edward L. Ayers, “The Pasts and Futures of Digital History” (1999)
This project-based, hands-on course examines how digital tools and sources are changing the way we think about, research, interpret, and communicate our understanding of the past. We will read a range of works on designing, interpreting and understanding digital media and gain practical experience through learning and using a range of applications and tools, and engaging in collaborative digital history projects.
An upper-division history course, History 325H can fill a 300-level requirement for a major or minor in History and is a required course for the Heritage and Museum Studies major. It is part of the College’s Liberal Arts curriculum and fulfills the core Humanities Exploration (H) designation. The goals and learning objectives related to historical inquiry, digital history, liberal arts, and the humanities are included below.
Course Goals and Learner Outcomes
In History 325 you will have opportunities to learn to think like a historian as well as to gain first-hand experience using new digital media to conduct research and to produce, both in written and visual form, historical knowledge and digital historical resources. You will develop the critical thinking (skills and methods of historical analysis) and communication skills necessary for historical research, as well as the technical and communicative skills required to produce a useful digital space. You will also develop a professional online presence. This combination of skills will help you prepare for a wide range of workplaces in an increasingly digitally-connected job market, whether you ultimately work in a historical field or not.
History Department Learning Goals:
- Engage in historical inquiry, research, analysis, and interpretation
- Practice historical empathy
- Understand the complex nature of the historical record
- Generate significant, open-ended questions about the past and devise research strategies to answer them
- Craft historical narrative and argument
- Practice historical thinking as central to engaged citizenship
Digital History Goals:
- Students will gain familiarity with a range of digital tools, platforms, or methods that can serve as a “digital toolbox” to use in future work (both within the field of history and more broadly).
- Students will develop confidence in learning about and experimenting with technologies, from using digital resources to creating them, and knowing where to seek advice and assistance to address problems or further skills.
- Students will gain understanding of the ways that digital history alters historical practice, research, communication of knowledge, and understanding.
- Students will research, produce, and publish historical materials in public spaces including understanding related issues of intellectual property rights.
- Students will develop a professional online presence to carry forward through college years and beyond.
- Students will gain skills in evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of different examples of digital historical scholarship, including work produced in the class.
Course assignments require students to demonstrate proficiency in the following learner outcomes:
- Students will be introduced to a variety of tools such as Omeka, WordPress, Zotero, Animoto, ManyEyes, StorymapJS, Google Fusion Tables, Scalar, Storify, and others and have opportunities to experiment with them.
- Students will participate in collaborative projects which utilize one or more digital tool/method we have examined, developing competence as they create and publish historical materials.
- Students will conduct historical research as part of their collaborative projects, including gathering, sifting, analyzing, ordering, synthesizing, and interpreting evidence.
- Students will examine historical research influenced by digital technologies (such as data visualization, data mining, digital mapping, etc.).
- Students will examine ways in which historians are using digital technologies to present their work to the public (such as the internet, digital audio and video production).
- Students will read about and experience first-hand the ways in which digital history emphasizes collaboration and teamwork rather than traditional historical scholarship focused on individual research and writing.
- Students will utilize web-publishing platforms such as WordPress and/or Omeka to create public history resources.
- Students will learn about intellectual property rights regulations and guidelines and abide by them in their work.
- Students will purchase their own domain and build their own website (e.g. using ReClaim hosting and WordPress), creating their own digital portfolio.
- Students will gain experience engaging with the web (learning how to express ideas and process content on the web through blogging and other social media).
- Students will read current literature on the prospects and perils of digital history.
- Students will review and critique existing digital history projects.
- Students will participate in peer review of class projects.
As part of Concordia’s Liberal Arts curriculum, this course is designed help you reach the following liberal education learning goals:
- developing a love for learning
- increasing abilities to express ideas, think critically, and assess and evaluate information
- developing an understanding of disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and intercultural perspectives
- cultivating self-understanding, and
- becoming responsibly engaged in the world.
As a Humanities Exploration Course History 325H is designed to offer you a an awareness of multiple perspectives on human experience, including:
- an understanding of historical (or philosophical) modes of inquiry.
- the ability to use critical interpretation as a method of understanding texts, practices, or artifacts within social, religious, political, or historical contexts.
You may find this course different than some of your other history courses because of its strong emphasis on projects, skills, application, and collaboration. To learn digital history one must do digital history. Rather than demonstrating your knowledge and ability to analyze and synthesize sources and content through exams and papers, you will demonstrate that knowledge through blogging, developing your digital presence, and participating in small collaborative digital projects.
Persistence and willingness to try many approaches will be a key to doing well in this course. For many, this work with digital tools will be a new experience, and it is important to remember that a valuable part of learning is failing. Not every exercise will go successfully, and we will all make mistakes (instructor included!). Failures are useful if we decide to reflect and learn from them. There will also be times at which you will be asked to inform and educate yourself outside of class, using extracurricular resources (online tutorials, e.g.). You should be prepared for some do-it-yourself explorations during this class. But also remember that you won’t be working alone. Consider the class (students and instructor) as a collaborative team.
The semester is set up so that for roughly the first third of the course you are introduced to a variety of digital tools and platforms that you will then use to carry out digital projects undertaken during the remainder of the semester (while also continuing to learn about various aspects of doing digital history).
Another unusual aspect of this course as that much of your work will be public. This includes your course blogging and potentially Twitter posts. Your grades and evaluations will remain confidential, but much of your work itself will be viewable by the public. Finally, this is a new course, and the field of digital history is new and continues to develop rapidly. It is possible that we might change assignments for the course as the semester progresses, depending upon where our discussions, tools, resources, and interests take us.