Posts Tagged ‘Digital History’

Looking Back on the Class

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Top Three Things I Liked About the Class Structure:
1. Like a lot of other people have mentioned, I liked that each group got to build a project from scratch. It was a bit nerve-wracking at first, but it was fun to have the freedom to think big and then experiment with what actually worked. And now we all know that our sites really reflect what we wanted them to be.
2. I liked that we had to blog and present about our progress. It was fun learning about what the other groups were working on and also helped to keep us on track with what we had to be doing to make progress on our own site.
3. The collaborative aspect of the projects was pretty great as well. We had our group members, but then we also got to hear feedback from our classmates, professor, DTLT staff, map groups, and, in our case, all of the alumni that we met. When we had questions someone out there could answer them, find the person who could, or come up with a creative way around the problem.

Three Things I Would Change About the Class Structure:
1. The technology intros were great, but they sometimes felt rushed. And I would make sure that each tool presented had an accompanying example, too, just so everything isn’t quite as abstract (when all you’re hearing are things like ‘code’ and ‘widgets,’ it can be hard to picture real world usage for things. Or maybe that’s just me).
2. Maybe after the initial onslaught of tools, there could be a few mini seminars in things like basic HTML or Omeka or something. Even if one person from each group went the group would at least have a foundation to stand on.
3. I would have liked to have met with the map groups a little earlier, or even just had more of a conversation about what the map groups can and cannot do a little earlier. It’s hard coming up with a plan for a map when you aren’t sure what the mapmakers resources are going to be.

Suggested Future Topics for Projects:
1. Why, a continuation of our site, of course 🙂
2. I think something on the history of slavery in Fredericksburg would be interesting. We all confront it every time we walk past the auction block downtown, but I don’t think people necessarily know much about the role of slavery in this area.

Advice for Future Students:
1. Communication with group members is key. It’s important that everyone’s on the same page for the duration of the project.
2. Even if you think you don’t know anything about computers or the internet, don’t be afraid to be creative and think big.
3. When in the process of thinking big you get stuck, there are plenty of people around to help you work out the technical side of things. Ask them.
4. Make a solid contract, keep to your deadlines, and have fun!

History in the Digital Age

Monday, April 5th, 2010

The article titled “Blogging for your Students” caught my eye first, probably because of all of the blogging that we’ve been doing for this class. The author starts by basically explaining to his audience of professors what a blog is, which for me reinforced how lucky we are to have UMW Blogs and professors who not only know what the technology is but are willing to experiment with its use in class. I like the idea of a professor keeping a blog for a class, but for the entire article I was wondering why he didn’t also have his students writing their own posts instead of limiting their thoughts to smaller comments on his blog. Then I got to the end and discovered that students doing their own blogging was the ‘next step’ in the use of blogs for class. Apparently we’re all far more advanced than we realize 🙂 His comments on blogs being public were important as well. I think many people believe all blogs to be entirely informal online journals of sorts, but I suspect that even those who begin blogging rather sloppily will take more time to sort out their thoughts once they really understand that their content is public, perhaps through a comment or Google Analytics tracking.

I also read the article on Wikipedia since it connected in a way with the discussion we had a few weeks ago about Wikipedia and its validity as a source. Of course we spent only a class period mulling over the merits of Wikipedia while her class spent the better part of a semester, but I think both classes followed the same sort of progression in thought. We kind of doubted Wikipedia’s accuracy, then we got all excited about how people watch over it to maintain it and update it, then realized that it is in fact an encyclopedia and should be treated as such. I definitely like the idea of history being ‘created’ rather than ‘discovered’ though, which I think is something all of us are grappling with in our projects. The way that facts, figures, stories and such are framed and determining what’s included and what’s left out of a discussion about a time/place/person in history can truly influence someone’s perception of historical “reality.” Many of the discussion page debates we read while poking around Wikipedia dealt with this issue, and, in creating out project sites, we’ve all dealt with what information to include and how our interpretation will subsequently influence our visitors’ knowledge of our topics.

Last but not least, I read “Doing History in the Digital Age.” She talked about how when people read digital copies of journals they often read only those articles relevant to a narrow list of interests rather than scanning through an entire issue. This has been my mom’s argument against digital newspapers since the day our hometown paper shrank considerably to cut back on costs, and I suggested she read the news online instead. She insisted that when she had a newspaper in front of her she ultimately read about a greater range of topics, many of which she wouldn’t have bothered even looking at had she instead been staring at a list of headlines online. I think both the author and my mom have a point in that most people are creatures of habit and will read what is familiar and avoid the extras when possible. It presents quite the challenge to digital journals to create ways to entice readers into exploring a wider variety of topics without making them feel like they are being forced to read them. Ah, the joys of the digital age!

First, Introductions…

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Hello fellow digital history adventurers, and welcome to my blog. My name is Mary Ann, and I am a junior History and International Affairs double major here at UMW. I’ve loved history, especially American history, since I was a little kid traipsing around the backyard in one of my grandmother’s old, long skirts pretending I was on the Oregon Trail, so I was lucky in that deciding to be a history major came very easily to me. I can’t imagine myself studying anything else. But I also have a longstanding love affair with travel, an interest further solidified during my semester abroad. I spent the Fall 2009 semester living and attending classes in Salzburg, Austria, and those three months were full of all kinds of moments, both eye-opening and just plain silly, that I’ll never forget. I’ve been back here in the States for a month now, but it’s still a bit surreal to be able to read a newspaper without a dictionary nearby or walk to class without the steady drone of church bells in the background.

At the prompting of my family and friends, I kept a blog to document and share my experiences in Europe while I was there. I ended up having a lot of fun with the project and really enjoyed tinkering with some of the technology involved, so when I saw that a digital history course was being offered this semester it seemed a good opportunity to become more fluent in the crazy language of technology and to learn how it can be applied to the study and presentation of history. There is so much going on out there that just isn’t covered in a normal lecture-based class. Plus, in the handful of resource materials that I read describing the class, Dr. McClurken seemed very enthusiastic about the course, which was intriguing. I’m looking forward to working with my group members to tackle our project centered on the collection of old photographs of the people and places of UMW. Multiple people have now told us that we’re pretty much entering unchartered territory with this assignment, which is rather scary, but I think that suits the nature of digital history and should make our work this semester all the more interesting.