But How Do I Begin in Digital Pedagogy?

screwing around with digital humanities

In the last post, “It’s Not About the Tools,” we got a look inside the pedagogical theories behind a collaborative, project-based learning environment in a Humanities course. Students were offered a broad research question at the outset and an established goal. But, as you can see, that goal had to change due to resources and the needs of the project. Since no one had written about Beardstair prior to this course, or, more accurately, publicized/published a piece on its process and progress, the graduate students deemed it appropriate and in line with Digital Humanities scholarship to publish a history and process piece.

In that post, I gestured towards the technology, but the technology did not govern the course. In fact, the students offered a critique of the digital tools, their failings, and their limitations foisted onto the project. The seamless tech, blogs, Facebook groups, Google Docs, photography, were used for the purpose of collaboration and documenting the progress. A Facebook group was established by the student teams (Tech Team & Literature Team) as the easiest form of facilitating constant contact — primarily because of the seamless integration between mobile and laptop platforms along with notifications of recent postings to their groups. (They discuss this choice for collaboration space in their peer-reviewed article for the Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy, “BeardStair: A Student-Run Digital Humanities Project History, Fall 2011 to May 16, 2013.)

In several workshops that I’ve run for various types of universities and colleges in North America, including the Digital Humanities Summer Institute workshop on Digital Pedagogy, I always ask instructors to write down responses to the following prompts before even thinking about integrating digital tools into their courses:

  1. What is the intended knowledge acquisition with this assignment?
  2. How will students demonstrate this knowledge acquisition?
  3. How will you value process?
  4. How will you evaluate collaboration (see Teamwork Value rubric)?
  5. Will peer review or comments be incorporated into the assignment?
  6. Is the process and/or outcome public to the world or just to the students?
  7. Where does the assignment fit into the semester (1st assignment? last one?)?
  8. Where does the assignment fit with your larger goals for the course?
  9. How will you build on the knowledge or a skill from this assignment?
  10. What resources are required to complete the assignment? (access to subscription databases?)
  11. What technical proficiencies are required by the student? 
  12. Do you require a lab day for learning technologies or presenting process/final projects? (make sure to leave time in the schedule)
  13. Will the work be done in class or out?
  14. How will you engage with this assignment (process and/or outcome) during class discussion?
  15. Have you left room for waypoints/check-in moments for the assignment (especially relevant for assignments that come later in the semester or require several steps)?
  16. How does this assignment differ from previous assignments that don’t use technology?
  17. Can you boil the project down to a single research question for your students?

This series of questions should lead the instructor to the type of assignment; not all assignments need to be graded, high stakes. Use of digital media and tools can afford students an opportunity to “screw around,” experiment, and explore with your guidance.

Consider then which of the types of assignments you would like to employ to develop a skill or lead into another critical thinking activity or be part of a larger, scaffolded assignment:

  1. Single Day (bloom & fade)
  2. Single Assignment
  3. Entire Course (scaffolded assigned)

Bloom & Fade

This type of assignment occurs within the confines of the classroom meeting session and doesn’t necessarily result in an assignment to be completed by students beyond the time of the meeting. This is an ungraded, low-stakes, exploratory activity. But, you can use digital media and tools to help you with this.

I’ve written a fair amount about the use of digital tools in a literature class over the years, specifically for Norton Publishers on their Fairmatter blog a few years ago (entire list of blog posts available here). The most fruitful, and playful, in-class activities came from playing with new tech, specifically Google’s NGram Viewer and GNook. In much of my work, I attempt to knock through the traditional literary canon to demonstrate the overwhelming amount of reading materials available during the British Romantic and Victorian periods (1775-1901). To get students outside of their anthologies, they need to explore beyond the confines of editorial control. Both NGram and GNook do that. For the activities used and the outcomes, take a look at these 2 posts:

Single Day Assignments

Digital tools don’t have to be the focus of using digital tools. I used blogs (via WordPress) to allow students an opportunity to construct and explore writings that include visual media, especially photos that they take with their own cell phones to demonstrate their understanding of the visual cues and critical thinking required of visual media. (The 19th century was rife with visual media and therefore integral to study beyond the pages of an anthology.) Check out these assignments that began as a “bloom and fade”:

Scaffolded Project-Based Assignments

This type of lengthy set of assignments that build skills with each assignment, but are linked by a research question takes the most planning, especially in terms of integrating some days to teach technical skills (even with low-barrier to entry tools).


With all of this in mind, now you can take a look at the tools. If you need a sophisticated set of tools that interacts with each other, you might take a look at the Adobe Suite that IT has gotten all students and faculty access to: Adobe Creative Cloud.

If you need help with specific tools, see all of the terrific workshops offered by eCampus.

Do you know what you’re doing already and want to share more, see the Professional Development Opportunities (including local conferences on Student Success) available through eCampus. These opportunities are also organized into tracks:

  • New Adventurer Track: A track for instructors who are newer to San Jose State or to Canvas and/or educational technology in general. This strand will get you up to speed with all the essential features of Canvas and introduce you to some the most commonly used instructor resources used at San Jose State University.
  • Multimedia and Content Development Track: This series is geared towards instructors wanting to focus on developing content for any of their courses. While not every workshop may be applicable, all of the workshops where you can learn how to create and edit multimedia content are listed here.
  • Adventurer Track: This track is for more experienced instructors who want to explore less commonly used technology tools or more advanced Canvas features.
  • The Experiential Track: Ever wanted to try something out before implementing it with your students in your real class? Then the experiential track is for you! These workshops are hands-on with participants enrolled in a demo course as a student. We consider the pedagogy of various Canvas teaching strategies and can see the teacher’s perspective visible on the overhead, but participants explore how the tools work from the perspective of a student on their own devices. Bring your questions!
  • Theory Track: The workshops in this track are geared towards instructional design and pedagogy.
  • Researcher Track: This track offers workshops that are specialized on research applications. As with the yellow track, not all of these may be applicable to you or your discipline. Any five choices satisfies this track.

Experienced Practitioners

Are you ready to move beyond the written essay and experiment with other forms of critical thinking work? You might be interested in the Writing Across the Curriculum workshop on:

Visual Rhetoric and the Alternative Research Project: Developing the Traditional Essay Into a Digital Short

Wednesday, February 20, 3:15PM-4:30PM, in Sweeney 229

There are four distinct objectives for the Alternative Research Project. The active engagement of knowledge building, composition, and research in a meaningful way.  The presentation of research in an alternative mode. A creative project that emulates the traditional composition process. And finally, the publication and presentation of the project for public consumption. We begin with a discussion of the need for an understanding of Visual Rhetoric in a Visual World. This is grounded in knowledge building through the interpretation of meaning from an image based on: the arrangement of elements on the page, typography, and the analysis of images and visuals as data—unpacking ways to subjectively contextualize this data through the cultural, personal and temporal. This sets up our transition into a discussion on the three modes of Visual Literacy: Visual Thinking, both metaphoric and literal; Visual Learning, the intent, the meaning, and experience of the visual arrangement. Finally, connecting this discussion to the larger context of Visual Communication in different discourse communities for Art, Media, and Aesthetics. The practical component of the presentation will be a step-by-step breakdown of staging the Digital Short. First, we will briefly discuss the symmetry between the staging of the writing process (Topic Proposal, Outline, Annotated Bibliography, Rough Draft, Final Draft, Revising). Then, we will unpack the Digital Short in three parts: Process Letter, Photo Narrative, and Digital Short. Student samples will be provided for participants of the workshop.

RSVP here: https://goo.gl/forms/PoAmAzBM2i20xZ5h2

WAC offers several workshops each semester (not always about use of digital tools, but very useful nonetheless!): http://stage.sjsu.edu/wac/pages/seminars-and-workshops/spring19/index.html

Google Tour – Help with creating VR for your classroom

A workshop hosted by ECampus on March 15 – RSVP for your spot.

Interested in building or having your students build an immersive, 360 experience? Have you heard of Google Tour Creator? Join us on March 15 for a Google Tour information session followed by a hands-on, immersive experience. During the session, we will:

  • Provide information about Google Tour Creator
  • Explore ways to incorporate Google Tour Creator into the curriculum
  • Leverage related Google tools, such as Expeditions, Cardboard, and Poly
  • Provide an opportunity to build a Google Tour
  • Discuss and reflect on the experience

Friday March 15, 2019 | 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. | BBC 032

Light refreshments will be provided.

A List of Tools

In the meantime, if you need a tool associated with a particular task, check out the PBWorks DIRT collaborative review of many, many tools organized by tasks – so helpful, especially for those venturing into more advanced analysis using language analytical tools:

Types of Tools – from DIRT


Until next time when I’ll discuss helping students read/annotate on digital platforms!

It’s Not About the Tools: A Series of Digital Pedagogy Posts, Spring 2019

Digital Humanities ideals for all

I’ve spent a lot of my career here at SJSU converting my research-oriented practices towards a more forward-facing collaboration with my students in project-centered learning environments. During my first forays into adventures with SJSU English and Composition students more than a decade ago, I taught the way that faculty had taught me at Cal State L.A. so many years ago: lectures with lots of interesting discussion centered around a novel or poem or philosophical musing. Grad school was like that, too, until I got into my dissertation area. And, I just assumed, even while teaching at multiple schools in the City University of New York system, that all students were as fascinated as I was about literature, culture, news, politics, the world. The CUNY students at Hostos Community College, Queens College, and Lehman College taught me differently, but in the throes of finishing a dissertation, living in the vibrancy of NYC, and moving across country for a job, I didn’t quite get it.

And, I didn’t quite get it when I arrived at SJSU an Assistant Professor in 2005, though I had just finished a traditional dissertation PLUS a project-based dissertation where my advisors let me roam around, ask questions, fail, and discover for myself. I hadn’t yet found a bridge to be able to facilitate that kind of learning…at least until Digital Humanities methodologies became much more transparent.

Continue Reading…

OpenSim Community Conference 2018

Bethany at OSCC 2018

This is a good follow up to Yingjie’s previous post about the upcoming Immersive Learning Institute for 2019. As I wrap up my thoughts on my conference experiences for this year, I’m most delighted that I was able to attend the sixth annual OpenSimulator Community Conference 2018 on December 8th and 9th. This was my second year attending this virtual world conference, and it allowed me to network with educators, artists, and others from around the world, all of whom are passionate about this open source alternative to a virtual worlds platform such as Second Life.

Presenting in a Virtual World

This was also my first time presenting in a virtual world! Originally I was to co-present with a colleague, Dr. Valerie Hill, the director of the Community Virtual Library (CVL). Valerie wasn’t able to attend, however, so it gave me the opportunity to introduce myself to this community, and tell them about CVL’s plans for a hypergrid resource library on two different virtual worlds that are using the OpenSimulator platform. As the project lead, my presentation included screenshots of the two buildings I’ve put in place where all our content and resources will be housed, along with the portals that allow for visitors to jump easily from one virtual world grid to another.

Bethany presenting at OSCC 2018

Hypergrid?! Hypergridding?!

Since the concept of hypergridding is likely to not be familiar to you, here’s a simple explanation. There are many virtual worlds built on OpenSimulator, and those worlds can be on anybody’s computer or server anywhere in the world. So if virtual worlds are like 3 dimensional websites, hypergridding is the protocol that allows a user to jump from “website” to “website”. Instead of just navigating the different pages of one virtual world, a visitor is empowered to travel from different computers or servers to another.

While there is a bit of a learning curve, and the technology is still kind of wonky, I think of open source virtual worlds and hypergridding as kind of a 2.0 mashup of the internet and social media. It’s every sci-fi geek’s dream –  the emerging metaverse!

Conference Discovery Session: Integrating 360 Content With Instruction

Bethany presenting at table

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, winter is generally a good time for eCampus staff to focus on their own professional development.  I was delighted to be able to attend the Online Learning Consortium’s Accelerate 2018 Conference in Orlando, Florida. This was my first time at this enormous national convention and it was a whirlwind of learning and networking! There were over 500 presenters, and I was fortunate to be among those chosen to do a table-top interactive presentation. My topic was on Integrating 360 Content with Instruction, and for 45 minutes I went through some of the basic concepts, terminology, possibilities and pitfalls of using Canvas to share 360 content.

I had several mobile devices, two tablets, a couple Samsung phones, a Samsung 360 gear camera, and two Samsung Gear360 headsets along with a Google Cardboard, so that participants could view 360 content in multiple ways.  I also created a public Canvas course, Integrating 360 with Instruction!, participants could access via a QR code or bit.ly link so that participants could see how the content could be presented in Canvas. In particular, I strongly encouraged them to visit the course on multiple devices, just like their students would, to really get a feel for the challenges and opportunities this kind of technology presents.

I also attended many excellent lectures and discussions with my peers from all over the country. I took a lot of notes that I shared with my eCampus team, and I look forward to sharing what I’ve learned with faculty!

The Future Present: Rockcliffe University Consortium Conference November 2018

Winter for eCampus staff is a great time to catch up on our own professional development, and earlier this month I had the opportunity to attend this conference in San Francisco with a variety of participants who are involved using virtual worlds in education. One the best things about this conference was the smaller size compared to other ones I’ve attended. It was interactive too, we use a conference app to communicate and a communal Padlet for reflection on the sessions. Basically, it was like a two day breakout session with passionate and creative educational professionals, and I got to meet and network with old friends and new!

I was delighted to be able to finally meet (in-person) my mentor and the Director of the Community Virtual Library, Dr. Valerie Hill. I also got to meet the CVL’s Co-Director, Alyce Dunavant-Jones who just graduated from SJSU’s MLIS program that is also connected with CVL. (In fact, Alyce also posted about the event at the SJSU School of Information blog.)  I met Val and Alyce last year at the OpenSim Community Conference and I’m delighted to be co-presenting with Val for the same conference next week!

In addition to learning from a variety of different sessions, I loved getting to know some of the amazing instructional design team from University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. I also got the chance to  meet and extensively mingle with the leadership of Rockcliffe University Consortium who sponsor many of the conferences related to virtual worlds and education. As with Valerie and Alyce, some of these people I’ve met in-world at one event or another, and meeting in-person was just like meeting an old friend!

I also met Renne Emiko Brock who teaches multimedia studies at Peninsula College in Washington and we immediately “clicked”. She has worked with Valerie before, and I’ve seen her present in-world on several occasions. I immediately recognized her because she looks the same as her avatar! Before the group dinner together on the second night, Renne, Val, and I began talking about me making a visit to Washington this summer to visit both of them, and for the three of us to co-present on our overlapping projects at one or more conferences in 2019. So here’s to the authenticity of in-world relationships, and some exciting times ahead in virtual worlds and education!