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

I want to…

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…

Student Profile: Karan and Chintan present their Masters Project.

Chintan (Top)

Karan (Bottom)

Karan Didwani and Chintan Vachhani are both eCampus student assistants who help the university’s faculty and student body with teaching tools such as Canvas, Turnitin, Clickers and many more. They graduated with Masters in Software Engineering this Fall and have big things awaiting them in the future. I asked both of them some questions about their Masters Project and about presenting their findings at the Project Expo here at San Jose State.

Chintan’s project focused on digital detection and decryption of a Sudoku puzzle using vision-based techniques. It is an Augmented Reality (AR) application that uses Computer Vision (CV) and Machine Learning (ML) to solve the Sudoku puzzle and convert it to an interactive AR representation. The AR app captures the puzzle image and sends it to the CV module. In turn, the CV module tries to detect the puzzle grid and if found, tries to recognize the digits present. It creates a 2D array representation of the puzzle and sends it to the ML module to solve it. The ML module consists of a Relational Recurrent Neural Network that is trained on 1M sudoku puzzles. It solves the given puzzle and returns a result to the CV module. Further, the CV module creates a sudoku image with the filled answer and forwards it to the AR app. In the end, the AR displays the solution image placed over the actual puzzle creating a magical augmented experience in real-time.

Witnessing the final product was really incredible as the app insistently found the answers to the sudoku puzzles. Chintan stated the most challenging part of the project was, “to integrate between AR (Unity3D, C#) and CV (Python, Flask, OpenCV) modules as they are two very different technology stacks”. A project he has been working on with his group-mates for a year is finally done and with it he says, “I feel satisfied becauseI was able to take upon a challenging project, learn new technologies and apply them to finish the project in time”. The biggest takeaways he feels were from this project were to always expect the unexpected and to always be innovative when solving sudden problems. Chintan hopes to use the skills and knowledge he acquired here in San Jose State to work for a tech company in small or big teams. Chintan states, “I hope to one day I wish to pursue entrepreneurship and run my own company”. No doubt he can make his dreams into reality for he always puts 100% in anything he does.

Karan’s project is a web application to allow its end users to carry out real estate sale online. It is not any ordinary ecommerce website because it is backed by one of the most talked about technology of this decade “ Blockchain”. In his project he and his group-mates stored all the transaction data and property data in a highly secure, encrypted distributed ledger or also known as blockchain. The complex encryption and availability of the data on distributed network makes the application almost impossible to hack and highly available in cases of failure. Karan mentioned he was happy that the end users don’t need to worry about all these technical complexities as everything is abstracted and served to them in a simple website just like Amazon or eBay.

Some obstacles Karan and his group-mates faced were conducting research on the Blockchain and its implementation was one of the hardest things we had to do in the project and time management. Blockchain technology is something that is new and just now getting traction so there is limited research done on it. Every project requires time sensitivity and having time management skills is essential in any setting. Like many San Jose State students, Karan had jobs and internships that required time and commitment which made it hard to focus on the project. Karan said, “since my team members and I, we all were doing internships and attending classes at the same time, finding time to focus on the project was a difficult thing to do. I was also doing my on-campus job at eCampus at that time. It was not about finding time to do it, it was more difficult to meet and discuss with each other”.

Karan has been working on this project for two semester and now that it is done he feels, “pretty excited and relaxed”. He feels like he has grown a lot since working on this project. He has learned the importance of time management and the value of effort. Karan recalls,”When all my friends watched Netflix, I pushed myself to watch online tutorials on Udemy and YouTube. With this I learnt how I can use almost 2 and half hour of my day for the project while carrying out my daily routine activities”. Since graduating he has joined PayPal as a full-time software engineer. He says, “I enjoyed my internships and my on-campus job, but now this is a different game so looking forward to it.”

We are all incredibly proud of both Chintan and Karan for their amazing accomplishments and wish them nothing but the best in their future endeavors. Thank you for all the work and time you put in helping the campus community. Stop by IRC-206, M-F, 9AM-5PM for any and all eCampus related questions.

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!

OLC Conference | Immersive Learning Institute

Augmented reality and virtual reality have been actively implemented in the classroom as innovative ways to engage students. Immersive learning is one of the fasted growing trends in education today. The 2018 OLC Accelerate conference provides a great opportunity for educators to discover such new technologies, tools, and trends in higher education. I presented at the conference and shared some insights on how to foster AR/VR community through the Immersive learning Institute. In Spring 2018, we hosted our first cohort for Immersive Learning Institute (ILI) with a group of adventurous faculty. Through the ILI, we gained valuable experiences on how to introduce AR/VR/MR/XR to faculty and engage them to create and integrate the immersive technologies into meaningful classroom activities.

eCampus is pleased to offer our Spring 2019 Immersive Learning Institute. The institute will focus on innovative Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) technologies and pedagogies that create immersive learning opportunities to improve students’ engagement and critical thinking. The goal of the program is to provide a focused and supportive opportunity for faculty to explore AR/VR technologies and work closely with the AR/VR Specialist to create immersive learning activities for their courses. Upon successful completion of all components, participants will receive a badge and $500 professional development funds. Review the entire program description for complete program requirements and additional details. Submit your proposal online by January 17, 2019.