This summer (2015-2016), my students in Engl. 205 and Engl. 207 at AUB are working on a Digital Humanities project entitled “Books Read in Lebanese High Schools over Space, Time and Emotion”.
One of the main objectives of this assignment is to train students to position themselves as novice scholars in digitally networked 21st century environments. Working collaboratively on this project, students will gain reusable skills in the classroom, and beyond, in the process of unpacking major program learning outcomes in the English Department: to practice critical thinking, produce critical arguments in a variety of formats and demonstrate awareness of canonicity in light of the history of the discipline.
In this digital humanities project, students will map the spatial movement of books in Lebanese High Schools, over a period of time, to come up with insightful narratives on where, what and why particular books have specific values and have been regarded as important texts that should be read. For that purpose, a number of digital platforms and tools, such as Google Drive, WordPress and CartoDP, have been introduced to this digital assignment accompanied by clear instructions, appropriate rubrics, orientation sessions and support.
In Week 1, students were introduced to the main concept and learning outcomes of the project. They formed groups, created Gmail accounts for the project, and were added to folders I created for each group on Google Drive. Students were also introduced to Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions, how to define and enter coordinates of high schools in Lebanon to spreadsheets on Google Drive.
In Week 2, students interviewed some of their relatives from different age groups and started to enter data into a shared spreadsheet on Google Drive. Resources on Canonicity were posted for students to explore and read.
By the end of the week, groups were asked to convene and examine their entries, create new interview questions, and think of possible ways to explain their results or lack of results to date.
We are now moving into Week 3 in the semester, and students will be creating their WordPress website on Monday. Their first blog entry will attempt to reflect on and answer some of the following guiding questions:
- How comfortable do you feel about collaborating with other students to accomplish/finish this digital project?
- How much do you know about the other group members? The skills they bring to the group, the knowledge that you think is important for such a project.
- How will you be dividing the work in your group?
- What do you think this digital project will reveal?
- How relevant is this project to your course learning outcomes?
- How similar/different is working collaboratively on this project in comparison to other assignments you have done for other courses?
- What do you think is the most surprising answer/finding your interview notes reveal at this point/early phase?
- What do you think is missing in the interview questions that will yield more significant results on the idea of canonicity in Lebanese High Schools?
- How will each member in your group proceed after your first group meeting?
- Finally, what title would you like to give to your first blog?
During this week, student will be introduced to CartoDB and create preliminary visualizations of their spreadsheet data. These visualizations will allow them to see new things or reaffirm some of their preliminary findings.
In Week 4, students will read key articles on Deep Mapping and Spatiality with an eye on how emotions can be visualized in such a digital humanities project. Students will create a second blog on crowd-sourcing and learn how to create queries to trace the movement of books among bookstores and schools over time. Links to Engl. 205 students’ blogs:
Links to Engl. 207 students’ blogs are:
In Week 5, students continue to collect data, create two more maps, and create a third blog on their research project. This is the week when students have to work for their finals, so one meeting at the beginning of the week and another at the end of the week will allow students to revise their last blog and research direction.
In Week 6, students read more and refine their visualizations, report on their progress, comment on blogs by their classmates and continue to collect data. A list of academic articles is posted for students on Moodle for their final narrative.
Week 7 students create posters and present their findings.