This fall (2016-2017), my students in Engl. 205 Introduction to English Literature (1) at AUB are working on the second phase of a Digital Humanities (DH) project entitled “Books Read in Lebanese High Schools over Space, Time and Emotion” that was created in the summer semester of 2015 2016.
This semester, we hope to collect more data and explore areas that were not investigated in the previous semester. We decided to include questions on genres, years of publication, languages texts were read in, and more information in the interviews.
Yet again, 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. Moreover, students will build on an already established project, refining and filling the gaps of the previously collected data.
In this DH 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 were regarded as important texts that should be read. For that purpose, a number of digital platforms and tools, such as Google Drive, Twitter, WordPress, Carto, and Palladio have been introduced to this digital assignment, accompanied by clear instructions, appropriate rubrics, orientation sessions and technical support.
In Week 1-2 students are introduced to the main concept and learning outcomes of the project. They form groups, create Gmail accounts, and are added to Google Drive course and group folders I created for the course. Students are 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 3-5 students interview, friends, relatives, and/or random people who have attended a Lebanese high school and who come from different age groups. Interviews include questions on titles of books read during school time as well as free time, genres, year of publication and emotions (selected from Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions) associated with reading those texts. Students also enter coordinates of the location of their interviewees high schools (private or public), the languages they read the texts in, and coordinates of bookstores the books were purchased from. Students start to enter data extracted from the interviews into a shared spreadsheet on Google Drive. By the end of the week, groups are asked to convene and examine their entries, create new interview questions if needed and think of possible ways to explain their results or lack of results to date.
In Week 6-7 resources on Canonicity are posted for students to explore and read. Also, students create their WordPress website and continue to collect and refine their data. List of blogs:
In Week 8 students post their first blog reflecting on some of the following guiding questions:
- How comfortable are you with 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 before?
- 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?
Students meet again at the end of the week in their small groups to revise their blogs and prepare their comments (peer reviews) on blogs by students in other groups. Over the weekend students refine their data entries, add more data, and prepare their data for their first Carto map.
In Week 9, students are introduced to Carto and create preliminary visualizations of their spreadsheet data. These visualizations will allow them to see new things or reaffirm some of their preliminary findings or to create new directions in their research. Students read a number of key articles on Deep Mapping and Spatiality and interrogate some of the main central themes. Students attempt to create a preliminary proposal for their research interests. They create questions such as: what relationship emerges as emotions are visualised in relation to genre? Students create a second blog on a research theme/question on canonicity in the Lebanese context, the movement of books among bookstores and schools over time, etc…
In Week 10, students are introduced to Palladio and as they continue to collect data they create visualizations of the networks their data can reveal. A third blog on the progress of their research findings will be developed.
In Week 11-13, students read more and refine their visualizations, report on their progress
Week 14 students create posters and present their findings in a final narrative on their first digital project.
By the end of the semester, students would have created and posted three short blogs, three comments (peer reviews) and the final reflection with maps and visualizations to be included in the third one. Results and recommendations for the following Spring Semester will be posted in a new blog post later this week.