This week’s readings on teaching digital history discussed many important themes. Two themes stood out particularly and go hand-in-hand: navigating the different technology backgrounds of today’s supposed “digital natives” and designing college and graduate-level courses that utilize digital media effectively to teach the content, the process of “doing history,” and the technology itself.
Ryan Cordell’s piece, “How Not to Teach Digital Humanities,” is a how-to guide for digital humanities courses, offering dos and don’ts for professors and institutions wanting to add digital humanities to the curriculum. In addition to suggesting that these courses should start small with one digital methodology or subject theme and should take advantage of local resources, he cautions instructors against assuming that their students are “digital natives.” He states that professors wishing to bring digital media to the classroom should be aware that students are still “technologically skeptical,” though they live in a world in which digital media is prevalent. This is an excellent point, because though students may interact with Facebook on a daily basis or are adept Googlers, they may not understand how that technology really works or how they can harness a digital tool for school projects and even build upon it.
Mills Kelly argues in his book, Teaching History in the Digital Age, that in order to incorporate the digital into the classroom successfully, the instructor must meet the student in that digital world that fosters active content creation and social networking. The instructor and the students must converge and work together within that digital world to learn the history itself, historical thinking skills, and the technology. By meeting the students in the digital world in which they already interact, such as Twitter, Wikipedia, or blogging platforms, the instructor can diminish that “technological skepticism” and then introduce more technology, such as Omeka.