The Politics of Digital Pedagogy: a Report on THATCamp Pedagogy 2011

THATCamp Pedagogy[This is a guest post by Roger Whitson, a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Digital Scholarship Commons (DiSC) at Emory University. Roger blogs on his website, on Emory U’s Library blog, and on Teaching Romanticism - and can be contacted via email at rogerwhitson [at] or via Twitter @rogerwhitson.–@jbj]

I’m amazed at the diversity I find at different THATCamps. I’ve attended three THATCamps thus far (SE 2011, CHNM 2011, and now Pedagogy 2011), and each one has been very different. All, however, espouse and practice the values of generosity and collaboration that I found so inspiring when I wrote “Why I Love THATCamp.”

Vassar College’s THATCamp Pedagogy was organized by Matthew Schultz and Christopher Dickman. It focused primarily on how to integrate digital technology into the classroom. We discussed teaching undergraduates TEI and XML, gamifying classroom assessment, designing introduction to digital humanities courses, teaching with Twitter and GoogleDocs, and facilitating collaboration in the classroom – among many other topics. Here are links to Session Google Docs and a Twitter archive of the event.

What did I learn at THATCamp Pedagogy? I feel like many of the events became extended reflections on the difficulties and politics, but also the possibilities, of integrating digital pedagogy into University curriculum.

  • How do you make a case that digital pedagogy and digital scholarship are valuable to administrators and tenure and review boards? The answers to these questions were wide and varying. Campers had different opinions about the efficacy of using #alt-ac positions to leverage digital technology in classrooms and Universities. We learned that many administrators and tenure boards want quantitative information that makes the case for increased student participation and enthusiasm in digitally-enhanced courses, and brainstormed strategies for communicating such information effectively.
  • What is the undergraduate perspective on the digital humanities? The most exciting thing about THATCamp Pedagogy was, for me, the inclusion of undergraduates. Katherine Harris asked her very impressive student Pollyanna Macchianno to head a bootcamp on “The Undergraduate’s Voice in Digital Humanities,” where she rated her professor’s skill in including and explaining the importance of technology in three separate literature classrooms. Additonally, Mike Wazowski and Diane Boyd brought three undergraduates from The Center for Teaching and Learning at Furman University. All provided needed perspectives when discussing undergraduate anxieties about collaborative grades, forming a powerful dialogue with enthusiastic teachers of collaboration like Leeann Hunter and Jesse Stommel.
  • How useful are specific technologies in the classroom? Sessions on “Teaching with Twitter” and “Teaching with GoogleDocs,” gave campers critical introductions to emerging technologies that can fundamentally change their classroom experience. I found Scott Kleinman and Dorothy Kim’s “Introduction to XML and TEI” to be very useful in understanding the basics of the language and their applicability to teaching. A healthy dose of digital skepticism was also on hand, like Stephanie Boluk’s rejoinder to use technology to encourage not only forms of hyper thinking (linking from one idea to another) but also deep thinking (focused attention on one topic at a time).
  • Does DH just happen in the humanities? Campers like Joshua Roth gave needed insight into the use of digital technology in science fields like physics. He also illustrated the need for extending the digital humanities beyond their traditional space in humanities classrooms and finding common spaces for more interdisciplinarly discussions about technology. We need more discussions like these, as typified in “A Non-Humanist Report from THATCamp” by Heather Whitney.

THATCamp Pedagogy showed how much political hacking needed to take place to advocate for the digital humanities on University campuses, a point I make in “Digital Activism: THATCamp Pedagogy.” Yet it also underscores just how many important conversations about technology and teaching are already happening. If I had a wish for next year’s THATCamp Pedagogy, it would be to create more policy statements and programs that teachers can use to imagine new possibilities for the digital humanities. Let’s hack pedagogy, and find even more solutions to the difficulties and complications that go along with digital technology.

Photo “THATCamp Pedagogy” by Roger Whitson. Used by permission.

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