MLA Panel 739, 2017: Digital Humanities in Secondary ED

Panel Abstract: Featured on DigitalHumanitiesNow.org

Since its inception, digital humanities have upset methodological difference, academic siloism, and institutional hierarchies by offering collaborative approaches to humanistic inquiry via digital tools. From Mark Sample’s declaration: “the digital humanities is really an insurgent humanities,” to the #transformDH movement’s push to alter DH praxis by “highlighting projects that push at its boundaries and work for social justice, accessibility, and inclusion,” DH forefronts both interdisciplinarity and collectivized approaches to academic work. At the same time, DH has had to reckon with its proximity to corporate influence on education and accusations of its affinity with neoliberal imperatives for educational value. This panel seeks to showcase how these concerns are no longer limited to higher education. They are concerns for DH’s place in secondary education as well.

DH scholars have already begun to focus on DH’s scope and method beyond the four-year higher educational model. Jesse Stommel has written on DH’s place in community college settings, and members of University of Victoria’s Maker Lab in the Humanities have showcased their kits for cultural history at École Arbutus Global Middle School. Recalling her visit, Katherine Goertz (UVic) notes that they “discussed how prototyping objects could be helpful for research in the humanities,” and how UVic tried to meld its work “with [École Arbutus’] own learning objectives.” Here, DH’s collaborative approach is manifest, and it offers us an approach to secondary educational outreach that also asks us to interrogate DH praxis at all levels of its articulation. Miriam Posner has recently written on precisely this confluence of issues. Arguing that higher ed has absorbed of the rhetoric about the immateriality of digital labor, she notes how our reliance on corporate platforms undermines our ability to be effective educators long-term. Indeed, it upsets our ability to work collaboratively and challenge institutional hierarchy in our research and pedagogy. Posner also notes that this state of affairs is already well documented at the K-12 level via movements like EDTECH. Where headlines from EdTech magazine proclaim that “Microsoft, Facebook Join Coalition Pushing for Coding in Classrooms,” Posner calls DH scholars to invest in their own infrastructure, compelling us to explore how DH methods extend into a secondary educational setting.

This panel showcases two current projects focused on bringing DH’s collaborative approach to humanistic inquiry to underserved high school students on Long Island and to English Language Arts classrooms on the North Shore of Massachusetts. Further, this panel showcases a third paper that addresses questions of ethics and labor endemic to DH’s migration to secondary educational settings. All three papers are situated within the debates cited above as they also showcase practical issues and obstacles to organizing this work as a collaborative, interdisciplinary endeavor at the secondary level.

Roopika Risam’s paper centers on her work with English language arts teachers in Massachusetts and their struggle to use technology to enhance their students’ reading and writing skills. Forefronting the requirements and limitations of Common Core standards, Risam discusses her qualitative research regarding teachers’ attitudes towards and awareness of digital humanities and their responses to digital humanities pedagogy workshops offered to them for professional development. Further, Risam shares the results of her work with local teachers on both small scale and larger scale digital humanities assignments developed to engage students. She concludes by examining the curricular changes implemented in Salem State University’s secondary to support the development of digital humanities skills for English language arts teachers, offering insight into how these acts of collaboration might travel.

Matt Applegate and Jamie Cohen’s paper focuses on their co-organized project to bring DH methods and New Media principles to underserved high school students in Baldwin, Long Island. Applegate and Cohen outline the formation of the project, and the curricular standards for the project they created with Baldwin High School faculty and administrators (modules, college credit-bearing courses, and opportunities for faculty development), and the construction of its collaborative workspace. By consulting with WeWorkNYC and the Centre for Social Innovation in NYC, Applegate and Cohen detail how they are building collaborative educational models and spaces focused on social justice even as the demand for marketable skills undergirds Baldwin’s turn to DH and New Media. At its conclusion, Applegate and Cohen’s paper offers insight into how this process might be replicated both institutionally and curricularly beyond the Baldwin school district.

Spencer Keralis’s paper offers a look at the ethical implications of bring DH praxis to secondary education. He argues that our work too often and too easily coheres with neoliberal imperatives that mask labor alienation in the classroom. Underscoring concerns for social justice and labor, Keralis endeavors to develop a programmatic response to the ethical problems at the foundations of these emerging programs, before bad choices on the part of teaching faculty become bad habits. He focuses on questions concerning copyright and intellectual property in parallel with teaching students the technical, creative, and humanistic skills necessary for doing digital humanities work to create durable products for which they retain ownership. Finally, Keralis argues that this approach offers students the tools to challenge labor alienation prior to their college or university experience.

Paper Abstracts

Digital Humanities and the Common Core in the Secondary ELA Classroom

Roopika Risam

As the Common Core Standards have been implemented in public schools, the challenges facing teachers have been great. The standards emphasize the need for technology skills embedded in disciplinary knowledge. For example, teachers in English language arts are required to teach students how to use technology and digital media to enhance reading and writing, integrate and evaluate media in multiple forms, produce digital texts, create visual data displays, and more. These requirements are in addition to the many standards that address reading, speaking, listening, and writing, as well as the pressures to teach informational texts alongside literary ones. How, then, might using digital humanities in the secondary English language arts classroom help teachers navigate the challenges posed by the Common Core Standards while providing high-impact pedagogical experiences for their students? This talk discusses my research and work with secondary education English teachers on the North Shore of Massachusetts. I begin by discussing my qualitative research study assessing teachers’ attitudes towards and awareness of digital humanities and their responses to digital humanities pedagogy workshops offered to them for professional development. I also share the results of my work with local teachers on both small scale (1-3 lessons) and larger scale (units and semesters) digital humanities assignments developed to engage students and meet their needs while addressing the requirements of the Common Core Standards. Finally, I examine the curricular changes implemented in Salem State University’s secondary English undergraduate and graduate English education programs that are intended to support the development of digital humanities skills for English language arts teachers.

Bio:

Roopika Risam is an assistant professor of English and English education at Salem State University, where she coordinates the secondary education English undergraduate BA/M.Ed. program and the graduate certificate program in digital studies. Her research examines intersections between postcolonial and African diaspora literatures and cultures, and the role of digital humanities in mediating between them. Risam also works with pre-service English teachers and teachers of record to develop digital humanities assignments and projects to meet curricular needs at the secondary level. This work takes the form of several initiatives including an undergraduate digital scholars program, graduate certificate program in digital studies, and outreach programs with public schools on the North Shore of Massachusetts. Her monograph, Postcolonial Digital Humanities, under contract with Northwestern UP, examines the possibilities for recovering lost stories and unheard voices within and through digital humanities. Her work has recently appeared in Left History, South Asian Review, Digital Humanities Quarterly, and Digital Scholarship in the Humanities and is forthcoming in Debates in Digital Humanities 2016.

 

Bringing DH Methods and New Media Principles to Underserved High School Students

Matt Applegate & Jamie Cohen

The Baldwin High School New Media Academy is a co-organized effort to bring the study of New Media and Digital Humanities to underserved high school populations on Long Island, New York. Working with high school faculty, administrators, and students for the past two years, Matt Applegate and Jamie Cohen have established a curriculum and internship path at Baldwin High to expose students to the methods of DH praxis and principles of New Media in both educational and work-related environments.

Our curriculum is based on five modules and two college-credit bearing courses. Our modules include Critical Making, Digital Storytelling, Multimodal Composition, Online Expression, and Social Media. Our college-credit bearing courses are Introduction to New Media and College Composition (the course is taught entirely on the methods of multimodal composition). Each module is integrated into existing high school courses, i.e., Social Studies, English, Wood Shop, etc., where students take college-credit bearing courses in their junior and senior years. Over the course of the next academic year, we will work with the Baldwin School District to rehabilitate an abandoned school site to house our academy, funded by a New York State Development grant that we acquired in the 2015 academic year.

The focus of this paper is to report on our work with underserved high school populations and relay the challenges of bringing this kind of material to a secondary education setting. We focus on the practicalities of bringing DH methods and New Media principles to high school (i.e., funding, time, expertise, bureaucracy), as well as the conceptual labor of bringing this work to a new setting. We conclude by considering how the digital humanities travel beyond the college classroom in particular, framing our project as an expression of the Public Humanities.

Bio:

Matt Applegate is an Assistant Professor of English and Digital Humanities at Molloy College. He holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Binghamton University. He has published articles in Amodern, Theory & Event, Cultural Critique, Telos, and more. Matt is also the creator and administrator of the Digital Manifesto Archive and @DHManifesto_Bot.

Jamie Cohen is the Program Director of the New Media Program at Molloy College in Digital Humanities and New Media Department. He is currently a Ph.D. student at Stony Brook University studying Cultural Studies and Media Archaeology. Jamie is the co-author of Producing New and Digital Media: Your Guide to Savvy Use of the Web (Routledge 2015).

Owning Your Labor Is a Skill: What We Should Teach in the Secondary Ed DH Classroom

Spencer D.C. Keralis

The neoliberal rubric of “skills-buidling” is too frequently used to mask labor alienation in the classroom, with students paying for the privilege of working on faculty projects. This practice has unfortunately been prevalent in STEM for generations and, with the rise of digital humanities, is now entering the humanities classroom as well. Criticisms of this practice are frequently silenced and dismissed in discourse around digital humanities pedagogy with a litany of straw man arguments and sleights of hand: “Don’t you want students to have skills that get them jobs?” “It’s important to expose students to active research.” “It’s an important part of science pedagogy that we should adapt for ourselves.” And, worst of all: “There aren’t any rules against doing it.” As digital humanities extends its reach into the K-12 classroom, it offers an opportunity to develop a programmatic response to this ethical problem at the foundations of these emerging programs, before bad choices on the part of teaching faculty become bad habits. This paper proposes that, by engaging high-school students in conversations about social justice in labor, and by educating them on copyright and intellectual property in parallel with teaching them the technical, creative, and humanistic skills necessary for doing digital humanities work to create durable products for which they retain ownership, secondary educators can empower students to challenge labor alienation when they meet it in the collegiate classroom.

Bio:

Spencer D. C. Keralis is Research Associate Professor and Digital Humanities Coordinator with the Public Services Division of the University of North Texas Libraries, and is the Founding Director of Digital Frontiers, a conference that brings together the makers and users of digital resources for humanities research, teaching, and learning. His research has appeared in Disrupting the Digital Humanities, Book History, American Periodicals, and the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) reports The Problem of Data (2012) and Research Data Management: Principles, Practices, and Prospects (2013). He has held a Mellon Fellowship at the Library Company of Philadelphia, a Legacy Fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society, and served as a CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow in Academic Libraries with the University of North Texas Libraries.

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