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Week 11: The Future of Digital Humanities

This is my final week in the Digital Humanities course. We have a research paper due April 15th and I will most likely publish my paper here once it’s complete, but for now, this will be my last post. I hope you’ve enjoyed my weekly musings as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.

This week, we’ve been asked to consider the concept of “googleization.” More specifically, what does the “googleization of everything” mean? Should we worry about this?

As I sit here writing my response, my Grade 12 students are working off of one Google doc to prep for their upcoming exams. They’ve created a chart reflecting the plays we’ve studied in class and are all actively filling in the cells whilst discussing the practice essay question I’ve given them. At one point, I actually said to them, “You know, when I was in high school, this just didn’t exist. Group work meant everyone writing on a separate sheet of paper and then one person collating the whole thing either by photocopying or making a poster. Laaaame!” They laughed, but I’m not sure they understood what life was truly like before the Internet, or indeed, before Google.

The “googleization” of everything has meant tremendous things to me as a teacher. It means I no longer have to buy lesson plans book from the local teachers’ store; I can now Google what I want: unit plan for Cosi – Louis Nowra; themes within Death of a Salesman – Miller; influence of the supernatural – Macbeth. You get the picture. These are all searches I have used in the past. Sometimes I get hundreds if not thousands of results; other times, I have to refine my search a little more closely.

The googleization of our lives is not just limited to docs and searches; personally, I use Google calendar, Gmail, Google Keep, and Google Hangouts. If Google has it, I want to try it. You only have to look so far as Wikipedia to see all the different products Google has to offer. Whether you are a corporation, an educator, a student, or a small-business owner, Google has pretty much everything you need.

Now, the second part of this week’s question asks if we should be worried about the googleization of everything. Well, I’m afraid the answer is yes. Some of this comes down to the question of ethics (remember weeks 4 and 5?). By searching for information online, we leave ourselves open to copying (I won’t say stealing) the information of others. It’s one thing if we give the original author proper citation, but what if we forget? Now we have pilfered the intellectual property of someone else and passed it off as our own.

What about our personal use? Every time we order something from Amazon or other online stores, Google stores our financial information. “Would you like Google to save your password? Your address? Your credit card number?” How many of us click “yes”? (hands up over here)

It’s true; we often do this without thinking of the implications of our information floating around in the Google cloud. What does that even mean??

While I do believe that we can be more cautious in the way we use our information online, I don’t believe we need to be overly worried to the point where we revert back to an Internet-less life (I am a child of the 70’s and 80’s … I remember this time very well). We just need to be careful. We need to be wary of the information we put online. We need to be mindful of what we do and how we do it.

Really, we should Google the best way to approach this going forward …

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Week 10: Electronic Research Inside and Outside the Library System

This week’s readings included two articles about freedom of information in a networked world. Basically, we considered how the notion of literacy is changing with the advent of digital technologies. One of the questions we were asked to consider is as follows: What strategies do you use to manage the volume of information available on the internet when you are researching a topic?  This is the perfect question for a teacher like me to answer …

I’m not going to lie: I immediately use Google and keep my fingers crossed that there is a Wikipedia article about whatever I’m researching. I then read through the Wikipedia info and check the “Notes” at the bottom of the page to see if there are further articles about the topic that I can read. This is what I often suggest to my students as our school doesn’t view Wikipedia as a credible source (although, in its defence, I think it has become much more academic over the years). Depending on what I find, I will also use JSTOR and Google Scholar for academic journal articles on specific topics. I try not to print these articles as they are usually too long, so I will save them in organised folders on my Bookmark Bar. Depending on the type of research I’m doing, I will use the “find” tool to search for specific words or phrases. I’ll then highlight and/or make notes on an e-sticky. As much as I love to keep things as tech as possible, I will admit that I initially take handwritten notes using my spiral notebook. I’m a visual learner and I sometimes find it’s easier for me to draw my notes rather than use a program on my laptop. I continually use EasyBib or Cite This For Me to keep track of my citations (again, creating a separate folder for each new assignment).

Managing the volume of available information is difficult as there are literally millions of articles, posts, samples, journals, sites … the list could go on forever. I try to be as specific as possible, but sometimes that proves to be too focused, resulting in nothing. I then have to refine my search, maybe take out a few words or use a synonym in order to obtain my desired result.

As a teacher, I encourage my students to use both print and electronic sources. We have an amazing library at our school and our librarian is an absolute wealth of information (she is leaving for Bangkok at the end of the year and I swear I don’t know what we’ll do without her). She holds information sessions on referencing, researching, and writing. She is like the Sheldon Cooper of our library: she knows everything!!

I usually type and save everything in Word, then share it to my GDrive, then create a pdf of it in the same folder. It seems like overkill when I write it down here, but it’s necessary for me to ensure I have a back-up. I get nervous when I have to write big research papers (like the one due in April) so I want to ensure that I have copies of my papers everywhere.

Yes, I am a little bit OCD, and I’m not afraid to say it.

Works Cited

“CiteThisForMe.” Cite This For Me, http://www.citethisforme.com/. Accessed 16 Mar. 2017.

“EasyBib.” EasyBib, Chegg, http://www.easybib.com/. Accessed 16 Mar. 2017.

“Google.” Google, http://www.google.com/. Accessed 16 Mar. 2017.

“Google Scholar.” Google Scholar, scholar.google.com. Accessed 16 Mar. 2017.

“JSTOR.” JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/. Accessed 16 Mar. 2017.

“Main Page.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page. Accessed 16 Mar. 2017.

Staaks, Janneke. “Research Data Management.” Flickr, Yahoo!, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jannekestaaks/.

 

Week 9: Thinking with Machines – The Promise and Gains

I love how the class I’m taking for my MA complements the classes I actually teach. With each week and each reading, I think “this totally applies to my classes!”

Our prompt for this week is as follows: What can digital tools actually do that fundamentally change the way we do our work? Read my response below.

I was excited to watch David McCandless’s TED Talk on data visualisation because it’s something I often use in my own classes. I was curious to see the purpose for his own visual notes. He starts his talk with the Billion-Dollar-o-Gram, a colourful grid of boxes in various sizes. When he explained what each box meant, I let out an audible gasp (I was in my office at the time and I’m sure other teachers heard me). His explanation of how “the colors … represent the motivation behind the money” helped to explain how we “see patterns and connections between numbers that would otherwise be scattered across multiple news reports” (McCandless). The way he uses data and graphs to visualise the “intensity of certain fears” or the most common break-up months makes it so much easier to understand concepts and patterns in common (or uncommon) situations (McCandless).

One of my colleagues uses Visual Notes as a means for students to “see” what they are reading. Another one of my colleagues has taken it a step further and uses it to annotate passages with her students. I can attest that this works with all students, whether they are artists or not. It isn’t about how well they can draw; it’s about how well they can visualise and use boxes, arrows, colours, or frames to bring the significance of a given passage to the forefront. The great thing is that students don’t need to use an iPad or MacBook to do this; they can simply use pen and paper. Having said that, this is a digital humanities class, so I will focus on the digital.

Making visual notes like McCandless or Hambleton or Friedman fundamentally changes the way we do our work because numbers no longer remain as figures on a page, words no longer make up just sentences in a paragraph. They help us to retain significant information by using our eyes as the foundation for our learning. According to Visual Teaching Alliance, nearly “65% of the population are visual learners” so it makes logical sense to have more visual evidence available to readers or viewers (“Professional Development…”). When you consider the amazing programs and apps that are available for this, it doesn’t make sense to not use visual notes. If you’d like to give it a go, try neu.Notes+, Penultimate, or Notability.

Works Cited

Friedman, Tricia. “RSA Things Fall Apart Won Jun and Steph.” YouTube, YouTube, 6 Dec. 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPfcDo4RFcQ. Accessed 9 Mar. 2017.

Hambleton, Nicki. “How to Take Visual Notes.” YouTube, YouTube, 12 May 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnsFfcL4ewU. Accessed 9 Mar. 2017.

Kleon, Austin. “Visual Note-taking Conference Call Notes.” Flickr, Yahoo!, https://www.flickr.com/photos/deathtogutenberg/.

McCandless, David. “Transcript of ‘The Beauty of Data Visualization.’” David McCandless: The Beauty of Data Visualization, TED Global 2010, July 2010, http://www.ted.com/talks/david_mccandless_the_beauty_of_data_visualization/transcript?language=en. Accessed 9 Mar. 2017.

“Professional Development for Primary, Secondary & University Educators/Administrators.” Professional Development for Primary, Secondary & University Educators/Administrators, Visual Teaching Alliance, visualteachingalliance.com/. Accessed 9 Mar. 2017.

Week 8: Thinking with Machines – The Dark Shadows

*Note: Week 7 was Reading Week so we didn’t have any official readings. Instead, I wrote my second assignment based on the digital analysis of various news media outlets. Yes. Exciting.*

This week’s readings really hit my core being. I found myself nodding, laughing, then nearly crying. I believe I have become addicted to the Internet. Read my thoughts below and let me know what you think in the “Comments” section.

QuestionThink about the notion of “attention” and your own use of the Internet. Share some of your thoughts in the discussion forum.

I feel like my husband has written the questions this week. Am I on some sort of reality show? He’s always pestering me about being online.

“Can you put that away now? Can we sit down and watch a show? Why are you always on your phone?”

This seems to be a regular refrain in our household.

It’s true. I am online A LOT. If I’m not on my phone, then I’m on my laptop. I am either checking email, reading articles, listening to podcasts, or texting with friends. Lately, I’ve made a deal with myself that I will not check work emails after 8pm. Such an arbitrary time. Why 8pm? Why not 7pm?

But I digress …

I still check my email after 8pm; I just don’t respond until the next day. Yes I know … I clearly have a problem. But I am slowly working towards not checking my phone at all after work. Period. It’s just taking me a while to get my brain to understand this …

Carr’s article really resonated with me; I could have written it myself. You have to understand … I am an English Literature teacher. Reading is my life. But ask me about the last time I read a novel (answer: October). Like Carr, “my concentration … starts to drift after two or three pages” (2). I have stacks and stacks of books on my shelves: books I’ve purchased, books I’ve borrowed, books that have been recommended by friends and students. They will sit there until the next holiday when we are traveling and I won’t necessarily have access to wifi, thus being unable to surf the Web, thus picking up a book to read. (so many thus-es…)

My husband is not as active on social media as I am. He seems to think that I am obsessed with the Internet, which I guess is true in a way. What he doesn’t understand is how much this obsession upsets me. Don’t get me wrong; I am happy with my knowledge of current affairs, but I’m not happy with how the Internet has changed the way I read. Maryanne Wolf maintains that with the increase of online reading, “our ability to … make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged” and I tend to agree with her (4). How sad is that?

I am, however, feeling a little optimistic after reading the Nature article. Nick Bilton, author of I Live In the Future & Here’s How it Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain are Being Creatively Disrupted, believes that those who are “net savvy” have “brains [that are] learning, benefiting from practice and experience” (Bavelier and Green). Hooray for the Sage Surfer! (that’s me!)

Late last year, I decided to give up Facebook for a week (ooh! A week! How brave!!) I did it, but let me tell you, it was hard. I kept wondering what was happening, who was posting, what was I missing??

You know what I was missing? Nothing. Not a thing. After a week, I anxiously went back online only to notice that … nothing had happened. I don’t even think anyone realised I was offline. Now maybe that’s because it was only a week (a very looooong week), or maybe it’s because everyone is so caught up in their own lives that they didn’t notice. Either answer is valid. The question is: why did it bother me so much?

Is there an Internet Users Anonymous? I think I’d like to join.

Let me Google it and see where the closest location is …

Works Cited

Bavelier , Daphne, and C. Shawn Green. “Neuroscience: Browsing and the Brain.” Nature, no. 470, 2 Feb. 2011, pp. 37–38., doi: 10.1038/470037a. Accessed 28 Feb. 2017.

Carr, Nicholas. “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 2008, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/. Accessed 28 Feb. 2017.

Week 6: Becoming Cyborgs

Our focus this week is on the role played by vision technologies in altering or sustaining our collective ambivalence about technology. We were offered many different options to discuss, but I chose to respond to the following prompt: Why are technologies tied in television shows like H+ to the dystopic as opposed to the utopic? Are we already so rosy-eyed or inculcated with the notion of technology that we need authors and filmmakers to remind us to hesitate?

Spanish philosopher George Santayana once said “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I think this is one of the reasons why dystopian novels and TV shows remain popular. Societies need to be reminded that these atrocities can happen without warning. Whether technological or biological, these horrors can become reality.

I read a book last year called Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. The basic plot is that the Georgia Flu epidemic wipes out nearly the entire population on Earth. I don’t know if it’s because part of it is set in Toronto (close to my hometown of Hamilton) or what, but reading that book really spooked me. It reminded me that we have experienced other biological epidemics not too long ago: Zika, Ebola, MERS, SARS. It reminded me to keep sanitiser in my bag (as if that will help anything) and to be cognisant of anyone who seems overly ill (coughing fit, watery eyes, pale skin, etc.) But you know what happens? That feeling lasts for a few days, maybe a couple of weeks, and then you begin to forget. This is why there is continued proliferation of dystopian texts. We need to be reminded.

When I watched the first episode of H+, it unnerved me. While I thought it was cool that people could use emerging technology to place a “computer in their brain,” I also thought it was a little too invasive. The part that struck me, though, was when people started dropping dead. In episode two, when we learn that the network (in their brains) is infected, I immediately made the connection back to Station Eleven. Our lives are not free of disease just because we have access to the newest technology; in fact, we can still succumb to infections because of the newest technology.

It would be irresponsible of us to ignore these facts and only publish or produce utopian style works. Our world is not rosy; indeed, it’s never been rosy. Perpetuating the idea that we can all live in peace and harmony until the end of time is a myth, a fantasy. I don’t want to sound like a fatalist, but it’s important for our society to be exposed to dystopian works just as much as we are exposed to “feel-good” works. There is nothing wrong with striking a balance between the two, as long as we remind ourselves that there is always the possibility of contracting a metaphorical, technological, or biological disease through the progress we make.

Works Cited

Barber, R. E. “Cyborg.” Flickr, Yahoo!, https://www.flickr.com/photos/39873796@N06/.

Mandel, Emily St. John. Station Eleven. Toronto, ON, HarperCollins Canada, 2015.

Singer, Bryan, “H+ The Digital Series.” www.youtube.com/user/HplusDigitalSeries.

Week 5: What are Digital Ethics?

This week’s focus is on digital ethics and how ethical issues are raised by the Internet with respect to ownership. My professor offered us one of four prompts; I chose to answer the following: Have we come to expect that information should be free, and if so, how does that affect what we see and read?

I think we live in a time when we expect a lot of things for free, or if not free, then as cheap as possible. Gone are the days when we had to pay for craft that we wanted to purchase, whether it was music, literature, or film. Now we can read, listen, and stream online, all at little or no cost to us.

When I was growing up, I can remember placing my tape recorder as close to the radio speaker as possible; I wanted to record my favourite song (probably something by Michael Jackson or Duran Duran). I hated when the DJ would speak over the music; I didn’t want to hear his voice! I wanted to hear “Billie Jean” or “Hungry Like the Wolf.” Nonetheless, I would record these songs onto my cassette and name them with labels like “Fave Songs!” or “Dance!!” I also remember having a VCR and recording all the episodes of “21 Jump Street” so that I could watch Johnny Depp whenever I wanted. These tapings didn’t stop me from buying albums or magazines that featured these artists, meaning I was still contributing to their royalties.

Now, of course, things have become much easier. With Spotify, for instance, I can select genre, artist, or playlist and listen for free. There is a premium plan which comes with no ads, but I’d rather use the free option. When the ads come on, I press the mute button for a few minutes (or not, depending on how far away I am from my laptop). I use Spotify in class and play requests from students as they work. It’s free, and it’s convenient. (note: I’d like to add that we just recently purchased a record player and have been scouring Singapore for albums from our youth. So far, we’ve collected The Police, The Beatles, and Prince, all on vinyl!)

As far as reading goes, I still enjoy reading books that I can hold in my hands. I own a Kobo and have downloaded books for much cheaper than I can purchase them at Indigo, but I tend to only use it when I’m traveling. Many of my students use their iPads or laptops to read. Whenever we have independent reading time in class, I always have at least three or four students with their laptops open, reading George R. R. Martin or the latest John Green.

It seems to me that having things available online for free has made the arts that much more accessible for us. We no longer have to worry about rushing to HMV (which have just recently announced permanent closure of all its stores across Canada) to buy the latest CD. We don’t have to make a trek to Indigo to rummage through shelves of books; we can do it all online for free.

I think the first part of this week’s prompt is more important than the second. We have come to expect that information should be free, so when something is unavailable, it becomes annoying. It’s almost as if it has inconvenienced us, and in a way, I guess it has. We are living in a time when instant gratification is the norm. In a 2016 article entitled “The Instant Gratification Generation,” author Sara Azmoudeh believes that “[people] either reach a false realization that everything in life is instant and easy, or people become more efficient” when information is available for free.

I’d like to believe that we become more efficient.

Works Cited

Azmoudeh, Sara. “The Instant Gratification Generation.” Odyssey, 28 June 2016,

www.theodysseyonline.com/the-instant-gratification-generation.

“Bye Bye HMV: Canadian Retailer in Receivership with All Stores to Close.” CBCnews,

CBC/Radio Canada, 28 Jan. 2017, www.cbc.ca/news/business/struggling-hmv-canada-

goes-into-receivership-set-to-close-stores-1.3956302.

Hawkins, Ken. “Ken Hawkins.” Flickr, Yahoo!, www.flickr.com/photos/khawkins04/.

“Music for Everyone.” Music for Everyone – Spotify, www.spotify.com/.

Week 4: Assignment #1

Introduction

I like to think of myself as a 21st century independent woman balancing my professional life as a teacher with my personal life as a mother, wife, sister, and daughter. I think I’m pretty tech savvy, but then I talk to my nine-year old, or my high school students, or my niece and nephew and I am reminded that at my core, I am a child of the 70’s and 80’s who never had a foundation in technology, let alone the digital humanities. Growing up, I studied from books, magazines, and journals, never from a screen. However, through my forty-plus years on this Earth, I’ve come to learn and appreciate the digital humanities and what it has to offer. This essay will discuss how the digital humanities has affected my life thus far and how I feel it will be relevant to my life over the next five years.

Scholastic Experiences: The Past

I was born in the early seventies at a time when the digital humanities did not yet exist (at least, not the way we know it today). The closest I came to working with technology was when one of my friends received an Atari gaming console for her birthday and we could play games like Pong or Asteroids on it. I thought this was the future, and it was … at the time. By the time I started high school, computers were just being introduced to the curriculum. I remember taking a computer programming class in Grade 11 and thought it was the most boring thing in the world. To be honest, I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to learn this unless they planned to study computer engineering. We learned the BASIC programming language; by the end of the semester, I could make a lightning strike appear on my screen. Not exactly NASA level learning. I was immediately turned off.

At university, I was enrolled in the Humanities program, with English Literature as my major. This was the early 90’s so the Internet was still in its infancy and personal computers were just beginning to catch on. I typed my assignments on a computer and printed them onto paper using a Dot Matrix printer. This was the extent of my experience with technology. When I graduated, jobs were scarce, especially for those of us with English Literature degrees, so I went into business for myself, buying and selling antiques. My shop was close to the university campus so I would often get students who would come in to browse. I distinctly remember one day when a student came in asking if I’d be interested in setting up a website for my store. He said he could help me with this and that it would increase my business by going online. I refused. I still could not see the value in having an online presence. No one I knew had a computer at home, so I couldn’t imagine how this would help my business. My naiveté as a student and business owner contributed to my inability to see how technology could help increase my business.

Scholastic Experiences: The Present

I consider myself fortunate to have started my Masters program as an experienced adult and not as a student holding a Bachelor’s degree fresh out of university. I feel that I am able to use my past experiences to help me through these courses; it certainly helps to have a Humanities background. Through the readings for this particular course, I’ve learned that “[digital] humanities is an extension of traditional knowledge skills and methods, not a replacement for them” (Burdick et. al. 16). I can actually use my experiences with literature, language, and cultural studies to further my knowledge of these areas of study. Watching TED Talks like “How Algorithms Shape our World” to understand how Netflix uses formulas to determine what kind of movie we’d like to watch or using Wordle to visualise how the language across three seemingly similar articles can differ has shown me just how far digital humanities has developed to “supplement … scholarly interpretation [and] informed research” (Burdick et. al. 16).

I do wonder, however, if perhaps there is a better way to engage in the MAIS courses other than using Moodle. I find it to be somewhat clunky and not as user-friendly as it could be. At my current school, we use an online learning platform called Teamie. It’s set up for both students and teachers to use and can be customised according to your needs. It is similar to Moodle in that you can still post units, readings, assignments, and information, but it is more visually appealing. Students can post questions, use hashtags to filter topics, and tag other students/teachers in their responses. Students can take quizzes and polls and view their results in real time. It’s still a work in progress at our school but it’s much better than what we used to have (which was essentially, nothing).

Scholastic Experiences: The Next 5 Years

As I continue to take courses towards my Master of Arts, I’d like to see a more deliberate use of the digital humanities in my studies. In my experience, I’ve found that the humanities in general often get swept to the side when it comes to academics. It’s not taken as seriously as the sciences, for instance, or the maths. However, when one considers the variety that the digital humanities encompasses, it’s sure to come into its own as an area worthy of academic study as “digital humanists can now use networks and interoperable file-sharing standards and protocols to test new approaches … [and] encourage prototyping” (Burdick et. al. 21). Just like their peers in the sciences and maths, digital humanists have the “capacity to ask, design, and model new research questions” which “opens new possibilities for those who are willing to take risks” (Burdick et. al. 22). What really appeals to me is how “failure is part of the life cycle of innovation;” it’s not seen as a form of defeat (Burdick et. al. 22). Because the digital humanities “is still in its early stages,” it is “driven by the need to extend the reach and impact of … technology,” thus eventually “[passing] another exponential milestone” (Burdick et. al. 22).

Collaboration is certainly one way of making the digital humanities more part of the mainstream. One example of this is the work that Jeffrey Schnapp launched at Stanford University (Hayles 52). He began a project called “Big Humanities” which “[required] diverse skills, including Traditional (sic) scholarship as well as programming, graphic design, interface engineering, sonic art, and other humanistic, artistic, and technical skills” (Hayles 52). I become really excited when I read things like this; it fills me with confidence that more schools will begin to see the value in connecting the traditional humanities skills with newer technological skills, thus increasing the relevance and the acceptance of the digital humanities as a serious discipline.

Professional Experiences: The Past

I became a high school teacher in 2000. My first full-time job was in a working class neighbourhood in southern Ontario, teaching the likes of students who had no intention of going to university. Shakespeare and other forms of classic literature were part of the curriculum; the problem was how to get students interested in these texts. The closest thing I had to technology in my classroom was an overhead projector, and that was definitely not interactive. There was no way for my students to use “digital media … to understand [literature’s] histories, contexts, and transmission pathways” (Hayles 50). Written assignments were pen and paper; creative endeavours were markers and poster board. This isn’t to say that students weren’t interested in what they were learning, it’s just that they could have used more of what we have today in order to envision the material. As Hayles points out, “the interactions between print and digital media may be synergistic” but most people require “visualisation tools” to “[help] sort the information and … [begin] the work of interpretation” (51).

Professional Experiences: The Present

Fast forward to the present day when I can’t imagine teaching my classes without the aid of the digital humanities. I work at a 1:1 school; all students are provided with a MacBook Air which they are required to bring to class every day. Teachers have access to class sets of iPads as well, and we can request certain educational apps be added to them for our students to use. Our administration has recently decided to have students create blogs starting in ninth grade (if they haven’t already) and use these as a means to reflect on their learning. Our university advisors have also suggested that these blogs can be used as part of the university application process to show potential post-secondary schools the capacity to which our students are using their blogs. As Tech Mentor for my department, I’ve offered to use my grade nine students as part of a trial in introducing blogs. Our Digital Literacy Coach (DLC) worked with my students in setting up their blogs (we use WordPress), explained widgets, introduced Creative Commons, and gave them their first assignment: “Note to Self.” These blogs are not exclusive to my class; rather, students will be using their blogs across all disciplines so that their reflections, posts, and photographs are all in one online space.

I’ve attended conferences on Google Apps for Education to learn more about the various applications Google has to offer and how they can be used by educators in and outside of the classroom. I then use what I’ve learned to assist other teachers who would like to use more technology in their classrooms but are not sure which ones would be best or how they would apply to their discipline. For example, I provided a workshop on creating Stop Motion videos and how they can be effectively used in diverse classes such as the Sciences, Humanities, and Languages.

In my IB Literature classes, I still use traditional texts, but I also make use of various online applications and social media sites to help my students further understand and engage with the material. When my students began reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, I had them each select a character from the novel and create a Facebook account for them using the online tool, Fakebook. The characters had to update their profiles on a regular basis and interact with one another as the novel indicated. By bringing these characters to life, students engaged with the text and actively collaborated with one another to see what they could add to their characters’ profiles.

I’ve also used Twitter as a way for students to make connections with authors. One of my former students is a fan of science fiction so I introduced him to the works of Robert J. Sawyer, a Canadian author. My student had some questions that I couldn’t answer so I tweeted Sawyer and asked if he would mind sending my student an email. Much to my surprise, he responded and said he’d do it! Sawyer and my student thus established an online connection which lasted for a few email exchanges. This experience reaffirms my belief in the importance of the digital humanities, especially as a teacher.

Professional Experiences: The Next 5 Years

I am in the process of designing a multi-touch book (or an iBook) that can be used with IB students. Once again, in collaboration with our DLC, I am collecting and organising material for the IB Literature and IB Language and Literature classes that can be found in one centralised location. Currently, we use Google Drive and Teamie, but even these platforms can sometimes become disorganised or difficult to navigate. Ideally, I will be able to put together a multi-touch book available to all students who can then use the Table of Contents and click on the hyperlink of the section they want to access.

I would like to use podcasts more in my classes. I often send students links to podcasts they might find interesting or relevant to class. Recently, I asked my IB Language and Literature students to create their own podcasts on the topic of language and gender in lieu of an oral presentation. As a teacher, it was exciting to watch them create something using online tools and their own voices. I feel there is room for teachers to create and publish their own podcasts as well, and this is an area I’d like to explore further in the coming years.

Personal Experiences: The Past

As I’ve stated before, I am relatively new to the digital humanities game. I am a lover of literature, languages, art, and culture, but I didn’t really connect it all to technology until around 2007 when my daughter was born. We were living in Kuwait at the time and I wanted an easier way to send photos of our daughter and connect with family and friends in Canada. This is when Facebook entered my life. Once I signed up, I was hooked. Instead of sleeping when my infant daughter slept, I would be sitting at our desk, surfing Facebook to see what others were up to. Indeed, it caused some tension in my household; I was tired all the time, but instead of resting, I was posting photos or status updates. My life had “turned into a database” (Lanier 69). It was the only social media platform I was using, but it was enough to monopolise my time.

Personal Experiences: The Present

I am a regular user of social media, and since those early days of Facebook, I’ve joined other online applications including Twitter and Instagram. I try to keep my use of social media organised so that I’m not using the same apps for the same purposes. As stated earlier, I use Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends; lately, I’ve also been using it to post various political updates as well. I started using Twitter as a means to connect with other educators around the world. I continue to use it on a professional level, but I sometimes veer into the realm of politics (in my defence, the recent political and social struggles around the world relate very well with some of the units in my IB Language and Literature class). Instagram is mostly used for fun, showcasing my cooking and baking skills. I am reluctant to sign up for other apps like Pinterest or Tumblr because I don’t want to fall into the trap of having my time dominated by social media. I can appreciate what Lanier has to say regarding our use of social media; for example, he suggests that when we use Twitter, we should “innovate in order to find a way to describe [our] internal state instead of trivial external events, to avoid the creeping danger of believing that objectively described events define [us], as they would define a machine” (21). Over the years I’ve learned that our digital footprints can be easily researched and used against us. Nothing is temporary and thus we must “manage [our] online reputations constantly, avoiding the ever-roaming evil eye of the hive mind, which can turn on an individual at any moment” (Lanier 70).

Personal Experiences: The Next 5 Years

I often wonder how the use of technology will affect my daughter’s future education. At nearly ten years old, she’s already much more tech savvy than I am, but that’s because of how she’s learning to use it in school. She knows the applications much better than I do. She takes Spanish as a second language and often uses YouTube videos to practice her grammar and vocabulary. She has also downloaded Duolingo onto her iPad to practice pronunciation. I imagine that by the time she enters high school, much of her education will be made available online. By extension, this would mean that much of what I teach will also be made available to students online. There is already talk about regularly utilizing a flipped classroom experience, where students watch screencasts or listen to podcasts about a particular lesson the night before. In class the next day, the teacher is made available to answer questions regarding what students have watched or listened to. It’s a type of self-directed learning.

In terms of my personal use of social media, I am trying to picture what the future might hold. The more I think about it, the more I believe that someone will create an all-purpose app meant to make our lives infinitely easier. I’m picturing something that I will be able to download that offers messaging services, keeps track of my appointments and upcoming events, organises my photos and videos, provides me with a daily workout depending on my individualised needs, and creates a meal plan from which I can order the groceries necessary to make the day’s meals. I expect this type of app would be customisable depending on an individual’s needs, almost like selecting various Google Extensions for your laptop. Our smartphones would thus only require one lifestyle app rather than a multitude of various apps that all have different functions. It’s as if Marshall McLuhan’s concepts have come true; he believed that “media embraced the totality of technical, social, and aesthetic reality” (Mitchell & Hansen xvii). Although he was accused of being a “technical determinist,” there was certainly some truth to what he expressed (Mitchell & Hansen xvii). Our ever-evolving technology is working concurrently with the fabric of our society in order to enhance and further develop our cultural existence. Whether you believe in the apocalyptic idea of the Singularity at one end of the spectrum, or the Rapture at the other end, the digital humanities will continue to progress (Lanier 24-25).

Conclusion

I embrace technology. I get excited when someone shows me some new technology that will make my life easier, or my teaching more efficient. I am certainly not a Luddite. Having said that, I understand why some people are afraid of technology or are not as plugged-in as others. There is a very real fear that they will reveal too much, or that others will be able to steal their personal information. Hacking and mass marketing fraud exists; certainly we must be vigilant in creating and maintaining passwords and personal information. However, avoiding technology in fear of this is both irresponsible and naïve. There is a wealth of information available to us that will make our professional and personal lives that much easier. It’s our responsibility to support the progress that has been made.

Having said that, I do believe that it’s healthy to take a break from technology, but only for short periods of time. Maybe it’s because we’re on a family holiday or because we’d like to read a paperback rather than a download on our iPad. Slowing down is certainly good for both mind and spirit, but not to the point where we revert back to a time without technological advancement. Instead, as digital humanists, we must “appreciate that which design has to offer, to build the shared vocabulary and mutual respect that can lead to fruitful collaborations” with others (Burdick et. al. 13).

 

Works Cited

Burdick, Anne, et al. “Chapter 1: Humanities to Digital Humanities.” Digital_Humanities,

The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2012, pp. 3–26.

“Chrome Web Store.” Chrome Web Browser,

chrome.google.com/webstore/category/extensions?hl=en-

US&utm_source=chrome-ntp-launcher.

“Facebook.” Facebook, www.facebook.com/.

“Fakebook from ClassTools.net.” Fakebook, www.classtools.net/FB/home-page.

Hayles, N. Katherine. “How We Think: Transforming Power and Digital Technologies.”

     Understanding Digital Humanities, Edited by David M. Berry, SAGE, Thousand Oaks, CA,

2012, pp. 42–66.

“Instagram.” Instagram, www.instagram.com.

Lanier, Jaron. “Chapter 1: Missing Persons.” You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto, Vintage

Books, New York, 2011, pp. 3–23.

Lanier, Jaron. “Chapter 2: An Apocalypse of Self-Abdication.” You Are Not a Gadget: A

     Manifesto, Vintage Books, New York, 2011, pp. 24-44.

Lanier, Jaron. “Chapter 3: The Noosphere Is Just Another Name for Everyone’s Inner

Troll.” You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto, Vintage Books, New York, 2011, pp. 45–72.

Mitchell, W. J. T., and Mark B. N. Hansen, editors. “Introduction.” Critical Terms for Media

     Studies, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2010, pp. vii-xxii.

“Pinterest.” Pinterest, www.pinterest.com/.

Slavin, Kevin. “Transcript of ‘How Algorithms Shape Our World.’” Kevin Slavin:

     How Algorithms Shape Our World, TED.com, July 2011,

www.ted.com/talks/kevin_slavin_how_algorithms_shape_our_world/transcript?

language=en.

“Stop Motion Studio on the App Store.” App Store, CATEATER LLC, 3 Jan. 2017,

itunes.apple.com/sg/app/stop-motion-studio/id441651297?mt=8.

“The Teamie.” The Teamie, www.theteamie.com/.

“Tumblr.” Sign up | Tumblr, www.tumblr.com/.

“Twitter.” Twitter, www.twitter.com.

“Wordle – Beautiful Word Clouds.” Wordle – Beautiful Word Clouds, www.wordle.net/.

Week 3: Making Sense of Digital Networks

This week we were asked to read a couple of papers written by N. Katherine Hayles, a professor and post-modern literary critic at Duke University, and Manuel Castells, a sociologist specialising in information society, communication, and globalisation. However, the reading that interested me the most was the “Introduction” in Critical Terms for Media Studies, edited by W. J. T. Mitchell and Mark B. N. Hansen. In it, Mitchell and Hansen discuss Marshall McLuhan and his most influential work, Understanding Media (1964). McLuhan believes that “media is … [an extension] of man,” meaning that there is a “fundamental correlation” between “the human and the technical” (xii). I find it fascinating that he came up with this idea over fifty years ago when technology wasn’t anywhere near what it is today.

I’m mesmerised by how far we’ve come in such a short time. I can distinctly remember my 8th grade science teacher talking to us on the playground, telling us about machines that were being invented where you could feed in a piece of paper and have it come out from another machine … maybe even across the world! (hello, fax machine!)

He’s also the one who told us that soon we’d be able to use phones that would show you a video of the person you’re speaking to in real time (Skype, anyone?) I mean, this was back in 1985; to me, it doesn’t seem that long ago, but when we consider how quickly technology has taken off in just the past ten years, it feels like eons ago.

Now, I can’t imagine my life without technology. For me, it truly has become “a prosthesis” of sorts (xii). I use various social media sites for networking: Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends, Twitter for educational and/or political posts, and Instagram for fun. My iPhone is never more than an arm’s length away from me, which, now that I think about it, is kind of pathetic.

I’m like a forlorn iPhone lover, pining to hold it even if it’s charging in the next room.

iphone-6
“My precious…”

Works Cited

Cappell, Tanja. “Collage of Digital (Social) Networks.” Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/frauhoelle/.

Fawahl, Omar Jordan. “iPhone 6+ Screen.” Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/omarjordanf/.

Mitchell, W. J. T., and Mark B. N. Hansen, editors. Critical Terms for Media Studies. Chicago, IL, The University of Chicago Press, 2010.

Week 2: Introduction to the Internet

Am I the only one who thought the Internet was a late 20th century invention??

This week, our professor asked us to read various texts on the history of the Internet. I’ve learned that the whole concept of the Internet actually began back in 1962. Of course, it wasn’t called the Internet at the time; it was a “Galactic Network” concept created by J. C. R. Licklider of MIT (Leiner et. al. 1). In his many memos, Licklider described the idea of “social interactions that could be enabled through networking” (Leiner et. al. 1). This became the foundation of what we know as the Internet today.

I am a member of Generation X; I grew up with card catalogues and encyclopaedias. If I needed information or if I was conducting research, I asked my teachers or friends or went to the library. Certainly the idea of using a computer to Google my questions was never an option. If I couldn’t find the answer to a query, then I conducted further research or (as it sometimes happened), I gave up. I resigned myself to never knowing the answer. Now, however, I can’t imagine my life without the Internet.

Need to remember the title of a song but you only know a few lyrics? Internet.

Need to get in touch with someone? Internet.

Need to order groceries? Internet.

Need to write an article for an MA course? Definitely Internet.

In “Brief History of the Internet,” the authors describe the Internet as “a collection of communities [as much as] a collection of technologies” (Leiner et. al. 11). I think we tend to forget this; we consider the Internet as one entity, but in reality, it is a combination of many different people, companies, applications, programs, search engines … the list goes on and on. It’s not all butterflies and unicorns, though. Jaron Lanier believes that “[the Internet will soon get] so rich with information that people will be obsolete, either left behind like the characters in Rapture novels or subsumed into some cyber-superhuman something” (Lanier 27).

It may seem laughable to us now, but I wonder if there is some truth to what he says …

Works Cited

Barry M. Leiner, Vinton G. Cerf, David D. Clark, Robert E. Kahn, Leonard Kleinrock, Daniel C. Lynch, Jon Postel, Larry G. Roberts, Stephen Wolff, “Brief History of the Internet.”

de Barajas, Aeropuerto. “internet.” Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/miniyo73/.

Lanier, Jaron. “Chapter 2: An Apocalypse of Self-Abdication.” You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto, Vintage Books, New York, NY, 2011, pp. 24–44.

Week 1: What is Digital Humanities?

This is certainly not a question I ever thought I would ask myself.

I graduated waaaaay back in 1994 with a BA in English Literature, back when it was just “Humanities.” Back when the concept of Digital Humanities was still in its infancy (to some extent, anyway). After perusing one of this week’s assigned readings, I soon learned that “Digital Humanities is born of the encounter between traditional Humanities and computational methods” (Burdick et. al. 1). It is, in fact, a way of melding the Humanities discipline with “networked, digital environments” (Burdick et. al. 7).

I teach IB English Literature and IB English Language & Literature (yup…both Humanities) at a private K-12 school in Singapore. Digital Humanities is a part of our school culture; as educators, we are constantly seeking out new ways to teach our students so that they are well prepared for the world that awaits them. Most of my classes blog using WordPress; beginning next week, my students will be designing posts based on various speakers who are presenting workshops for our annual Writers’ Fortnight. They themselves have already attended workshops on how to create a blog, but most of them already knew how to do it (so jealous of their tech-savvy!) I will link to some exemplars in the coming weeks.

“How has digital humanities changed in the last decade / decades? How is it an extension of what we already do? How do we need to be even more aware of our processes?”

To answer this, I would turn to my IB Language and Literature class, where students learn to read visual texts (ads, posters, etc.) alongside the more traditional written texts. The difference between this course and the IB Literature course is that students study blog posts, websites, political speeches, Tweets, and podcasts in conjunction with their study of Shakespeare, Atwood, Satrapi, and Poe. My students have changed the way they read to include a critical understanding of “graphic design, visual narrative, [and] time-based media” (Burdick et. al. 10). Some may argue that these types of texts are not literature. Perhaps in the traditional sense of the word, they’re not; however, we are well into the 21st century now and many things have changed. We no longer wait for the 6 o’clock news to find out what’s going on in the world; we can use our smartphones to read a 140 character post on Twitter. This is progress. This is “multum in parvo” in all its glory (Burdick et. al. 10).

I’m a tech geek in the making, which is one reason why Burdick’s article appealed to me so much. I got excited reading about the emergence of Digital Humanities and what that means in terms of design and new media. My hope is that through this course, I will extend my own learning to help enhance the learning of my students.

quote
This is my favourite quote so far. (Burdick et. al. 16)

Works Cited

Burdick, Anne; Joanna Drucker & Peter Lunenfeld. 2012. “Humanities to digital humanities” in Digital_Humanities. Cambridge, US: The MIT Press.

Morgan, M C. “Digital Humanities Books.” Flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/mcmorgan/.