Introductory Blog Post for Teaching and Learning History in the Digital Age

I am a historian of U.S. women and girls with a growing interest in digital humanities. I am a Professor of History at the University of the Pacific (UOP) in Stockton, California. I serve as Chair of the History Department and as a member of UOP’s Gender Studies Board.

Over the last two semesters, I have been honing my skills in digital history through George Mason University’s Digital Public Humanities Graduate Certificate Program. I conceptualize digital humanities as an expanding set of practices that humanists engage in to illuminate traditional humanities questions in new ways.  Increasingly a component of humanities research, teaching, and narratives, digital humanities—like writing itself—is part of what humanists do.  Tools and methods like data visualization, text analysis, data mapping, virtual world building, gamification, and relationship mapping expand our questions and can reveal new understandings about the past.  In the Introduction to Digital Humanities class, I created an Esri ArcGIS StoryMap that tells the story of nine Japanese American University of the Pacific students whose educations were disrupted by Executive Order 9066, Mapping Japanese American Students’ Journeys. I mapped their stories from their family homes to UOP and followed them through incarceration and adulthood. ArcGIS StoryMaps highlighted the geographic importance of relocation. Mapping distilled in a unique visual way the significance of the disruption.

Digital Public History focused on presentation to various publics (via archives, collections, and engaging websites) and less on new digital methods. Importantly, the class focused on the importance of identifying audience. For my project, I created an Omeka website that (in honor of my campus’s 100th anniversary in Stockton) will help diverse alumni and community members connect to the campus by revealing the stories behind monuments and memorials: Monuments and Memorials Exhibit.  My website will offer content and interpretation, including primary sources documenting multiple stories and biographies. Over time, I envision a participatory website where students, alumni, faculty, and staff can contribute their research over time. I started with the story of our iconic ivory tower, Burns Tower, which housed our beloved President Burns’ office in the 1960s.  Less known is that minoritized students demonstrated at Burns Tower in 1969, demanding greater attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion.  The University responded with an immensely successful Community Involvement Program (fellowships for low-income, first-generation students in the Stockton area). This story made sense as a beginning because it showcases underrepresented student actions and is a University success! [LINK]

This summer’s class, Teaching and Learning History in the Digital Age, focuses on teaching.  My learning goals include:

  1. Developing best practices for teaching students to understand what digital humanities are and to begin to employ digital humanities methods in learning about history and in telling stories about the past.
  2. Refine ideas about the scholarship of teaching and learning in the history classroom by engaging with my classmates. 
  3. Develop assignments to do with students in Digital Humanities and in either US History or US Women’s History.

Because I teach undergraduate students (mostly through general education classes), my interest is in teaching via survey courses and general education.

This is my boy and me hiking!

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