Looking for Ways to Use Technology in Humanities Courses? A New Volume From the MLA Has 500 Ways to Help

Professor Matthew K. Gold (Credit: Da Ping Luo)

A new online publication, curated by humanities scholars devoted to digital pedagogy, offers professors ways to incorporate technology into their teaching — a skill that has become a necessity in recent months. The free publication, Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities, contains more than 500 digital “artifacts” — ranging from syllabi and assignments to websites and articles — organized by keywords like authorship, language learning, and gender.

A professor interested in poetry can find “For Better for Verse,” while someone interested in mapping can download “Digital Mapping and Geospatial Humanities,” a syllabus for “a short but intense five-day course on digital mapping using open-source tools.” The online volume is peer-reviewed and was published by the Modern Language Association (MLA).

It is a resource that many professors may find particularly helpful now, though the editors hadn’t anticipated a pandemic-triggered worldwide shift to online teaching when they began the project more than seven years ago. “When we were writing this, we didn’t know this moment would be happening,” says Professor Matthew K. Gold (English, Digital Humanities, Data Analysis and Visualization), one of the publication’s four editors. “But we were thinking of our audience as humanities scholars who may not be comfortable teaching online and who might want to incorporate technology into their assignments.”

A lot of pedagogical scholarship presents second- or even third-hand perspectives on the classroom, Gold says. “What we wanted to focus on is getting the actual stuff of teaching — the syllabi, the assignments, materials that could be immediately useful — to people and providing it to them in a curated way,” says Gold, who is also the director of the CUNY Academic Commons, the M.A. Program in Digital Humanities, and the M.S. Program in Data Analysis and Visualization. “Our hope is that people who want or need to teach online can go into this project and start exploring it by keyword or by artifact type, and can immediately find help.” 

The volume was officially published this spring, yet it has been public in various forms from almost the very beginning. “We published the entire project, including drafts of the keywords before they were peer-reviewed, on GitHub, which is a site for sharing computer programming code,” Gold says. “We did our editorial responses there, too — anyone could go in and see what we wrote and how the authors responded — and the MLA did many of its copyedits through GitHub, as well.”

The editors, who also include Katherine D. Harris (Ph.D. ’05, English), Rebecca Frost Davis, and Jentery Sayers, conceived of the project as an open access publication, rather than a printed book, from the start. The MLA created a platform for the work on Humanities Commons, a large open network for scholarly societies that uses Commons In A Box, which itself was created by a team led by Gold at The Graduate Center. 

It was a laborious and time-consuming approach — a “huge undertaking,” says Gold, who notes that because of the years of public editing, one of the problems they faced was fixing link rot: links that no longer worked and resources that were no longer available. 

Can a volume created and evolved in such a way ever be considered finished? “It’s done,” Gold says. “It’s definitely done.” Meaning there will be no more iterations. And that it is now time to play

Submitted on: JUL 8, 2020

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