Introduction to Digital History – Syllabus

Instructor Information
Instructor: Dr. Sarah King
Email: sking14@binghamton.edu

Course Information

Description
This course will introduce students to digital history. We will begin by exploring digital history’s relationship to public history and digital humanities, and how historians use and create digital history. We will also consider digital history in historical context through readings that examine how historical innovations in media transformed the ways that humans consumed information. Throughout the course students will explore digital history collections and blogs, writing reviews of digital history sites of their choice. This course aims to strike a balance between students, on the one hand, understanding and exploring the scope of digital history, and on the other, presenting their work digitally. Students will be evaluated on daily discussions, short reviews of digital sources, as well as four assignments, including a (brick and mortar) museum exhibit review, a digital exhibit review, and a digital history blog review. The final assignment for the course will be an original research article/ blog post that utilizes digital sources and includes links to other digital sources for further reading.

Course Objectives

By the end of our course, students will:

  • be able to explain the benefits and drawbacks of digital history, as well as digital history’s relationship to public history, other media, and other web material
  • demonstrate their ability to critique digital history websites, analyzing a site’s target audience, how the site attempts to engage uses, what issue or idea the site addresses, and how easy the site is to navigate; and identifying potential historical research projects that could utilize the site’s materials
  • have “done” digital history on a U.S. history topic of their choice, incorporating different digital media in their history blog entry, linking to other sources, and utilizing a range of skills learned in the course

General Education Information

This course is designated as N – Social Science. In this course, students will gain knowledge of major concepts, variations, and issues related to digital history. The course will explore the methods used by digital historians to explore American society.

Prerequisites

Students do not need advanced computer skills to take this course, but should have a grounding in U.S. history, including either HIST 103 or HIST 104. In addition, students should be comfortable navigating the internet and using Word, and must be willing to learn new digital skills.

Relationship to Other Courses

This course will equip students with digital skills that they can use in research and projects in other classes. Students will gain experience using and evaluating online archives for research, as well as learning and practicing digital skills that they can use to present their work across disciplines.

Format and Procedures 

Students should plan to attend class daily by logging on to Blackboard after they have done the research and readings assigned for that day. They should read the daily Announcement before joining the Discussions page, where they will respond to questions posed by the instructor, as well as other students’ questions and responses. Students will receive a daily grade for their discussion participation and any tasks assigned for the day (such as creating a test blog post on Blackboard). On days with less reading, students will complete assigned research tasks – such as exploring a digital archive of their choice – or skill-based tasks, like creating a timeline. Throughout the course, students are expected to complete short write-ups (three or four short paragraphs) about digital sites they have viewed, and post them to our Blackboard blog. This course does not include lectures or exams, so it is important that students participate actively on the Discussions page and stay on top of their assignments. The four major assignments of this course are: a museum exhibit review (due at the end of week 2); a digital archive or exhibit review (due at the end of week 3); a digital history blog review (due at the beginning of week 5); and a research-based article, posted to our course WordPress blog, that showcases the student’s use of digital archives for research, digital skills learned, as well as original historical analysis, and clear and effective writing. Student success in this class will be determined by: completion of daily readings and research; contributing thoughtfully to discussions; staying on top of daily assignments; and incorporating their knowledge, skills, and research from throughout the course into their final research blog post.

Course Requirements

Required texts

  • Daniel Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig, Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), available for purchase or free online at http://chnm.gmu.edu/digitalhistory/book.php.
  • Bill Kovarik, Revolutions in Communication: Media History from Gutenberg to the Digital Age (New York: Bloomsbury, 2016).
    ** Note: the 2011 or 2016 versions of this book can be purchased online in paperback or as an eTextbook. I recommend you purchase or rent the 2016 version, since we will be reading sections of chapters and the 2011 pages may not align. You need this book by the end of week 1 in order to complete the readings for Monday, June 3.

Other Requirements

  • Internet and Blackboard access

Recommended Texts & Other Readings

  • Most course readings, including Digital History, are linked on the syllabus and available online. Other course readings will be available in Blackboard under “Content”

Other Useful Links

Credit Hours and Expectations

This is a 4-credit course, which means that in addition to the daily discussions, students are expected to do at least 9.5 hours of course-related work each week during the semester. Since this is a condensed summer course, you should expect to do roughly 9.5 hours of course work for every two days of class time. (This includes readings; skill-based assignments, and writing assignments; and research and writing for your final article.)

Students are expected to spend at least an hour each day on the Discussions page, reading and responding to the questions and comments of the instructor and other students. On days in which daily assignments are assigned in lieu of readings, students should be prepared to devote time to learning the assigned digital skills, asking relevant questions on the Discussions page, and presenting their work on the course blog. Students will receive detailed instructions for the four major written assignments. They should plan ahead in order to accomplish their museum, digital archive, and historical blog reviews on time. Students will need to visit a museum to complete their museum review, and may need to visit several digital exhibits and blogs before finding one they wish to write about. Students should start thinking about their original digital history article as soon as possible, and use their explorations of digital archives to aid their research. Student success depends on: staying on top of the daily readings, assignments, and discussions; starting early and planning ahead on the three reviews; starting early on their digital article; and strategically using their explorations of digital websites to inform their article.

Assignments & Grading

Throughout the course, students will be graded on participation. This grade is based on students’ contributions to the Discussions page and comments on other student’s work on the course blog, as well as mini daily assignments (like creating a test post in the course blog). Together, these daily class activities will count for 1% per day beginning on Wednesday, May 29. Students’ lowest three days will be dropped, making it possible to achieve a full 20% out of 20% on participation. Students will also complete 5 short written summaries of websites (2 on digital archives, 2 on history blogs, and 1 on their choice of a digital history map project, vlog, or podcast). Each of these write-ups, posted to our Blackboard blog, will be worth 4%, for a total of 20%.

The rest of the student’s grade will be based on the following assignments:

Museum Exhibit Review (500-800 words)
Students will visit a museum and critique one exhibit. Reviews should address the exhibit’s purpose and target audience; its presentation of items, including its historical interpretation and ease of access; and its use of digital media and technology.  — 10%, due Friday, June 7

Digital Archive or Exhibit Review (500-800 words)
Students will choose one digital archive/exhibit from our Digital History Sites List and write a review. Reviews should assess the site’s scope and the historical “problem” it addresses; its target audience; how information on the site is organized and accessed; and how easy the site is to navigate. Reviews should also suggest historical research topics that could utilize the site’s information. — 10%, due Friday, June 14

Proposal for Digital History Article
Students will propose an original research article on a topic of their choice. Their proposal should include: the historical problem to be addressed; a list of digital archives and other research material; a list of digital sources and technologies to be incorporated into the article (such as an embedded YouTube video or a student-created timeline); and a list of any other article features to be included, such as a suggested reading list or a resource list for teachers. — 5%, due Tuesday, June 18

Digital History Blog Review (500-800 words)
Students will choose one of the digital history blogs from our Digital History Sites List and write a review. Reviews should assess the site’s scope and the range of historical “problems” it addresses; its target audience; how information on the site is organized and accessed; and how easy it is to navigate. Students should also consider in their review any technologies or features the site uses that they could incorporate into their own digital history article.
— 10%, due Monday, June 24

Digital History Article (1000+ words)
Students will research and write their own digital history article on a topic of their choice, based on consultation with the instructor before and after submission of the proposal. Articles will be based on original research in digital and traditional sources; will be argumentative, clearly written, and include Chicago Manual of Style citations; will include linked and embedded digital sources; and will utilize digital technologies learned in the class. Articles should be effectively geared towards an identifiable audience, and should include correctly-cited images, and a section on further reading. — 25%, due Thursday, June 27

Assignment Name Points Possible Percent of Total
Participation 10 (per day) * 20 20%
Short Reviews 10 (per review) * 5 20%
Museum Review 10 10%
Digital Archive Review 10 10%
Historical Blog Review 10 10%
Proposal for Article 10 5%
Original Research/
Digital History Article
100 25%

Grading Scheme

Grade Percent
A 93 – 100%
A- 90 – 92%
B+ 87 – 89%
B 83 – 86%
B- 80 – 82%
C+ 77 – 79%
C 73 – 76%
C- 70 – 72%
D 60 – 69%
F 0 – 59%


How to Succeed

As in a traditional class, both the quantity and quality of student participation in discussion will influence the student’s participation grade. Prior to submitting their article proposals, students will have completed reviews of digital archival sites – these assignments are designed to spur students’ research and ideas for their own article. Students will be provided with detailed instructions for the three reviews. Students will also be given examples of an article proposal, and will be evaluated on the proposal’s originality, inclusion of digital technology, and feasibility. The article will be assessed on its research, writing, and argument; accessibility and inclusion of digital technology; citations; and the extent to which it clarifies and addresses its audience. (For example, an article for teachers should clearly flag itself as such, and include a list of additional resources and discussion questions for teachers and students.)

Accessing Grades

Grades will be posted to Blackboard.

Attendance & Participation

Students are expected to attend class daily by first checking the Announcements. Most days, students will be expected to join the Discussions page. On some days, this will constitute the entire participation grade for the day; on other days, students’ activity on the course blog will count towards participation (either by posting work or commenting on other students’ work). Both the quantity and quality of participation will inform students’ grades.

Quality participation evinces student completion of the readings and assignments; respect and engagement with other students; and thoughtful consideration of the material at hand. In other words, quality comments add to the discussion by offering unique but relevant observations, building on other comments, and demonstrating, through the inclusion of details, that students have done the readings and assignments. In addition, participation grades will reflect the fact that more frequent quality comments are better than less frequent quality comments.

Schedule of Readings, Discussions, and Assignments

WEEK 1: May 28 – 31: What is Digital History?

Tuesday:                Introduction, Syllabus, and Blackboard

  • Read course announcements; read the syllabus; explore Blackboard tabs on the left, including “Tools”; send the instructor a test message in Course Messages; join the Discussions page and introduce yourself and ask the instructor any questions you have about the class, syllabus, etc.
    *** Note: the readings listed under Wednesday are due before you enter class, so you may want to do them today.

Wednesday:           What is Digital History? Part I: Public History and Digital History

  • Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen, “The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life” (on Blackboard, under Content)
  • National Council on Public History (Read the entire page and explore the different links)
  • Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig, Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web (hereafter, Digital History: A Guide), Home, and Introduction
    *** As you do the readings, think about the varieties of digital history and public history, how they are similar, and how they differ.

Thursday:              What is Digital History? Part II: Digital History and Digital Humanities

Friday:                   What is Digital History? Part III: How Historians Use and Create Digital History

WEEK 2: June 3 – 7: Digital History in Historical Context

*** This week we will be thinking about digital history and media in historical context in our readings and discussion, while we also explore current digital archives and collection sites. It’s important to do the digital sites browsing assigned each day, as you will be asked to submit short reviews and eventually a longer review on several of these sites.

Monday:                 The Printing Revolution

  • Bill Kovarik, Revolutions in Communication: Media History from Gutenberg to the Digital Age (hereafter, Revolutions), Part I
    *** unless otherwise stated, skip all the inserts in Revolutions
    — “The Printing Revolution” (p. 17-23)
    — Chapter 1: 1 (p. 28-29), 1.3–2.1 (p. 33-36), 5–5.1 (p. 45-47), 5.3.2 (p. 51, 53), 6.2 (p. 61-62)
    — Chapter 2: 1–2.1.4 (p. 67-78), 3 –3.3 (p. 88-97), “Phases of Printing Technology” (p. 100-104)
    — Chapter 3: 1–3.1 (p. 105-115, including the inserts), “Shaking the World” (p. 117-18), 7–14 (p. 120-138)

Tuesday:                The Visual Revolution

  • Revolutions, Part II
    — “The Visual Revolution” (p. 139), 2–2.1 (p. 144-45)
    — Chapter 4: 1 (p. 151), 3–14.2 (p. 154-178)
    — Chapter 5: 1–2.1 (p. 181-184), 5 – 11 (p. 197-209), 13 – 14 (p. 213-15)
    — Chapter 6: 15 (p. 245-8, including “A Landmark Case about Free Speech and Advertising”)
  • Explore one or more of the “Digital Databases, Archives, Collections, and Exhibits” (List 1) from the Digital History Sites List (under Content). Tell us about it on the Discussions page, and think about whether you could use it for your end-of-semester article.

Wednesday:           The Electronic Revolution

  • Revolutions, Part III
    — “The Electronic Revolution” (p. 249-53) ** skip Ch. 7 **
    — Chapter 8: 5–15 (p. 283-307)
    — Chapter 9: 1 (p. 309), 3–9 (p. 312-326), 12–17 (334-341, including “YouTube, Music, and Cultural Curators”)
  • Explore one or more of the “Digital Databases, Archives, Collections, and Exhibits” (List 1) and tell us about it on the Discussions page.
  • Do a test blog post on our course blog (Tools ≫ Blogs). Look at the instructor’s test blog and try to replicate it, using a different link and different images. Include a screenshot of a digital site you explored for today.

Thursday:              The Digital Revolution    

  • Revolutions, Part IV
    — “The Digital Revolution” (p. 343-48)
    — Chapter 10: 7–8 (p. 363-374)
    — Chapter 11: “Digital Networks” and “The Internet Versus the World Wide Web” (p. 375, 377), 1–3.1 (p. 378-383), 3.3–7.1 (p. 384-402, including “Lessons from Early Networks” on p. 385, “Al Gore and the Internet” on p. 390)
  • Make sure you are working on the assignment due Friday!

Friday:                   Museum Exhibit Review *** DUE

  • Turn in your Museum Review by posting it to our Blackboard blog.
  • Read other students’ reviews and write at least one comment or question per review.

WEEK 3: June 10 – 14: Doing Digital History, Part I: Concepts, Skills, and Digital Archives/ Exhibits

Monday:                 Wikipedia and Global Culture

  • Revolutions, Part IV
    — Chapter 12 (all sections, p. 405-430)
  • Editing Wikipedia
  • Evaluating Wikipedia
  • Look for a place on Wikipedia where you could add a missing citation (or edit a page). Tell us about it on the Discussions page. If you can’t find a missing citation or a section that you can edit, tell us about where you looked and where, in the future, you might be able to contribute an edit or citation.

Tuesday:                Wikipedia vs. Academic Sources

Wednesday:           Websites and Blogs

  • Digital History: A Guide, Chapter 2: Getting Started (Read all the sections through “Databases and XML”; the last three sections are optional.)
  • Log onto our WordPress site and familiarize yourself with some of the different features. Practice typing and formatting text, adding an image or video, and “previewing” your post.
  • Explore one or more of the “Digital History Websites – Databases, Archives, Collections, and Exhibits” (List 1) and write a short review of one of the sites you have explored and post it to our Blackboard blog. (See the instructions, “Instructions for Short Website Reviews,” under “Assignment Instructions” in “Content.”)
  • Read other students’ reviews and write at least one comment or question per review. (You may have to log in tomorrow to complete this task if some students post their reviews late in the day.)

Thursday:              Digital Archives

  • Digital History: A Guide, Chapter 6: Collecting History Online
  • Explore one or more of the “Databases, Archives, Collections, and Exhibits” (List 1) and write a short review of one of the sites you have explored and post it to our Blackboard blog.
  • Read other students’ reviews and write at least one comment or question per review. (You may have to log in tomorrow to complete this task if some students post their reviews late in the day.)

Friday:                   Digital Archive or Exhibit Review *** DUE

  • Turn in your Digital Archive or Exhibit Review by posting it to our Blackboard blog.
  • Read other students’ reviews and write at least one comment or question per review.

WEEK 4: June 17 – 21: Doing Digital History, Part II: Digital Skills and History Blogs

Monday:                 Digital History Blogs, Part I

  • Explore one or more of the “Digital History Websites – Articles and Blogs” (List 2) from the Digital History Sites List (** not List 1). Tell us about it on the Discussions page, and think about what technologies and features in the blogs you looked at you could incorporate in your end-of-semester article.
  • Watch this video on Creating a Word Cloud in Microsoft Word. Create a word cloud using a history paper from a former class, or your museum exhibit review. Play with the different options (font, colors, layout, case, max words, and size) until you are satisfied with your word cloud. Post it to the Blackboard blog with a brief description of the text you used.

Tuesday:               Proposal for Digital History Article *** DUE

  • Post your Proposal for Digital History Article to our Blackboard blog.
  • Read other students’ proposals and comment by writing at least one helpful suggestion or question for each proposal.

Wednesday:           Digital Images

Thursday:              Digital Music, Videos, and Mapping

  • Digital History: A Guide, Chapter 7: Owning the Past
  • Watch “How to Embed a YouTube Video in WordPress”
  • Log on to WordPress, and create a new post in which you embed a video.
  • Create a Spotify account and playlist, post it to the Blackboard blog with an explanation of how a teacher could use this in a history class, or how it could be effective in a digital article.
  • Use Mapme or another free map tool (see this list or find your own) to create a map for a historical figure or event. Post it to our Discussions page with a brief explanation of the map and a link to the map tool you used.

Friday:                   Digital History Blogs, Part II

  • Explore one or more of the “Digital History Websites – Articles and Blogs” (List 2) and write a short review of one of the sites you have explored and post it to our Blackboard blog. Assess the extent to which the blog site you chose incorporates images, music, and video.
  • Read other students’ reviews and write at least one comment or question per review.
  • Use this guide for Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, or this one for Google Docs, or  another online guide or video to create a timeline for a historical figure or event. Post your timeline to the Blackboard blog, along with a link to the guide or video you used.

WEEK 5: June 24 – 28: Digital Project Work, Final Thoughts

Monday:                 Digital History Blog Review *** DUE

  • Turn in your Digital History Blog Review by posting it to our WordPress blog.
  • Read other students’ reviews and write at least one comment or question per review.
  • Send the instructor a message through “Course Messages” with a rough version of your thesis statement for your final project.

Tuesday:               Digital History Blogs, Part III

  • Explore one or more of the “Digital History Websites – Articles and Blogs” (List 2) and write a short review of one of the sites and post it to our Blackboard blog. How does this blog compare to your in-progress article? Are there any features of this site that you learned from?
  • Read other students’ reviews and write at least one comment or question per review.

Wednesday:           Digital History: Mapping, Vlogs, and Podcasts 

  • Explore one or more of the “Digital History: Mapping, Vlogs, and Podcasts” (List 3) and write a short review of one of the sites you explored and post it to our Blackboard blog. How does this site/vlog/podcast differ from the written blogs you have viewed? What are the pros and cons of this format vs. a traditional history blog?
  • Read other students’ reviews and write at least one comment or question per review. 

Thursday:              Digital History Article *** DUE

  • Turn in your Digital History Article by posting it to our WordPress blog.
  • Read other students’ articles and write at least one comment or question in response to each article.
  • On the Discussions page, explain the challenges you encountered in researching and/or creating your digital article. Are there any technologies you didn’t use that would have enhanced your article? Would your article work as a vlog or podcast?

Friday:                   Final Thoughts

Readings/ To Do:

  • Digital History: A Guide, Chapter 8: Preserving Digital History and Final Thoughts
  • On the Discussions page, post a link to one digital site not on the “Digital History Sites List” that you consulted for your research article, and give us a brief description of the site. (Is it an archive? Blog? What is its historical scope?)
  • Join the Discussions page for a final discussion about the course and the future of digital history.


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