Getting ready for Oakland

Greetings!

A brief introduction to foreground my role as session facilitator: As a graduate student at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, I have had the privilege of working for Doug Seefeldt and Will Thomas on research-based digital projects and in the development of digital projects designed for classroom teaching. Among other things, we have helped students learn how to use the web responsibly (learning to distinguish “Joe’s Civil War Page” from the “Valley of the Shadow,” for example), to build wikis to improve research and writing skills, and showed them ways to develop digital content collections.

At our workshop on Saturday (and on this blog before Saturday – hint, hint) I would like to hear how you are using digital resources in your courses – Western history or otherwise.

Some areas for thought/discussion:

  • Which types of digital assignments have you found useful and why did they work well?
  • What hasn’t worked? Why?
  • What types of sites do you use and how much guidance do you give students about web resources?
  • What kind of tools do you have students using?
  • Have the assignments in your courses changed and how have they changed with the increasing availability of digital resources?

These are just a few questions to get the ball rolling – please contribute your thoughts and ideas here! I look forward to hearing from those able to attend the workshop in person and those who will be using this blog and/or twitter to follow the Digital History Workshop.

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Welcome Back!

We are pleased to welcome you back to the blog “WHA Digital Frontiers,” created to support the Western History Association’s annual Digital History Workshop, planned for Saturday, October 15, 2010 (4:00-5:30 PM) in Oakland, CA.

The workshop is an opportunity for WHA members interested in the ways digital technologies can be (and are being) used in the classroom, in public history, and in research, to gather virtually here on the blog and in person at the WHA Conference to discuss interests, concerns, and ideas. This year the conversations will be led by:

  • Research: Francis Flavin, Office of the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs, United States Department of Interior
  • Public History: J. Wendel Cox, Senior Special Collection Librarian, Denver Public Library
  • Teaching: Leslie Working, Doctoral Candidate, Department of History, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Whether tech guru or newbie, anyone interested in hearing about/discussing the increasingly significant roles digital technologies play in contemporary scholarship, teaching, and public history is welcome to contribute.

This blog is a place for potential attendees to begin the conversations and exchanges of ideas that they hope to continue in the workshop; we also ask contributors to share those resources, tools, examples of digital scholarship, online exhibits,  etc., that they have found noteworthy or helpful in their own work either before or after the workshop.

We’ll see you in Oakland!

Using Digital Resources in the History Classroom

Using scholarly, on-line resources to facilitate class discussions and writing assignments can be a boon to history instruction. Such websites place a wide array of conveniently-formatted primary and well-considered secondary sources in students’ hands for free. Additionally, they serve as tools to help students become more discerning in their internet usage. Although there are many valid reasons to continue using more traditional printed resources, moving some assignments over to the internet is worth considering.

On a more practical level, well-formatted writing assignments based on internet sources can ease some of the most blatant issues of academic dishonesty. Most scholarly sites contain huge amounts of information, often more than undergraduates — especially freshmen and sophomores — are able to contend with. Well defined questions aimed at exploring limited sections of specific websites not only comfort inexperienced scholars, they also offer course leaders a great deal of source control. Plagiarized essays stand out even when finding their origins is difficult because they simply fail to include the assigned sources.

Some of the websites I have assigned include Jamestown Rediscovery; Geography of Slavery; Railroads and the Making of Modern America; Black Past.org; and Farm Workers in Washington State History Project. A number of these work both for Regional History courses and the US survey sequence. The exciting thing about all these sites is the huge number of interesting assignments that can be generated. I encourage scholars already using these resources to share them with our colleagues. Perhaps we can develop some sort of repository in the near future.

Kurt E. Kinbacher
Spokane Falls Community College