Teaching Digital History
In the fall quarter I taught, for the first time, a digital history course, a colloquium with undergraduate and graduate students from history, computer science, journalism, and earth sciences. The course was a blast to teach and I am extremely pleased with how the final projects ended up. I had an amazing group of students who not only seized upon the methods introduced in the course but also helped me to clarify some of my own thinking and challenged some of my ideas.
The end of the course culminated in a beta version of a digital history project that the students were free to choose on their own, so long as the topic revolved around the history of Silicon Valley.1 The projects:
- Emily Grubert, “What is environmental impact? The evolution of topic in English-language environmental life cycle assessment journal articles, 1995-2014”
- Russell Burg, “Blighted Modernity: Mapping Shantytowns in Park Chung Hee’s Seoul, 1963-66”
- James Hanley and Wayne Shu, “Silicon Valley Meets Wall Street”
- Jenny Farman, “Women in CS at Stanford”
- Paul Carroll, “Silicon Valley, according to the New York Times”
They compressed a lot of work into a short amount of time (quarters are so short), and I’m quite happy with the analysis the students were able to complete in our short amount of time together. Much of their work became public-facing, either presented on the web (above), during our public electronic poster session at the end of the quarter, and through our course blog. We had a few fits and starts, mainly with getting up to speed on GitHub early on in the quarter, but by and large things felt like they went pretty smoothly.
I’m already spending time thinking about things I would change about the course, and hope that I’ll get a chance to teach the class again next fall.
The exception to this was the graduate students, who pursued research agendas in line with their own scholarly interests. ↩