Digital Humanities

In Spring 2023 I taught Digital Humanities, a new methodology course for History.  This was an eye-opening experience for me.  I’ve developed new skills and discovered tools and resources that I’m already implementing in my teaching.  My students — through weekly journals, in-class discussions, and formal written work — have helped to shape this course and have offered invaluable input that I will use to adapt it in future semesters. 


Guest speakers

Presenters from Mulva Library, the SNC Archives, Information Technology Services, and Writing Across the Curriculum connected students with people and places across campus who can help them develop their research projects (and future projects).

GIS and Google Earth

My students clearly enjoyed thinking about History in new, spatial ways.  Several of them decided to incorporate spatial humanities tools into their final projects.  We spent one week on Google Earth as a user-friendly introduction to the possibilities of these tools, followed by a week working with Krissy Lukens on GIS (Geographic Information Systems) software that is more challenging and more powerful than Google Earth.

Workshops and Journals

We spent a fair amount of class time actively using the tools and practicing the skills that we explored in class.  Students then included their work (a sample of text mining analysis, a QR Code linked to reflections on public history, an annotated bibliography for their research project, etc.) in their weekly journals. 

These journals were an effective way for me to track how students were feeling about their learning in the course, as well as where I needed to be clearer or provide more scaffolding. 

Challenges and Ideas for Future

Gauging Preparation

This semester, I’ve had a chance to observe the very different areas of expertise and knowledge that students bring to this class from earlier classes, high school uses of technology, etc.  I taught them, they taught me, and they taught each other.  In future versions of this class, I am considering an initial survey asking students to anonymously identify their level of comfort in software/digital tools that we use in this class, but which I had not originally set aside time to teach. 

My Own Continued Learning

Learning to teach this course was a significant undertaking for me.  Digital humanities training was not part of my graduate studies, nor had it played a major role in my research until now.  I sincerely believe, however, that it is critical to train our History students in these skills, so I decided to learn.  It took a lot of time, and patience from colleagues at SNC and beyond who helped me learn the basics, to prepare this course.  And while I believe the course went well this semester, I definitely have more to learn to make the course as in-depth as I’d like it to be. 

It’s been exciting to learn new ways to study History (even if there have also been moments of frustration…).  I’ve found myself incorporating more Digital Humanities content and tools into my other classes this semester, because I’m more aware of how useful they are in supporting student learning.  I also suspect Digital Humanities will play a more important role in my research going forward.

Final Projects

The purpose of this course is two-fold:

  1. Teach students how to “do” history, developing research skills, writing ability, and a historical frame of mind. 
  2. Introduce students to digital humanities tools and resources, as well as resources across campus that can help them to learn more.

Students produced final projects that demonstrated their skills in both of these areas.  Each project was unique and displayed students’ individual interests and strengths. 

Projects included (including links with student permissions):

  • Interactive digital timeline of the 1871 Chicago Fire with accompanying lesson plan
  • Interactive Google Earth project of Chernobyl nuclear disaster with research paper exploring Soviet response and context
  • Family history interactive Google Earth project with digitized family archival materials
  • Podcast exploring 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • QR Code campus tour for St. Norbert College with reflective paper on digital public history (see QR codes posted around campus)
  • Podcast about 2011 tornado in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Further resources

Bodenhamer, David J., John Corrigan, and Trevor Harris, eds. The Spatial Humanities: GIS and the Future of Humanities Scholarship. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010.

Crymble, Adam. Technology and the Historian: Transformations in the Digital Age. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2021.

Drucker, Johanna.  The Digital Humanities Coursebook: An Introduction to Digital Methods for Research and Scholarship. London: Routledge, 2021.

Gregory, Ian N. and Alistair Geddes, eds. Toward Spatial Humanities: Historical GIS and Spatial History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014.

Guiliano, Jennifer. A Primer for Teaching Digital History: Ten Design Principles. Durham: Duke University Press, 2022.

Kim, Dorothy, and Adeline Koh, eds. Alternative Historiographies of the Digital Humanities. Punctum Books, 2021.

Milligan, Ian. The Transformation of Historical Research in the Digital Age. Cambridge Elements: Historical Theory and Practice. Cambridge University Press, 2022.

Turabian, Kate, Wayne Booth, Gregory Columb, and Joseph Williams. A Manual for Writers of Research Paper, Theses, and Dissertations. Ninth Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018.

Select Digital Humanities Projects:

Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center

(Un)Silencing Slavery

Puerto Rico’s Hurricane History

Slave Voyages

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