Tona Hangen


Resources for OAH session, April 11, 2014, “Using Technology to Make Teaching More Fun and Effective.”

(Full blog post here)

Fellow panelists: David Trowbridge (Marshall University), Russell Jones (Eastern Michigan University)

My slides:

My examples:


How I use it: Platform for publishing student projects across courses (Digital Worcester, active from 2008-2012)

Why I like it: Part of broader DH community, scaleable and robust. Timing was right. Promise of permanence and continuity over time.

Problems/Considerations: Hard to pull off as solitary venture – really needs funding, continuity, advisory board, partners/ team. Not intuitive for students, so I did all the data entry.


How I use it: My own (externally hosted) portfolio and course LMS as a workaround to Blackboard Also: History major student portfolios in the methods/capstone courses (a few examples here)

Why I like it: Open-source and authentic. A real-world skill, not a closed garden. Open web; transparency, archiving. I own it: have a lot of control over its look and features. Allows for student work to have long-term web presence.

Problems/Considerations: There is a student learning curve, hard to extract assessment data. I own it: any problems/glitches are mine to solve. Puts me at odds with our adopted campus solutions.

Google Docs / Google Maps

How I use it: Student collaboration in real time, low-stakes & short term. Some examples: a class exam study guide, mapping a book, crowdsourcing a class question, primary source “newspapers” during a class workshop session, using a Google doc template.

Why I like it: Especially good for messy, quick one-time uses.

Problems/Considerations: None, really – its ease of use and disposability is a plus feature

Wikis (via Wikispaces)

How I use it: Student project management, “auxiliary” site for special, long-term course projects (a group-authored novel in a first-year seminar, a simulation of Congress in a 200-level elective), I’ve also used it as a resource file while consulting with K12 teachers in a TAH project

Why I like it: Permanent archive. Easy to see who modifies. Teaches wiki format basics (though not Wikipedia coding syntax), very low learning curve on both front end and back end

Problems/Considerations: Not especially customizable; can’t order the pages/subpages

Digital Archives / Open Educational Resources (OER)

How I use it: Online repositories, commercial and scholarly, access to materials for analysis

Why I like it: Suits my aversion to closed/paid publishers’ primary source collections. Bonus: So many good ones!

Problems/Considerations: Logic needs explanation. Too easy? Vast universe, overwhelming. Creates personal archive silos

In our discussion, the question came up about how you find good ones. There’s no one meta-aggregator, of course, but some ideas included MERLOT, the Digital Public Library of America, Teaching w/ the Library of Congress, and Beyond the Bubble from SHEG. I have a list of some favorites I made a few years ago, but it’s far from comprehensive.

Digital Text Analysis Tools

How I use it: Simple workshop opportunities in the methods course, e.g. N-Gram, Popular Science archive

Why I like it: Allows instantaneous searching across MASSIVE amounts of information; permits new questions

Problems/Considerations: Can seem gimmicky; Not sure how to interpret findings

Crowdsourced Projects

How I use it: More workshop opportunities in the methods course, usually during our unit on personal papers, letters & diaries. Some examples include University of Iowa’s DIY History, the New York Public Library’s Menus project, and the Newberry Library’s Civil War Letters.

Why I like it: Teaches close reading, handwriting deciphering, integrity of sources, authentic contribution – sense of participating in something larger

Problems/Considerations: They run their course; individual contribution is small, fleeting; possibility of low student engagement


How I use it: Information literacy project in my first-year seminar course, interrogating / denaturalizing the digital environment as a built (historic) artifact

Why I like it: Accessible, familiar gateway to larger concepts of reliability, the iterative nature of history, information literacy. Raises awareness of who contributes (few women, e.g.)

Problems/Considerations: I only do it with my FYS. Should probably extend this into every class in some way, make it more explicitly history-focused. The stigma of Wikipedia, seen as lowbrow, irresponsible.


How I use it: Student podcasts, possibly radio serial play in my first year seminars

Why I like it: Alternative to papers & visually-oriented which is the default now (Ppt, esp). Uses another sense; attunes to sound in/as history. Requires revision, extended time, hard to slap together at the last minute

Problems/Considerations: Student learning curve. Everyone hates the sound of their own voice. Can be a challenge to find copyright-free audio. Web not set up for sound searching.

Honorable Mention:

Two tools I haven’t yet use, but think they’re worth mentioning as possibilities for using technology

Annotation Studio (MIT HyperStudio) – online, collaborative markup for close reading. Seems like it will be great way to get students to slow down and READ, in digital environments, with possibilities for collaboration and sharing on a larger scale (across different sections, across different campuses). BUT – Beta version, not yet really available in all platforms. Still in development.

Clickers – our campus IT doesn’t support them, but I know instructors elsewhere who use them, to pose low-stakes quick questions. Quick assessment for just-in-time teaching and peer instruction, helpful in large classes, student engagement, low-stakes/anonymous. Only for face to face teaching; campus-wide adoption issues? Can be glitchy. See here for an example of clickers in peer writing review (Derek Bruff/ProfHacker); The pedagogy can work even w/o the actual clickers (Heather M. Whitney/ProfHacker)

Other resources:

Want more? DH Tools for Beginners – gorgeous.

Also: Bamboo DiRT

DIY Professional Development: ProfHacker

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