Monthly Archives: January 2016

Latinos in Rural America Fosters Student Research and Community Engagement

Clara Román-Odio

Earlier this month I attended the second of four exhibit launches for Kenyon professor Clara Román-Odio’s public humanities project, Latinos in Rural America (LiRA). The material exhibit, currently in the Mt. Vernon Public Library, also has a digital component that is held in Kenyon’s digital repository. As we read in the brief introduction to the project’s digital component,

This project pursues the goal of providing an intimate window into the lives, origins and aspirations of Latinos in Knox County, home to Kenyon College.

The exhibit in Mt. Vernon follows the project’s initial unveiling in December at Kenyon College and will be succeeded by exhibits at the Ohio State University (9 – 23 February) and Miami of Ohio (30 March – 12 April).

Román-Odio has folded LiRA into her Introduction to Chicano/a Cultural Studies as a platform for exemplifying the ways in which community-engaged learning (CEL) strengthens undergraduate research and civic engagement. You can read more about this important union of public humanities and CEL and the students’ work therein in Kenyon’s digital repository, and may I suggest a deeper dive to learn more about the student-led implementation of a program that will help Mt. Vernon Latino/a youth prepare for the college application process.

LiRA takes as its model a similar project by Kenyon professor Ric Shefield, the Knox County Black History Archives, digtized under the Ohio Five Libraries’ previous grant "Next Generation Library." Both LiRA and the Black History Archives are imagined as a part of a unified series of similar local oral history projects that would fall under the banner of The Community Within. In the coming year, Sheffield plans to share the concept of The Community Within with other liberal arts colleges, providing a framework for local oral history projects.

To my mind, one of the great foundational principles of The Community Within, a principle exemplified by both LiRA and the Black History Archives, is the necessity of presenting the projects’ research in a material exhibition within the community itself, in this case the public library. Such a presentation not only ties a Kenyon College research project to the local community, but it also gets to the core of accessibility and digital projects. Indeed, the community-based research is the guiding force here; digital preservation and dissemination are peripheral (though important) concerns. As pedagogical enterprises, projects like LiRA ask students to go beyond the simple reporting of archival material – of known histories – and asks them instead to create and curate an alternative archive of underrepreented cultural material.

Ohio Five Digital Scholarship is grateful to have been able to play a part in LiRA and the Knox County Black Archive, but both have come about with the generous support of a number of people and agencies. The LiRA exhibit provides an extensive list of credits and acknowledgements – including Ohio Humanities, a state affiliate of the NEH – but I will take this opportunity to underline the contributions of Jenna Nolt, Kenyon’s Digital Initiatives Librarian who has been creating these projects’ public faces in Kenyon’s digital repository.

What are some of the ways in which you are doing public and/or digital history with your liberal arts students? Let us know on Facebook or post a comment a below.

Ohio Five Digital Scholarship is on Facebook! 1

OH5 Digital Scholarship is on Facebook!

facebook.thumb.oh5cuffMostly I just want to announce that we have a Facebook page, linked immediately above. If you know me, however, you will know that I often overthink very deliberately approach things. You will not be surprised to know that I’m drafting a longer email about why and how I think Facebook can be useful to us as we try to collaborate across distances on consortial digital scholarship. So you can look for that. For now, though, I will again point you toward the Facebook page and suggest that this be your central hub for information about consortial digital scholarship and pedagogy.

  • Like the Facebook page to stay up-to-date. I’ll post anything that seems pertinent that comes across my virtual desk. Some of these I’ll also post on the listerv.
  • Post your events. This is important. I cannot stay abreast of all that’s happening in #oh5ds that might be of interest to your colleagues in other places around the consortium: post them here. If you have a student working in Ed Tech or the Library who already does your social media, have them post the info.
  • Exhibit your achievements and projects. Also important. One of the primary concerns has been that we’re not aware of the kinds of work that’s happing in the library, in the classroom, or in our technology suites. Share that here.
  • Ask your questions. Okay, I don’t mean to be Henny Penny, but this is also important. As the guy who’s talked to a great many of you, please don’t assume that you’re asking a question for which everyone else already has the answer. We have a wonderfully varied range of expertise: let’s take advantage of it. This is what sets us apart as a consortial community of liberal arts practitioners.


Oberlin EdTech Winter Workshop and Communities of Practice

Oberlin’s Mudd Library recently hosted the EdTech Winter Workshop for professional staff, organized by Albert Borroni and the Oberlin Center for Technology Enhanced Teaching (OCTET). Thirty or so members of the Oberlin community attended, representing divisions from around the campus: the Allen Memorial Art Museum (AMAM), Language Lab, Center for Information Technology, and the Library.

Because I had to run off to the Mt. Vernon Public Library for the launch of an exhibit — more on this in a subsequent post — I was only able to stay for the morning portion of the meeting, but I drew out at least two significant observations relevant to Ohio Five Digital Scholarship. (And a bonus meta-observation that I’ll reserve for the end of the post.)

First, in back to back presentations Liliana Milkova, Curator of Academic Programs for the AMAM, and Megan Mitchell, Digital Initiatives Coordinator for the Library, spoke about an Omeka project completed in fall 2015 as part of a general groundswell in interest for building object-oriented pedagogies. Milkova mentioned Capturing the Body, a set of digital exhibits that were curated by students in Wendy Kozol’s course, *Visible Bodies and the Politics of Sexuality*.

In addition to discussing specific projects and efforts, Mitchell pointed out that recent faculty interest in using Omeka some of this interest might be attributed to the increasingly-quick-to-demo (share? Not sure where they would have demo-ed) faculty who are invested in the platform, including? Amy Margaris (Anthropology) and Danielle Skeehan (English). This growing interest in Omeka is not as much about the adoption of a relatively low-barrier-to-entry platform as it is about the local, interdisciplinary community of practice that is growing out of the shared investment in digital pedagogies.

Of course with interdisciplinarity come the opportunities for fortuitous cross-pollinations, and it is precisely these kinds of opportunities that Tim Elgren, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, imagined Oberlin might bake into future iterations of the curriculum. He gave a brief presentation on, among many things, a desire to complement the notion of “the major” — that deep domain knowledge that all undergraduates build — with theme-based, in interdisciplinary “clusters.” In the still-under-construction Inn at Oberlin, there are plans for a space called “Studio C” (the “C” is for “convergence”) that will provide space for faculty and students from different disciplines to come together and tackle big questions such as *gender identity in the 21st century*, or *the politics of water*. In the not-so-distant future, Oberlin students might complete clusters of question-based courses offered by several different departments and, in the process, triangulate their opinions and develop plans of action based on the kind of nuanced exploration that a liberal education provides.

This corner of Dean Elgren’s presentation frames my second observation, which is fully (I admit) filtered through the lens of my experience and my agenda of furthering digital scholarship in the consortium: there seems to be great possibility to leverage Oberlin’s convergence clusters, at least as they are conceived at the moment, for pointedly humanistic digital endeavors. Not only might one think about, for example, the delivery of humanities data to different audiences and through different media than we have imagined, but one might also interrogate the tools and media with which we present those data. When we begin to ask whether or not databases present arguments, or about how we share information across the digital divide, we begin to tread a specifically humanistic mode of digital exploration that is interdisciplinary in form and function. In the interest of Ohio Five Digital Scholarship — my admitted and clear bias — I wonder how reimagined curricula, like the version of Oberlin’s that was imagined during the EdTech meeting, will take advantage of the inherent interdisciplinarity of what’s being called “Digital Humanities.”

A common theme between these two observations, to my mind, is the cultivation of communities of practice. In both the reporting of the present state of digital pedagogies and the prospective view of the curricular future, we see a growing culture of digital praxis and the frameworks that will continue to foster such growth well into the future. Indeed, the very gathering itself — a semi-annual meeting of staff who are involved in technologically-informed research and teaching — is an example of a relatively easy way to get local folks together to talk about what they are up to. This example especially resonates with me as I find myself wrestling with how we facilitate such conversations over an entire consortium.

Do you have good models for bringing local or larger communities of practice together? Share with us on our new Facebook page or in the comments!