About Jacob

Mellon Digital Scholar for The Five Colleges of Ohio

Exciting News! 1

[Students Congregating, Mid-1960s], UA104 Photographic Prints Collection, University Archives and Manuscripts, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA. Downloaded: URL http://libcdm1.uncg.edu/u?/ui,53230, via DPLA http://dp.la/item/174b3922e5d4afb42ba088109b8ab117

[Students Congregating, Mid-1960s], UA104 Photographic Prints Collection, University Archives and Manuscripts, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA. Downloaded: http://libcdm1.uncg.edu/u?/ui,53230, via DPLA http://dp.la/item/174b3922e5d4afb42ba088109b8ab117

We were happy to learn last week that The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has approved our grant extension request, so we will be hard at work on Ohio Five Digital Scholarship through another academic year! We are grateful to the steering committee for their work in the minutiae of the request, and especially Susan Palmer, the Executive Director of the Five Colleges of Ohio Consortium, Mark Christel, the PI on the grant, and to Brenda Howard, the Assistant for Accounting and Budgets. We are also grateful to the Foundation, of course, for this opportunity to explore what it means to do digital scholarship in a dispersed consortial setting.

In the interest of sharing our experiences, I want to note here that the need for an extension grew out of two primary discoveries in the first couple of years of the grant: (1) we needed to continue to nurture the culture out of which large-scale projects would grow and (2) we wanted to involve students in meaningful ways. Taking the latter of these first, it was clear that, if we wanted to build sustainable infrastructure for project development, then outsourcing our computer programming and software development needs – at least in the traditional ways – was not going to be the best answer. It is often the fastest and easiest answer, but we thought we might be able to find opportunities, instead, to pay our liberal arts students for small-scale development projects. We might be able to tap into our classes – our curricular infrastructure, if you will – and to work with Educational Technology at times to identify student specialists with whom we might partner in the kind of building required by digital scholarship. This is not to say that students were merely entering data (although there is some of that as well), but developing apps and themes for use on our projects. Of course there was, at times, a negotiation between what project initiators might imagine and what we could responsibly expect of students that challenged their abilities while pushing our collective intellectual engagement with digital, scholarly endeavors. The negotiation, however, has been less about compromise than about basing “Projects and Pedagogy” on opportunities for the latter through the former.

It’s worth noting that, frankly speaking, the imagined scale of our projects has not often exceeded our technological ability to develop them. Rather, the challenge has been in establishing practical standards and useful workflows. This is not a statement about our abundant resources – far from it – but rather an acknowledgment that the digital culture in the Ohio Five continues to discover the possibilities in digital scholarship. This brings us back around to that other of the primary discoveries leading to our extension: that ours is a growing culture and I have had the opportunity to see the gap between imagination and possibility close incrementally as we have learned about, talked about, and kicked about tools, methods, and philosophies that push the boundaries of our pedagogical practices. This is to say that, while our projects to date have not all been at a grand consortial scale, we continue to have conversations about digital scholarship and to share the work that we do, thereby increasing our capacity to support this kind of Big Digital Scholarship simply as a function of our local, intentional, care-ful digital scholarship.

Looking forward, then, I (personally) will do my part to continue to build that capacity. I want to be a conduit for sharing and ideas, but I also want to be a bystander as that kind of sharing takes place. In other words, I hope that I’m able to help us think of a specifically consortial community of digital scholarship practitioners. I’d like for the consortium to be less of an abstraction insofar as digital scholarship is concerned, and more of a superstructure. Some of this is about resource management. To that end, in the near term, the grant is helping us to think through consortial digital preservation solutions and, perhaps more to the point, through philosophies about the preservation of the digital scholarship we are producing under the auspices of the grant and elsewhere on our campuses. To my mind, though, the consortial framework in this case is not as much about the technological solution as it is about the shared philosophies; about the investment, not in a tool, per se, but in a shared discourse about preservation tools. This is a microcosm, I hope, of a growing consortial discourse about digital pedagogies, collaboration on digital projects, and the evolving nature of knowledge production in higher education.

So, again, a heartfelt thanks to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the opportunity to continue this invaluable work at this integral moment for digital scholarship and in the digital liberal arts.


“Between Alexandria and Babel” Dr. Paul Dilley presents at OWU 1

A couple weeks ago, Dr. Paul Dilley visited Ohio Wesleyan as a capstone (of sorts) to Dr. David Eastman’s grant-funded endeavors. Dr. Dilley is himself involved in a number of digital humanities projects at the University of Iowa and beyond, including multi-spectral imaging of ancient books (think here of the discovery of the Archimedes Palimpsest), the creation of Big Ancient Mediterranean (or BAM, an open-access project allowing the exploration and visualization of ancient texts in new ways), and the painstaking transcription and digitization of the Chester Beatty Kephalaia Codex.

Banner image for BAM.Especially in the case of the latter, we might imagine Dilley as any traditional scholar of (and in) the archives, laboriously attending to the minute details of the (barely) visible word, identified only as a trace. In his talk, Dilley led the audience from this imagined space into the virtual space afforded by computational technologies. Indeed, he made this connection explicit in framing his particular brand of digital scholarship as a kind of “digital philology,” which he defines in his forthcoming publication as a set of “[n]ew scholarly interpretive practices that both produce, and are enacted by, the transfer of texts from manuscripts and the printed page to digital files subject to computational analysis and visualization” (“Between Alexandria and Babel,” forthcoming).

The proliferation of these digital textual files affords scholars across disciplines the opportunities to push against the boundaries of traditional scholarly inquiry. Before discussing two ways in which we might do this – rich annotation and distant reading – Dilley underlined the importance of open, clean, and linked datasets. As a case in point he noted how propriety licenses on some collections of digital data may limit a researcher to “keyword search, which reproduces the functionality of the print index.” This, he adds, is to say nothing of the potential unreliability of the search: OCR’d textual data is often suspect, and one never knows what potential search returns may be missing as a result of bad OCR (optical character recognition). [Full disclosure: my last job was with the Early Modern OCR Project at Texas A&M, so bad OCR and/in old books are subjects near to my heart.]

Nevertheless, research opportunities for large corpora will also proliferate, allowing researchers to encode analytical readings into texts and to read them distantly. The latter, you may know, is a way of interpreting from a 10,000 foot view large collections of text that are otherwise unreadable by humans. While it is not dependent upon the former, encoded text, distant reading and other digital research are deepeneded by this brand of “rich annotation.” On this point Dilley cites the “Gentle Introduction to XML“:

“Encoding a text for computer processing is, in principle, like transcribing a manuscript from scriptio continua; it is a process of making explicit what is conjectural or implicit, a process of directing the user as to how the content of the text should be (or has been) interpreted.”

To Professor Dilley’s mind, the kind of large-scale work that one might do on a digital corpus – be it mark-up (i.e. encoding), distant reading, or any other interpretive practice afforded by computational methods – may best be thought of as “extended intelligence”: in no way “artificial,” it is a very real (and heretofore impossible) supplement to conventional literary criticism.

I’m sure Professor Dilley would love to hear from you if you have questions about his specific projects. If you’d like to know more about text encoding or distant reading of textual data (or bad OCR for that matter!), feel free to contact me!


Screenshot of the interface
I’ve recently knit together a few (google) calendars and given the aggregation a home on our website. The OH5 Digital Scholarship Calendars Page looks like it’s just one calendar, but I’ve just knit together the Ohio Five DS Events calendar, the calendar for DS conferences maintained by the ACRL/DLF, and my own Ohio Five calendar for anyone who wants to know what scheduled events I have there.

Users can select any of those three calendars to view at any time, as you can see in the screen grab here. Also note that you can look at an agenda or weekly view of the calendars to get more details.

Users should also note how sparsely populated the OH5DS events calendar is. If you have something you think should be posted, email me, tweet at me, or post it on our OH5DS Facebook Page. I’d love to know — and to share with rest of the Ohio Five — what’s happening on your campus

I offer this post as a placeholder because the one I had been working on – the one on “why facebook” that I promised a few weeks back – has turned into something of beast that I’ll have to comtinue writing, only to trim it back down to something not worthy of the tl;dr distinction.




Exceptions [Im]proving the Rules

Or, how exceptional students and their projects improve the rules by which we do digital scholarship.

As a followup to my last post, which was essentially a reposting of an email about why one might use the TEI Guidelines for any given text-based digital project, I’ll post a few observations that stem from Tess Henthorne’s brief presenation of her Independent Study (IS) to faculty and students from the English department. First, though, I’ll say that she did Tess Henthorne's Presentationa wonderful job articulating just why she wants to encode a text as part of her IS rather than just transcribe it. In short (and I hope I’m doing justice to her thoughts here), it enriches her text – Glady Fornel’s Montel – and opens its potential for future scholarship, her own and others’. I’ll also note as an aside how it’s clear that some – maybe most – of the people who are thinking about Tess’s IS as a “digital IS” are thinking in terms of visible, human-readable results. That is to say that folks are thinking about Milton’s Reading Room (e.g.) or a searchable database, neither of which is necessarily Tess’s goal. It will be a challenge for this small team to navigate the distances between different conceptualizations of a “digital project.” From scholars doing the heavy (and often inglorious) lifting of text-encoding, I’d be grateful to hear how you make these distinctions to various constituencies. How have you bridged this language barrier?

But I digress.

Tess’s presentation gave me an opportunity to reflect on the importance of projects like hers that do not fall under the direct jurisdiction of our Digital Scholarship grant. If one of the goals of the OH5DS grant and others like it is to use projects as the springboards for building the larger systems that will create and foster sustainable digital scholarship, then Tess’s project – probably because it doesn’t conform to our scripted workflows – gives us an opportunity to test our systems in the wild. It is a chance to make sure that we are building up an environment that is robust enough to foster the digital scholarship of faculty and students (and staff, ideally). So, how has Tess’s project kept us honest in this way?

  • It builds out from the technical and scholarly concerns of the more directly grant-related projects. The Ohio Five libraries’ 2015 Summer Institute helped frame a conversation about the utility of TEI to the consortium’s digital projects. Whether it is for relatively stable preservation in the face of changing technologies or for enhanced scholarship in text-based research, we have been thinking through how the TEI fits into the ways we talk about projects. Wooster has been the testing ground for encoding projects and the teams here have been pushing the boundaries ever outward; advising on Tess’s project continues this trend and, like the other projects, will inform the work we do elewhere in the consortium long after the term of the grant.
  • It amplifies the conversation about digital scholarship. I have said to anyone who will listen that we need to continue to have our conversations about digital scholarship out loud and in public so that it becomes sewn into the fabric of our scholarly culture. Opening this conversation to student constituencies, in addition to helpfully complicating our frames of reference, brings more and different voices into the conversation.
  • It broadens the audience for that conversation. Perhaps especially in the liberal arts setting, the campus community pays attention differently when students are speaking. Advisors and faculty who might not be invested in, say, “the Digital Humanities” as such, are intrinsically invested in their students’ interests and research. Alongside one another we learn how to think and talk about digitally-inflected work in places where we haven’t necessarily seen it (like Engish departments).
  • Finally, it tellingly resonates with issues of evaluation of digital scholarship. As we wade together through the technical “hows” and the theoretical “whys,” we also come up against the question of what it means to do digital scholarship on our campuses and in our consortium. In the larger world of digital schoalrship, the most visible manifestation of this consideration has centered on evaluation for the purposes of tenure and promotion of faculty in the humanities and social sciences. We see this focus, for example, in the important documents published by the Modern Language Association, the American Historical Association, and in a special issue of the Journal of Digital Humanities (Fall 2012). I wonder, though, if students’ work forces us to think about evaluation more acutely, more urgently than when we are wrestling with tenure and promotion guildelines. I cannot imagine telling a student that they could not pursue a given research question because we do not know what to make of it; instead, we figure out what to make of it. Projects like Tess’s allow us force us to explore the question locally so that it might inform the broad context.

To conclude I’ll simply say that I am grateful to be a part of Tess’s team, and that I hope we can see other such projects pop up around the Ohio Five. Most importantly, I hope that we can have the resulting conversations out loud and in public so that we can learn, as a community, how it is that we do digital scholarship around here.

Why We TEI

I originally wrote this in November 2015 in an email to a team at Wooster working on a digital Independent Study, or “IS” as it’s called at Wooster. I have been lucky to be involved with a Wooster senior, Tess Henthorne, who wants to encode and study a heretofore unpublished work by a little-known early twentieth-century woman writer. In our project meetings we were wrestling with a couple of issues: (a) what is our desired scholarly output and (b) do we need the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) guidelines to achieve that? I wrote this email as a reminder – mostly as a touchstone for myself – of how we might frame the utility of textual encoding in and of itself, and how we might frame later phases of the project that allow our student researcher to further (or further complicate) her arguments about the text.

Tess is giving a presentation to the English department later this week, so I post this (slightly revised version) here, in part, as a primer not on the process of encoding but on the rationale for deciding to do it, and in TEI. My hope is that it can provide some context for the kinds of questions with which students (and the rest of us) wrestle when thinking through digital projects. I also hope (gentle reader) that you’ll correct or complicate my ideas herein, either by comment below or on our Facebook page as a comment on the post.

website_blog_scholar_screen2We should remember that one encodes in TEI for (maybe) two distinct, if related, reasons. Primarily TEI allows a scholar to plug into and share with a larger community of textual and literary scholars. I think that, for the purposes of the IS, we’re talking about a tiered argument for the utility of TEI encoding for which this is our baseline purpose. In this scenario, to my mind, the IS looks similar to a traditional IS with the addition of a digital edition that is basic TEI, enriched with header data and a potential contribution to the larger TEI/literary studies community. The argument here isn’t necessarily the making-public (i.e. publication) of a digital version of Montel, but a digital edition that can comprise the basis for future or additional digital analysis. What Tess has been calling the “Critical Introduction” (I think?) is the thing that looks like a typical argument in literary studies. But the IS will also include a section that explains “why a digital edition,” which is basically the argument above: in an increasingly digital scholarly landscape this edition will (a) contribute to the community, (b) increase the potential for future work on Montel/Fornell [the author] because of discoverability and standard markup (i.e. TEI), and (c) create a digital surrogate that has a greater chance of survival as technologies and digital infrastructure evolve.

This is all related to the primary reason that we TEI. (Yes, I’m using it as a verb :-). )

I actually think there’s a sub-reason in here that represents another possible tier as we consider the IS, and that’s the critical encoding. (Maybe it’s not a “sub-reason” but a more specific example of why we TEI.) So, whether or not it’s displayed to the world in (say) boilerplate, markup is an argument. This is a very important point when we’re talking about TEI to literary scholars. One makes a critical decision to tag something (e.g. the word “Jersey”), and one then makes a critical decision about how to tag it (i.e. is that a place? or a cow? or an article of clothing? a person’s nickname? Is it actually two or more of these at once: a metaphor?). So the argument for this tier would look something like this: Tess has an interpretation of Montel and Fornell, she decides how to represent the interpretation via markup of Montel, and then produces a TEI-encoded digital edition that is a representation of that interpretation.[note] Because it uses standard guidelines, all of the points above about its contribution to the “digital scholarly landscape” still hold. The IS then has to fold in an argument, similar to the first, that justifies the existence of this digital component. And this is an important point: this is all true whether or not a text is displayed on the web or otherwise visible. It’s the existence of this digital object that’s important, not necessarily that it’s human-readable. Not yet, anyway.

This brings me to the last (only secondary?) point: what one encodes in TEI is the potential for further digital research that this digital edition affords. Once we’re talking about doing something with that marked up, structured digital object — creating a display of critically encoded text using (say) Boilerplate — we’re talking about a different kind of digital humanities project. This represents the advanced tier of this enterprise because it involves programming and a different (new, additional, necessarily subsequent) set of research questions. Then it becomes less about the literary argument as such and more about how we can leverage technology to (a) make that argument more visible or (b) read the argument through a different lens altogether. It’s about reading something other than the text itself, something that’s one remove from the text itself. It’s a valuable enterprise — it’s a digital humanities enterprise — but it’s different in its methods and logic than the encoding itself. And, importantly, it relies on that thoughtful encoding — it relies on the digital, structured representation of an interpretation — for it to tell us anything.

It might be useful to think of these tiers as different kinds of reading. The first two are still, at their core, about reading the text, which is something that looks familiar to all of us, especially we literature/humanities types. The latter tier, though, is about reading an interpretation of an interpretation. In its best form it utilizes the encoded text as data: it reads your reading, interprets your interpretation. And then the researcher is interpreting the interpretation of your original interpretation. I know, right? Inception.

None of this is to say that we can’t do this latter tier: get something up on the internet using Boilerplate, hack the CSS to render your encoding in a special way, or even think about network graphs. In fact, I’d love to ask Jon Breitenbucher if he has a student who might be interested in hacking Boilerplate as a side project, or in trying to do something interesting with visualizing Tess’s interpretation; in either case the results would benefit Tess’s IS, but the IS doesn’t depend upon it. I just want to say that I think there’s an argument to be made for this enterprise exclusive of a representation that is translated/rendered for the world.



Note: I’ll complicate this point a little below, but I know that, in addition to “representing” text or interpretation thereof, encoding also facilitates further analysis.


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!

Winter ’15 Issue of “Away,” Oberlin Travel Journal


Away Journal, Fall 2015

I think I must have heard somewhere that, in some places, if something happens twice then it has become a tradition. And here we are: the second issue of Laurie McMillin’s travel journal Away is now live. In the Winter ’15 number you’ll encounter pieces by Marco Wilkinson, Richard McGuire, Molly Bradley, Zack Knoll, and Linda Grashoff.

If you have time I encourage you to read more about Away as well.


OH5 at Bucknell DS Conference

2014.bucknell.wuOn 14-16 November, Ohio Wesleyan’s Ching-Hsuan Wu presented on “Foreign Language Flipped Classrooms – Scaffolding Grammar Knowledge Anytime, Anywhere.” Part of a panel on “Faculty-Student Partnerships in the Hybrid Classroom,” Prof Wu’s presentation was interactive and engaging as she modeled her pedagogy even while presenting on this example of it. Here’s the abstract of her presentation:

The presentation introduces a collaborative pedagogical project that aims to improve and promote the digitalized interface of teaching and learning in studies of foreign languages for liberal arts colleges through the concept of the flipped classroom. The goal of the project is to develop a digital collection of self-directed grammar learning clips through which students study descriptive linguistic facts independently prior to their class meetings, thus creating space for instructors to use face-to-face class time more effectively by focusing on interactive language use and application–skills that often require practice with other speakers of the target languages in appropriate contexts. Motivated by this objective, the project team, including foreign language educators, librarians, students, and information technology specialists, collaboratively design, critique, and revise the materials and discuss plans for disseminating and publicizing this learning resource. The project, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, produces a set of thirty five-minute teaching video clips on Chinese grammar points selected and sequenced by frequency and usefulness in authentic language use at intermediate levels. The learning content in the clips is delivered by a professor at Ohio Wesleyan University with guest professors and students from other collaborating colleges to approximate digitally the classroom style of learning that is valued by liberal arts colleges.

In addition, I presented a lightning talk as a part of a roundtable on “Institutional Models for Digital Scholarship and Collaboration.” The gist of my talk — which, as a lightning talk, is mostly gist — was that we mustn’t forget the human elements when we’re collaborating on digital projects. I talked about our efforts in the Ohio Five to connect these distance digital scholars and to bridge silos wherever possible. Removed from context the slides won’t be as useful as one might hope; again, though, the gist should be clear. Maybe.

I’ve been telling anyone who’ll listen about this conference, especially for those in liberal arts colleges and universities who have folded together teams of faculty, students, and technologists of all sorts. There were a great many panels that, when they didn’t actually feature student presenters, directly addressed students’ roles in building these digital projects or in shaping these digital pedagogies. It was an immersive couple of days, but the scheduling created perfect pockets of time for sidebar conversations. It had an active backchannel and the IRL interactions came easy in that crowd.