Digital Public Humanities: Act II – Public History

I have been teaching secondary English and history since 1993.  During that time I earned my Master of Humanities from the University of Dallas.  Currently, I teach history at St. John’s Episcopal School in Dallas, Texas.  As part of the course, my seventh grade students complete a year-long project involving family oral history and secondary research that culminates in the production of a short documentary film.  Last semester, I used Omeka to build an archival prototype that the school will use to house these films in a more permanent and public way.  Because of its association with the school and student work, I can’t yet share it publicly, but I am hoping that the legal releases will be gathered soon.

My background in digital humanities began when I was a contributing teacher to  Understanding Sacrifice under the guidance of RRCHNM.  I became intrigued by the way in which digital humanities is changing the way history is collected, curated and interpreted.  Tools like Omeka can help give young historians an authentic audience with which to share their learning.  Tools like Palladio can help my students understand relationships in history that might be harder to see in written form.  Inspired by Mapping the Republic of Letters, my students are working on building the metadata for the movers and shakers of the Italian Renaissance in order to create a basic visualization showing the network of patrons and artists as rival families competed for political influence and prestige.

While I enjoy teaching very much, I have come to learn how much I enjoy working with the “stuff” of history both in presenting what I have learned to a wider audience and also in the challenge of digging deep to discover new things.  History is all around us, and digital platforms have given us new tools to preserve, interpret and share that knowledge in ways that would have been impossible only a decade or two ago.

My goals for this semester are to continue to learn about ways in which digital tools can help me do a better job of making history a ‘hands on’ experience for my students and to train them to think like historians in the same way a science teacher encourages scientific thinking in real world ways.  I would also like to develop the professional skills necessary to work more directly with public history projects outside of my role as an educator.

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