Fall 2013, Robinson B208, Thursdays @ 4:30

Course Schedule

Last updated: November 7, 2013 at 14:45 pm

 

Week 1 – August 29:  The Digital Landscape

Welcome: Course introduction, setting up your technology, and understanding the landscape of digital history.

Please complete the student technology survey prior to coming to class.

Readings and Explorations

Exercises

  • Sign up for a blog at onmason.com or through WordPress.com (they both use the same underlying platform) & learn how to use its WordPress writing environment, which is a common one for many blog services. Please fill out your profile with a short biography. Don’t stress about how it looks for now, we’ll address designing your site later. This site will serve as your course portfolio for the semester. Here, you will publish your weekly reflections on the class exercises and your final projects.

This week is geared toward meeting IT requirements 2 & 4.

Week 2 – September 5: Doing History (Online)

What is history? How historians view (and read) the world and what types of projects do they do? What is the state of history on the web?
*Please send me your blog URL using this form.

Readings and Explorations

Exercises

  • Search teachinghistory.org’s website reviews or World History Sources’ website reviews for sites in your area of interest. Make sure you actually look at the sites under review. What types of sources do they use or digitize? Look at a couple of the resources there and come to class prepared to discuss two of them.
  • Publish a blog post (of at least 300 words total) listing three potential historical topics you might be interested in researching throughout the semester (e.g., “the trial of Lizzie Borden”).  Explain why each potential topic is of interest to you.

This week is geared toward meeting IT requirements 1, 2 & 4.

Week 3 – September 12: Finding & Evaluating Digital Sources

Finding & evaluating information—including Wikipedia and photographs—for historical veracity.

Readings and Explorations

Exercises

  • In your blog post for this week, choose one of the topics you posted last week and frame it as a question that can be answered by research (e.g., “How did Lizzie’s social status affect the outcome of her murder trial?”). What would you like to explore about this topic? What questions do you have? Are there digital sources for your topic?
  • Explore the online history databases available through Mason Library, Flickr Commons, the New York Public Library Digital Collections, or the Library of Congress Digital Collections. Find one primary source text item from an online collection—could be news article or advertisement, an archival collection, diaries, letters, papers—and a visual item—an image, map, sound recording or film—related (even if only tangentially) to your research questions. Record their location (official citation) and be prepared to discuss in class what you selected and where you found it. How might these items help your research?
  • Find a Wikipedia page related (in some way) to your research topic. Read it. We’ll evaluate some Wikipedia articles in class by looking at sources cited, discussion and history of the page.

This week is geared toward meeting IT requirements 1 & 3

Week 4 – September 19: Ethical, Legal & Security Issues in the Digital Age

Who owns the past? Exploring copyright issues of the content available online. Understanding “fair use” and how it applies to us. Protecting yourself online—passwords and data.

Readings and Explorations

Exercises

  • Projects: Identify some secondary source material and come to class prepared to discuss what you’ve found.

This week is geared toward meeting IT requirements 3 & 5

Week 5 – September 26: Stability of Information & Digital Records

Understanding the challenges of digitizing information including, storing, managing, and preserving digital records.

Readings and Explorations

Exercises

This week is geared toward meeting IT requirements 1, 2, & 3

Week 6 – October 3: Mining for Information

Advanced research methods: making sense of abundance—mining the web; mining collections; mining texts. Midterm review/questions?

Readings and Explorations

Exercises

  • *Please bring either a laptop or a tablet as we’ll be doing an in-class project.
  • Blogs: Please record your challenges, successes and processes for completing your scavenger hunt based on the assignment given to you in class.  (If you’d like to receive credit for this assignment and you do not plan to attend class on September 26th, please email me for your scavenger hunt assignment.) **There are correct answers for all the questions. If you think outside the box, remember what you’ve learned about primary source collections and materials and do a little creative online sleuthing, you will find the answer. I am, however, more interested in your process and approach.**

This week is geared toward meeting IT requirements 1 & 2

Week 7 – October 10: Midterm

 

Week 8 – October 17: Intro to Maps

Beginning this week, we’ll be exploring some of the tools that may help you with your projects by trying them out and reading their help documentation. Final project assignment given.

Explorations

Google Drive Tutorials (Spreadsheets, Presentations, Charts) *Create a Google Drive account, if you don’t already have one.

Google Maps

Help: Guide to Google Maps “My Maps” (good tutorial avail at teachinghistory.org.)

Google Maps Engine Lite (Beta)

Google Earth (download Google Earth, then try opening your KML file from Google Maps in it).

KML Tutorial

Exercises

  • Map several of your favorite places using My Maps on Google Maps (doesn’t matter what they are: restaurants, bars, shopping, etc), save the map. At this point, you can import this map into Google Maps Engine Lite for a more sophisticated map or you can download the KML and experiment with it in Google Earth. It’s up to you.  You’ll use this file for Google Earth. Separate help docs for Maps Engine are available at that site.
  • In your blog post this week, please discuss your map–what you chose to map, why you chose it, your process for creating your map, and any observations or analysis about your habits that your map helps you to understand. For example, if all your favorite haunts are in one neighborhood, what might that tell you about where you spend your time? You have 300 words, so please think about it. If you find you have trouble with this assignment, you may also blog about what you tried and where you got stuck.

Week 9 – October 24: Maps, Spatial Analysis & History

Understanding how spatial analysis can help make historical arguments.

Readings and Explorations

Exercises

Resources

  1. WorldMap Warp – upload your own historic map, set some control points and warp it to use in your final projects. (General instructions and tips here.)
  2. Getting help with Google Earth – There are numerous help resources here. Read it and play.

This week is geared toward meeting IT requirements 1, 2, & 4

Week 10- October 31: Databases & Statistics

Understanding how databases and statistics can help make arguments. We’ll be using an available historical database and exploring personal statistics.

Readings and Explorations

  • Read at least two Feltron reports
  • Explore the Chicago Homicide Project website. Read the background materials and essays that interest you. We will be using this project for two weeks, so please get familiar with it.

Exercises

  • Sign up for Daytum and watch the tutorial.
  • Pick one or two areas of your life and track your activities for a weekend. Then visualize your data using either the charts in the Daytum tool or Google Charts. In your blog post, embed a screenshot of your charts and tell a story using the stats. I will also be doing this exercise to share with you.
  • Projects: Come to class prepared to discuss the source material for your projects. What digital sources are you using? (If you still need help posing a question, I strongly suggest you schedule some time to meet with me.)

Resources

If you need screenshot software, GreenShot is free and open source for Windows users.

This week is geared toward meeting IT requirements 1, 2, & 4

Week 11 – November 7: Using Data

In-class project using the Chicago Homicide Database Project. Cleaning, understanding, and manipulating data.

Exercises

  • You all received specific topics to search in the Chicago Homicide Project Interactive Database form. If you were not in class on the 31st and need a topic, please email me.
    Please publish a blog post (of at least 300 words) comparing the information contained in the database on your assigned topic to what you find about that topic on Wikipedia. Do the facts align? What sources are cited on Wikipedia? Based on the view of the murder(s) in the database, is Wiki entry reliable? You are going to have to do some analysis and perhaps some digging to find information. Practice the skills we went over in class and make an argument about the differences between the Wikipedia entry on your topic and what’s contained the database. *You may supplement this post with other information you find on your topic from a generic Google search, but please make the bulk of your post about the comparison between what’s listed in the database and what’s written in Wikipedia.*
  • I will be providing a Google spreadsheet of a snippet of the Chicago Homicide Project Database. We will work with these snippets in class.

This week is geared toward meeting IT requirements 1, 2, & 4

Week 12 – November 14: The Visual Communication of Information

Understanding and creating complex visualizations of your data.

Readings and Explorations

Exercises

  • Many Eyes: Take a tour of the datasets and visualizations in Many Eyes.
  • Choose a visualization from the ones in the Many Eyes site and come to class prepared to discuss the visualization. What does the visualization show you? What works? What doesn’t? Is there anything that can be done to improve it?
  • We’ll do an in-class project using this program, so familiarize yourself with it.
  • No blog assignment this week.

This week is geared toward meeting IT requirements 2 & 4

 

Week 13 – November 21: Presenting Your Projects

Designing your own projects using themes, images, fonts. Information architecture and navigation issues. The presentation of your argument.

Readings and Explorations

Exercises

  • In your blog posts this week (500 words minimum), I want you to critique the design of your favorite website AND one website from the history projects list that is provided to you. Please discuss the following in your critiques: design elements–what works and what doesn’t; the information architecture–that is how the information is laid out, how is the content categorized, how does the site use tagging, what works, what doesn’t work; and lastly, the points of engagement on the site–are there commenting opportunities, can you contribute content, do these elements (or the lack thereof) help or hinder the purpose of the sites. Please link to these sites and use screenshots where appropriate.
  • Use the points in the 10 Principles of Effective Web Design to help guide your critique. Also pay attention to what Krug says about user behavior.. do these sites adhere to his best practices?

November 28: Happy Thanksgiving! No class.

 

Week 14 – December 5: Wrap Up and Review

Review of the semester, last ditch chance to ask questions and get help with your projects.

Exercises

  • No blog assignment this week.
  • Come to class prepared to discuss any design, research or other challenges you are having with your projects.

December 12: Final projects due. Please email me your project URLs by 4:30pm.