Fall 2013, Robinson B208, Thursdays @ 4:30


Last updated: August 20, 2013 at 22:59 pm


This course prepares you to use and understand a wide variety of current and emerging digital technologies in the service of doing history (and beyond). The skills you learn during this semester will be useful to you throughout the rest of your college career and well into your chosen career path. Over the course of weekly practical exercises and a final project of historical inquiry:

  1. You will learn to understand basic information technology concepts and be able to analyze newly experienced sites and technologies to figure out how they are put together.
  2. You will learn to evaluate information online, understand some of the ethical challenges of digital technology, and balance the trade-offs between technical efficiency and data security.
  3. You will learn to use the more sophisticated features of digital tools and media, ranging from content management systems to collaborative social media to databases and maps. You will also learn to use these tools to help you support a historical argument. You will publish a digital work of historical scholarship.

Learning by Doing

The course largely emphasizes the acquisition of both historical methods and information technology skills through doing rather than just reading. To achieve these learning goals we will use a combination of reading, writing, exploring, and experimenting with digital tools and materials.

Each week students will focus on a topic or a skill that will contribute their overall ability to ask good and answer good questions about history. At the same time, students will need to actively undertake a number of practical exercises designed to introduce you to new tools and skills. That is, in most weeks students will engage in making or doing something historical using digital tools and networks.

Persistence and willingness to try many approaches will be a key to doing well in this course. For many, this work with digital tools will be a new experience, and it is important to remember that a crucial part of learning is failing. Not every exercise will go successfully, and we will all make mistakes. And that is okay.

The General Education Information Technology Requirement

This course satisfies the University’s information technology requirement, which has the following five goals:

  1. Students will be able to use technology to locate, access, evaluate, and use information, and appropriately cite resources from digital/electronic media.
  2. Students will understand the core IT concepts in a range of current and emerging technologies and learn to apply appropriate technologies to a range of tasks.
  3. Students will understand many of the key ethical, legal and social issues related to information technology and how to interpret and comply with ethical principles, laws, regulations, and institutional policies.
  4. Students will demonstrate the ability to communicate, create, and collaborate effectively using state-of-the-art information technologies in multiple modalities.
  5. Students will understand the essential issues related to information security, how to take precautions and use techniques and tools to defend against computer crimes.

Unlike some other courses designed to satisfy the IT requirement, this course teaches the fundamentals of information technology within the context of a history course rather than as a set of abstract principles or discrete skills tied to particular software packages.

Course Requirements

All assigned readings will come from a variety of online sources. As such, there is no book to buy. However, if you want a hard copy of the primary readings, I have designated Cohen & Rosenzweig’s Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web, as recommended reading with the bookstore.


Your grade for the semester will be based upon the following 100-point scale:

  • Blog (25)
  • Class participation & exercises (10)
  • Midterm exam (25)
  • Final project (40)

Grading Scale

A = 94-100
A- = 90-93
B+ = 87-89
B = 84-86
B- = 80-83
C+ = 77-79
C = 74-76
C- = 70-73
D+ = 67-69
D = 64-66
D- = 60-63
F = Below 60

Please note:

  • Late work will not be accepted & no incompletes will be issued.
  • All work must be appropriately documented using the Chicago Manual of Style format.
    *Chicago Quick Guide is available online. Copies are available in the library.

Reading, Watching, Exploring, Talking, Doing, Blogging

Successful progress in the course requires that each student reads, views, and explores all of the material assigned for each week. Many weeks include exercises that are designed to help foster discussion and help ensure that each student masters the skills we’re covering. Because these skills will help you with your final projects, these exercises must be completed, and often will make up the fodder for your weekly blog assignment.

Each student will be responsible for maintaining a blog where you will chronicle your exercises, your progress in the course, the development of your major projects, or your reflections on the course readings. These blog posts should be at least 300 words, and are due on Wednesday for the week in question.

In addition to keeping up with the readings on a weekly basis, each student is expected to be an active participant in class discussions. Failure to participate in our discussions will not only have a negative impact on your final grade, but will also make the class less enjoyable for you and for everyone else in class.

Midterm & Final

There will be a midterm exam and a final project, each of which allow you to demonstrate your mastery of the historical content and your mastery of the digital skills that are central to the course. We will cover the expectations for both of these assignments extensively in class.

Important Dates

  • September 2 – Labor Day Recess
  • September 3 – Last day to add classes; last day to drop with no tuition penalty
  • September 18 – Last day to drop with a 33% tuition penalty
  • September 27 – Final Drop Deadline
  • October 14 – Columbus Day Recess
  • November 28 -Thanksgiving Recess – No Class!
  • December 12 – Final Due