Learn-STATIC: Building Fundamental Digital Skills in the Humanities Classroom

paper, specified "short paper"
  1. 1. Olivia M. Wikle

    University of Idaho

  2. 2. Evan Peter Williamson

    University of Idaho

  3. 3. Devin Becker

    University of Idaho

  4. 4. Kate Thornhill

    University of Oregon, United States of America

  5. 5. Gabriele Hayden

    University of Oregon, United States of America

Work text
This plain text was ingested for the purpose of full-text search, not to preserve original formatting or readability. For the most complete copy, refer to the original conference program.

Static web technologies offer an exciting opportunity for DH instructors to incorporate transferable digital and data literacy skills into their classrooms, while producing low-cost, low-maintenance interactive web projects that are sustainable even for institutions with limited resources (Wikle et al., 2020). As an alternative to dynamic web applications, static websites are composed of flat HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files that are produced using a static site generator such as
Jekyll, and hosted on a simple—often free—server such as
GitHub Pages. The code and data that Jekyll uses to generate a site's files is typically contained in a repository that can be stored and collaboratively edited on
GitLab, or other code hosting sites.

By virtue of their being static, the site's files will remain secure and functional over the long term with little maintenance, making statically-generated sites an ideal solution for classroom projects which usually undergo a period of intense semester-long development followed by long periods of minimal maintenance. Along with these economic and time-saving benefits, teaching with static web tools allows instructors the flexibility to introduce increasingly complex concepts of data management, web development, and computing to students. Depending on how a project is framed and taught, students may encounter anything from basic tutorials on spreadsheet formulas, to Git, GitHub,
Liquid, and Jekyll. The incorporation of these technical concepts addresses a gap in DH instruction, which all too often succeeds at teaching the "buttonology" of a specific DH platform without also investing in teaching transferable digital literacy skills that empower students to think more critically about the digital projects they use (Russell and Hensley, 2017). By contrast, when students engage with static web technologies and data structures alongside the more traditional DH methods of determining and curating humanities data (Posner, 2015), they gain the invaluable experience of exploring how their data is consumed, transformed, and output in the form of substantial, interactive web projects, and learn to bring the same spirit of critical inquiry that they focus on humanities content to their understanding of the tools and processes they use to manipulate and share digital content.

Static web technology is not new to DH: static web templates such as
Ed (for publishing digital editions),
Wax (for creating digital exhibits),
CollectionBuilder (for building digital collections), and
Oral History as Data (for curating and visualizing oral histories) embody a
minimal computing ethos by reducing unnecessary reliance on databases or excessive processing power to more directly meet the unique needs of a project (Gil, 2015). However, few models or example lesson plans exist that demonstrate how to incorporate static web tools and development practices into the DH classroom.

The Learn-STATIC initiative, funded by a 2021 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Digital Humanities Advancement Grant and piloted by librarians at the University of Idaho and University of Oregon, aims to address this lack of resources by creating a series of open-source learning sequences for using static web tools in the DH classroom, each complete with reusable code stored in a GitHub repository, an example lesson plan, and documentation tailored specifically for instructors' and students' use in the classroom. Each learning sequence focuses on one of the following topics: digital oral histories, text analysis, digital collections, and digital project recovery, and provides a practical way forward for instructors new to using or teaching static web tools, as the step-by-step documentation for each project walks students through a variety of activities including curating spreadsheets of data, uploading data to the project's GitHub repository, and configuring and hosting the project site on GitHub Pages.
This presentation will introduce the Learn-STATIC learning sequences, report on their effectiveness in the classroom, and demonstrate how they accomplish the advantages of static web laid out above. Ultimately, we hope that Learn-STATIC will reach beyond the initial learning sequences presented here, to serve as a collaborative initiative that invites DH practitioners to share their own creative adaptations of static web tools for DH pedagogy.


Gil, A. (2015). The User, the Learner and the Machines We Make.
Minimal Computing. https://go-dh.github.io/mincomp/thoughts/2015/05/21/user-vs-learner/.

Posner, M. (2015). Humanities Data: A Necessary Contradiction.
Miriam Posner's Blog. https://miriamposner.com/blog/humanities-data-a-necessary-contradiction/.

Russell, J. E. and Hensley, M. K. (2017). Beyond Buttonology: Digital Humanities, Digital Pedagogy, and the ACRL Framework.
College & Research Libraries News. https://crln.acrl.org/index.php/crlnews/article/view/16833.

Wikle, O., Williamson, E. and Becker, B. (2020). What is Static Web and What's it Doing in the Digital Humanities Classroom?
dh+lib. https://acrl.ala.org/dh/2020/06/22/what-is-static-web-and-whats-it-doing-in-the-digital-humanities-classroom/.

If this content appears in violation of your intellectual property rights, or you see errors or omissions, please reach out to Scott B. Weingart to discuss removing or amending the materials.

Conference Info

In review

ADHO - 2022
"Responding to Asian Diversity"

Tokyo, Japan

July 25, 2022 - July 29, 2022

361 works by 945 authors indexed

Held in Tokyo and remote (hybrid) on account of COVID-19

Conference website: https://dh2022.adho.org/

Contributors: Scott B. Weingart, James Cummings

Series: ADHO (16)

Organizers: ADHO