Librarians associated with the University of Iowa’s DIY History digitized manuscript archive and Rhetoric faculty members and co-directors of Iowa Digital Engagement and Learning (IDEAL) will detail the design, implementation, and assessment of a collaborative effort to connect a large crowdsourced digital archive with an undergraduate primary research project for a general education rhetoric course.
The panel will discuss the ways in which librarians and rhetoric faculty worked together to create a transcription crowdsourcing pilot project to meet learning objectives and how they devised and implemented an assessment framework for the project. The panel will share outcomes of the assessment together with recommendations for reinvigorating outdated, unimodal, or otherwise staid assignments through crowdsourcing and multimodal composition.
Jen Wolfe and Kelly McElroy - librarians associated with the University of Iowa’s DIY History digitized manuscript archive - and Matt Gilchrist and Tom Keegan - Rhetoric faculty members and co-directors of Iowa Digital Engagement and Learning (IDEAL) - will detail the design, implementation, and assessment of a collaborative effort to connect a large crowdsourced digital archive with an undergraduate primary research project for a general education rhetoric course.
Wolfe and McElroy will examine the outcomes of the DIY History initiative, specifically related to attempts to move that crowdsourced resource into the General Education curriculum at Iowa. Gilchrist and Keegan will detail the development and implementation of a rhetorical analysis assignment that asks students to make use of digitized primary source material to create publicly available multimodal compositions. The panel will discuss the ways in which librarians and rhetoric faculty worked together to create a transcription crowdsourcing pilot project to meet learning objectives, and to devise and implement an assessment framework for the project. The panel will share outcomes of the assessment together with recommendations for reinvigorating outdated, unimodal, or otherwise staid assignments through crowdsourcing and multimodal composition.
Since its launch in 2011, the UI Libraries’ transcription crowdsourcing initiative has been an unqualified success. Volunteers at the DIY History website have transcribed more than 35,000 pages of digitized manuscripts ranging from Civil War diaries to suffragette meeting minutes to handwritten cookbooks. The many benefits of the project include improved access to digital collections through full-text searching of the transcripts, as well as new gifts of family papers from donors drawn to the initiative. Perhaps most satisfying of all has been the deep and sustained engagement with the Libraries’ collections from dedicated transcribers around the world. Many users of the site have echoed this volunteer’s sense of connection with the original writers of the documents: “These people come alive; you come to share their hopes, their fears, their everyday concerns. You do become absorbed in the people, and losing one of them is like losing a relative or a friend” (Miller). While the site has attracted national and international audiences, until recently library staff has struggled with finding a user base on campus. That has begun to change thanks to a partnership with IDEAL and the Rhetoric Department.
Supported by the Office of the Provost and The Studio for Public Digital Arts and Humanities, IDEAL facilitates the design and implementation of digital, publicly-engaged pedagogies across the University. IDEAL is co-directed by two faculty members in the Rhetoric Department. In 2012, the Rhetoric Department began revisiting its emphasis on research in a general education course titled Rhetoric and required of all undergraduates. Faculty agreed that while students had a good understanding of rhetorical analysis, their perception and use of research in service to that analysis could be strengthened. In collaboration with the Libraries, IDEAL developed a four-week assignment that incorporates DIY History as a teaching tool in rhetoric classes. Students transcribe a handwritten document from the DIY History manuscript archive; compose a blog post that attends to both the rhetorical analysis of the document and its historical context; create a brief screencast outlining some intriguing element of the document; and deliver an in-class presentation detailing their work. As a result, students become familiar with primary source research through a public digital humanities resource while they create multimodal documentation of their scholarship.
Initial outcomes of this project illustrate the general motivating factors for participants of crowdsourcing projects, including: producing meaningful work; encountering new information; learning new skills; fun; and working collaboratively to achieve a big goal (Holley, Organisciak, Owens). Not incidentally, these same characteristics show up in discussions of digital humanities research for undergraduates -- particularly in the production of real contributions to scholarship, which is sharply contrasted with the traditional undergraduate assignment, the five-paragraph essay with an audience of one (Blackwell & Martin, Cohen, Kolowich).
According to Rebecca Frost Davis, crowdsourcing could be a “silver bullet” for integrating digital humanities practices into the undergraduate classroom. By providing opportunities for collaborative learning and authentic tasks that contribute to student engagement, crowdsourcing can help develop transferable skills and a habit of engagement with the humanities. For institutions without a DH center, crowdsourcing can provide opportunities to engage in innovative classroom technologies without taxing institutional resources, and act as an enticement for faculty interested in using digital research methods (Davis). This is one means by which composition instructors can answer Cynthia Selfe’s call to “expand their own understanding of composing beyond conventional bounds of the alphabetic...or risk having composition studies become increasingly irrelevant” (Selfe, p. 54).
The panel will discuss findings derived from assessment of the first 6 months of the assignment model. Initial findings are that students generally had a positive response to the project and were vocal in both their support for primary research and multimodal composition. Two examples of early assessment feedback follow:
“Unlike other projects and speeches over random stuff I don’t care about, this one seemed like I made it my own. Nobody else had read the letter my project was based on, and I was in control of telling its story. I think that’s why this project resonated with me more than past projects.” (Economics major)
“Looking back at the whole process, I honestly learned a lot. Don’t get me wrong, it was a challenge. This challenge was what made me enjoy the project. I’m pretty proud of the fact that I could put together a blog, screencast, powerpoint, and presentation for one single letter. I took on each form of this project thinking it would be a struggle, but I feel like I successfully completed each of them. I’m not sure if I should say this, but homework actually can be fun. Not in a “I could do this all day” kind of way, but more of a “I took this project on and showed it who’s boss” kind of way and that feels pretty good.” (Business student)
In addition to written feedback from the students, the panel will present data from a rigorous assessment of the assignment planned for the spring of 2014 regarding students’ perceptions of the assignment's utility and their understanding of library resources.
While the collaboration between the Libraries and Rhetoric is currently in its pilot semester, we have already seen that students benefit from conducting inquiries related to primary source materials. Students report feeling a connection to people living in previous centuries. They experience themselves as researchers discovering similarities and differences between present-day rhetorical modes and the modes of Pioneers arriving in the midwest. This intertwining of library resources and general education may suggest possibilities for using multimodal composition and crowdsourced DH resources to demonstrate the value of student research in primary source documents across the curriculum. Our panel will discuss challenges and triumphs uncovered through our experience designing, implementing, and assessing this innovative assignment model.
Jen Wolfe, a Digital Scholarship Librarian at the University of Iowa Libraries, will provide background on the development of the DIY History crowdsourcing initiative, with a focus on its significance as a tool for public engagement.
Kelly McElroy is the Undergraduate Services Librarian at the University of Iowa Libraries. She will discuss the role of bibliographic instruction in this project, focusing on the benefits of tying research skills to an inquiry-based assignment. Her presentation will outline challenges in archival education for non-history majors, and the opportunities afforded by digital collections and crowdsourcing projects.
Matt Gilchrist is co-director of Iowa Digital Engagement and Learning (IDEAL) and a lecturer in the Rhetoric Department. In the spring of 2014, he will be interim director of the University of Iowa Writing Center. Matt will discuss the principles of assignment design that inform the approach supported by IDEAL, and more specifically how IDEAL helped shape the assignment model in collaboration with the Libraries. His presentation will include the outcomes of an assessment of IDEAL’s support for assignment design.
Tom Keegan is a lecturer in the Rhetoric Department, as well as the co-director of Iowa Digital Engagement and Learning (IDEAL) and the Assistant Director of Curriculum Design for Business Communication and Protocol in the Tippie College of Business. Tom will discuss the implementation of the assignment model in his class and student responses to the project. His presentation will summarize the findings of an assessment project examining the assignment’s significance in his and other classrooms.
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Hosted at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Université de Lausanne
July 7, 2014 - July 12, 2014
377 works by 898 authors indexed
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Conference website: https://web.archive.org/web/20161227182033/https://dh2014.org/program/
Attendance: 750 delegates according to Nyhan 2016
Series: ADHO (9)