Digital Humanities Pedagogy as Digital Liberal Arts: A Framework for Curriculum Development

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Brandon Locke

    Michigan State University

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The Lab for the Education and Advancement in Digital Research (LEADR) is a new initiative of the Michigan State University Department of History, Department of Anthropology, and Matrix. LEADR’s role is to integrate digital humanities and digital social science methods into courses in affiliated departments. In its first two years of operation, LEADR has partnered with 40 instructors to add digital components to 63 courses, interacting with around 1600 students. These partnerships varied from a single hour-long workshop to semester-long experiential courses in digital research.
While some courses are specifically designed as Digital History or Digital Anthropology, most of these courses are standard Anthropology and History courses composed of majors from all across campus. For courses such as these, LEADR has begun to frame these digital projects and activities as an extension of the core values of the liberal arts: the skills essential for individuals to participate in civic life, including the ability to seek information, to engage, analyze, and criticize this information, and to communicate their views in an effective manner. It is these fundamental liberal arts skills, in the context of 21st century information and communication that LEADR develops through on to disciplinary, content-based coursework.
This poster will illustrate LEADR's framework for developing Digital Humanities and Social Science curricula that contribute to understandings of emerging disciplinary methods while developing essential skills for students in broad-ranging domains. The four competency goals are:

Information Literacy is defined by the American Library Association as “the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning (2016).” This goal utilizes ALA’s framework to fulfill the information literacy frame, while focusing specifically on finding, evaluating and using primary sources and datasets relevant to the course.

Digital Literacy is the ability to think critically about the effect of media and web technology on communication and writing, and the ability to create scholarly content in a variety of different forms. There is a focus specifically on web publication, and methods for scholarly multimodal writing, as well as an understanding of power and influence on the web.

Data Literacy is the ability to critically use, curate, process, and produce data and data-driven analysis. This goal draws upon Data Information Literacy, a framework developed primarily for graduate students in the sciences, to teach some of the most crucial data skills, and makes them applicable for undergraduate students across disciplines (Carlson, et al. 2011).

Computational Analysis lessons are grounded in disciplinary methodology, and illustrate the ways in which scholars are using computationally-aided methods to conduct research. In addition to using computational analysis to explore and analyze sources, it also holds value in its ability to challenge students to think differently about a resource - to break down the way we convey information and think about ways to work through those abstractions.

The poster will include a description of each of the competency goals, their theoretical grounding, some examples of what specific skills or outcomes may be included in each, and an example of its application in a content-specific exercise.
In LEADR, there have been three clear benefits from early experiences with the framework. The framing is useful when speaking with faculty members who may be skeptical or unfamiliar with the Digital Humanities. Many who are skeptical of digital methods have often become familiar with Digital Humanities as a new set of methodologies and practices aimed at disrupting and displacing older methods, or as a flashy way to get students interested. Instead, by introducing course modules as a method for teaching longstanding objectives in new contexts, digital work is seen as less gimmicky, and more essential to the development of undergraduate students. The framework has also been a valuable tool for organizing teaching and instruction partnerships for the courses. The collaborative nature of digital projects and the variety of skills required calls for the involvement of scholars, researchers, and technology specialists in teaching and course management. The framework allows for more clear and open communication between partners, and clarifies the necessary skills and objectives needed. Finally, the framework has ensured that exercises are designed with student development in mind, rather than working back from a desired final project.


Association of College & Research Libraries [ACRL]. (2016).
Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. (accessed 3 March 2016).

Carlson, J. R., Fosmire, M., Miller, Ch., Sapp, N., Megan, R. (2011).
Determining Data Information Literacy Needs: A Study of Students and Research Faculty. Libraries Faculty and Staff Scholarship and Research. Paper 23. (Accessed 3 March 2016).

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Conference Info


ADHO - 2016
"Digital Identities: the Past and the Future"

Hosted at Jagiellonian University, Pedagogical University of Krakow

Kraków, Poland

July 11, 2016 - July 16, 2016

454 works by 1072 authors indexed

Conference website:

Series: ADHO (11)

Organizers: ADHO