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  • Workshop 3 Education workgroup presentation

This wiki space contains archival documentation of Project Bamboo, April 2008 - March 2013.

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Generally, our Education workgroup has agreed that we understand "education" in a digital humanities context to mean the teaching and learning of three interrelated skills:
1.    The specifics of how to use hardware and software
2.    Methodologies for applying this hardware and software to humanities research
3.    As well as the critique of such hardware and software, the ways in which it affects how and what we read and write, using longstanding critical methodologies of the arts and humanities
As a preliminary step to accomplishing some of these lofty goals, we have discussed the need--perhaps one of the most important needs--for advocacy. Advocacy not necessarily as a way to bring the luddites on board but as a way to help us make convincing arguments to university administrators about the need to not just provide us with the basics (such as software licenses, IT support, and smart classrooms) but also to support us in rethinking curriculum, rethinking the very design and function of our current classrooms, and rethinking some of the foundational aspects of our current model of teaching and learning.  
To try to concretize these ideas, right now we're focusing on pedagogy (for example, Jon Mackenzie will share with us his reverse-engineered syllabus) and also the issues of promotion and tenure---for none of these changes will happen on our campuses if the institution doesn't a) recognize the labor that will go into retooling our teaching and research; b) support the rethinking of educational assignments, the assessment of digital media work by students, and also means by which to deal with questions of plagiarism (plagiarism in both the positive sense of the mash-up etc. and the negative sense in terms of unthoughtful re-use of material) and even hacking; and c) recognize, as part of the promotion and tenure process, critical and creative digitally-based work that is not recognizably traditionally text-based.
With regard to the last point, we decided it would be helpful to survey working group participants about the state of digital humanities on their campus. To that end, Jon Mackenzie posted a story on the wiki about his attempts to jump-start DH at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I, in turn, focused on surveying my colleagues on the status in particular of promotion and tenure in relation to those of us who are BOTH teaching and undertaking digital work, whether critical or creative.  Since the MLA annual convention hosted a workshop just a few weeks ago on this very topic, what I would like to do now is just briefly present to you with summaries and feedback from some of the participants at that panel. And just to be clear: while none of my colleagues addressed the issue of pedagogy and the development of digital media-centered curricula and syllabi assessment, this too needs to be part of changes to the current structure of the promotion and tenure process.   
First, from Laura Mandell, Associate Director of the NINES project and chair of the MLA panel on Evaluating Digital Work for Promotion and Tenure:
•    She notes that the documents for P & T put together by the MLA for digital work are too general to serve as policy manuals at any given institution: they sometimes state the obvious, e.g., that a peer-reviewed journal online should count as much as a peer-reviewed article appearing in print, valued according to the online venue's stated number of submissions and percentage of rejections.  
•    But still, she makes clear that unfortunately the obvious still needs to be said.
•    She also notes that one of the highlights of the MLA workshop was when she realized that department chairs need to offer external and internal reviewers detailed instructions on how to evaluate what they see.
•    At Research 1 universities, it isn't uncommon for tenure cases to be turned down at the higher levels even when these same tenure cases have been wholeheartedly supported by specific departments; and so candidates, external reviewers, and chairs face the added burden of having to educate deans and provosts through documentation and explanation.
•    At the moment, for better or for worse, the onus is mostly on the candidates to explain what institutional bodies have ratified your work, and exactly what form has that ratification taken
Perhaps one form of that ratification could be an online written evaluation composed by scholars constituting particular editorial boards, perhaps housed at Bamboo.
Regardless, overall, most of the participants that I corresponded with agreed that one of the main problems to evaluating digital work is that the artificiality of the dossier form required by most institutions lacks flexibility for explaining the relevance of a digital project. My colleagues also noted that there is currently an uncomfortable channeling of so-called Digital Humanities work into established tracks whose establishment may itself be a subject of reconsideration (for example, the continued relevance of the term "humanities" is up for debate for many people currently in so-called humanities departments). The general consensus is also that organizations such as the MLA or such as Bamboo might want to find ways to bring the review process into the open and use the affordances of networking technologies to create a profession-wide, peer to peer, network for active and public evaluation.

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