Teaching as Scholarship: THATCamp Piedmont

Posted by Roger Whitson on May 6th, 2012

Hacking en-route...yes, we rule that much.

I just got back from a wonderful weekend THATCamp-ing at Davidson College. I enjoyed meeting new people, talking geek with Shante Smalls (though I live in hope that she’s absolutely wrong about The Avengers). I found myself reflecting more than not about the differences between THATCamps, especially since I’ve been to six this year. How does that happen?

At any rate, CHNM is the hacker’s camp, the camp where really cool stuff is going on and you sometimes don’t really feel like you fit in. Southeast (I went there twice, for those of you who are counting) is the librarian camp, where you learn about really interesting new advances in data curating and collections. Pedagogy is, well, it obviously speaks for itself. MCN had the benefit of connecting me to Culture Hack Day. And Piedmont? Piedmont introduced me to a lively, curious, but also skeptical group of researchers and instructors attempting to incorporate the digital humanities into a liberal arts institution. And their perspective introduced me to issues surrounding THATCamp and DH that I hadn’t previously considered.

I found many of the sessions to be absolutely fascinating. George Williams wanted to create a DH jump drive that students who did not have constant access to the internet could use to engage with online applications like Omeka, GoogleDocs, and TextWrangler. The Davidson faculty reminded me that some students were so anxious about grades that they wouldn’t automatically approach digital assignments with a playful attitude. Erin Templeton and Mark Sample headed a session based upon his Deformed Humanities blog post, where we tried to figure out how breaking stuff fit into a humanities curriculum. (As an aside, I referenced Derrida in that session, and really didn’t know what to that meant about “deforming THATCamp.”) And we also brainstormed with Leeann Hunter’s ideas about unteaching and what it might mean to apply the principles of the unconference to the classroom.  Here are a list of some great tweets from #thatcamp #pmt.

Ditto! RT @: Thanks to #pmt #thatcamp organizers & fellow attendees for a great day of session & conversations!
@ldhunter
Leeann Hunter

THATCamp has to be oppositional in order to be transformative? #thatcamp #pmt
@kreshleman
Kristen Eshleman

.@ I like to get away from words as much as possible. #thatcamp #pmt
@rogerwhitson
Roger Whitson

Looking at http://t.co/EggLBLQY as an online collaborative bulletin board. #THATCamp #PMT
@timchartier
Tim Chartier

using different handwriting to disguise the origin of ideas? #thatcamp #pmt will find you and make you talk about it anyway.
@DonnaLanclos
Donna Lanclos

.@ brought comics to #thatcamp #pmt, & I remembered that I got in trouble reading comics in school. Look how far we've come.
@rogerwhitson
Roger Whitson

Proven conclusively at #thatcamp #pmt happy hour: @ is Naomi Schafer Riley.
@samplereality
Mark Sample

Davidson Ducks! er, I mean geese...

But I truly found the session on “Teaching as Scholarship” to be the most helpful in giving me perspective about how the digital humanities, and its newfound interest in incorporating teaching as a valuable mode of scholarship, would work in an institutional setting. In many ways, Davidson is very different from Emory (where I currently work) or Washington State University (where I will start in the Fall). I proposed the session, but found the responses from the Davidson faculty to really change my original purpose in productive and fascinating ways.

Cort Savage, Professor and Chair of the Art Department at Davidson, provided fascinating suggestions for getting students involved in professional conferences. Leeann had discussed her own plans for incorporating portions of her dissertation into her fall course, and allowing students to engage in a professional manner with scholars and other thinkers that shaped the course. Other participants questioned how the teaching of basic language courses could figure into collaborative publication with students, discussed the difference between teaching in a single classroom and research which needed to appeal to a broader audience, and how to think about the way that individual institutions would look at undergraduate students publishing in professional venues.

Overall, the session did not have the polemical tone I assumed it would when I first composed the proposal. I did, however, find Court’s experience especially refreshing as I continue to think about the ways that teaching could be conceptualized as a form of scholarship. In particular, he said that tenure and review committees have to see a future for you at their institution. No matter how much we talk about specific requirements, hiring and tenure are remarkably complex processes and any shift in the culture of academia has to take that into consideration.

 

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