Lecture spotlights how to use digital tools in education

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Digital tools such as Google Ngram may help students examine an entire library of books faster than it takes to read one. Digital humanities, which was discussed in a lecture Monday in the Engineering Research Building, encompasses a large scope of topics including analytics, archiving and research. Faculty from…

Lecture spotlights how to use digital tools in education

Digital tools such as Google Ngram may help students examine an entire library of books faster than it takes to read one.

Digital humanities, which was discussed in a lecture Monday in the Engineering Research Building, encompasses a large scope of topics including analytics, archiving and research. Faculty from various disciplines attended the lecture by Suzanne Churchill and Kristen Eshleman to discuss how to use digital tools in education.

Digital humanities librarian Rafia Mirza, who attended the lecture, advocates digital humanities as a valuable tool in higher education. She said digital humanities can help students research. If a student is working with a massive amount of text, a digital humanities methodology is to approach it from a distant perspective, Mirza said. Distance reading is the practice of analyzing a variety of trends in texts to see patterns.

“You look at trends in, for example, the Victorian period, trends across all publication, using analytical tools like Google Ngram, to visualize trends,” she said.

Google Ngram is an analytical tool literary scholars use to analyze trends in texts and documents. In a matter of seconds, users can see an increase in popularity in works based on topics, phrases and authors over time.

Students can use the patterns they find in literary or historical works and analyze the greater impact, Mirza said. By distributing data and studies, scholars can put together more comprehensive research.

Churchill, English professor at Davidson College in North Carolina, espoused the values of using digital tools in the classroom, she said. In her courses, students write and publish their papers on WordPress.

“Students make visible, dynamic contributions that they can see,” Churchill said in the presentation.

By sharing their writing, they’re communicating to each other what they’ve learned, she said.

Eshleman, director of digital learning research and design at Davidson College, elaborated about the wide scope that is digital humanities. She said it brings computing powers to answer traditional questions. Scholars are exploring the relationship between culture and technology.

The best description of digital humanities is by Edward Ayers, president emeritus of the University of Richmond and a tenured professor of humanities, Eshleman said.

Eshleman quoted Ayers by describing digital humanities as a product of digital tools presented in a digital medium, she said.

A basic component of digital humanities is using technology to analyze and digitize data and text, Mirza said, to supplement the learning process and disseminate information.

Justin Dellinger, the research coordinator of the Learning Innovation and Networked Knowledge Research Lab at UTA, organized the event to explore digital humanities as a new educational tool, he said.

It’s an innovative way to learn, Dellinger said. Instead of teacher-led, standardized, multiple-choice tests, students are coming up with their own projects and research.

It’s supposed to complement traditional scholarship, Dellinger said, not replace it.

At the end of the lecture, professors paired off to discuss the most effective methodology in using digital humanities as a learning tool for their students.

Students can visit the Central Library and request a session with an instructor to learn digital tools for research, visual mapping, text analysis and learn how to use metadata and fusion tables, Mirza said.

In the same way an English student can use his or her skills to write arguments and essays, using digital tools can be a valuable asset, she said.

“It’ll be useful in any job,” Mirza said.

@RunReneHua


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