Empowering City College Faculty and Students Through Digital Humanities Tools and Methods (TLH CTL Project Recap)

Authors: Stefano Morello and Olivia Ildefonso, Digital Fellows at the City University of New York

Over the past three years, the City College of New York (CCNY) has made significant strides in integrating Digital Humanities (DH) pedagogy across the college, thanks to two National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grants awarded in 2020 and 2021. These grants have enabled the Division of Humanities and the Arts and the Teaching and Learning Center to promote DH-informed teaching methods, with the ultimate goal of developing a DH minor.

One significant challenge in encouraging more faculty to adopt DH methods in their classrooms has been the extra effort required without additional pay. To further support faculty in learning new digital skills and adopting DH approaches, we (Digital Humanities Fellows Olivia Ildefonso and Stefano Morello) were awarded a Transformative Learning in the Humanities grant in Spring 2023.

This grant allowed us to provide financial support to faculty interested in incorporating digital assignments into their courses to teach digital literacy and DH skills through experiential pedagogy. We received close to 20 applications and selected 7 faculty members (5 full-time and 2 adjunct) who received $1,200 stipends (of which about 70% came from the TLH grant and 30% from the Division).

To participate in the program, faculty were required to attend a two-day remote DH bootcamp, and in-person lunch and at least two remote consultation sessions with the Digital Fellows. They will also be expected to teach a course with a DH-based assignment in Fall 2023.

The DH bootcamp took place over two days, featuring a series of workshops and discussions designed to familiarize faculty with various DH tools and pedagogical approaches.

On May 5th and 12th, 2023, two day-long workshops were held, covering a range of topics related to DH integration in the classroom. The first day introduced the curriculum and an overview of the debates around and in the field, explored ArcGIS Online for mapping, and concluded with discussions on tool implementation and potential challenges. Participants created a map layer of their favorite public places in New York as homework. The second day delved into digital archive assignment platforms, ESRI StoryMaps for interactive narratives, and project management for DH assignments. Attendees also enjoyed free social time for networking and to exchange ideas. The final assignment involved designing a DH class project and reverse-engineering it into smaller assignments.

On May 16th, an in-person lunch was held to reflect on the workshops, discuss the take-home assignments, and talk about next steps. Throughout May and June, each participating faculty member will schedule two consultations with the fellows to plan their assignments and courses. 

Learning from our experience as Digital Fellows at the Graduate Center and as curriculum developers and teachers for the Digital Humanities Research Institute, during the workshops, we emphasized the importance of developing DH communities of practice, to keep the momentum going and provide each other support past the duration of the bootcamp. 

The Digital Humanities bootcamp, supported by the Transformative Learning in the Humanities grant, will empower CUNY faculty to integrate DH tools and methods into their courses, enhancing the learning experience for students and solidifying CUNY’s commitment to staying at the forefront of digital pedagogy.

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