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Friday, June 9 • 3:15pm - 3:35pm
Critical Making Pedagogy: Design and Reflections on Tools for the Digital Humanities

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This presentation describes the design and outcomes of two sections of “Tools for the Digital Humanities,” a Research Intensive (RI) undergraduate Digital Humanities course designed by the authors that uses a critical making perspective and covers a variety of tools that can be used for powerful, interdisciplinary research. This course is a required course for the Digital Humanities minor at a large, public university in the southeastern United States. Because the digital humanities track is a minor, the course was designed so that students could engage in research topics that tied into their individual majors and/or research interests as well as the already interdisciplinary field of digital humanities.

This admittedly ambitious course embraced the challenge of teaching undergraduates the methods of critical making while also meeting my university’s rigorous requirements for a research-intensive course (a High Impact Practice designation), which involved an application process that included teaching faculty in other disciplines about the methods of critical making. This course consists of five basic units: an introductory unit on digital portfolios, digital narratives, place and space, digital analysis, and a research project.

Students are introduced to digital tools through low-stakes exercises and lab assignments to learn functionality of the tools as well as the theoretical underpinnings that could be applied to the tool to make a critical statement about technology, society, humanity, and so forth. The course concludes with a large research project that is scaffolded into for assignments. After students experiment with these tools in discussion activities and lab assignments, they complete a critical making digital project using a topic and a tool of their choice.

This presentation details the theoretical underpinnings of the course, beginning with Ratto (2011), who explains critical making as, “a mode of materially productive engagement that is intended to bridge the gap between creative physical and conceptual exploration,” with the goal of making products “as part of an explicit practice of concept elaboration within the social study of technology” (252). The presentation then outlines the ways that critical making pedagogy maps onto constructivist learning theory, which emphasizes student-centered, hands-on opportunities for learning. It then describes two versions of the course: one hybrid—simultaneously over Zoom and in person—in the Spring semester of 2022 and one fully online in Fall 2022, providing an explanation of the second version, a choose-your-own-adventure style in which, for each project, students selected one tool from three or four options. It will share student perceptions of the course, specific feedback they provided in their final reflection papers, and lessons learned that may benefit others working to design or teach similar courses, along with additional open-source material currently in progress. While feedback from students in the Fall semester is forthcoming, many students in the Spring semester commented that the class was unique, they enjoyed pairing creative projects with research, and they found the digital tools to be empowering. We will conclude with lessons learned and ways that critical making concepts and digital making tools can be incorporated into other courses.

Ratto, M. (2011). Critical Making: Conceptual and Material Studies in Technology and Social Life. The Information Society, 27(4), 252–260. https://doi.org/10.1080/01972243.2011.583819

avatar for Emily Kuzneski Johnson

Emily Kuzneski Johnson

Assistant Professor, University of Central Florida

Friday June 9, 2023 3:15pm - 3:35pm EDT
Main 210