We are fortunate that two interrelated opportunities exist to help us achieve our three project goals:
- Our disciplinary THAT Camp (The Humanities and Technology Camp), a gathering of religious studies scholars who participate in an “unconference” dedicated to the consideration of technology in religious studies;
- Pedagogy and technology- related sessions and panels held at the joint Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion / Society of Biblical Literature (AAR/SBL).
Importantly, the events occur subsequently, with our disciplinary religious studies THAT Camp held the day before the AAR/SBL Annual Meeting begins. The proposed grant would fund our attendance at the THAT Camp and the AAR/SBL Annual Meeting in November 2015, held consecutively in Atlanta, Georgia.
Depending on the specific means by which we satisfy our three goals (i.e., learning about technologies, sharing our experiences, and engaging in a conversation), we will leave the THAT Camp and the AAR/SBL meeting equipped with new technological tools and techniques for classroom engagement, and refinements of the existing approaches that we use. (We include a small budget for acquiring relevant technology tools; any significant investments in such technology tools fall outside the bounds of this proposal.) We will learn from each other and from our colleagues, and envision a longer collaboration as we report back to each other on the dissemination of our work on our campuses and through the ACM Religion disciplinary listserv, which a member of our group has requested to be established.
It is difficult to predict what tools, techniques, and technologies will be addressed at meetings a year into the future (indeed, some technologies to be discussed may not yet exist!), but in the interest of describing the type of approaches on which this project focuses, we provide brief examples of the sorts of projects that we hope to improve upon and further develop through the proposed activities:
- Ben Zeller currently uses a blogging assignment in his course. The assignment calls for students to respond to assigned reading materials before the class meeting, and comment on classmates’ responses. Ideally, this prepares the students to better engage in discussion during the actual face-to-face meeting, making this technique both a “flipped classroom” and “blended” course. While the blogging technique works well, refinements could be made.
- Pamela Reaves regularly introduces students to online digital manuscripts collections. She is interested in developing ways to use such collections with her students in more advanced, sophisticated ways. Engaging with scholars who also incorporate such collections in their classroom should be quite productive in this regard.
- Brian Smith works with more structured online discussions among students in small groups, where students answer questions and give opinions regarding assigned readings and ask each other questions. After making their initial post, each student must respond at least twice to the questions posed by their peers. At the conclusion of these online exchanges, the instructor uses the information collected as a means of drawing students into a “live” discussion in the classroom.
Through presenting on these approaches, soliciting feedback, and conversing with other teacher-scholars, we hope to improve these and similar technology engagement techniques.
In addition, we will also share what we have learned with our broader campus community, particularly faculty involved in the humanities who would most directly benefit from our experiences. One intended result of our project is therefore the dissemination of knowledge and best practices in digital humanities and classroom technology across our home institutions and between disciplines. Because humanities classrooms tend generally to incorporate technology to a lesser extent than other fields, we believe this project will serve as an especially effective means for developing and refining humanities-specific engagement with technology that enhances liberal arts pedagogy.
We propose that we share our experiences with our departments, divisions, and disciplinary faculties (as the case may be) through a formal presentation at each of the research team’s respective institutions. The specific form would vary, but generally would follow the contours of a one-hour presentation and Q+A session to be sponsored by the appropriate department and teaching support program of our institutions:
- Ben Zeller, Lake Forest College: Learning & Teaching Center (LTC) luncheon series on teaching issues.
- Pamela Reaves, Colorado College: Crown Faculty Center, Faculty Lunch Series
- Brian Smith, Ripon College: Brown Bag Faculty Lunch Session
We would also disseminate our findings and discuss our experience more broadly across the ACM via the Religion disciplinary listserv. Depending on the specific nature of what we learn at the conferences, we envision possibilities that we may want to train other faculty on new technologies, propose the purchase of new softwares, or develop follow-up projects building on our initial conversations.