Digital Humanities (On Purpose): Keegan and Gilchrist

Digital Humanities (On Purpose): Keegan and Gilchrist

Tom Keegan and Matt Gilchrist, lecturers in Rhetoric at the University of Iowa and co-directors of Iowa Digital Engagement and Learning (IDEAL), spoke about the power of the digital humanities to move traditional learning beyond the classroom and out into the community. During their StudioTalk on Thursday, February 6, 2014 in the Learning Commons at the Main Library, they shared stories from their On Purpose project, describing how incorporating digital tools into interdisciplinary collaborative coursework can be effectively utilized to create deeply meaningful learning experiences which students can directly apply to their own educational and professional trajectories.

Matt noted, “a discipline is not a purpose,” and it is now more critical than ever for educators in the humanities in particular to shake off calcification and develop a more malleable – and relevant – connection to students’ learning and real-world applications. He described how the digital humanities are, in fact, what the humanities are becoming; and in 10 years, the “digital” will not be even notable. Past digital failures aside (he cites Second Life as an example), he maintains it is time to fully incorporate 21st century technologies into the mainstream curriculum.

In the development, research, creation and production of digital projects, students capture hands-on, practical experiences and generate meaningful artifacts that live on and circulate in the world. Compare these projects to traditional paper assignments and class presentations, and the vigor of multi-modalities cannot be denied. Other positive effects of these digital projects include gaining a deeper understanding of how collaborative environments (in which most of the business world functions) work, and learning how to maximize the use of digital methods to enhance work endeavors and to minimize rote drudgework. The digital humanities also enable students to make interdisciplinary connections that, in more siloed departmental structures, may not otherwise be facilitated. In addition, students learn to develop their writing skills to suit different mediums and audiences.

IDEAL, the speaker’s shared initiative, is a resource for instructors looking to seamlessly incorporate the digital humanities into their classrooms.

Our favorite quote from the talk? “Don’t fall in love with the iPhone, but fall in love with its utility.”

Read the Tweets at #StudioTalks!