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Digital Pedagogy - A Guide for Librarians, Faculty, and Students

This guide is meant to inform the user about Digital Pedagogy. It includes information on educational theory, a collection of case studies, and resources relevant to the study of digital pedagogy.

Acculturation and Digital Humanities Community

Acculturation and Professionalism in Digital Humanities Education

In their paper, “Acculturation and the Digital Humanities Community,” Geoffrey Rockwell and Stefan Sinclair write about the importance of professionalization, particularly for students, within the discipline of digital humanities. The authors begin the chapter with definitions.

Professionalization is defined as involving the development of skill, identity, norms, and values associated with becoming part of a professional group

Acculturation is defined as the process of preparing students to fit into the culture of the professional community.

The authors are concerned that currently, this is an often neglected part of the curriculum. Usually, this content is introduced through non-credit activities like the following:

  • discussion topic woven into a course

  • workshops about specific issues

  • internship opportunities

  • professional talks

  • general services through the university

The authors critique the existing curriculum at the post-secondary level by stating the it usually acclimatizes students to a narrow range that is typical of academia,  to what is done at the university. The authors also state that the problem with what currently happens is that students must read widely in the field, publish monographs, give papers, and that professionalization happens in the core of what students are asked to do, and that this type of work prepares students for academic careers. The problem lies in the fact that the digital humanities is potentially broader than the academy, as a lot of work in the area happens outside of the academy.

In order to make recommendations around professionalism and acculturation, the authors start by asking the question:

  1. What do digital humanists really do, and how are these activities are encouraged in the design of curriculum? They offer the following list in response:


  • Digital humanists don’t necessarily write books, but some of them do. Digital work itself is considered research.

  • DHers don’t have to theorize new media: challenge lies in avoiding a split between theory and practice, finding ways that building can be theorizing

  • DHers don’t have to teach credit courses: teaching may not be part of professional responsibilities.

  • DHers don’t have to become professors


  • DHers do work in collaborative, interdisciplinary, innovative teams, in various roles. Students need to develop team skills and learn about these in order to thrive

  • DHers apply digital practices

  • DHers do manage projects

  • DHers do explaining technology

The article proposes that the aim should be to train students to be able to participate in as professionals in the field of DH rather than grafting on old habits: training that students receive should actually reflect what they will be required to do in their professional lives.

The paper offers a very fullsome discussion of how this could happen through the illustration of two case studies: the Multimedia at  McMaster University, and the M.A. in Humanities Computing at the University of Alberta.


For a full discussion, please see "Acculturation and the Digital Humanities Community," in Digital Humanities Pedagogy: Principles, Practices, and Politics. ed. Brett Hirsch, Cambridge : Open Book Publishers, 2012.

The authors discussion initiatives such as:

  • the development of understandable, demonstrable competencies in order to describe what students can do, and not what the faculty member is going to teach. Competencies can be used to complement other ways of planning, and should describe things that students can demonstrate. Additionally, competencies should be comprehensible to students. Competencies can be used as a general rubric to gather information about the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed and were felt to be important, and within the Digital Humanities, can be divided into core technical, elective technical, core academic, and other competencies. Additionally, Rockwell mapped the curriculum, and those competencies that were considered most important were mapped and reiterated throughout the course of the program.
  • Curriculum mapping - so that key concepts can be introduced and re-emphasized at appropriate times
  • Finding the balance of practical and theoretical skill that are necessary and most valuable to students
  • Project Based learning: the “Intensity experience” - a process of getting the students to work on a project that is not possible to finish in one week.
  • Teaching real life skills such as Project Management, where students are asked to identify and negotiate what can be done in a timeframe, agree on tasks and timeline, work with client effectively, develop a digital deliverable, effectually finishing a project.
  • Students get accultured through apprenticeship: by working on research projects, creating environmental scans and literature reviews, interface designs, and by writing conference proposals and papers.

In conclusion, the authors state that professionalization can encode in a program the desires and the politics of a its stakeholders, and that curriculum can be designed in such a way as to prepare students to approach a breadth of careers. DH curriculum should be designed with the breadth of careers that DH can offer, rather than focusing merely on the academy.  

Additional Resources - Geoffrey Rockwell and Stefan Sinclair

Geoffrey Rockwell

Stephan Sinclair