Skills versus Methodology in Digital Humanities Education
In their paper, “Teaching Skills or Teaching Methodology?” Mahony and Pierazzo explore what should be taught under the banner of digital humanities. The authors argue that this involves teaching new approaches and new ways of thinking about the humanities, and that the emphasis should be on teaching methodology rather than just skills, although students need to develop collaborative and interdisciplinary skills as well. Training in collaborative methods and reflexive practices should also be provided.
The authors refer to a report, “Higher Education in a Web 2.0 World," written by JISC. This report indicates that there is a growing deficiency in searching, retrieving, evaluating information from a variety of sources by current students. It appears that social media may be a diversion to escape from learning rather than a tool to assist it. The author describes several programs that are offered at King’s College London, through the Department of Digital Humanities. The department delivers a number of courses and styles to promote digital humanities education. These include:
one day training sessions
week long intensive training, undergrad course
undergraduate modules, and
In the case of King’s College London, a teaching strategy was developed that makes use of project examples and exercises that are relevant to participants. In addition to this, the various training opportunities also present useful tools and platforms.
Feedback from various participants has indicated that by using digital technology, students saw and thought about things in a completely different way. The authors argue that this pro-active, student centered approach and technique could form the basis for methodological approach. They argue, like so many others, that hands-on activity is what helps students understand.
Example: Encoding a Text
The author argues that text encoding is an intellectual activity. When a student is asked to encode a text, it makes them think about the text in a completely different way. In addition to learning the method and skill, the author argues that it is also fundamental to find time to discuss modeling and analysis. The chief reason that the author feels that teaching methodologies is most fruitful is that methodologies have the potential to radically change a student’s research and professional life. Additionally, the author concludes by stating that thinking skills are the most important because they are the most deeply embedded and the most transferable, and thus the focus should lie there.
Additionally, the authors recommend that in order to be most effective, digital humanities education should focus on building upon students existing familiarities, being relevant to the students’ desire to improve research and student studies or interests.
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