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Upgrading ARC 231: background & introduction

I’m dedicating the Day of DH to one making upgrades to one course.  ARC 231 is the first of a series of four classes in architecture history at Judson University.  I have modified this class continually through the years, sometimes through changes to content (e.g., expanding its Islamic material) and sometimes through alterations of delivery–especially as I have become aware of new media and tools that enhance the delivery of the class.

The biggest steps to date have been introducing VoiceThread in 2013 as part of the prep that students complete prior to class and making the shift from 35 mm slides to digital slides (I have, after all, been teaching this thing since the last century!), which was a pretty big transition that, probably, all art & architecture historians had to deal with in the 2000’s +/-.  My university subscribed to the Blackboard system for most of my years there (recently it has turned to eLearn), and across time I moved more and more materials to the site.  It offered some advantages but wasn’t perfect, and was certainly clunky to use (both for me and students) and had severe limitations in the design department.

I was really happy to be accepted into the DH for Art Historians institute held last August at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.  During this two-week super-immersive experience, a group of great facilitators introduced us to dozens of new programs and tools, as well as leading discussions on the sometimes-thorny issues that litter the digital landscape.  Overall, I left even more enthused than I had been at the start to get going on transforming my scholarship and teaching.

The former is the harder part, in particular since I am at the tail-end of a big, lengthy, behemoth of a project that was started in traditional means of research and will conclude in traditional means of publishing.  Maybe the next project will be “born digital,” but this one is already well into cranky adolescence.

But the teaching part is different.  That’s something that has always been flexible; there’s never been a year that I did not fuss with a class to try and improve it.  This year is a bigger overhaul, given my attendance at the DH institute at GMU, the past sabbatical year that I have been able to really think about my class without the overarching need to tend to it, and participation in this Day of DH in which I will formalize my goals and tidy up aspects of the class design that I have fiddled with, but are not yet quite ready for prime time.

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