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A college student stands by a classroom window wearing a leather jacket holding a Google Cardboard to their face.
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The Potential of Extended Reality: Teaching and Learning in Virtual Spaces

The irony of writing about extended reality (XR) at this time when so many of us have been thrust into the virtual is not lost on us. The situation is reminiscent of the world depicted in Cline’s Ready Player One (2011), in which the entire population uses virtual reality (VR) to escape the increasingly precarious environment outside their doors. Works such as “The Machine Stops” by E. M. Forster (1909), or He, She, and It by Marge Piercy (1991), provide a dystopic vision of a virtual future, but now, we need—perhaps even crave—optimism. The virtual offers us a way to connect; the possibility of engaging with each other even from a distance. We also need to find ethical and sustainable ways going forward to employ a medium poised for mass adoption. This issue demonstrates the power of XR in pedagogical applications, community partnerships, and future gatherings.

This special issue focused on XR—most often referring to virtual and augmented reality (AR)—emerged from our shared excitement about the potential of immersive media to support innovative pedagogy at all levels of education, but also from our healthy skepticism about the limited circles of people actually empowered to shape this process. The full reality–virtuality continuum, a concept first introduced by Paul Milgram and his colleagues in 1994, encompasses everything from virtual reality theaters and mixed reality headsets to augmented reality experiences on mobile devices. Until very recently, the higher end of XR was limited to specialized labs and researchers. As both the technology itself and the means of creating content have become more accessible, the field has expanded and diversified.

Some researchers include 360º imaging and 3D video in the XR mix, especially if experienced immersively; others might also extend the concept to include ambient technologies in “smart city” and “smart home” applications. At its core, the XR we are exploring in this issue is about designing an immersive and interactive experience in the service of teaching and learning. While XR in the future may boast the seamless interfaces of science-fiction fantasy, today’s implementations mostly remain awkward, partial, and experimental. This is not a bad thing. As scholars, we still have room to maneuver and to change the terms of use before the technology is naturalized into an invisible, yet costly, necessity for twenty-first–century learning.

Working in the field at this critical moment, we noticed the lack of scholarship engaged with humanistic concerns regarding XR technologies in pedagogical applications. The literature is dominated by rigorous publications on the technical side describing developments in the field of computer science, and by informative case-study examples from museums, journalistic applications, and popular entertainment. Pedagogical experiments in K–12 education, industry, building technologies, city planning, and medicine, meanwhile, have clearly demonstrated the potential of XR applications for teaching and training. Yet the critical conversations around the medium itself, its affordances, challenges, and opportunities for educational use, still take place within small, often isolated pockets of discipline-specific practitioners. We meet up in local working groups, at conferences and workshops, on Twitter—and now in the pages of JITP. One of our objectives in putting together this issue is to bring these different groups into deeper conversation with one another, promoting critical knowledge construction in the field while building out a body of citable literature in humanistic XR studies. We hope this issue helps expand the field to include a greater diversity of voices and experiences.

In the future, the pressing questions of our current circumstances may find answers in XR. Take for instance the growing number of virtual conferences, virtual tours, and virtual open houses already happening in response to the shift to remote learning and working conditions. Although made more urgent by COVID-19, the creation of virtual labs, virtual workspaces, virtual archives, and virtual art studios has long been the dream of XR researchers. Now is the time for scholars to envision and build this future with or without the collaboration of the big tech companies (most recently Apple and Verizon) that have been quietly buying up XR platforms and start-ups in anticipation of a pivotal moment like this. How will we ensure our values are embedded in the XR systems that emerge, or that the resulting models of pedagogy are immersive, interactive, accessible, and collaborative? Even as we go online with our teaching, we realize how much we’re missing from lived experience in physical proximity. How can we leverage the affordances of the real in pursuit of the digital? How does the digital expand access, opportunity, vision, and community? How might XR facilitate lifelong learning applications and the global communities these interventions make possible? The articles in this issue begin to explore these questions in greater depth, and offer potential avenues for further development, especially in terms of community engagement and social justice. This special issue also makes clear that diversity, in all its many forms, is an essential component for XR-based teaching and research, especially as we consider ways of applying intersectional analysis to applied learning.

Several of the articles in this issue focus on using XR for social justice. In “Immersive Pedagogy: Developing a Decolonial and Collaborative Framework for Teaching and Learning in 3D/VR/AR,” Lorena Gauthereau, Jessica Linker, Emma Slayton, and Alex Wermer-Colan draw from a symposium held at Carnegie Mellon University and conversations held with librarians, technologists, developers, and faculty in attendance there. The authors advocate for continued conversations regarding integration, use, and review of 3D/VR/AR teaching and learning technologies. In “Developing Virtual Reality Modules Aimed to Enhance Social Work Students’ Skills and Reinforce Knowledge,” Nicholas Lanzieri, Henry S. Samelson, and Jonathan Bowen describe how multiple approaches to the use of VR in therapist training—360º video and avatar-based game environments—can be embedded into a social work curriculum. Their work demonstrates how prior exposure to environments and potential conversations can enhance live engagement with a diverse set of clients. One of the more revelatory examples of XR technology applications is evidenced in the essay, “‘Relational Presence’: Designing VR-Based Virtual Learning Environments for Oral History–Based Restorative Pedagogy,” by Jennifer Roberts-Smith, et al. This article describes an approach to designing VR that intentionally makes users aware of their virtual environments in order to situate themselves apart from the oral histories they experience in simulations. In this piece, Roberts-Smith et al. introduce the Digital Oral Histories for Reconciliation (DOHR) project (dohr.ca), which worked in partnership with the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children Restorative Inquiry (restorativeinquiry.ca) to create a VR experience intended to expose the truth of institutionalized racism and to empower the survivors to “build more just relationships for the future.”

Several of our articles also engage with the potential for partnership building and community engagement through historic sites, landscapes, and the university/college campus. In their article “Representing Indigenous Histories Using XR Technologies in the Classroom,” Amy J. Lueck and Lee M. Panich argue for the wider adoption of XR technologies such as annotated 360º video tours at key locations on campus to help undergraduate students understand and intervene in the continued erasure of Indigenous histories from existing commemorative landscapes there. This emphasis on community partnerships is echoed in the issue’s fifth article. In “Blending Disciplines for a Blended Reality: Virtual Guides for a Living History Museum,” Juilee Decker, Amanda Doherty, Joel Geigel, and Gary D. Jacobs demonstrate how an interdisciplinary partnership between a university and a local museum offered the opportunity for students to develop digital storytelling skills and multimodal literacy. In “Barriers to Supporting Accessible VR in Academic Libraries,” Jasmine Clark and Zach Lischer-Katz address both accessibility and the important role of libraries in VR creation, implementation, and support as we scale up from experimentation to broad-based implementation strategies.

Especially exciting and filled with generative possibilities are the kinds of lessons learned from case studies arising out of various pedagogical contexts and disciplines. A diverse team of David Neville, Vanessa Preast, Sarah Purcell, Damian Kelty-Stephen, Timothy D. Arner, Justin Thomas, and Christopher French, describes a whole-college approach in “Using Virtual Reality to Expand Teaching and Research in the Liberal Arts.” Their approach to infrastructure development highlights how a smaller institution can make XR happen at a thoughtful, systemic scale—in harmony with existing pedagogical values and practices—in a highly selective teaching-focused undergraduate setting. “Truly Immersive Worlds? The Pedagogical Implications of Extended Reality” by Tamara O’Callaghan and Andrea Harbin provides specific examples of the kind of VR and AR applications an instructor might use in a liberal arts context. Specifically, they investigate how 3D models of historic sites and AR overlays on historic documents can serve as virtual tools to enhance the physical space. Another example, from Alison Burke, Elana Blinder, Leah Potter, and David Langendoen in their article, “Mission US TimeSnap: Developing Historical Thinking Skills through Virtual Reality,” shows that VR is a promising and useful tool for K–12 history education. Their TimeSnap game has helped to increase students’ engagement with historical documents, narratives, and terminology. Thinking critically about such XR engagement is not limited to the humanities classroom. In the sciences, there have been several applications supporting laboratory work and surgery, but in “Virtual Chirality: A Constructivist Approach to a Chemical Education Concept in Virtual Reality,” authors Samuel R. Putnam, Michelle M. Nolan, and Ernie Williams-Roby demonstrate how it is important not only to use XR in teaching, but also to bring students into the process of building applications. Together, these articles provide an interdisciplinary view of how XR technologies are shaping education at all levels through a critical engagement with interdisciplinary applications.

This issue celebrates pedagogical innovation and forward thinking, but we would be remiss not to acknowledge that it will be released at a time of profound loss, reflection, and fear. The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy was founded and remains housed at the Graduate Center, CUNY, in New York City, a city losing multitudes of souls, including brilliant academics, each day. All of us have felt this loss, and it is only because of the incredible dedication and hard work of everyone involved that this issue was published at this time. The greatest thanks go to our managing editor, Patrick DeDauw, who not only ensured that the process of publishing this issue was streamlined and efficient; he also made it enjoyable despite the most incredible of obstacles. Patrick, you are our hero. We would also like to acknowledge the willingness of our authors to work through revisions and copyedits with grace and professionalism amidst a global crisis. And to our reviewers, please know your service is very deeply appreciated.

One final personal note: this issue is dedicated in memory of Dr. David Greetham, a founding member of the Interactive Technology and Pedagogy program at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Without his foresight and inspiration, many digital innovations cited in this issue would not have been possible.

Bibliography

Cline, Ernest. 2011. Ready Player One. New York: Crown Publishers.

Forster, E. M. 1909. “The Machine Stops.” Oxford and Cambridge Review (November).

Milgram, Paul, Haruo Takemura, Akira Utsumi, and Fumio Kishino. 1994. “Augmented Reality: A Class of Displays on the Reality–Virtuality Continuum.” Proceedings of Telemanipulator and Telepresence Technologies 2351: 282–92.

Piercy, Marge. 1991. He, She, and It. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

About the Editors

Amanda Licastro is the Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric at Stevenson University in Maryland, as well serving on the editorial collective of the Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy. Her research explores the intersection of technology and writing, including book history, dystopian literature, and digital humanities. Publications include articles in Kairos, Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities, Hybrid Pedagogy, and Communication Design Quarterly, as well as a recent chapter on social annotation in Digital Reading and Writing in Composition Studies, published by Routledge. Her grant-funded project on virtual reality was awarded the Paul Fortier Prize at the 2017 Digital Humanities conference, and has been featured in the Baltimore Sun and Baltimore Magazine.

Angel David Nieves, BArch, MA, PhD, is Professor of History and Digital Humanities at San Diego State University in the Area of Excellence in Digital Humanities and Global Diversity. He is the author of An Architecture of Education: African American Women Design the New South (University of Rochester Press, 2018). Nieves’s scholarly work and community-based activism critically engage with issues of race and the built environment in cities across the Global South.

Victoria Szabo is a Research Professor of Visual and Media Studies at Duke University. Her teaching and research focus on critical and creative approaches to interactive and computational media in the arts and humanities. She was the founding director of the interdisciplinary PhD program in Computational Media, Arts & Cultures, and currently heads the Digital Humanities Initiative at the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke. She is also Chair of the ACM SIGGRAPH Digital Arts Community.

A set of networked points of light appear at once as stars and as a visualization of networked connection, over a background that looks like a night sky.
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Introduction: Issue Sixteen

Conversations about digital pedagogy tend to revolve around the twin poles of unbridled enthusiasm on the one hand and entrenched skepticism on the other. Despite the institutional investment in the digital humanities evinced by the creation of specialized Certificate, Masters, and PhD programs across the country, including at Northeastern University, Duke University, and the CUNY Graduate Center, digital approaches to other disciplines, as well as digital pedagogy across the disciplines, often remain understudied. And despite possibilities afforded by digital tools for the increased engagement and shared knowledge production in the classroom, many instructors are wary of the challenges new technologies pose to the traditional learning process. In particular, instructors tend to be cautious of the perceived attention-deficit run by students constantly bombarded with fast-moving interactive images. One of the primary benefits of instructional technology, in fact, is probably the very thing that makes some instructors anxious about student attention spans: it is often interactive technology’s ability to pull content out of sequence that activates students’ analytic skills and enables sustained, problem-based concentration. So, for example, something as simple as a word cloud in which the size of each word corresponds to its repetition in a passage of literature can help to illustrate the main preoccupations of the text; the linearity of the text can mask these repetitions, but the instructional technology helps to draw them out.

As the essays in this edition of The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy make clear, one of the benefits of a digital approach to pedagogy is that it can both slow down the learning process for students, as in the example above, and foster critical thinking about the implications, risks, and affordances of technology in the classroom. The characteristic tension in conversations about digital pedagogy between enthusiasm for, and skepticism of, digital tools and methods can obscure serious questions about surveillance, community, and experiential learning that the scholarship of digital pedagogy provides the opportunity to explore. Bringing these questions to bear not only on the types of assignments one designs involving digital tools, but also on the presentation of digital issues themselves, produces more engaging and inclusive curricula and activities that help make students critical digital practitioners at the same time as they learn subject material.

We are excited to share with you Issue Sixteen since it offers a deeper dive into some of the key questions that inform thinking about technology and pedagogy. For instance, Andrew Roth and Alex Christie remind us that failure in DH spaces and curriculums can be a productive site for learning. Their essay, “Beyond the Fear of Failure: Toward a Method for Student Experiential Autobiography Mapping (SEAM),” foregrounds exactly how inevitable technical failures can become important sites for innovative pedagogy. They argue that the seams, or fissures, that emerge when technical tools break down also become the very ties that make faculty and staff collaborations so productive. In their own collaboration, Roth and Christie explain how students practice important skills like problem solving and troubleshooting from an integrated project-based curriculum.

Karen Rose Mathews and Gemma Henderson’s collaboration at the University of Miami’s Lowe Art Museum, “Animating Antiquity: Student Generated Approaches to Recontextualizing Ancient Artworks Using Digital Technologies,” offers a tangible example of the ways technology affords opportunities for students to create knowledge that engages the public sphere. Using 3D models and prints, their students designed new modes for museumgoers to access the feel and function of ancient artworks. In their example of pedagogical innovation, both graduate and undergraduate students were able to create research dossiers as assemblages by integrating multiple experiential modes that could increase learning access.

The digital humanities have provided important sites for innovative approaches to experiential learning and interactive teaching. Jenna Freedman’s zine, “Weigh of Showing,” offers the zine genre as an alternative mode for assessing students’ involvement with course materials. She argues that there are multiple kinds of literacies that the formal essay format cannot always measure. In this, she posits that there are other ways of knowing, and that in other ways of showing, students can explore how they learn not only through writing but also through feeling, seeing, and listening.

Technology foregrounds the manifold forces that are changing the very idea of “the public,” since it opens new spaces for communication and community. In his “Changing Culture, Changing Publics: Redesigning the Rhetorical Public,” Philip B. Gallagher explores the ways in which rhetorical publics are changing to argue how user-based document design should respond to the Public’s new elevated status. He traces a rhetorical history of civic communication responsive to audience expectations, and examines how such communicative practices will need to adapt to the demands of technology and the knowledge communities they produce. As distinctions between private and public continue to blur, this question concerning the redesign of a rhetorical public will be increasingly urgent.

Even as technology offers the potential for more inclusive teaching and learning, it is important to be attentive to the moments when it reifies old patterns and practices of exclusion. Christina Boyles makes this point in “Finding Fault with Foucault: Surveillance and the Digital Humanities.” She argues that, while surveillance studies has done well to demonstrate the ubiquity of surveillance technologies and their erosion of personal rights, the fact that the effects of surveillance are not distributed equally is underappreciated. Indigenous peoples, for instance, have experienced some of the harshest forms of panoptic surveillance in lands claimed by the United States, and our inability to recognize this inequality only works to bolster the logics of conquest and the colonial machine. Her intervention reminds us that, as teachers and scholars, we must be willing to question the culture and the canon in the service of a more just future. This, along with the other essays in this issue, provides new avenues for thinking past old tensions in debates in digital pedagogy by examining the concrete implications of the work we do.

About the Editors

Shelly Eversley teaches literature, feminism, and black studies at Baruch College, City University of New York, where she is Associate Professor of English. She is Academic Director of the City University of New York’s Faculty Fellowship Publication Program and Founder of equalityarchive.com. She is the author of The “Real” Negro: The Question of Authenticity in Twentieth Century African American Literature as well as several essays on literature, race, and culture. She is editor of The Sexual Body and The 1970s, both special issues of WSQ, a journal by the Feminist Press. She is also editor of the forthcoming book Black Art, Politics, and Aesthetics in 1960s African American Literature and Culture (Cambridge), and is revising a new book titled The Practice of Blackness: Cold War Surveillance, Censorship, and African American Literary Survival. She earned her undergraduate degree at Columbia University, and her graduate degrees at The Johns Hopkins University.

Krystyna Michael is an Assistant Professor at Hostos Community College, City University of New York. Her current book project, The Urban Domestic: Homosocial Domesticity in the Literature and Culture of 19th- and 20th-Century New York City, explores the relationship between transformations in urban planning and domestic ideology through American literature of the city. She has published articles and reviews in The Edith Wharton Review, The Journal of American Studies, and Postmedieval and is a member of the editorial collective of The Journal of Instructional Technology and Pedagogy. She works on the development teams of the grant-funded CUNY-based OER platforms, Manifold and the CUNY Academic Commons, and her courses center around American literature and writing, the digital humanities, and architecture and city space.

Alice in Wonderland sitting in a chair playing with her kitten and a ball of yarn.
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Introduction: Issue Fifteen

For many, imagining the possibilities of digital technologies, in classrooms and in our lives, conjures up two dystopian extremes: unregulated chaos or constant surveillance. These nightmares are animated by a fear that the digital is something created for us, something we receive rather than construct. Headlines promise us that we are falling into our screens like Alice into the rabbit hole, and we may never emerge from the mind- and reality-bending places we go. This might be true—and perhaps it’s to our benefit. For teachers and scholars, engaging with digital environments need not be a lockstep march toward automation or a devaluation of our profession, but can instead offer chances to examine and revise knowledge and the many frames that shape it, for ourselves and for our students. Using new tools to examine old ideas can create a mutual sense of agency and empathy between participants in teaching and learning.

Games, archives, and assignments require scholars and teachers to consider what end-users should know and what experiences they should have, and also offer many opportunities to reflect upon how knowledge is constructed. Active learning environments draw students and teachers alike into spaces that require trust, attention, reflection, and openness. Decisions should be intentional and purposeful. Commitment to the deep inquiry that these experiences demand invites students to engage with content in generative ways, but also—and very importantly—requires scholars to be in an ongoing, exhilarating, and reflective relationship with the materials they teach and the methods they use. These are not transactional modes of education, but rather approaches that honor the complex ways in which learners can generate knowledge and engage with the disciplines.

The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy has regularly pushed back against the notion that digital technologies are neutral. Our fifteenth issue presents pieces about archives and archive building, games, the pedagogical implications of digital tools, and various elements of digital pedagogy in undergraduate courses. Together they unravel the mystique of digital scholarship and pedagogy while asking practical questions about prior knowledge and assumptions, labor and the dynamics of collaboration, and the challenges of sustainability and corralling institutional support.

Drilling down into tools, environments, and processes, asking how they work and don’t work and where they lead users to and away from— these are all crucial parts of digital scholarship and teaching. The pieces that follow situate the project-based work of interactive technology and pedagogy within the university. They interrogate decisions big and small, weighing how biases may shape how various audiences perceive information. It’s important that this thinking be made explicit to students and to audiences, and these pieces do just that. Such pedagogical work differentiates scholars from entrepreneurs, and open systems from closed ones. It propels teaching away from transactional models of learning, forcing instructors to make the process transparent at every turn. Learning happens not only in the doing of things, but in processing and reflecting upon the why and the how of that doing. The eight pieces that we present in this issue explore different facets of these principles.

In “‘So You Want to Build a Digital Archive?’ A Dialogue on Critical Digital Humanities Graduate Pedagogy,” Bibhushana Poudyal of the University of Texas at El Paso and Laura Gonzales of the University of Florida provide an account of building a digital archive about Nepal, interrogating the role that search engines and algorithms play in how we experience and know the world, and the gaps that they leave. The authors explain the steps and hurdles they needed to negotiate—including platform and materials selection, technical expertise, and user-experience testing—in ways that honor and amplify the local expertise of Kathmandu residents. Their work is an example of digital archiving that espouses a feminist and decolonial agenda and explicitly acknowledges the tensions that underlie all knowledge-creating endeavors.

The need for critically examining how the medium influences the agenda behind digital material is also examined in another piece in this issue. In “Confidence and Critical Thinking Are Differentially Affected by Content Intelligibility and Source Reliability: Implications for Game-Based Learning in Higher Education,” Robert O. Duncan of York College and The Graduate Center, CUNY, presents a study on how the intelligibility of information and reliability of sources influence performance and confidence among participants in a critical-thinking game. The results indicate the more environmentally induced difficulty in reading text, the more critically students engaged with it. The type of information source, however, appeared to be less influential on students’ performance, with little variation between conditions in which participants were or were not told which information was derived from a reliable source. These findings point toward a few practical implications for instruction and game design around information literacy, and help to increase awareness regarding opportunities to teach students how to evaluate the reliability of sources, before critically evaluating and using the information they provide.

While games can be used to promote critical thinking, how digital games are implemented by instructors matters, as well. Cristyne Hébert of the University of Regina and Jennifer Jenson of the University of British Columbia describe nine different strategies for instructors for grade-school students in “Digital Game-Based Pedagogies: Developing Teaching Strategies for Game-Based Learning.” The themes they identify were derived from a content analysis of material collected through observations and interviews conducted during a professional development session for teachers of children in grades 6 to 8. Three general categories of digital game-based strategies are recommended, including those which focus on gameplay, lesson planning and delivery, and how technology is framed within the game. These strategies provide a practical framework for integrating game-based learning into primary and secondary education.

In “Music Making in Scratch: High Floors, Low Ceilings, and Narrow Walls?” William Payne and S. Alex Ruthmann of New York University evaluate how Scratch, a prominent, block-based free programming language used extensively by young learners, both facilitates and frustrates digital music making. They’re hopeful that this approach can become more accessible to the community of learners who engage with computer science through Scratch, but are also concerned that the structural elements of the tool may impede students who want to pursue such a path. They detail these concerns, drawing upon theories of music cognition and coding, and offer concrete suggestions for addressing the shortcomings in the tool that will be of use both to teachers who use Scratch and to software developers building out digital music-making environments.

Taking into account the broader instructional context, particularly for collaborative work, can help educators make a more productive learning experience. “Creating Dynamic Undergraduate Learning Laboratories through Collaboration Between Archives, Libraries, and Digital Humanities,” by Kent Gerber, Charlie Goldberg, and Diana L. Magnuson of Bethel University, presents both a rationale and a procedure for collaborative work between departments and between faculty and students. They detail their process for creating an entry-level Digital Humanities course that taught students both physical and digital archival management, while providing a venue for teachers to grapple with what students needed to learn, and what parts of their own institutional history needed to be prioritized for preservation. They present us with a flexible model for creating fruitful partnerships between departments, centers, and libraries that also centers student learning goals within its structure.

While learning through digital pedagogy may be a collaborative experience, for the learner it must also enable the pursuit of personally meaningful knowledge construction. In “Teaching with Objects: Individuating Media Archaeology in Digital Studies,” University of Mary Washington’s Zach Whalen details an Introduction to Digital Studies course built around student inquiry into the physical artifacts of digital media. The assignment requires students to intensively research and then creatively present on artifacts they select, situating them in economic, ethical, social, and political histories. Drawing heavily from theories of digital archaeology and positioning students as detectives who define and then pursue their own questions about tools, this project immerses students in thinking about, around, and through the material goods of digital culture. It builds upon claims from other digital studies scholars that the field should do more to uncover and confront the social implications of the digital world.

In addition to analyzing what the learner knows and understands about a digital tool, it may also be just as useful to consider as what the learner does not yet know. Filipa Calado of the Graduate Center, CUNY presents a refreshing look at digital tools for reading in “‘Imagining What We Don’t Know’: Technological Ignorance as Condition for Learning.” Examining both Voyant Tools and Women Writers Online, Calado delves into the ways that these tools force readers into unfamiliar ways of interacting with text. By working carefully with these tools, reader-users are capable of stepping into new pedagogical and epistemological territory, regardless of whether or not the user possesses the technical acumen to control a tool’s source code. Her focus on the pleasure of discovery reminds us of the delight that can come from open exploration in the classroom.

We close the issue with “What Do You Do with 11,000 Blogs? Preserving, Archiving, and Maintaining UMW Blogs—A Case Study.” Angie Kemp of the University of Mary Washington, Lee Skallerup Bessette of Georgetown University, and Kris Shaffer from New Knowledge walk through the process of archiving ten years of activity on a large, university-based publishing platform. The piece demonstrates the range of knowledge, skills, and persistent community and scholarly engagement necessary to ethically and effectively manage an open system that operates at an enterprise scale. Collaboration and transparency is key, and this piece will benefit scholars at any institution who are grappling with how to honor, preserve, and protect the exponentially increasing amount of digital work our students and colleagues produce.

Knowledge construction should be a joyful process. The authors who have contributed to this issue have fully integrated that understanding into their approaches to scholarship, teaching, and preservation work through the use of digital technologies. Students and instructors alike stand to benefit from appreciating the joy that goes into learning, regardless of the choices of digital tools and strategies. It is our hope that this appreciation of the process of knowledge construction benefits the readers of this issue, as well. In the spirit of appreciating knowledge as that which is collaboratively built and generative, we hope that readers of JITP may be inspired to pursue new and innovative digital pedagogical approaches in their teaching and scholarship.

About the Editors

Lisa Brundage is Director of Teaching, Learning, and Technology at Macaulay Honors College at CUNY. She oversees Macaulay’s unique Instructional Technology Fellow program, which provides doctoral candidates with comprehensive training in the digital liberal arts and student-centered pedagogy methods, and pairs them with honors seminar faculty to implement digital projects in their classrooms. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the Graduate Center, CUNY, and is herself an alumna of the Instructional Technology Fellow program. She is chair of the CUNY IT Conference, is a member of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy Certificate Program, and teaches Macaulay’s Springboard senior thesis course. She has recently published, with Emily Sherwood and Karen Gregory, in Bodies of Information: Intersectional Feminism and Digital Humanities, edited by Elizabeth Losh and Jacqueline Wernimont.

Teresa Ober is a doctoral candidate in Educational Psychology at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Teresa is interested in the role of executive functions in language and literacy. Her research has focused on the development of cognition and language skills, as well as how technologies, including digital games, can be used to improve learning.

Luke Waltzer is the Director of the Teaching and Learning Center at the Graduate Center, CUNY, where he supports graduate students and faculty in their teaching across the CUNY system, and works on a variety of pedagogical and digital projects. He previously was the founding director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Baruch College. He holds a Ph.D. in History from the Graduate Center, serves as Director of Community Projects for the CUNY Academic Commons, is a faculty member in the Interactive Technology and Pedagogy Certificate and MA in Digital Humanities programs, and directs the development of Vocat, an open-source multimedia evaluation and assessment tool. He has contributed essays to Matthew K. Gold’s Debates in the Digital Humanities and, with Thomas Harbison, to Jack Dougherty and Kristen Nawrotzki’s Writing History in the Digital Age.

Water-color image of guinea pig conducting archival research.
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Introduction: Teaching & Research with Archives

From projects like the SNCC Digital Gateway to Colored Conventions, digital technologies are prompting renewed attention to archival research and teaching practices and creating new opportunities for engaging primary sources. At the same time, digital technologies are raising ethical questions about how archives are created, organized, shared, accessed, and preserved. Increased access has coincided with what Wendy Hayden calls “The Archival Turn’s Pedagogical Turn,” as instructors explore how archival encounters can catalyze student-centered, experiential, collaborative, and project-based learning experiences. With this issue, we sought to address several questions: How do scholars locate authoritative information and guarantee continued access in the current media landscape? How do we teach undergraduate students to perform archival research, evaluate digital sources, and even compose and curate their own archives?

As a graduate student researching letter writing, special issue editor Jojo Karlin worked on a digital edition of her grandparents’ wartime overseas correspondence. From this experience, she saw the necessity for contemporary scholars to receive training in efficient and ethical digital asset management, including how to organize digital files and metadata. She realized that conversations about digital archives were occurring among librarians (who often see firsthand the transitions between technologies and the simultaneous organization of analog and digital materials) and among educators who teach with archives and want to leverage new technologies to help students create their own. She wondered how we could bring these conversations together.

As a newly-minted PhD, Danica Savonick recognized that her research on feminist literature and pedagogy was transformed by long hours spent in archives with the syllabi, lesson plans, and assignments of activist educators from previous generations. When performing research on pedagogical archives, what we often encounter is labor: the letters to administrators, budgets, and grant requests (interspersed with grocery lists) that remind us how much unseen work goes into producing the scene of teaching and learning. As she sought to develop similarly transformative archival assignments for her students, she realized how difficult it is to set the stage for a meaningful encounter with primary source documents. She wanted to work on this special issue to learn more about how other teacher-scholars are facilitating archival encounters in their classrooms.

As a former history student, Stephen Klein felt a guilty pleasure for archives even before he decided to become a librarian. Some of his most epiphanic moments of inquiry occurred when combing through archives and discovering a unique primary source that either supported his suspicions or fundamentally altered existing views. Despite maintaining some generalized best practices that he uses in his everyday work-life as a librarian, Stephen is interested in how archiving processes are often specific to the actual, unique objects being archived.

As co-editors we were delighted (and somewhat shocked) to receive an unprecedented number of submissions for this special issue, roughly 3 to 4 times more than an average JITP issue. Given the abundance of submissions, we added a section called “Views from the Field” to highlight short, praxis-based examples of archival research and teaching in action.

Several of the articles in this issue address how digital technologies are changing how we define, curate, and access archives. In “Crowdsourcing Traumatic History: Understanding the Historial Archive” Kirsti Girdharry analyzes Our Marathon: The Boston Bombing Digital Archive to consider what it means to collaborate with the public in crowdsourcing a digital archive. Girdharry analyzes how the digital impacts our understanding of archives, especially those that aim both to historicize and memorialize recent tragedies. In “Realizing the Past: Charting a Course for Sustainable Instruction and Engagement with Archival Materials Using Augmented and Virtual Reality Technologies” Amanda G. Pellerin, Ximin Mi, and Alison Valk describe the opportunities and limitations that augmented and virtual reality provide for accessing archival objects. While these technologies may help democratize access to archival materials, the authors also consider what might get lost in digitizing a rich three-dimensional object. (And for those interested in similar projects, keep an eye out for the CFP for an upcoming special themed issue of JITP on virtual reality edited by Amanda Licastro and Angel David Nieves.)

The majority of articles in this special issue focus on how “teaching and research with archives,” centers the work of collaboration. As scholars have noted, digital projects require many hands on deck—what Cathy N. Davidson calls “collaboration by difference”—prompting the creation of new academic procedures and protocols like “Guidelines for Evaluating Work in Digital Humanities and Digital Media.” Similarly, teaching with archives requires carefully scaffolded collaborations among faculty, staff, librarians, archivists, and instructional technologists that dispel the mythical notion of the genius scholar toiling away in isolation.

Several of the articles take up collaboration by demonstrating how work across institutions can be mutually beneficial. In “The Space Between Researcher, Object, Institution: Building Collaborative Knowledge with Primary Sources,” Mary Catherine Kinniburgh advocates for graduate-level archival training to support students using primary source research for their dissertations and theses. Kinniburgh discusses the Collaborative Seminar she organized in conjunction with the CUNY Graduate Center Library, the New York Public Library, and others, to generate a community of primary source researchers. While Kinniburgh focuses primarily on the humanities, authors Wendy Wasman, Thomas R. Beatman, Shanon Donnelly, Kathryn M. Flinn, Jeremy Spencer, and Ryan J. Trimbath show how institutional collaborations around archival projects can flourish in the natural sciences as well. In “Branching Out: Using Historical Records to Connect with the Environment,” Wasman et al. analyze the digitized archives of Cleveland naturalist A.B. Williams to show how inter-institutional collaboration can mobilize resources for educational use, from primary school exercises to graduate research.

Another cluster of articles describes collaboration in the context of joint efforts among faculty, students, and archivists to co-create digital archives. In “Digital Paxton: Collaborative Construction with Eighteenth-Century Manuscript Collections,” Will Fenton, Kate Johnson, and Kelly Schmidt describe a collaboration between faculty and students to produce a digital archive as a way of introducing students to concepts of knowledge production and archival construction. Drawing on the Collaborators’ Bill of Rights, they describe an assignment that involved students in knowledge production by contributing to the Digital Paxton project. In “Teaching Colonial Translations Through Archives: From Ink and Quill to XML (Or Not),” Allison Bigelow describes an assignment in which students helped to translate and edit colonial documents from the Early Americas Digital Archive. Through the assignment, “students learn about colonial archives by approaching them as public-facing, meaning-making sites of translation, interpretation, and textual editing, and by remediating print materials from the archives into annotated translations.”

Several articles consider these student-centered archival practices in the context of writing classrooms. In “From Page to Screen and Back Again: Archives-Centered Pedagogy for the 21st Century Writing Classroom,” Elizabeth Davis, Nancee Reeves, and Teresa Saxton analyze how archival research can help students better understand composition as a process of remixing, recontextualizing, collaborating, and curating. Through carefully scaffolded assignments, their students developed an “archives-based composition process” that improved their understanding of the social nature of writing and the material properties of texts, both of which are essential components of twenty-first-century literacies. In “‘Diving Into the Wreck’: (Re)Creating the Archive in the First-Year Writing Classroom” Maxine Krenzel and Daisy Atterbury describe a semester-long peer writing exchange across institutions based on poet Adrienne Rich’s archival teaching materials. With digital file sharing, they dislocate the classroom across campuses and ask, “How can the work that students leave behind inspire and enact its own unique pedagogy?”

Many of these articles consider how archival materials—zines, campus newsletters, correspondence—can help students address important questions about who gets to write history, whose stories are included, and whose are left out. In “Narrating Memory through Rhetorical Reflections: CUNY Students and Their Archives,” Wendy Hayden, María Hernández-Ojeda, and Iris Finkel describe a series of assignments in which undergraduates performed research in physical, institutional archives and shared their findings on digital platforms. In doing so, students became “active agents of generational transmission” who learned about history through the process of contributing to institutional memories. In “Collaboration Adventures with Primary Sources: Exploring Creative and Digital Outputs,” Jennifer Needham and Jeanann Croft Haas analyze the collaborative efforts among University of Pittsburgh librarians and faculty to incorporate the institution’s archival collections into the classroom. Through a series of case studies, Needham and Haas show how archival pedagogy can support an environment of student innovation through the production of what they call “creative outputs,” including websites, blog posts, zines, data sets, and visualizations.

Archives have long been central to feminist, antiracist, and justice-oriented research that recovers the historical contributions of women, people of color, and LGBTQ people. Several articles in this special issue extend this work to the undergraduate classroom. In “Engaging Women’s History through Collaborative Archival Wikipedia Projects,” Ariella Rotramel, Rebecca Parmer, and Rose Oliveira show how archivists, students, and faculty can facilitate knowledge production guided by feminist theory. Together they worked to leverage Wikipedia’s global reach “while struggling with editorial criteria that value objectivity and notoriety.” In “Possibly Impossible; Or, Teaching Undergraduates to Confront Digital and Archival Research Methodologies, Social Media Networking, and Potential Failure,” Rebekah Fitzsimmons and Suzan Alteri analyze an assignment that involved students in recovering the biographies of under-represented women science writers of the 19th century. The authors emphasize the potential and possible failure inherent in original research and found that “[s]tudents felt successful regardless of how much information they located; even [those] with no results reported feeling they had learned a significant amount from the project.” Recovery is also central to the feminist and antiracist projects described in a View by Ken Grossi, Alexia Hudson-Ward, Carol Lasser, Sarah Minion, and Natalia Shevin titled “How a Digital Collaboration at Oberlin College Between Archivists, Faculty, Students and Librarians Found its Muse in Mary Church Terrell, Nineteenth-Century Feminist and Civil Rights Icon.” In this View, the authors describe how faculty, students, and an archivist collaborated to help students co-author digital mini-editions for the Digitizing American Feminisms project.

Considered together, these articles demonstrate that historical inquiry is thriving. Students nationwide are learning how to access primary source documents and to consider the mechanisms of power that underscore how archives are constructed and accessed. We hope these articles will inspire researchers and educators to try something new or different, and share what they learn from the experience. And we hope you enjoy reading these articles as much as we enjoyed collaborating across time, space, and institutions to edit them.

About the Issue Editors

Danica Savonick is Assistant Professor of English at SUNY Cortland. She holds a PhD in English and a Certificate in American Studies from the CUNY Graduate Center. Danica blogs regularly about pedagogy and social justice and her work has appeared in American Literature, Digital Humanities Quarterly, Modern Fiction Studies, and Hybrid Pedagogy. Her current manuscript, Insurgent Knowledge, analyzes the activist pedagogies of Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Adrienne Rich, and Toni Cade Bambara. Danica serves on the Steering Committee for HASTAC.org and is lead author of “Gender Bias in Academe.”

Jojo Karlin, a PhD candidate in English at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, is dedicated to ideas about books, letters, and communication. As the Manifold Scholarship fellow, she is helping to develop Open Education Resources on the Mellon-funded, open source, hybrid publishing platform. As outreach coordinator for the NEH-funded DH Box, she co-led a course in Web APIs with Python at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute. An actress and an artist, she continually seeks creative ways of engaging the academy and the public, whether through drawing, performance, or posted letter.

Stephen I. Klein, the Digital Services Librarian at the Mina Rees CUNY Graduate School Library, spends much of his work-life behind the scenes insuring that the pulse of the GC’s library systems continue to work seamlessly for library users. He also spends time ‘freaking-out’ about the crisis of how our cultural heritage is quickly disappearing, because of the acceleration of modern ephemera with the advent of the web as one of the central forums for popular conversation and academic scholarship.

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Introduction, Issue Thirteen: The Push and Pull of Our Technological Moment

The current technological moment is perhaps best defined by a recent collective and critical awareness of the ways technology shapes our lives and practices both explicitly and implicitly. These technologies are so embedded in our daily practices that they are no longer ‘new’ or ‘surprising’, but commonplace—an assumed facet of modern life. In this moment where we are so deeply entwined with our technologies, it is important to evaluate and reflect on the affordances and challenges of digital technologies in the context of our curriculums, classrooms, and research. Unprecedented access to a wealth of multimodal information about the world has deepened university curricula in ways unimaginable only a decade ago, yet it has also blurred the boundaries of reality, giving rise to a cultural climate in which the very notion of truth has come into question. In his now classic schema on the intellectual and ethical development of college students, William Perry proposed that students evolve from dualistic thinking to multiplicity, then to relativism and, finally, to making commitments to their ideas (Perry 1970). Considered through the lens of this schema, our technological moment is emblematic of a state of relativism, where knowledge, truth, and reality are viewed as relative to the speaker’s own positionality. And it is in this moment, in this climate, that we are asking our students to actively participate in the construction and production of knowledges—a process that realizes the profound power and reach of technology, yet is also in tension with students’ vast access to information and computing power. So, while the majority of students have enough computing power in their pockets to research, create, and publish a variety of media with incredible quality, this power has become overwhelming to some, leading to fractured or distant relationships with others and confusion about what constitutes a reality they can trust, engage with, and contribute to. As the scale of information around the globe increases exponentially, and with it the ease of access to that information, it is our job as educators to guide students as they grapple with the realities of a hyper-connected world—a unique challenge, as many educators are grappling with their place in this new world themselves.

Issue 13 of the Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy features a series of articles that can help us, as educators, think through how we utilize the affordances of digital technologies, while also revising our pedagogical practices to respond effectively to the associated challenges. Although Issue 13 is a General Issue and the topics covered by these articles are diverse, they remain centered around three themes: using digital content to broaden and deepen materials for consumption, using digital tools to contextualize relationships and expand communicative methods, and developing digital literacy across the curriculum. Each piece on its own invites the reader to consider digital pedagogies as essential to students’ educational experiences; taken together they highlight the benefits students can derive from engaging critically in both the consumption and production of digital media.

The Issue begins with David Haeselin’s essay, “Beyond the Borders of the Page: Mapping The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” In it, he describes a course in which he invites students to construct maps of both the characters’ and their own lived experiences, drawing on the spatial narrative detailed in Junot Díaz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Where the novel draws the reader’s attention to the porousness of national, linguistic, stylistic, and generic borders, the practice of mapping is itself an exercise in drawing and redrawing points, lines, and polygons. In this context, Haeselin argues that the process of map making allows students to engage more deeply in the experiences of Junot Díaz’s characters and, correspondingly, draw connections between the characters’ perspectives and their own. By implementing multi-modal deep mapping projects in undergraduate core curriculum courses, Haeselin invites us to consider the potential of the digital humanities to help students from across institutional disciplines see the world in novel ways.

Kelly Josephs articulates a different perspective concerning the relationship between multi-modal production and the classroom in her article, “Teaching the Digital Caribbean: The Ethics of a Public Pedagogical Experiment.” In this piece, Josephs discusses both the methodology of developing an interdisciplinary course about digital humanities (“The Digital Caribbean,” at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York) as well as the challenges she faced in teaching such a course. By focusing on the ethical considerations of designing this course as well as the impact that a single course can have, Josephs encourages us to reflect on the broader implications of all our teaching, both digital and analogue (a division that is increasingly nonexistent). While both Haeselin’s and Joseph’s articles chronicle interdisciplinary courses, and both draw on digital technologies as a means to enhance students’ experience of the content, Josephs is using these methodologies at the graduate level rather than the undergraduate, and exploring the ethical implications of requiring public-facing work as a part of a graduate education. Josephs invites us to consider how both the collection and production of digital work in an educational setting has broader impact not only for students, but the communities being studied. Throughout the article, she returns to this theme: exploring what it means to “work publicly with graduate-level research on the Caribbean in academia, particularly with students who have set ideas about their own personal and intellectual relationships to both digital technology and the region.”

The theme of exploring one’s intellectual relationship with digital technology continues in Trevor Hoag’s article, “From Addiction to Connection: Questioning the Rhetoric of Drugs in Relation to Student Technology-Use,” where Hoag discusses how educators, unsure of how to describe students’ relation to technology, typically employ the rhetorics of drugs and addiction by claiming their students are “hooked” on technology. This assessment prompts educators to adopt restrictive in-class device-use policies and creates an environment where technology is seen as an impediment to critical thinking. In an effort to dispel some of these negative assessments, Hoag asks his students to describe themselves and their relation to different media platforms. While some students did describe themselves as “addicts,” many students highlighted the importance of connection in their lives in terms that reflected a healthier attitude about the use of technology. Hoag suggests that, at the very least, students and teachers need to work together to create a new narrative around technology use in the classroom that captures these alternative assessments.

In a similar vein, the article, “Video Essays and Virtual Animals: An Approach to Teaching Multimodal Composition and Digital Literacy” by Christina Colvin explores how the design of social media platforms and video games influence one’s understanding of the world by persuading players to act in certain ways during gameplay. Colvin assigns students a video essay project that requires them to analyze how video games represent nonhuman animals. The project asks students to engage with the architectural designs of video games to recognize how they are constructed to achieve certain rhetorical ends by representing (in this case) nonhuman animals as related to players in particular ways. Through the recognition that game design can encourage players to adopt certain behaviors and understandings, students begin to understand that other artifacts, including texts, are constructed to achieve rhetorical ends as well. As such, immersive technology can be used to enhance the classroom experience for students.

If immersive technology can be used to improve students’ classroom experiences, it can also be used to improve students’ written work. In “Using Digital Rhetoric in a Multimodal Assignment to Disrupt Traditional Academic Writing Conventions in a First-Year Writing Classroom,” Melanie Gagich suggests that educators use digital rhetoric as an analytic tool to critique traditional writing assignments. She argues that students’ anxiety about writing academically for college audiences results from students framing it as “writing to the teacher.” This construction of a particular kind of audience hinders students’ abilities to write academically. Gagich argues that using digital rhetoric as a framework creates an environment for multimodal composition practices, and this new environment provides opportunities for students to engage with “real” audiences. Structuring assignments this way, Gagich argues, promotes student agency and teaches them how to effectively integrate rhetorical strategies that connect with real audiences.

Building on this theme, Stadler and McDermott highlight the importance of information literacy as a key outcome of higher education and writing instruction. In their article, “Advancing Information Literacy in a Semester-Long Library Instruction Course: A Case Study,” they investigate the efficacy of explicitly teaching Information Literacy (IL) through teaching internet research strategies at the lower undergraduate level. Where they argue that IL is a critical component of higher education, and a central tenet of librarianship, they also acknowledge that instruction in IL and internet research is often implied rather than explicit in higher education. Drawing on their experiences in teaching such a course at LaGuardia Community College and using ePortfolio as the primary platform for student production of work, they highlight both the successes and the challenges of teaching IL. This piece serves as both a guide and a reflection on the importance of IL in a quickly changing and evolving world.

Taken together, these articles invite us to consider the ways that we can prepare students for the technological moment they have inherited. The enterprise of education is grappling with a constantly evolving technological landscape that mirrors society’s larger struggle to balance the benefits of technological innovation with the challenges such rapid innovation poses. With this in mind, as well as with the recognition that there are ethical implications to the kinds of technology we employ inside and outside of the classroom, this issue of JITP presents an opportunity for each of us as educators to share our knowledge and experiences with the goal of refining our pedagogical practices to reflect the needs of our current techno-cultural realities. So, as we define and redefine the relationships between technology, the classroom, and the societies in which these structures exist more broadly, we take these essays as an opportunity to iterate on the methods that shape not only our classrooms and students, but the societies and global publics we enter into every day.

Bibliography

Perry, William G., Jr. 1970. Forms of Intellectual and Ethical Development in the College Years: A Scheme. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

About the Authors

Laura Wildemann Kane is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at The University of Tampa. Her research focuses upon issues central to Social & Political Philosophy, Ethics, and Feminist Philosophy. She is primarily interested in how different conceptions of the family affect the relationship between the family and the state, and the responsibility both institutions have to provide care for citizens. She received her Ph.D. in Philosophy and a certificate in Interactive Technology and Pedagogy from The Graduate Center of the City University of New York in 2017.

Michelle A. McSweeney is a Research Scholar in the Center for Spatial Research at Columbia University. She is the author of The Pragmatics of Texting: Making Meaning in Messages (Routledge 2018), and co-host of the podcast, Subtext. Her research focuses on digital writing in romantic relationships, particularly how we establish intimacy and trust through text messaging. She received her Ph.D. in Linguistics and a certificate in Interactive Technology and Pedagogy from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in 2016.

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