Tagged undergraduate research

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Teaching Colonial Translations Through Archives: From Ink and Quill to XML (Or Not)

Abstract

There is a rich body of work on colonial archives, but little consensus about how to use them in the classroom. What is the right level of complexity to introduce? What is a manageable assignment structure in an undergraduate course? In this essay, I present four experiments in teaching an upper-division seminar in which students translate colonial-era materials from Special Collections for publication on the Early Americas Digital Archive (EADA). I have taught the class in different institutional contexts, twice at small liberal arts college (listed in three departments) and twice at large research university (listed in one department). In one semester, we translated a text together. In other semesters, students selected portions of rare books or manuscripts that they thought would enhance the scholarly mission of EADA. This essay explains the course structure and assignment structure of the seminar as I have changed it over time. I conclude by assessing where the class has succeeded, where it has failed, and what I can do differently as I teach students to think critically about the nature of information, present and past.

Background

Many of the new insights and much of the energy animating colonial studies comes from our archival research. Students are often eager to work with rare materials and to share unique aspects of their university’s collections with wider audiences, although even advanced undergraduates may not have the skills in early modern language, paleography, and archival protocols required for original research. In this essay, I explain the design and implementation of a seminar in which third- and fourth-year students in Spanish worked in teams to translate a handful of texts from Special Collections for the Early Americas Digital Archive (EADA), a free, open-access repository of texts published in or about the Americas from 1492 to 1898. In this way, 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.

Assignment Sequence

Beginning

We begin the semester by asking students to analyze passages related to translators, interpreters, and message-shaping go-betweens in texts from the early Americas. By plotting the movements of Admiral Cristóbal Colón ([1492–1503] 2011, 63-93) on Google Maps, students visualized the ways indigenous informants shaped the movements of Spanish imperial agents (Figure 1). In this way, I take a familiar practice (close reading of literary passages) and use it to destabilize concepts that students thought they knew: empire, power, language.

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Figure 1. Map of Colón’s movements from 15 October–12 November 1492.

In weeks two to six, we practice translation with hands-on exercises from the primary texts. In a Tuesday/Thursday class, I ask students to translate a passage from Tuesday’s reading, such as Colón’s finding “beautifully deformed trees” ([1492–1503] 2011, 69) or Cabeza de Vaca’s report of same-sex marriage ([1542–1555] 2011, 173). We review their translations in class on Thursday, debating the advantages and disadvantages of “deformed,” “different,” and “diverse” as translations of “están tan disformes de los nuestros” and analyzing the connotations of “idolatry,” “devilishness,” and “sin” for “vi una diablura.” To trace lexical emergences and common usages, we consult databases like the Real Academia Española’s Corpus diacrónico del Español (CORDE, http://corpus.rae.es/cordenet.html) and Nuevo Tesoro Lexicográfico de la Lengua Español (NTLLE, http://ntlle.rae.es/ntlle/SrvltGUILoginNtlle). As students compare translations in their groups, they appreciate how team members approach the task of translation in different ways and how small lexical variations impact the tone and meaning. This is one of the most challenging aspects of collaborative translation: each translator writes in her or his own voice, yet the group must find a shared tone that respects the historical tenor of the source text. To complement these in-class workshops, I sometimes assign theories and methods of translation (Benjamin [1923] 1968, Spivak 1992).[1]

Along the way, in week three, we transition to a “metadata analysis” of those sources, meaning that students begin to analyze them within the context of digital publics and archives. First, students review a curated list of archival texts that they might consider translating, sorted by theme (language contact, science, religion), region (Central America, the Caribbean, South America), and author (Gonzalo Pizarro, Hernando de Soto, El Inca Garcilaso de la Vega). Then, they meet with archivists in Special Collections to learn about rare materials: how the library acquires its collection, determines which materials to purchase, and classifies colonial works that defy genres, such as multilingual broadsides and maps with artwork. Students also learn protocols required to handle rare materials. After seeing how tightly the university controls access to colonial records, most students are excited to make these materials accessible to readers. We define “access” in two ways. These documents must be freely available and contextualized for general audiences so that non-specialists can understand them.

Independently, students work through a handout to evaluate the text’s content, interest to EADA users, and availability of other editions (Figure 2, distributed before visiting Special Collections). For example, Abby Kamensky, Mae Flato, Molly Hepner, Kayla Pomeranz, and Karla Núñez found a recent, scholarly translation of an important treatise on indigenous people of Mexico on Google Books (Palafox y Mendoza [1650] 2009). Because most of the text is not available in preview mode, they used an edition from Special Collections to transcribe and translate passages on law, foodways, and artisan practices (Palafox y Mendoza [1650] 1893). These themes complement other digital works, such as Sigüenza y Góngora ([1693] 1932) and Las Casas (1552), prepared by guest editor Rafael E. Tarrago from an edition held at the James Bell Ford Library of the University of Minnesota. The students thus understood their work as part of a larger process of archival formation with EADA collaborators at other libraries and universities, and electronic resources like Google Books.

The second part of the handout asks students to identify what they want to learn from the project. Some students seek practical experience in translation, while others want to make the work intelligible to non-specialists with well-researched footnotes. Students also specify which passages or chapters they will translate, explaining how they will balance this project and its challenges with their other coursework and commitments.

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Figure 2. Handout to evaluate texts to translate for EADA.

Middle

Students use the handout, which we work on in class, to write a formal proposal of one or two pages, which takes the place of a midterm exam (weeks six and seven). Each proposal explains how the selected text will enhance EADA readers’ understandings of early American history, literature, or culture, and how the student will design a manageable project within the constraints of the semester. For context, we review sample proposals of translation fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. I removed all of the names and identifying information from the proposals and secured NEA approval before sharing materials in class. By evaluating recent, real-world proposals, students see how professional translators conceive of a project, justify its merit, and plan to bring projects to completion.

These proposals reveal how students understand archives and public-facing digital research. Some see digital archives as mode of preservation, as when Claire Gillespie chose to work with a manuscript that bears signs of water stains, deteriorating paper, and ink runs (Vendrell y Puig 1794). Others considered that the archive should fill gaps in public knowledge. When Hannah Berk discovered that no full-text digital edition existed of the order of King Carlos III (1767) to expel the Jesuits from Mexico, she resolved to make a bilingual edition that was freely available to readers. Emma Merrill identified a gap in the historiography, noting that a Dominican treatise about the excesses of women, fashion, and tobacco (Ramón 1635) was cited in important scholarly works from Latin America (Ortiz 1940), but not available in English.[2]

After commenting on and grading the proposals, in week seven, students are grouped based on overlapping interests like European empires in the Caribbean or Orientalisms in the Global South. These were the points around which two groups formed. Sutton White, Matt Trope, Anthony Correia, and Brent Nagel translated a Spanish diary of a British attack on Florida (Gálvez 1781(?)), and Taneen Maghsoudi, Kimia Nikseresht, and Tara Shafiei translated a Francophone account of Persia that connects orientalisms in the Middle East and Latin America. The latter group of students used their knowledge of Farsi to reveal these points of connection, recently studied by Camayd-Freixas (2013), and to correct Tavernier’s interpretations of medical practices, policies, and customs. So far, I have only grouped students by shared interests, although I can imagine pairing them based on complementary goals. For example, if one student wanted to build experience in translation, one wanted to research and edit, and a third wanted to manage the project, they could make an effective team.

Once students are in their teams, they transcribe the text to create a searchable record. This assignment serves two purposes: I have something tangible to grade before the final project, and students begin to develop collaborative methods. The interactive format of Google Docs makes it easier for teams to search and replace terms that they decide to re-translate, such as rendering “natural del pueblo” as “from the town of” rather than “native of” in Danielle Tassara’s translation of a Chinese labor contract in Cuba, or Ashleigh K. Ramos, Andreea Cleopatra Washburn, and Vanessa Macias’s decision to encode John Smith’s addresses to Queen Anne and Pocahontas in different registers to mark the gendered nature of both relationships in Álvarez(?) (1788).

End

In the final month of the semester, we edit drafts during in-class workshops. I also meet with students in office hours and in Google Hangouts, often joining their drafts to edit and ask questions (Figure 3). One week before the due date, students submit complete drafts. I review them and add comments, either with pen and paper or on a Google Doc, depending on the group’s preference. By using low-tech collaborative platforms like Google Docs, students see that a task that sounds obscure—translating rare materials for a digital archive as a group—is actually within their reach.

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Figure 3. Trading comments with students by Google Doc.

On the day of the final exam, student groups sign up for a thirty minute appointment to review their work and submit it. One semester, I made the mistake of asking students to mark up their translations using XML, after learning it in a library workshop. None of the students were able to complete the markups. They ultimately submitted their work to the EADA site as plain text files, which editors at the archive finalized for publication. I realized that students were working hard to select, transcribe, translate, and annotate colonial-era texts, so I never repeated the XML assignment. Now, we send our work as plain text files to the managing editor, who reviews submissions for quality and consistency. This external review makes it easy to grade final projects: an undergraduate who writes for publication is doing excellent work. I grade the projects based on four parts: transcription, translation, footnotes, and letters of reflection in which students evaluate the contributions of all group members—including their own.

Student Response

Students generally enjoy the course, reporting favorably on meeting with professors, archivists, and librarians, and learning a variety of skills, including collaboration, textual analysis, and how “to help others in translating and teaching translative methods.” They also highlight the value of “meaningful work” in a “very fulfilling course,” writing, “I am amazed how much we accomplished in this course,” “The work was extremely practical…. Coming out of it with something substantial to put on my resume is great,” “the course gave me a sense of accomplishment that no other course had,” and “I could see myself translating texts in the future because of it.”

Teacher Evaluation

I have taught the class four times with twelve student projects, eleven of which are published on the EADA site. Because I work closely with students in each step of the process—selection, transcription (especially with manuscripts), translation, and research—teaching this course requires more time and energy than a course with a traditional research paper. It is also far more rewarding.

After teaching “Colonial Translations,” I began to incorporate projects with interactive technological components into my other courses, such as “Literatura indígena,” in which students wrote Spanish-language Wikipedia pages based on understudied aspects of indigenous history, literature, and culture (https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usuario:Alisoneditorial). I also offer translation projects as options for students who want to combine academic and creative work, such as an edition of Sor Juana’s “Hombres necios” (Foolish men) in which Kate Eagen and Lisa Trinh, enrolled in a seminar on the Mexican nun, conserve the rhyme scheme and meter (http://eada.lib.umd.edu/text-entries/509/) in ways that the EADA edition of Sor Juana ([1689] 1920) had not.

By adapting a project-centered understanding of the archive, one grounded in projects that students develop, students understood in practical terms some of the theoretical questions—what is an archive, whose voices shape it, and how do we hear them?—that can be hard to teach. In the future, I will incorporate more theoretical and methodological readings on translation and digital publics to complement the practical orientation of the course.

Student Projects

Project: …. Francisco Álvarez (?). 2012. Noticias del establecimiento y población de las colonias inglesas en la América Septentrional: religión, orden de gobierno, leyes y costumbres de sus naturales y habitantes; calidades de su clima, terreno, frutos, plantas y animales; y estado de su industria, artes, comercio y navegación. Translated by Ashleigh K. Ramos, Andreea Cleopatra Washburn, and Vanessa Macias. Early Americas Digital Archive (EADA). http://eada.lib.umd.edu/text-entries/noticia-del-establecimiento-y-poblacion-de-las-colonias-inglesas-en-la-america-septentrional-religion-orden-de-gobierno-leyes-y-costumbres-de-sus-naturales-y-habitantes-calidades-de-su-clima-terr/.

Source document: Álvarez, Francisco (?). 1778. Noticias del establecimiento y población de las colonias inglesas en la América Septentrional. College of William & Mary (W&M) Swem Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) Rare Books #E188 .A47.

Project: “The Audiencia of Sta. Fee to the king, on the taking of Sto. Thome by the English in 1618.” 2014. Translated by Allison Bigelow, Mawusi Bridges, Shaun Casey, Julia Colopy, Eleanor Daugherty, Taylor Dorr, Mary Catherine Gibbs, Carly Gordon, Rebecca Graham, Alison Haulsee, Brynna Heflin, Kimberly Hursh, Lindsey Jones, Katherine Lara, Nathaniel Menninger, Sierra Prochna, Kyle Reitz, Blake Selph, Alexandra Soroka, Julia Sroba, Nora Zahn, Mary-Rolfe Zeller, and Emily Zhang. EADA. http://eada.lib.umd.edu/text-entries/the-audiencia-of-sta-fee-to-the-king-on-the-taking-of-sto-thome-by-the-english-in-1618/.

Source document: “The Audiencia of Sta. Fee to the king, on the taking of Sto. Thome by the English in 1618,” In Venezuela Papers, Vol. VIII, British Library Western Manuscripts Collection, Add MS 36321, 67-91.

Project: Benites y Gálvez, Bartolomé. 2014. Diario que hicieron los comisionados Alonso Hill Interprete de Indios, y Don Bartolome de Castro y Ferrer…. Translated by Patrick Johnson. EADA. http://eada.lib.umd.edu/author-entries/benites-y-galvez-bartolome/.

Source document: Benites y Gálvez, Bartolomé. 1790. Diario que hicieron los comisionados Alonso Hill Interprete de Indios, y Don Bartolome de Castro y Ferrer…. East Florida Papers Bundle 353. N. 17 170, April 6 (San Agustín).

Project: Gálvez, Don Bernardo de. 2015. Diario de las operaciones de la expedicion contra la plaza de Panzacola…. Havana (?). Translated by Sutton White, Matt Troppe, Anthony Correia, and Brent Nagel. EADA. http://eada.lib.umd.edu/text-entries/diario-de-las-operaciones-de-la-expedicion-contra-la-plaza-de-panzacola-concluida-por-las-armas-de-s-m-catolica-baxo-las-ordenes-del-mariscal-de-campo-don-bernardo-de-galvez_-havana-1781/.

Source document: Gálvez, Don Bernardo de. 1781 (?). Diario de las operaciones de la expedicion contra la plaza de Panzacola…. Havana (?) University of Virginia (UVA) Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library (SC) #A1781.G358.

Project: King of Spain (Carlos III). 2014. “Se extranen de todos sus Dominios de España….” Translated by Hannah Berk. EADA. http://eada.lib.umd.edu/text-entries/se-extranen-de-todos-sus-dominios-de-espana-e-indias-islas-philipinas-y-demas-adyacentes-a-los-religiosos-de-la-compania-assi-sacerdotes-como-coadjutores-o-legos-que-hayan-hecho-la-primero-pr/.

Source document: King of Spain (Carlos III). 1767. “Se extranen de todos sus Dominios de España….” México: s.n. W&M SCRC Rare Books Double Folio #F1231.M4.

Project: Lafitau, Joseph François. 2012. Histoire des découvertes et conquestes des Portugais dans le Nouveau Monde. Translated by Sarah Schuster. EADA. http://eada.lib.umd.edu/text-entries/histoire-des-decouvertes-et-conquestes-des-portugais-dans-le-nouveau-monde/.

Source document: Lafitau, Joseph François. 1733. Histoire des découvertes et conquestes des Portugais dans le Nouveau Monde. Vol. I, Book ii, pp. 123-125 and Vol. II, p. 485. Paris: Saugrain. W&M SCRC Rare Books #DP583.L16.

Project: Palafox y Mendoza, Juan. (1650) 2015. Virtudes del Indio, chapters V, VII, IX, XII, XIV, and XVI. Translated by Abby Kamensky, Mae Flato, Molly Hepner, Kayla Pomeranz, and Karla Núñez. EADA. http://eada.lib.umd.edu/author-entries/palafox-y-mendoza-juan/.

Source document: Palafox y Mendoza, Juan. (1650) 1893. Virtudes del Indio. Madrid: Tomás Minuesa de los Ríos, chapters V, VII, IX, XII, XIV, and XVI. UVA SC #A1891.C65 v.10.

Project: Queen of Spain (Isabela II). 2014. “Chinese Coolie Contract Regarding Work in Cuba.” Translated by Danielle Tassara. EADA. http://eada.lib.umd.edu/text-entries/chinese-coolie-contract-regarding-work-in-cuba-1858/.

Source document: Queen of Spain (Isabela II). 1858. “Chinese Coolie Contract Regarding Work in Cuba.” Collection of Spanish Language Manuscripts. W&M SCRC, Mss 1.16, Box 1, item 2012.146.

Project: Ramón, Tomás. 2012. Nueva prematica de reformacion contra los abusos de los afeytes, calçado, guedejas, guarda-infantes, lenguaje critico, moños. trajes: y excesso en el uso del tabaco… Translated by Emma Merrill. EADA. http://eada.lib.umd.edu/text-entries/nueva-prematica-de-reformacionnew-pragmatic-language-of-reformation/.

Source document: Ramón, Tomás. 1635. Nueva prematica de reformacion contra los abusos de los afeytes, calçado, guedejas, guarda-infantes, lenguaje critico, moños. trajes: y excesso en el uso del tabaco… Zaragoza: W&M SCRC Rare Books #GT509.R3 1635.

Project: Tavernier, Jean-Baptiste. 2015. “The Travels of Mr. Johannes Baptista Tavernier,” 335, 340-341, 343. Translated by Taneen Maghsoudi, Kimia Nikseresht, and Tara Shafiei. EADA. http://eada.lib.umd.edu/text-entries/voyages-through-persia-and-india-spanish-trans/.

Source document: Tavernier, Jean-Baptiste. (1686) 1705. “The Travels of Mr. Johannes Baptista Tavernier.” In Navigantium Atque Itinerantium Bibliotheca, edited by John Harris. London: Thomas Bennet, John Nicholson, and Daniel Midwinter, 301-348. UVA SC #G160.H27 1705, v. 2.

Project: Vendrell y Puig, don Miguel. 2014. “Mathematical Dissertation.” Translated by Claire Gillepsie. EADA. http://eada.lib.umd.edu/text-entries/mathematical-institutions/#colophon.

Source document: Vendrell y Puig, don Miguel. 1794. “Mathematical Dissertation.” Collection of Spanish Language Manuscripts. W&M SCRC, Mss. 1.16.

Notes

[1] When I taught the class in an English department, largely to heritage speakers of Spanish, I included these texts. When I taught the class in a Spanish department, I did not, because most of the students had taken a translation course for their major or minor.
[2] When I taught the class in a seminar with five to six students, I allowed students to work independently. In a class with eighteen to twenty-two students, they work in groups.

Bibliography

Benjamin, Walter. (1923)1968. “The Task of the Translator.” Translated by Harry Zohn. In Illuminations, edited by Hannah Arendt, 69–82. New York: Random House.

Cabeza de Vaca, Álvar Núñez. (1542-1555) 2011. Naufragios. Edited by Juan Francisco Maura. Madrid: Cátedra.

Camayd-Freixas, Erik. 2013. Orientalism and Identity in Latin America: Fashioning Self and Other from the (Post)Colonial Margin. Tuscon: University of Arizona Press.

Colón, Cristóbal. (1492-1503) 2011. Los cuatro viajes: Testamento. Edited by Consuelo Varela. 3rd ed. Madrid: Alianza.

de la Cruz, sor Juana Inés. (1689) 1920. “Arraignment of Men.” Translated by Peter H. Goldsmith. In Hispanic Anthology: Poems Translated from the Spanish by English and North American Poets, edited by Thomas Walsh. New York: Putnam. From Early Americas Digital Archive (EADA). http://eada.lib.umd.edu/text-entries/arraignment-of-men/.

—. (1689) 2017. “Philosophical satire, or Sátira filosófica.” Translated by Kate Eagen and Lisa Trinh. From EADA. http://eada.lib.umd.edu/text-entries/509/

Ortiz, Fernando. 1940. Contrapunteo cubano del tabaco y el azúcar (advertencia de sus contrastes agrarios, económicos, históricos y sociales, su etnografía y su transculturación). Havana: Jesús Montero.

Palafox y Mendoza, Juan. (1650) 2009. Virtues of the Indian. Translated by Nancy Fee. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

Sigüenza y Góngora, Carlos. (1693) 1932. The Mercurio Volante of Don Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora. Translated by Irving Leonard. Los Angeles: Quivara Society. From EADA. http://eada.lib.umd.edu/text-entries/mercurio-volante/

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. 1992. “The Politics of Translation.” In Destabilizing Theory: Contemporary Feminist Debates, edited by Michèle Barret and Anne Phillips, 177–200. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

About the Author

Allison Margaret Bigelow is an assistant professor of colonial Latin America in the Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese at the University of Virginia, where she teaches courses on colonial science, Indigenous literatures, and Latin American digital humanities. Her work has been published in or is forthcoming from Anuario de estudios bolivianos, Early American Literature,Early American Studies, Ethnohistory, Journal of Extractive Industries and Societies, and PMLA. Her book, Cultural Touchstones: Mining, Refining, and the Languages of Empire in the Early Americas, is forthcoming from the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture/UNC Press (Spring 2020).

“City of Lit”: Collaborative Research in Literature and New Media

Bridget Draxler, Monmouth College
Haowei Hsieh, The University of Iowa
Nikki Dudley, The University of Iowa
Jon Winet, The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa UNESCO City of Literature (UCOL) Mobile Application Development Team1

Abstract

The University of Iowa UNESCO City of Literature (UCOL) project brings together community partners, faculty, and students at The University of Iowa to research, gather, record, and produce multimedia texts about local writers. The team launched its first-phase product in Fall 2010, “City of Lit,” an app for Apple mobile devices. This article describes an experimental course in the university’s general education literature program that involved undergraduate students in the app’s content creation. In addition, it presents initial data for the project’s pedagogical impact based on student surveys, which suggests that the team-based learning project positively impacted students’ perceived learning and motivation.

 

Introduction

Home of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and designated in 2008 as the only United Nations (UNESCO) “City of Literature” in the Americas, Iowa City has a long and proud history as a community of writers. The University of Iowa’s writing programs have graduated thousands of writers and attracted literary luminaries to Iowa City for seventy years. The city itself contains a wealth of information, both published and archival, on many of its writers.

The University of Iowa UNESCO City of Literature mobile application development team (UCOL) project brings together faculty and students at The University of Iowa to research, gather, record, and produce multimedia texts about local writers. Our research team includes faculty and students from the Intermedia Program in the School of Art and Art History, the School of Library and Information Science, the Computer Science and English departments, and the Virtual Writing University staff.2 In Fall 2010 the team launched its first-phase product, “City of Lit,” an app for Apple mobile devices (figure 1).3 The project creates a new media archive of Iowa City’s literary history and includes undergraduate students in the research process alongside experienced scholars.

Figure 1: The “City of Lit” mobile app running on the Apple iPad.

This paper reports our experience from a pilot study in which undergraduate students learned to conduct scholarly research and create content for the digital collection. Students worked collectively to produce multimedia hypertext documents for the app that include text, photos, annotated maps, audio and video. The project encourages interdisciplinary, collaborative undergraduate research, while recognizing the unique potential of mobile devices to make interactive scholarship accessible to the public.

Our paper is organized in three parts. First, we will discuss the UCOL project as a whole, contextualizing student contributions within a larger community-based research project at The University of Iowa by providing information about the app’s background, development, and features. Second, we will describe undergraduate involvement in content creation within an experimental course in the university’s general education literature program. We will outline the assignment and discuss pedagogical changes between the first, second, and third iterations of the course. Finally, we will present initial data for the project’s pedagogical impact based on student surveys.

The UCOL project provides an opportunity for undergraduate students to publish new media research on a mobile app, and our research suggests that the project positively impacts students’ perceived learning and motivation. In addition, our use of mobile technologies promotes engagement by a wider public and capitalizes on the interactive capability of location-aware technologies.

The “City of Lit” Mobile App

The “City of Lit” system framework consists of a web-based content editing interface, a development database containing in-progress content, a collection of websites that host full-length original content for a selection of authors, and a production database of public content which serves the mobile app. Authorized scholars and researchers can contribute to the collection from remote locations, using the web interface (figure 2) to enter data into the development database. Within the interface, students can view each other’s work-in-progress alongside the content of contributing scholars. Students and scholars, then, operate on equal and open terms within the project. Once material is approved by the editorial staff, data is reviewed and copied to the production database.

Figure 2: Web-based interface for data-entry and update.

When the app is started, the user is presented with a “quote of the day,” immediately following the UNESCO City of Literature splash screen. A tap on the screen takes users to a list of available authors and other options for navigating the app. Using the device’s location service, the app identifies Iowa City area locations of interest (figure 3).

Figure 3: A map of Iowa City with locations marked with pins.

Examples of geo-tagged events include locations of local readings, former dwellings of resident writers, and real or fictional Iowa City locations referenced in literature. This information can be used to take a literary stroll through Iowa City or to visit sites relevant to a specific author. Multi-media elements are central to the app (figure 4).

Figure 4: “City of Lit” can stream video and audio.

Users can access a constantly growing collection of audio and video recordings of readings and interviews, along with photography and graphics related to the authors. Other constantly updated features of the app include News and Events, information dynamically fed from the Virtual Writing University website.

We have developed the mobile application for the iOS platform, including iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. The projected audience for our app will increase as we expand support for additional platforms through the launch of a dedicated Android version of the app4 and a web application designed for both mobile and full-screen devices.5 In the next phase of app and programming development, users will be able to contribute personal text, photo, video and audio commentaries through a file uploader function (figure 5).

Figure 5: A screen shot of user file uploader.

Dubbed “Citizen Scholarship,” this feature adds a new layer of interactivity to the app as users become content contributors. Our goal is to make the app itself (like the student contribution) as interactive and participatory as possible.

Related Works

The UCOL project builds on the work of a wider community of innovators in technology and pedagogy. Scholars have shown that new media affords new possibilities for interactive pedagogy and cultural citizenship.6 In recent years, the dynamic nature of Web 2.0 has encouraged a more participatory engagement with technology. Blogs, podcasts, wikis, interactive learning exhibits, and other forms of web-based student-publishing media have transformed the student learning process, making it more interactive, more authentic, and more impactful.7 And unlike clickers, games, or smart boards, student-publishing media engage students in the production of new knowledge, by inviting students to create multimedia representations of their learning. In their best form, these digital systems create a role-reversal between teachers and students, helping students to become writers, editors, and commentators8 and to experience increased agency within a democratic learning space.9

By focusing on problem-based networked learning, interactive technology can be integrated into the political science classroom10 as easily as the dance studio.11 Scholarship suggests that using social networking media in the classroom not only facilitates interactive pedagogy but also more effectively fits the learning styles of students today.12 Gary Beauchamp and Steve Kennewell explore the role of interactive technology within interactive learning, pointing to ways that such pedagogy places more responsibility on the learner.13 For many practitioners of technology-based pedagogy, one goal of such projects is to promote more creative and collaborative student-driven learning.

Recently, scholars have begun to explore specific ways that mobile technology can serve as a platform for this participatory, problem-based pedagogy. David J. Radosevich and Patricia Kahn have showed the impact of using tablet technology and recording software to increase student engagement in their learning process.14 Thomas Cochrane and Roger Bateman have published a model and rubric for “m-learning” (mobile learning projects), which emphasizes the use of interactive technology projects for students in online courses who do not identify themselves as tech-savvy.15 In a study of mobile-based games, James M. Mathews discusses a Neighborhood Game Design Project that creates a virtual reality simulation.16 However, scholarship on mobile technology has not yet considered student-publication on mobile devices, in which students create rather than simply use mobile apps. In addition to multimedia features including text, images, audio, and video, mobile apps can also employ GPS technology to create geo-centric media.  The UCOL team uses mobile technology to create an interactive and local collection.17

Building on research surrounding Web 2.0 practices, social networks, and the ascendancy of mobile technology, our project provides a model for mobile-based student publishing. In addition, we have conducted survey-based research on the impact of mobile app creation on students’ perceived learning. Our research suggests that the structure of the UCOL project motivated students to work harder and learn more than in a traditional literature course.

Undergraduate Content Creation for “City of Lit”

During Fall 2010, English doctoral candidate Bridget Draxler incorporated “City of Lit” research into her undergraduate “Interpretation of Literature” course.  Her students conducted research and created multimedia content on local authors. UCOL team members worked closely with undergraduate students in the class, providing technical support and training in multimedia authoring.

For the project, each student chose one Iowa City author to research. The six-week assignment directed students to: interview their author or a resident expert;18 conduct research in the University Archives of the University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections; identify key locations for their author around town; annotate a series of primary and secondary resources; and write a comprehensive biography that emphasizes their author’s time in Iowa City (figure 6). Students uploaded their research to an online interface (figure 7); their research was vetted by a professional editor, who provided revision before its final publication.19 By focusing on the author’s time in Iowa City, students helped to create a unique and locally-relevant collection.

Figure 6: Summary of undergraduate research project

Figure 7: Content is translated from an online interface (left) to the mobile app (right).

Based on the success of this initial undergraduate class project, Draxler and UCOL expanded the project into a semester-long course offering.20 The new course included a number of changes:

  • We redesigned the project for a full 16-week class, up from the original 6 weeks. This change allowed students more time to learn archival research methods, new media tools, interviewing strategies, etc;
  • Students completed the assignment in groups of two or three, working collaboratively, improving the quality of student research and writing and the students’ learning experience.
  • We offered two sections of the course during Spring 2011, doubling the number of participating students from 20 to 38, and creating a wider pool for assessment;
  • Students shared their work in a public forum through Prezi and pecha-kucha21 presentations at the City of Lit Iowa Authors Event.22  Local writers participated in the event by giving readings of their work.23

In Fall 2011, the course underwent further change, offered for the first time as an upper-level elective, cross-listed in the departments of English and Art. As an elective rather than a general education course, the class attracted students who already had an interest in new media research. Team-taught by Professor Jon Winet and graduate student Raquel Baker, the course also took advantage of the University of Iowa’s new TILE classrooms (figure 8), which facilitate technology-based, peer-to-peer learning through round tables, wall-to-wall white boards, and networked monitors and screens (figure 9). We anticipate that this cross-listed course will be offered annually in the future, and as some project leaders have taken positions in new institutions, we hope that it will provide a template for similar courses in other college communities.

Figure 8: TILE classroom. Photograph from The University of Iowa website.

Figure 9: Students with instructor Raquel Baker in TILE classroom, Fall 2011

Impact of “City of Lit” on Student Learning

Student reflections and evaluations during Fall 2010 and Spring 2011, along with a formal survey designed by the UCOL team in Spring 2011, identified strengths and weaknesses of our project. Student feedback suggests that the integration of literary research and analysis, new media and technology, and local community engagement provided valuable learning outcomes. As one student in the initial pilot course commented,

By starting this project, I found new ways of conducting research. These include things such as interviews with people who had a direct tie to the author, and also going to the University of Iowa archives to obtain new research. The project is very interesting because it focuses on a broad range of writing, such as the biography and the bibliography, and it showed me how to conduct a formal interview, along with using new types of technology.

In Spring 2011, we conducted a formal survey with the 38 participating students. The survey collected information concerning their multimedia skills before and after the class, their opinions toward the new class style and public scholarship, their self-evaluation of personal improvement in variety of areas, and their overall impression of the class. We also conducted a targeted evaluation on certain interface and usability issues.24 Data from the formal survey notes a high perceived impact on student learning.
According to our survey, the structure of the research assignment provided students enough room for flexibility and creativity (73.6% agreement), gave students ideas in directing and presenting their research (76.3% agreement), and taught students skills that they think are useful (71.0% agreement).
Students overwhelmingly agreed that they learned more by doing this type of assignment than by writing a traditional research paper (figure 10).

Figure 10: On questions “I learned more by doing this type of assignment than a traditional research paper” and “I prefer this kind of assignment to a traditional research paper”

Student surveys recommended that we provide future students with online video tutorials for in-class demonstrations, to make the rather technical process of creating multimedia content easier.

In addition to identifying development in digital literacies, the students also noted perceived improvement in personal growth, academic growth, civic engagement, research methods, writing skills, and speaking skills.

Students showed the most personal development in the following areas: persistence, personal responsibility in learning, problem solving, and understanding of local culture. Many of these qualities support student-driven learning, suggesting that interactive technology and student publication increases students’ personal responsibility and ownership in their education.

In addition, students self-identified as improving most in the following skills: archival research methods, primary research methods, bibliographic skills, clarity of writing, and abilities to communicate with peers. In addition to learning skills in new media, the students felt that they made significant improvements in more traditional skills (like literary research and citation) required for the general education course.

Students showed improvements but to a lesser degree in the following areas: online research methods, patience, and interest in literature.

Figure 11: On questions “I enjoyed knowing my work will be published, read by the public, and used in the real world”, and “Did presenting your work to a public audience improve the quality of your project?”

Students found the public presentation to be a useful capstone, and they enjoyed meeting a real audience of their virtual publication. One student wrote, “It gave me confidence and pride in the work we’ve done.” Another student commented, “I thought the public presentation made the whole project feel more official.” Another student noted, “I’ve never presented to a group other than my class so it made it seem more professional.” To another, “It was exciting because it solidified the idea that we’re making something for the public.”

The public component of students’ research successfully created a sense of authenticity for their work, and students “enjoyed knowing their work would be published, read by the public, and used in the real world.” Students also agreed that presenting their work to a public audience, at the Iowa Authors Event, improved the quality of their project (figure 11).25

Students said that they produced a higher-quality project than they would have done in a traditional literature classroom, and they tried harder on this project than they would have in a traditional literature classroom. And finally, students felt that they learned more in this class than they would have in a traditional literature classroom (figure 12).

Figure 12: On questions “I produced a higher-quality project than I would have in a traditional literature classroom”, “I tried harder on this project than I would have in a traditional literature classroom”, and “I learned more in this class than I would have in traditional literature classroom”

Overall, our research shows that this project positively impacted students’ perceived learning and motivation. Their reflections also suggest that, in addition to improved skills and motivation, the project was also a transformative experience for many students. “[I am] very glad I took this class,” said one student, “because I can use stuff I learned in the real world.”  Through their collaborative multimedia research and publication, students felt more engaged and invested in their community, but also in their own learning.The UCOL project serves as an exemplar at The University of Iowa and in the field of digital humanities and new media, illustrating how traditional scholars can participate in engaged digital humanities research, facilitating intercollegiate collaboration at the highest levels of creative research and practice.

Bibliography

Al-Khatib, Hayat. “How Has Pedagogy Changed in a Digital Age? ICT Supported Learning: Dialogic Forums in Project Work.” European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, no. 2 (2009). http://www.eurodl.org/?p=current&rticle=374&article=382. ISSN 1027-5207.

Baird, Derek E., and Mercedes Fisher. “Neomillennial User Experience Design Strategies: Utilizing Social Networking Media to Support‘ Always on’ Learning Styles.” Journal of Educational Technology Systems 34, no. 1 (2005): 5–32. doi:10.2190/6WMW-47L0-M81Q-12G1.

Beauchamp, Gary, and Steve Kennewell. “Interactivity in the Classroom and Its Impact on Learning.” Computers & Education 54, no. 3 (April 2010): 759-766. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2009.09.033.

Bullock, Shawn Michael. “Teaching 2.0: (re)learning to Teach Online.” Interactive Technology and Smart Education 8, no. 2 (June 14, 2011): 94-105. doi:10.1108/17415651111141812.

Cochrane, Thomas, and Roger Bateman. “Smartphones Give You Wings: Pedagogical Affordances of Mobile Web 2.0.” Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 26, no. 1 (2010): 1-14. ISSN 1449-3098.

Damron, Danny, and Jonathan Mott. “Creating an Interactive Classroom: Enhancing Student Engagement and Learning in Political Science Courses.” Journal of Political Science Education 1, no. 3 (2005): 367-383. doi:10.1080/15512160500261228.

Davidson, Cathy N, and David Theo Goldberg. The Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in a Digital Age. The MIT Press, 2010. ISBN 9780262513746.

Doughty, Sally, Kerry Francksen, Michael Huxley, and Martin Leach. “Technological Enhancements in the Teaching and Learning of Reflective and Creative Practice in Dance.” Research in Dance Education 9, no. 2 (2008): 129-146. doi:10.1080/14647890802088041.

Joe Fassler at Iowa Author’s Event, 2011. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvJMW-0wxYA&feature=youtube_gdata_player.

Mannion, Lance. “Interview with Lance Mannion1.” Interview by Jessica McCarthy and Wei Ren. Online posting, March 31, 2011. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5A-uwcJk04.

———. “Interview with Lance Mannion2.” Interview by Jessica McCarthy and Wei Ren. Online posting, April 1, 2011. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ki8pZtzwDzg&feature=youtube_gdata_player.

Marquis Childs by Ryan & Heather, 2011. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xo3QpCvhh4&feature=youtube_gdata_player.

Mathews, James M. “Using a Studio-based Pedagogy to Engage Students in the Design of Mobile-based Media.” English Teaching: Practice and Critique 9, no. 1 (2010): 87–102. ISSN 1175-8708.

Radosevich, David J., and Patricia Kahn. “Using Tablet Technology and Recording Software to Enhance Pedagogy.” Innovate Journal of Online Education 2, no. 6 (2006): 7. ISSN 1552-3233.

Schaffhauser, Dian. “Which Came First–The Technology or the Pedagogy?” THE Journal 36, no. 8 (2009): 6. ISSN 0192-592X.

Yeh, Hui-Chin, and Yu-Fen Yang. “Prospective Teachers’ Insights Towards Scaffolding Students’ Writing Processes Through Teacher–student Role Reversal in an Online System.” Educational Technology Research and Development 59, no. 3 (October 7, 2010): 351-368. doi:10.1007/s11423-010-9170-5.

Zhao, Ruijie. “Weaving Web 2.0 and the Writing Process with Feminist Pedagogy”. Thesis, Bowling Green State University, 2010. http://etd.ohiolink.edu/view.cgi?acc_num=bgsu1276676479.

 

About the Authors

Bridget Draxler is a first-year assistant professor and director of an interdisciplinary writing program at Monmouth College, a liberal arts college in Monmouth, IL. Her current role at the college allows her to support student speaking and writing skills by developing public digital humanities initiatives within the college’s core curriculum. As a graduate student at the University of Iowa, she developed a course in Iowa literature as part of The University of Iowa UCOL Mobile Application Development Team.

Haowei Hsieh is Assistant Professor in the School of Library and Information Science at The University of Iowa. He leads the database design group for The University of Iowa UNESCO City of Literature Mobile Application Development Team. He works closely with the Graduate Informatics program at the University of Iowa for his interdisciplinary work that studies the interaction between people, information, and machines.

Nikki Dudley is a recent graduate of the University of Iowa School of Library and Information Sciences and current researcher in the Digital Studio for Public Humanities. Her recent work has included database development for The University of Iowa UNESCO City of Literature Mobile Application Development Team. Among her research interests are data visualization and designing web interfaces for digital collection content creation.

Jon Winet is a New Media artist and researcher. In August 2011 he was appointed director of The University of Iowa Digital Studio for the Public Humanities (DSPH). He also directs the University of Iowa UNESCO City of Literature Mobile Application Development Team and the Experimental Wing of the University of Iowa Virtual Writing University. He is an Associate Professor of Intermedia in the University of Iowa’s School of Art and Art History, as well as a member of the faculty of International Programs.

Additional UCOL members include James Cremer, Lauren Haldeman, Dat Nguyen, Peter Likarish, and Raquel Baker.

Notes

  1. Additional UCOL members include James Cremer, Lauren Haldeman, Dat Nguyen, Peter Likarish, and Raquel Baker.
  2. The Virtual Writing University (http://www.writinguniversity.org/) is an initiative that brings together The University of Iowa’s many writing programs. In addition to campus partners, the UCOL team also works closely with the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization (http://cityofliteratureusa.org/).
  3. At the time of our original launch, iOS was the market leader for mobile apps. With the growth of the Android market, we are developing an Android version of the app. The iOS app can be downloaded from http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-iowa-city-unesco-city/id396516495?mt=8.
  4. Projected launch: spring 2012
  5. Currently in beta: http://dsph.uiowa.edu/vwu/ucol/mobile/
  6. In “Everyday Creativity as Civic Engagement: A Cultural Citizenship View of New Media,” Burgess, Foth, and Klaebe argue that new media opens possibilities for “community-building potential.” 2006, 1, http://eprints.qut.edu.au/5056/. They cite Joke Hermes’ definition of cultural citizenship: “the process of bonding and community building, and reflection on that bonding, that is implied in partaking of the text-related practices of reading, consuming, celebrating and criticizing offered in the realm of (popular) culture” (quoted in Burgess, Foth & Klaebe, 4). Although Hermes’ definition does not explicitly consider digital technology, the authors suggest that new media will be a critical tool in the future of cultural citizenship both inside and outside the classroom.
  7. Derek E. Baird and Mercedes Fisher, “Neomillennial User Experience Design Strategies: Utilizing Social Networking Media to Support‘ Always on’ Learning Styles,” Journal of Educational Technology Systems 34, no. 1 (2005): 5–32.
  8. Hui-Chin Yeh and Yu-Fen Yang, “Prospective Teachers’ Insights Towards Scaffolding Students’ Writing Processes Through Teacher–student Role Reversal in an Online System,” Educational Technology Research and Development 59, no. 3 (October 7, 2010): 351-368.
  9. Ruijie Zhao, “Weaving Web 2.0 and the Writing Process with Feminist Pedagogy” (thesis, Bowling Green State University, 2010), http://etd.ohiolink.edu/view.cgi?acc_num=bgsu1276676479. Even technophiles acknowledge skepticism that technology is valuable in the classroom for its own sake; critics emphasize the necessity of demonstrating student learning beyond new digital literacies. See Dian Schaffhauser, “Which Came First–The Technology or the Pedagogy?,” THE Journal 36, no. 8 (2009): 6; Shawn Michael Bullock, “Teaching 2.0: (re)learning to Teach Online,” Interactive Technology and Smart Education 8, no. 2 (June 14, 2011): 94-105; Hayat Al-Khatib, “How Has Pedagogy Changed in a Digital Age? ICT Supported Learning: Dialogic Forums in Project Work,” European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, no. 2 (2009), http://www.eurodl.org/?p=current&rticle=374&article=382.
  10. Danny Damron and Jonathan Mott, “Creating an Interactive Classroom: Enhancing Student Engagement and Learning in Political Science Courses,” Journal of Political Science Education 1, no. 3 (2005): 367-383.
  11. Sally Doughty et al., “Technological Enhancements in the Teaching and Learning of Reflective and Creative Practice in Dance,” Research in Dance Education 9, no. 2 (2008): 129-146.
  12. Baird and Fisher, “Neomillennial User Experience Design Strategies.”
  13. Gary Beauchamp and Steve Kennewell, “Interactivity in the Classroom and Its Impact on Learning,” Computers & Education 54, no. 3 (April 2010): 759-766.
  14. David J. Radosevich and Patricia Kahn, “Using Tablet Technology and Recording Software to Enhance Pedagogy,” Innovate Journal of Online Education 2, no. 6 (2006): 7.
  15. Thomas Cochrane and Roger Bateman, “Smartphones Give You Wings: Pedagogical Affordances of Mobile Web 2.0,” Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 26, no. 1 (2010): 1-14.
  16. James M. Mathews, “Using a Studio-based Pedagogy to Engage Students in the Design of Mobile-based Media,” English Teaching: Practice and Critique 9, no. 1 (2010): 87–102.
  17. The distinctive features of the mobile app, then, inform not only the structure but also the content of the collection.
  18. For an example of a student interview, see Lance Mannion, “Interview with Lance Mannion1,” interview by Jessica McCarthy and Wei Ren, online posting, March 31, 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5A-uwcJk04; Lance Mannion, “Interview with Lance Mannion2,” interview by Jessica McCarthy and Wei Ren, online posting, April 1, 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ki8pZtzwDzg&feature=youtube_gdata_player.
  19. Student content is still currently being edited, but much of this content is already included in the current version of the “City of Lit” app.
  20. You can view the course syllabus for Spring 2011, the first iteration of “City of Lit” as a semester-length project, at the following link https://docs.google.com/document/d/1uxtXjgB4OiSlogb7Px_zVu6jASpfA9HRsA6OHnyQPEQ/edit.
  21. Pecha-kucha is an experimental PowerPoint presentation form. Pecha-kuchas, six minutes and forty seconds in length, consist of twenty slides, each shown for twenty seconds.
  22. http://cityofliteratureusa.org/node/131. For an example of a student presentation at the Iowa Authors Event, see Marquis Childs by Ryan & Heather, 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xo3QpCvhh4&feature=youtube_gdata_player.
  23. For an example of an local author reading at the Iowa Authors Event, see Joe Fassler at Iowa Author’s Event, 2011, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvJMW-0wxYA&feature=youtube_gdata_player.
  24. The survey was conducted by the research team and not by the instructor, with IRB approval. The instructor received results after all information was collected and grades were finalized.
  25. These presentations allowed students an opportunity to describe the process, rather than the product, of their research, reflecting on what they learned and how they learned it.

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