Collaborative Pedagogy

I wrote this post in response to a ProfHacker Open-Thread Wednesday, but I kept getting an error message when I tried to post it. So I’m posting it here instead. The question for the day was about IT success stories.

We have had enormous success in collaborations among technologists, librarians, archivists, students, and faculty in the Wheaton College Digital History Project, which began in 2004. And the inspiration of our staff in what was then Academic Computing and a former staff member at the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE) laid the groundwork. From a classroom assignment for an introductory level course in U.S. Women’s History, we developed a digitization project that has employed students during summers to transcribe and encode the diaries of our institution’s founder, Eliza Baylies Wheaton. We have now begun similar work on financial records that are part of the Wheaton Family Papers. Eventually, we plan to digitize all of the documents from the founding era of the college, 1834-1911.

Collaborations are essential in classroom uses of technology as well as in projects that extend beyond the classroom, and whilst technologists are one significant group in the mix, so too are archivists and reference librarians, who bring other strengths and professional perspectives to any course or project.

Collaborative pedagogy requires forethought, something I’m very bad at. So I would urge faculty members who seek to enrich their pedagogy with technological and research tools to do this part of the job better than I do. Plan such assignments early. Contact the appropriate archivists, librarians, and technologists before the semester begins. Call a meeting in which you bring together the members of the faculty and staff who will be working with your students. Ask them what they think your students need to get the most out of your assignment. You, your students, and your staff colleagues will all benefit from the extra time it takes to craft the classroom experience.

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