Digitizing the Graduate Research Seminar in Early American History

My primary reason for attending THATCamp right now has to do with a graduate research seminar I am teaching in the fall. I would like some help thinking about how the traditional graduate research seminar could be adapted to introduce and incorporate at least some Digital Humanities methods? What I need to stress that I do not mean the more advanced ones, which I am innocent of myself. Coding will not be happening. I would like practical advice about what they should be assigned to use, read, and do. In addition, here are some other concerns/constraints that I have.
  1. Contrary to what I had once thought, most entering history students at my midrange institution are not yet “born digital” in terms of their approach to history or writing. History almost seems to draw in the analog-oriented. Our students are on Facebook, they can Google things, and maybe they have seen JSTOR, but so far they are not generally any more comfortable with blogging, tweeting, or website-building, for scholarly purposes, than most of my colleagues, which is to say, very uncomfortable.
  2. An especially compelling reason for upgrading the digital history skills of students in my field, early American history, is the rise of online research resources, including various Founders’ papers, Early American Imprints, various newspaper databases and the large swaths of source material Google Books and the Internet Archive? Personally I have found these resources very convenient — every old book I ever checked out of Widener Library seems to have been digitized — but I have found it quite hard to manage the resulting profusion of pdfs and image files and such. The instant access to so much material also affects the research and writing process in profound ways that need to be considered. What are the best strategies for dealing with such abundance?
Categories: Digital Literacy, Proceedings of THATCamp, Research Methods, Teaching |