Secondary-school digital humanists need a scholarly place to share their work and confront the challenges of the field together. This project aims ultimately to create a peer-reviewed, online journal—DH Juvenilia—solely dedicated to digital humanities (DH) pedagogy in grades 6 – 12. Such a space would promote elevated discourse, broaden access to well-critiqued and humanistic applications of technology, and provide a larger, interdisciplinary community for those working in the isolation of their classroom, department, school, or district. The journal would ultimately mirror the already fine model of The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy (JITP) which is geared toward a higher-education audience. (For the spring semester of DHUM 70002, the scope would be limited to the inaugural issue—a special edition of JITP.) Like the JITP, this project would publish themed issues quarterly while maintaining on a rolling basis more frequent, short-form posts. The project would borrow the JITP’s open peer review process for issue articles (and post-publication review for short-form pieces), as well as its editorial sections highlighting lesson plans, step-by-step how-tos, reviews of new resources and conferences, reflections on failures, and explorations of classroom tools. Additionally, the project would include two features missing from the JITP: a section dedicated to considering issues of race and accessibility in the secondary-school DH classroom and a space featuring successful partnerships such as those between public and private schools or between schools and institutions such as local archives. To live up to the values espoused by those new sections, the project will actively seek diverse members for its board, reviewers, and contributors. Further, we will enlist editorial board members who are native Spanish speakers to review Spanish submissions and to translate published articles into Spanish—a small but important step toward greater globality.
STATEMENT OF INNOVATION
Currently, there is no defined online space or publication for digital humanists teaching grades 6 – 12, yet they outnumber their counterparts in higher education, and they were encouraged to experiment with digital technologies in the hands of their students far earlier. A journal dedicated to serious discussions of secondary-school humanities technology pedagogy will help practitioners recognize their place in the vertical field that feeds higher education, as well as in the horizontal field across geography and school systems throughout the English- and Spanish-speaking worlds. The journal would be the only space currently dedicated to technological issues of race and accessibility in the secondary-school humanities realm, and its editorial board would be built expressly to ensure that the team behind the journal had a range of personal experience with such issues.
STATEMENT OF HUMANITIES SIGNIFICANCE
Exciting and powerful applications of technology in the service of the secondary-school humanities classrooms have gotten lost in the recent clamor for STEM initiatives. In an age when humanity itself seems at peril, there has never been a greater need for collaborative, concerted thinking around how technology can enrich our ability to understand people, history, and culture. There is currently no dedicated space where librarians, historians, and teachers of arts and literature can share practice and move forward together as we pursue ways to employ new tools to help our students understand what it means to be human. More frightening still, as technology continues to develop at an exponential rate (and as facility with it is touted as a must-have professional skill), secondary-school educators are not being asked to think about how bias is replicated in and by that technology. Simply by its existence, this journal would reassert the creative and powerful vibrancy of the digital humanists working in 6 – 12 environments while challenging them to face head-on the colonial legacy often built in to the very tools they use to broaden student understanding.
LIST OF PARTICIPANTS
Patrick DeDauw, Managing Editor, The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy (advisor)
Matt Gold, Acting Director, M.A. Program in Digital Humanities & M.S. Program in Data Analysis and Visualization, CUNY Graduate Center (advisor)
Michelle McSweeney, Visiting Assistant Professor, Pratt Institute and CUNY Graduate Center, and JITP Assignments Editor (advisor)
Angela Gibson, Director of Scholarly Communication, Modern Language Association (consultant)
Ruha Benjamin, Associate Professor, Princeton University (consultant)
Kelly Hammond, student, CUNY Graduate Center (principal investigator)
Yolanda Martín, The Chapin School (Spanish translator)
CUNY Graduate Center Digital Fellows (support)
Enhancing the Humanities Through Innovation
As the modern fervor for STEM initiatives sweeps secondary-school funding and attention toward tech for tech’s sake, those innovating with technology in the study of literature, history, and arts are in need of community, public presence, and a philosophical touchstone. Like digital humanists in higher education, secondary-school DH practitioners are often siloed and scattered across departments and districts, and they may not even recognize that their work is part of a growing, global field. Harnessing that far-flung brilliance, sharpening it through peer review, and actively working to reach like-valued minds of radically different-lived experiences can push the boundaries of the field while building a stronger base of digital humanities students for college and university programs. Capturing this work is particularly essential to the broader humanities field, as secondary school teachers often have both greater license to experiment as well as a firmer grounding in pedagogy than their university counterparts. They are an untapped yet highly creative resource in the field, comfortable with failure and iteration in a way their higher-ed peers may not be. And, even without the occupational compulsion to publish, they are hungry to share their work, contributing to magazines, writing chapters of books, and creating their own blogs and podcasts.
Environmental Scan/DH Context
While there is no site or publication dedicated to scholarly discourse around digital humanities in the 6 – 12 classroom, there are myriad sites that offer limited slices of such a conversation. Perhaps the most recognized in the field is edutopia.org, the website launched in 2010 by filmmaker George Lucas’s educational foundation whose mission proclaims hopes of “transforming K-12 education so that all students can acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to thrive in their studies, careers, and adult lives.” Two of the site’s “six core learning strategies” connect to digital humanities philosophy: “technology integration” and “integrated studies.” But, users can browse blog posts only through single lenses such as those categories, grade level, or an area of study of which two are humanities realms—English Language Arts and literacy. The site’s blog posts are written by classroom teachers who receive private editorial feedback, but there is no peer review, no comments, no dialogue.
Lesser venerated sites, such as Creative Educator now in its twelfth year, offer similarly wide-ranging posts, including some DH-friendly categories such as “digital storytelling.” But Creative Educator is peppered with ads and promotes its own commercial offerings, such as professional development. Further, while some posts are made by authors or classroom teachers, others are by written by the editors themselves and some are unattributed altogether. Further, there is no transparency on the site or the parent site (Tech4Learning) that demonstrates any credentials or expertise in the field.
Secondary-school digital humanists, then, are left to forge their own paths for sharing their work. Some create their own blogs or sites, such as Jeremiah McCall’s Gaming the Past, which, while rich in pedagogical thinking around the digital humanities in secondary school, offers only one voice. Other teachers look to more diluted options such as submitting their work to educational publications focused on broader audiences or themes, such as the occasional technology edition of Independent School or Teachers & Writers magazines. Still others share their work at temporally and geographically bound conferences, as teachers from Manhattan’s Trevor Day School did in a panel discussion entitled “Digital Humanities in Middle and High School: Case Studies and Pedagogical Approaches” at the DH2018 conference—a forum not marketed to secondary schools. DH Juvenilia, by contrast, will plumb secondary school networks (from discipline specific organizations such as the National Council of Teachers of English to niche-specific organizations such as the National Association of Independent Schools) to allow teachers with compelling practices in digital humanities approaches in secondary school to connect with each other, to receive peer feedback, and to have an archived space to document the continued evolution of the growing field.
Bastions of the humanities, such as the Modern Language Association (MLA), have in recent years recognized the need to spend time and resources on innovative ideas in secondary schools. In the fall of 2018, the MLA held the “New Visions in for Humanities Teaching” conference, attempting to “bring together secondary school educators throughout the New York area to help establish a collective, concrete agenda for shaping the future of humanities teaching in secondary schools.” Both the keynote address by William Adams (senior fellow at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and former chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities) and the breakout sessions gave significant time to digital humanities projects and concerns. DH Juvenilia would provide digital space for that MLA-imagined future to be realized, but would dream far beyond the narrow limits of New York City.
Fortunately, the JITP has provided a shining example both of how such a space might be constructed and the high level of discourse it could generate. The JITP accepts occasional pieces about DH in secondary schools, but the journal is targeted toward a higher-ed audience, so the bulk of its fine offerings remain out of reach for teachers of younger students. DH Juvenilia would gather pedagogically exciting ideas sprung directly from secondary-school digital humanities and could address logistical challenges unique to its practitioners. For example, the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act adopted in 1998 radically affects middle-school technology use, as do parent concerns about screen time and social media throughout the teen years. Further, secondary school teachers are responsible for protecting students as they begin to create their own digital footprints without having reached biological adulthood—an issue less of a priority for teachers of undergraduates.
While other DH journals provide excellent models as well, the JITP is created and hosted in CUNY’s WordPress environment and shares staff with this project’s participant list, allowing the opportunity for direct partnership and coordinated stewardship.
In addition to providing for middle- and high-school educators what the JITP offers, DH Juvenilia would address head-on issues about race and accessibility. Diversity and inclusion have been significant topics in secondary education for the last two decades, yet, in Race After Technology, Ruha Benjamin cautions, “While more institutions and people are outspoken against blatant racism, discriminatory practices are becoming more deeply embedded within the sociotechnical infrastructure of everyday life” (34). And, while groups such as the Postcolonial Digital Humanities community on the MLA Commons do grapple online with such issues, the conversation is eerily silent in secondary schools, especially private schools with the greatest access to resources.
Tackling issues of race and accessibility is all the more essential in consideration of the fact that secondary school is where students’ identities and senses of cultural norms are concretized. In addition, teachers of students in grades 6 – 12 guide kids when they form tech habit, so using technology to understand, serve, and create for humanity can intervene in the pattern of bias replication and technological carelessness endemic in the world of unmoderated, viral memes and ever more rapid hardware releases.
Perhaps more importantly, students themselves are clamoring for this level of debate, as young activists such as Greta Thunberg and Jaclyn Corin (co-founder of the March for Our Lives movement) make clear. The digital humanities brings to these students investigations that matter through means that captivate them. With the intent of nourishing their teachers, this project will hone craft and spread ideas about ways that digital humanities can empower students seeking social justice. As Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein have urged us in “A DH That Matters” (from Debates in the Digital Humanities, 2019), “We must therefore commit to making a digital humanities that matters beyond itself, one that probes the stakes and impacts of technology across a range of institutions and communities.” Making DH matter is even more essential for kids entering the digital space at the same time as they enter adolescence. This project will encourage thoughtful applications that in turn generate thoughtful experiences at this incredibly critical time in a child’s life.
Further, this project will broaden the very borders of the “big tent” of digital humanities. Already, powerful DH projects are thriving in sixth- to twelfth-grade classrooms: students are critiquing historically themed video games by digging into primary sources, building Scratch projects that experiment with poetic forms, “making over” data visualizations around social injustice, mapping the history and stories of their own neighborhoods, or literally giving voice to women of the past by creating dramatic recordings of letters from the 1770s to the 1940s tucked away in the archives. This project will give that work a public space and give its creators and the field a place to grow through peer review and the exchange of ideas.
With the model of the JITP and its staff at hand, this project has a leg up from the start. We imagine the following timeline:
Step 1: Values and Vision (January – February)
With guidance from our seasoned consultants and advisors, we will commit to mission language, guidelines for articles and short-form pieces, criteria for peer reviewers, and accessibility protocols for the site as well as for submissions. (Though we intend to use CUNY-hosted WordPress as our platform, especially as we learn from and potentially partner with the JITP, we are eager to increase accessibility beyond the current model.) This stage includes research into secondary-school networks and publications that can reach a wide array of digital humanists in English- and Spanish-speaking schools around the globe.
Stage 2: Execution (March – April)
With a diverse team, we will build the architecture of the site with universal design as our philosophy. This stage includes confirming decisions about hosting and platform, as well as choosing layout and design. At this time, we will also solicit diverse contributors and reviewers for the pilot issue, to launch September of 2020.
Stage 3: Testing and Evaluation (May)
With the site designed, we will test it against our values and vision, with a range of audiences, including those with physical and attentional limitations as well as those from a range of identities and on a variety of devices and networks. In this stage we will be actively pursuing our blind spots—decisions that we made based on our own limited perspectives or technological ability.
Stage 4: Editorial Cultivation (June and July)
In this phase we will focus on making sure that our first issue is substantial, compelling, and well written. This phase is timed intentionally, as many secondary-school digital humanists in the northern and southern hemispheres have substantial (though seasonally inverted) breaks in the course of these months. During this time, our editors and peer reviewers will help shape the pieces that will set the tone for the site’s inauguration.
Stage 5: Staging and Launch (August and September)
As we populate the site with the articles from our first issue, we will doubtless find the need for additional changes to site layout or design. We will begin a pre-launch marketing campaign via the networks we addressed in early research, and will push our Twitter account to gather a following through which we can announce the later release of short-form pieces as well as new themes for upcoming issues. We will launch in late August or early September—the start of the school year for many northern hemisphere countries and the month after a long break for many of those in the southern hemisphere.
Patrick DeDauw, Managing Editor, The Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy (advisor)
Kelly Hammond, student, CUNY Graduate Center (principal investigator and managing editor)
Yolanda Martín, The Chapin School (Spanish translator)
Editorial developers (3)
Web developers (2)
Accessibility manager (to push issues of universal design, accessibility, and sustainability)
Final Product and Dissemination
During the Vision and Values stage, we will research school networks in the English- and Spanish-speaking worlds, seeking avenues for reaching our audience beyond our own, more immediate spheres, such as the National Association for Independent Schools and Columbia University’s Teachers College. We will also tap into local expertise such as CUNY’s graduate program for Urban Education. Further, we will leverage our principal investigator’s recent work with the MLA and the JITP to broaden our reach through their sites and networks as well. We will take even further advantage of our staff’s partnerships with institutions such as New York’s Juilliard School of Music and Gilder-Lehrman Institute, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Washington’s Kennedy Center, Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center, and Chicago’s Historical Society to seek educators of a wide range of disciplines. We will conduct a pre-launch campaign through these networks. Submitters and peer reviewers will also do their part to share the launch with their peers and partnerships around the world.
In the iterative spirit of the digital humanities, we plan to recruit new editorial management every two years—especially important turnover as the field itself expands to accommodate new technologies and approaches and as we expand our understanding of what it means to be inclusive. We will actively seek asynchronous, low-bandwidth ways for the editorial team to meet and manage workflow, so that the editorial board can be increasingly international regardless of time zone and internet speed.
“About Us.” Edutopia, https://edutopia.org/about. Accessed 18 Dec. 2019.
Benjamin, Ruha. Race after Technology : Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code. Polity, 2019.
“Creative Educator | A Creative Approach to Teaching.” Creative Educator, https://creativeeducator.tech4learning.com/ . Accessed 18 Dec. 2019.
Digital Humanities in Middle and High School: Case Studies and Pedagogical Approaches-DH2018. https://dh2018.adho.org/en/digital-humanities-in-middle-and-high-school-case-studies-and-pedagogical-approaches/ . Accessed 18 Dec. 2019.
“Gaming the Past.” Gaming the Past, https://gamingthepast.net/ . Accessed 18 Dec. 2019.
“‘Introduction’ in ‘Debates in the Digital Humanities 2019’ on Manifold.” Debates in the Digital Humanities, https://dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/read/untitled-f2acf72c-a469-49d8-be35-67f9ac1e3a60/section/0cd11777-7d1b-4f2c-8fdf-4704e827c2c2#intro . Accessed 18 Dec. 2019.
“MLA Conversations Series.” Modern Language Association, https://www.mla.org/Convention/MLA-Conversations-Series . Accessed 18 Dec. 2019.
A compelling rationale for the need for this project and for the specificity of DH work in secondary school settings. One thing to consider right off the bat: how to balance the timeline for the inaugural issue launch (September) with the timeline for the GC Digital Showcase (May)?