ThatCamp Philadelphia: Working With Students Who Have Low Technology Skills

After my initial panel proposal was accepted, I ran this panel on working with students who have low technology skills as the opening panel for ThatCamp Philadelphia. I wanted to run this panel because this is an issue I deal with on a day to day basis and I am always trying to find new ways to initiate learning for my students. Technology skills are extremely important in this job market, so I really stress them in my classes.

Janine Utell took notes for this panel as well.

  • Digital citizenship is important. Not just for student work, but also for the job force (applications, etc)
  • Many participants noted that their students had a hard time interpreting what they found online. An example given a lot was clicking on “sponsored links” on a Google search.
  • Some schools offer a one credit technology course (that can be tested out of by students)
  • Library sessions are helpful, but more time needs to be spent on evaluating sources
  • This whole “digital natives” thing is nonsense. Many students don’t even know how to use ctrl-f!
  • Solutions to this need to come from the curriculum side, not just the classroom
  • An issue brought up, and I have heard this from students, is going from high tech classes back to really analog ones
  • A list needs to be made, on a school by school basis, of what students need to know for composition level technology skills
  • A big requirement that should be built into school handbooks is mandating that they check their email
  • There should be “technology across the curriculum” ala writing across the curriculum
  • An idea Sherrie Block and I have talked about here at BCC is doing workshops for students on a monthly basis.
  • There was a large concern in the room to not just outsource all of this to the library
  • I require my students to send me an email from their BCC email to prove they can open it and that it works. I use this for their first quiz grade
  • Another great idea that happens in my classes anyway is to have high tech students team up with low tech students
  • Walmart has computer only applications now. If you can’t figure it out, you can’t apply
  • New Jersey does have a K-12 information literary requirement according to Deb Gussman
  • There needs to be outreach to local principals/superintendents
  • Have students do a tech survey on their way into college
  • Gussman gives her online students a list of what they need to know before taking the class
  • I’ve introduced Zotero to my sophomores in the past
  • An idea I had was to have to students put programs like Zotero, Firefox, Google Chrome, etc on a flash drive using Portable Apps
  • Students absolutely need to learn how to cite before being allowed to use Easybib, Zotero, Moodle, etc
  • As Deb Gussman points out, Easybib, Zotero, Evernote and others output errors sometimes
  • An idea Utell had was to do coffee sessions with faculty who could be allies

There are so many great ideas here. I am forwarding this post to my Dean and program director because there is so much we could implement into our program.

ThatCamp Philadelphia: Digital Humanities Integration Into Regular Literature Classrooms

The final session I attended at ThatCamp Philadelphia was run bu Janine Utell on integrating the digital humanities into regular literature classrooms.

  • Amanda French defines the digital humanities as “open access”
  • How can student work be put online? WordPress, PBWorks, etc
  • Digital Humanities Quarterly given as example of open access
  • Should give students option to take down work at the end of the semester
  • I am going to try out commonplace blogs with my eng102 classes next semester
  • Utell: Digital humanities is essential to keeping the humanities alive
  • Some discussion about establishing comment policies
  • Crowd sourcing comment policy to students
  • Peer review is important before work goes online
  • Instructor comments on blogs tapers off as semester goes on
  • French and Siobhan Phillips bring out Google’s ngrams, wordles
  • I’ve had students A/B an Obama speech to a Jefferson speech
  • More incorportation of audio, video, etc into literary classes
  • Modernist Journals Project
  • Amanda French stresses the need to teach bibliographic software like Noodle, Evernote, and Zotero

ThatCamp Jersey Shore: Open Source Tools

I believe this panel on open source tools was the last one on the first day. We ended up going around the room and discussing open source tools we have found useful in the classroom.

  • Joomla is a promising CMS that has many useful plugins. Someone showed one which integrates photo galleries and Google Maps.
  • There was some discussion, since we were there, of Atlantic City. The Atlantic City Experience uses Joomla.
  • AC is an easy city to forget because a lot of the living documents are gone.
  • Deborah Gussman talked about a digital edition (I can’t remember the author unfortunately…Deb?) she is working on. She wants to supplement it with political and legal documents. And wedding dresses. There was some talk that Omeka may be more useful for this.
  • A big issue we discussed was how there is no easy way to do backup on most blogging platforms. I also brought up Zotero as an example of that too. There needs to be a simpler way for non-techy users to do backup/move content.
  • has paid and open source content. A “guest pass” can be acquired. They also fund digital humanities archives like Herman Melville’s Typpe.


ThatCamp Jersey Shore: Online Collaboration

In this panel, we went around the room discussing different collaborative tools we use in our classrooms.

  • Spicebird runs email, calendar, and chat all in one program. Spicebird reminds me of Google Wave.
  • Prezi creates very pretty presentations. I am going to experiment with this in the fall.
  • …along with Dipity, which creates timelines. I like timelines.
  • Transcribe Bentham crowd sources transcriptions of digitized Bentham documents.
  • At some point, I brought up my experiences using PBWorks in the classroom to create wikis for my classes.
  • GroupTable organizes group projects and allows document management.
  • Some discussion of the lack of ease of exporting files from Google Docs. I discuss the symposiums I put together using Google Docs in graduate school.
  • Zotero.
  • could become a Linked In for academics, but not a lot of work seems to be happening with it. I barely used my page until recently.
  • DHAnswers can be helpful for finding out tools.
  • Comment Press incorporates review into writing. Could be a replacement for gate kept peer review.

The End Of Delicious?

Over winter break, one of the most discussed technology stories has been rumors of being either shut down outright or sold off  by Yahoo. I have been a user of for  a few years after years of using  Furl. Nowadays,  Zotero  is clearly the best choice out there. I have only been archiving my academic research on Zotero, but perhaps it is time to move everything over there. Zotero is the best citation manager and document manager I have encountered yet,  which will get even better once it is available as a standalone program, and saves copies of any page you save, which was one of my favorite features of Furl that is unfortunately not available for

Hacking The Academy: Lessons Learned From 15 Years of Hardcore-Punk Shows About Hacking The Academic Conference

I’m not sure if this is exactly the style they wanted, but here is my contribution for the Hacking The Academy collection. Last week, a CFP went up on Prof Hacker to put together an edited volume of essays in different forms of media about, well, hacking the academy. Among those putting this together is Dan Cohen from Zotero. I decided to write about what attending and promoting hardcore-punk shows for the past 15 years taught me about academic conferences.

Lessons Learned From 15 Years of Hardcore-Punk Shows About Hacking The Academic Conference

A lot of this I’d already deciphered by the time I was 15 years old. I spent my youth attending hardcore punk shows in, primarily, the tri-state and Delaware Valley area. I had a lot of ups and downs in regard to this, but a lot of the experiences, both good and bad, prepared me to “hack” my experience at academic conferences. Like hardcore shows, I only attend a handful of conferences per year. This is due to a variety of concerns: finances, lack of ability to travel, and a strong tendency towards being antisocial keep me at home or on campus most of the time.

I was originally drawn to the digital humanities because it encompassed a lot of the things I wasn’t seeing fully actualized by DIY hardcore. While underground and outside of the mainstream, although that is unfortunately changing, hardcore-punk is often very slow to change and evolve. Fans sneer at new means for communicating, producing and distributing records, and changing attitudes about digital media. The digital humanities are constantly changing and innovating, progressing in new and interesting ways. “Unconferences” like #thatcamp and forward thinking meetings like Digital Humanities 2009 are how I have always envisioned conferences being, but never had seen before. Projects like this one, where a book is compiled over a week, are much more “hardcore” than the ridiculous, conservative, nonsense which passes for it music wise.

When I first began attending conferences about five years ago, I drew from years of attending hardcore shows to make my experience much more interesting and productive. Here are some of the lessons I can offer for “hacking” the academic conference:

  • You don’t have to attend every conference (aka just say no): I go to, maybe, a handful of hardcore shows a year. By December, I have attended around the same amount of conferences. As a teenager and in college I wasted a lot of time, energy, and money going to hardcore shows “just to go,” or because a friend of a friend’s band was playing, and other stupid excuses. As an academic, if I even remotely feel like my attendance at a conference is due to a circumstance like this, I am not going. If the money isn’t there, the schedule is bad, the presentation you want to see is the metaphorical headlining band and you can’t see yourself waiting, just say no.
  • If you don’t go you can still keep in touch: The first half of my senior year of high school, I barely attended any shows because I was working every weekend at a crappy job as a dietician in a nursing home. Back then, 1996, I got caught up on shows and other concerns via IRC. I would wait up until my friends logged on at night and get all of the information I needed about the show. These days, this can be done in near real time via applications like Twitter and FriendFeed. A great example of this was the Twitter stream from Digital Humanities 2009. I did not attend, primarily because of a lack of financial resources, but I was able to follow the conference due to the #dh09 hashtag on Twitter. Many attendees live tweeted the conference, posting notes and comments about the panels they attended. Interested parties, like myself, could not only follow that stream, but offer questions for attendees to ask panelists. I could also comment and interact with those who attended and participated, offering my own thoughts and ideas as the conference progressed. Many new friendships and connections were also formed during this process.
  • People who seem totally cool online can and will be jerks in real life: Attending hardcore shows for years, one of the most heartbreaking things for me was finding out someone in a band or a fanzine editor, or other sort of important scenester was a jerk, sexist, homophobic, etc. I took this personally and often brooded on drives home about how IMPORTANT it was to notice and point out their jerkiness. Eventually, I concluded, not soon enough, that hardcore was just like the real world. There were cool people, there were plenty of jerks, and many were very insincere. A lot of popular scenesters and band members had bloated egos or serious delusions of grandeur. At the Modern Language Association’s annual conference in Philadelphia at the end of 2009, I met a lot of friends who I had known from my weblog, Twitter, and other social media. I also encountered a certain person who is very prominent in the digital humanities. They are someone I have interacted with online and had been a fan of their very popular weblog. After I introduced myself, this person couldn’t have been a bigger, egocentric, asshole to me. Totally dismissive, self important, and uninterested in anything but himself. In the past, I would have been distraught and agonized over this, but now I just shrug it off and move on. Just because someone is an awesome theorist/blogger/podcaster, doesn’t mean they will be a good person. Nor, however, does it take away from their art.
  • Save ephemera: I run a website called Hardcore Show Flyers (and it’s sister website Hardcore Punk Misc) which archives show flyers from the mid to late seventies to a few months from now. I’ve been in the habit of saving flyers, folders, handouts, and other ephemera since I was a child. The first scanner I bought in 2000 allowed let me to begin digitally archiving a lot of what would become the roots of Hardcore Show Flyers. Since becoming involved with attending, and putting on, conferences and symposiums over the years I have saved and scanned a lot of things which I hope one day will be useful or interesting to someone. I’d rather spend the time now and save something, than wish someone else had later.