DHWI: Teaching through Multimedia

Way back in January I had the opportunity to attend Digital Humanities Winter Institute (DHWI) hosted by MITH.  I was/am the grateful recipient of a UMD Libraries Scholarship which paid my registration fees.

While attending the course Teaching through Multimedia by Virginia Kuhn and Vicki Callahan I had the opportunity to practice with some new software, but honestly the class was not what I expected. I'm sure the course description was entirely clear to the authors, but its brevity and use of the term multimedia were problematic for most course attendees. Though, Teaching through Multimedia ended up being different from what I expected, I still really enjoyed it (and it seemed like the other students did as well). I thought that the course would be more along the lines of DHSI's "Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities" which I didn't know existed prior to registering for Teaching through Multimedia (otherwise I probably would have realized the error of my assumptions).

The course spent the first day providing a brief overview of the instructors definition of multimedia and their goals for the course. The instructors acknowledged that multimedia is a problematic term and stated a preference for "digital studies". I really appreciated Kuhn and Callahan's ideas about "digital studies". They traced communication from oral to literate/written to digital. Kuhn and Callahan support the need for digital assignments by pointing out that the idea of 'fluency' means being able to consume as well as produce. Therefore today's students need to have experience producing digital communications. Kuhn and Callahan will get no argument from me.

After the first day's discussion we delved into the practical! Tuesday we created a 'sound scape'; Wednesday we worked on memes; Thursday we experimented with film editing; Friday was dedicated to practical application.

What is a 'sound scape'? you ask. Well, it's a series of audio clips put together to tell a story. The instructors provided clips of speeches, music (instrumental and instrument + vocals), and ambient sounds (both natural and artificial). I thought most of the selections were rather politically heavy handed. As someone who always strove to keep my political beliefs a mystery to my students this was off putting to me. So I didn't actually do the assignment; I just worked on getting familiar with audacity the software that we used to complete the assignment. I think that creating a 'sound scape' could be a really meaningful assignment that would teach useful skills as well as require higher level thinking.

The second assignment was to use an iconic image to tell a new story in the style of Barbara Kruger. Again I found the selection of resources a little heavy handed and definitely overexposed. Since the instructors began they day talking about how they encourage their students to question authority figures, I decide to find my own image. I choose an overused image (but less political) to make a statement about our culture's obsession with youth and appearance.  We used photoshop to create our images which gave me the opportunity to play with photoshop more than I have in the past (or since). My use of photoshop is usually restricted to cropping and resizing images for the web. Here's the masterpiece that I created:

The final assignment was to create a short (1:00-3:00 minute) video using sounds, still images, and film clips. This exposed me to some new tools available for the firefox browser to capture moving images and/or sounds from files on webpages. It also let me play with premiere pro and I haven't had a chance to use video editing software since I was in my teaching credential program. I was being too much of a perfectionist to finish my video so I'm not able to share it yet (if I ever have the time to finish it I will post the final product here). I continued to work on my project through Friday's discussion on adaptation and application of the assignments we completed to humanities courses that the other participants taught. Since I am no longer a humanities instructor, I didn't figure I would get much out of the conversation.

While the course wasn't what I expected I think that I did benefit from content. I appreciated the argument for using multimedia assignments in humanities (or any subject area) which I can use to help support faculty who might come to me in the future. I also had the opportunity to experiment with better quality software for completing such assigments than I did in my credential program.  As an Informationist I should be comfortable with the software available to implement such assignments.