This presentation is part of the 2017 3D Digital Documentation Summit.

From the Field to the Classroom: Developing Pedagogy in Digital Humanities

For years, humanists have been developing processes for integrating digital tools into the research and documentation of cultural heritage sites and objects. Primarily, these investigations have been conducted by the upper echelon of the university structure, professors and doctoral students. Thus far, there has been little discussion about how the methodologies and applications developed translate to the graduate and undergraduate level, or possibly even within secondary education. Exposing students to the current digital trends at an earlier time in their academic career will be beneficial to those within academia as well as the general public. The application of digital tools presents new avenues for research and the current excitement surrounding these devices should be harnessed to highlight the significance the field of cultural heritage research plays within society.

Students interested in pursuing professions in an array of history related disciplines need to be exposed to the current research and application of digital tools much sooner in their academic sequencing. Although a limited number of students will utilize or apply these tools in their profession on a consistent basis, they need to be aware of the benefits as well as how these technologies are being employed within the field. In doing so, students become exposed to the tools and language of the digital historian, which will allow them to confidently and effectively communicate with their peers and professionals currently engaged in the digital humanities.

To that end, courses were developed at the University of Virginia and the Savannah College of Art and Design that expose students to digital technologies and their application in the field. Most students within the humanities have little to no technical expertise and these courses are designed to accommodate students at a beginner level. Technologies discussed include 3D modeling, photogrammetry, photomodeling, real?time visualization, GIS and laser scanning. The courses are not limited to classroom discussion. Students have the opportunity to work directly with the hardware and software being employed in the field. As some of the technology may be cost prohibitive, it is important that students are exposed to free open source software and low cost solutions as well. In addition, students discuss the potential positive and negative impacts integrating these tools have in an academic, professional or public setting.

Developing a new pedagogy around digital tools, which focuses on their integration into the research, documentation and dissemination of cultural heritage sites and objects, can potentially create a learning environment that is more actively engaging and empowering for students. As educators, we need to expose students to the benefits these tools have for academic research, as well as how the information garnered can be repurposed for historic site interpretation and other aspects of public history. Only then do we begin to maximize the full potential digital tools have to offer.

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