AHIS100: American Political and Social History I, Fall 2015

Course website guide

Primary readings: https://maevekane.net/ahis100/
Students were expected to complete assigned readings from the course textbook (http://www.americanyawp.com/) before Monday and Wednesday lectures, and for Friday discussion sections were assigned primary documents and interactive activities posted at https://maevekane.net/ahis100/. I built this site new for the Fall 2015 semester and it includes thematically grouped primary documents, images, and interactive maps, as well as occasional sound and video clips with discussion questions to guide student reading and keep all nine discussion sections in sync.

When possible, I selected unique primary sources with a local connection, such as the “Address of the Female Anti-Slavery Society of Hudson, NY” (https://maevekane.net/ahis100/exhibits/show/revolution-and-reform/item/35) to help students connect course topics to their own experience of the region.

Lecture slides: https://maevekane.net/ahis100/lecture-slides
All lecture slides were posted the morning before lecture meeting to enable students to follow along during lecture and encourage students to take notes on the iclicker questions, as questions were posted and the correct answer discussed in class but not posted online.

Assignment “Primary Source Images”:

Assignment submission link: https://maevekane.net/ahis100/primary
Student submissions are viewable here: https://maevekane.net/ahis100/collections/show/1

Assignment text:
You must submit one image with personal historic importance and one image with national historic importance related to something that happened within your lifetime. Your image can be of an object, document or anything else–it does not need to be a picture of a person or have your face in it.

You must complete this form twice, once for a personal image and once for a national image, and remember that your images will be viewable to your classmates and the rest of the internet. All fields, including the title, year, location, subject and 100-200 word description must be completed to receive credit for the assignment.

As the first assignment for the semester, this assignment had three goals: first, to disrupt ideas of a “grand narrative”; second, to help students consider the difference scale makes in analyzing the past; and third, to introduce students to not just the idea of a primary source but also the idea that our knowledge of the past is dependent on choices made to prioritize certain documents and certain stories.

This assignment was used as a touchstone through out the semester, first as an introductory conversation in discussion section about how students defined “historically important” in their personal submissions and their political submissions, as well as in lecture to discuss the way in which historical change is visible in different ways at the personal and national levels. (A lecture slide of word clouds built from students’ submission is available here: https://maevekane.net/ahis100/lectures/aug31.html#/7 with personal image text above and political image text below, which was used to illustrate for students both the over arching themes running through their submissions as well as the variety of themes). We returned to this assignment at various points during the semester in lecture and discussion as a starting point to discuss why topics like race, gender, family and disability history have different kinds of documentation than more traditional legal or political history topics, and again at the end of semester to discuss the importance of understanding how we know what we know.

By having students look through the submissions from their section and the course as a whole in the first discussion section, students examined how the way they defined “historically important” differed from their peers and discussed the messiness of the modern historical moment they are already familiar with, with no over arching narrative. As the first assignment for the course, this assignment foregrounded the importance of avoiding sweeping generalizations about a period or group, understanding the limits of the documentation available, and understanding the authorship and intent of documents historians rely on.

Assignment “Documentation”:

Assigned readings: https://maevekane.net/ahis100/exhibits/show/the-atlantic-world/readings

Assignment text: https://maevekane.net/ahis100/exhibits/show/the-atlantic-world/assignment
Part 1: The Historic Record
Minimum 250 words
Look through the assigned readings for this week.  What parts of people’s lives do they document?  Your discussion questions for this week ask you to think about people’s personal lives based on very limited evidence.  Using at least one chart and one text document with at least one quotation and citation from the text document, briefly summarize the purpose of the text document and the kind of information conveyed by the chart.  These summaries should be 1-2 sentences and focus on the kind of translation we did with the Document Translation assignment.  (You do not need to include images of the charts in your paper).
Using the same probate chart and text document, list three why questions which the documents do not answer and explain why these documents cannot answer these questions.  For example: “Why did enslaved people escape?  The runaway ads cannot answer this question because X Y and Z.”
Be specific!  Part of the work of a historian is making informed judgements based on limited evidence, so read carefully and make arguments citations to support your argument.

Part 2: Making an Archive
Maximum 250 words
Historians have to rely on archives of documents to understand the past, and archives are created based on what people think is important enough to document.  The first week of class, we made an archive when you submitted your Primary Source Images.
Look through the Personal items and the Political items and describe what important parts of your life are left out.  What parts of your life aren’t included in the archive we created?  What kinds of things would a historian know about you if they had only our archive to work from?
You will be graded on content, argument, organization, grammar/mechanics, citations, and your use of the documents.  Except in Part 2, do not use “I” statements (“I believe that the document is about X”); rather, make declarative statements: “The Discource Concerning Western Planting was written by X and argued that Y.”

As the second formal paper for the semester, this assignment guided students through one step of thinking like a historian, the major theme for the writing assignments in this course. After the primary source image assignment above, the first formal paper guided students through the process of carefully reading difficult historic documents by looking for evidence of authorship, intent and audience, and using that information to translate the document into a more easily understandable paraphrase.

This second paper assignment builds on those reading skills by asking students to think about the limits of their evidence, first by examining unfamiliar documents such as seemingly neutral quantitative information, and second by reflecting on how little of their own lives is captured by the 400+ images submitted by the class for the primary source assignment. In addition to introducing students to the basic mechanics of academic writing such as form and citations, these initial assignments took students through the questions what do you know and what don’t you know, which formed the basis of future assignments for the course and which were used to illustrate for students how skills built in their general education courses might be applied to other courses and future careers.

Assignment “Boston Massacre”:

Assigned readings: https://maevekane.net/ahis100/exhibits/show/the-american-revolution/readings

Assignment text: https://maevekane.net/ahis100/exhibits/show/the-american-revolution/assignment
750 words minimum.
Based on the readings for this week, argue whether Preston and the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre should have been convicted or acquitted.  Read through excerpts from Day One and Day Two of the trial for evidence to support your position.  In class on Friday you will be asked to argue your position to convict or acquit Preston and the British soldiers.
Do not summarize the events of the Boston Massacre.  Assume that your reader knows when and where it happened, and who was involved.  Your task is to answer the question: Did Preston order the British soldiers to open fire on the civilians and how do you know?  If you can show that he did give the order, then he should be convicted.  If you can show that he did not give the order, then he should be acquitted.
You will be graded on content, argument, organization, grammar/mechanics, citations, and your use of the documents.  Do not use “I” statements (“I believe that the document is about X”); rather, make declarative statements: “Witness Nathaniel Appleton stated that Preston did X and Y but not Z.”

This assignment built on previous assignments by requiring students to put together skills from earlier assignments such as carefully reading difficult documents, considering the audience and intent of their documentation, and considering the limitations of their evidence to answer how do you know what you know? By requiring students to take a position on a contentious issue for which there is no correct answer (whether the British Captain Preston gave the order to fire), students applied their skills from previous assignments in order to create an evidence-based argument with a central thesis for an informed audience of their peers. This assignment was used to prepare students for a discussion session in which students articulated their argument and evidence to practice argumentation and public speaking. This assignment laid the foundation for future assignments in the course which asked students to articulate an argument about why based on how do you know what you know.


AHIS290: Introduction to Digital History, Spring 2016

Course website guide

Course readings and resources: http://ahis290.maevekane.net/
The site for this course serves as daily resource site for class sessions and discussion area (as in the introductory post: http://ahis290.maevekane.net/2016/01/07/introductions/) as well as technical reference for course requirements and skill development (eg, http://ahis290.maevekane.net/2015/12/31/adding-footnotes-to-web-pages/) and as the course develops will also serve as a work space for students to post and give feedback on the component parts of the midterm and final projects before posting to the project site below. Although Blackboard offers some of this functionality, the more open nature of a course site allows students to gain confidence and experience in writing for a public audience and allows for a more multimedia rich experience as the course develops. As the semester progresses, individual students will take responsibility for writing synthesis and discussion posts for the day’s readings.

Student projects: http://albanywalksforhealth.com/
Student service learning projects for this course will be hosted on the website for the Albany Walks for Health project coordinated by the Albany YMCA. I designed the site for this community project using the free, open source content management system Curatescape, and through their service learning project for this course, students will gain experience designing publicly-engaged history projects which serve multiple public audiences.


AHIS407/ADOC407/AHIS606: Readings and Practicum in Digital History, Spring 2015 AHIS407/ADOC407/AHIS596: Practicum in Digital History, Spring 2016

Course website guide

Course readings and resources:
http://ahis606.maevekane.net/ (Spring 2015)
http://ahis596.maevekane.net/ (Spring 2016)

The course site was used as a daily resource site and conversation starter for posts on students’ individual blogs. For example, the post “Intro to Text Analysis Workshop” (http://ahis606.maevekane.net/2015/03/09/intro-to-text-analysis-workshop/) and “Topic Modeling II” (http://ahis606.maevekane.net/2015/04/06/322/) include links to the software we installed, the example datasets used, examples of use cases from other projects, and examples created from the day’s dataset.

Text on the course site was kept deliberately minimal, as students were responsible for maintaining their own individual blogs and taking notes on class sessions collaboratively, an example of which can be seen here (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1p2Lvt0mb8otO_suSbhUJIBxczQrgBH1Y20_u7H-MZ7Q/edit) for the class session introducing social network analysis, metadata and data visualization.  Collaborative note taking is an increasingly common practice at digital humanities conferences and workshops, as well as a practice utilized in project management at public history institutions.

Student projects: https://maevekane.net/exhibit/
Students’ final projects were built using the free, open source content management system Omeka, to introduce students to large scale collaborative project management and give students experience working with the constraints and abilities of a common content management system used by many museums and archives which employ our graduates. All final projects were required to utilize material from the UAlbany M.E. Grenander Special Collections and focus on the history of the University, but students were given full control over the structure, appearance, and content of the site. Students organized into committees to examine other projects’ structure and make decisions for the course site regarding navigation, appearance, thematic focus, target audience and content of text such as the About page: https://maevekane.net/exhibit/about

Students built individual exhibits focused on their chosen theme, but the collaborative nature of the shared items and collections required students to work together to conceptualize connections between their projects and the future direction of the site. Based on a vote of the Spring 2015 class, the site will be expanded by the Spring 2016 class and now includes a Transcriptions section to further serve the Albany and UAlbany communities by transcribing census records and correcting scans of student newspapers to aid community researchers and alumni.

Depending on methodology, individual student projects are accessible through the Browse Exhibits link: https://maevekane.net/exhibit/exhibits or the Map Exhibits link: https://maevekane.net/exhibit/neatline.

Assignment “Introduction to text analysis”: http://ahis606.maevekane.net/2015/03/01/qgis-workshop/

Assignment text:

  • choose at least one years’ worth of student newspapers in an era close to that of your final project and copy their link locations from here http://ahis606.maevekane.net/2015/02/28/newspaper-links/
  • using the same set of texts in each, choose three tools other than our example Cirrus from Voyant http://docs.voyant-tools.org/tools/ and analyze your group of school newspapers. (I suggest bubblelines, knots, links, scatterplot, mandala, bubbles, rezoviz, term frequencies, term radio.) be sure to look through “more documentation” for each tool for a deeper understanding of how each works and what each displays. [NB as of January 10, 2016 the Voyant site is experience slow load times as its servers are being migrated]
  • remember to adjust the settings, edit the stopword lists, and read the documentation.  a visualization full of “the, and, state, college” will be considered a failing assignment!
  • embed the three visualizations and explain how they differ as well as how their differences affect the interpretation enabled by each in a post like we did previously with RAW http://raw.densitydesign.org/ [minimum 1000 words]

After introducing students to basic terminology (such as stopwords, or words to specify for exclusion) and orienting students to the basic interface of a new tool in class, students were asked to explore new tools on their own outside of class in preparation for the next session in which their results were discussed. The assignments for this course asked students to become comfortable with encountering and learning to learn new software, rather than teaching students the use of software which may become outdated in a few years. The technical portion of the assignment, such as embedding visualizations in text, reinforced skills like working with a plain text html editor which students used throughout the course and which many employers of history graduates such as archives and museums increasingly seek. The writing portion of the assignment required students to first carefully read the documentation for the tool to understand how to manipulate it and interpret their results, then analyze the different aspects of the text highlighted by each visualization, and finally practice explaining their results to an audience of their peers who may have not been familiar with their specific tool. In preparation for the final project, we returned to these earlier exercises of writing for peers to discuss the assumed knowledge of their audience which students relied on in writing their explanatory text, and discussed how they could approach their writing differently in the final project assuming a broader public audience

Project Proposal:

Project proposals are due in class by Thursday 3/12.  Proposal posts should be 500-1000 words long and discuss the following:
1. What’s the topic and time period covered by the project

2. What mode of analysis do you plan to use.  (You must choose one method of analysis, but you may decide to use more than one.  If you are thinking about using more than one method of analysis, you must write about which and how they might be used together)
Data visualization
Social Network Analysis
Display map (Neatline)
Analysis map (QGIS)
Text corpus analysis

3. Why have you chosen your mode of analysis–what does your chosen method tell you about your data, and what can your chosen method NOT tell you about your data (I want to hear about why you chose your method over all others)

4. Everyone will be required to add their Zotero document-level citations and datasets (spreadsheets) as items in Omeka.  What additional items will you need to add to Omeka?  Any person, place, document or thing you want to discuss in your exhibit will need to be added as an Omeka item.  For example:
Buildings or addresses
Analytic map

5. What research do you need to finish before March 26

6. Insert a bibliography from Zotero of the sources you’ve found so far

Final Project:
Online content of final exhibits is due before class on Thursday 4/30, when we will begin presentations.  Final reflection posts are due during the exam period assigned by the college.

Undergraduates: Undergraduate students will propose and design an Omeka or Neatline exhibit focused on some aspect of the history of the State Normal School for their final project.  If designing an exhibit in Omeka, students must incorporate their previous network or text analysis.  If designing an exhibit in Neatline, students may incorporate network or text analysis, but are not required to.  Exhibits must include at least 2000 words of text, of which no more than 1000 may be in item captions and descriptions, and must include relevant secondary research and citations.  Exhibits should also include links to other student exhibits if possible.  Students will write a 1000 word reflection post discussing the choices which informed their exhibit design and any difficulties they encountered.

Master’s and Doctoral:  Graduate students will choose one of our three methods of analysis (networks, text analysis, or mapping), identify further sources from the State Normal School records in addition to those they have already worked with, and design an Omeka or Neatline exhibit showcasing their research.  Graduate students may alternately design multiple smaller linked exhibits in Omeka, Neatline, or both.  Exhibits must include at least 3000 words of text, of which no more than 1500 may be in item captions and descriptions.  Exhibits should also include links to other student exhibits if possible.  Students will write a 1500-2500 word reflection post discussing their research process, any difficulties their encountered in research or analysis, and the choices which informed their research process.

Doctoral (optional): Doctoral students may, if they wish, design a final project around sources in their dissertation field.  Together with Dr. Kane and the student’s advisor, we will identify potential sources and the student will select one of our three methods of analysis (networks, text analysis, or mapping) to apply to their sources.  Doctoral students must also write a 10-15 page paper discussing the historiographic intervention that their digital analysis might make in their dissertation field.  Please meet with Dr. Kane by Thursday 3/5 to discuss this


AHIS601: Readings in Early American History

Assignment “Annotated bibliography”: https://www.zotero.org/groups/314258/items

Assignment text:

Annotated bibliography: Due April 30 in Zotero by class time. Students should have all additional works for their final papers identified and tagged with their username in the group Zotero library. Annotations should be approximately 200-300 words and outline the major argument, method, and contributions to the field, submitted to the notes section. Multiple students may annotate the same work, but each student must write and contribute their own annotation.

In preparation for a final literature review/historiography paper, throughout the course students took individual responsibility for leading discussion of specific class sessions, for which they prepared by circulating a review of the assigned reading for the week and adding outside reviews to the course library through the citation management system Zotero.

Students then expanded the course library with works selected for their final historiography paper, taking responsibility for tagging and organizing citations and annotating citations individually in cases where works were used by multiple students. (For example, this citation for Francis Jennings’ Ambiguous Iroquois Empire annotated by two students: https://www.zotero.org/groups/314258/items/collectionKey/SPC2VTIQ/itemKey/WQA46QWE).

This allowed students to learn from one another about the process of building a bibliography of scholarly works, putting the works in conversation with one another, and pushed students to make connections between their own areas of interest and specialization with others’. This process of collaboratively building a bibliography linked by the themes of the course allowed students to articulate the place of their chosen subfield in the wider scholarly literature as well as articulate links between subfields, skills necessary for articulating the importance of a dissertation or linking together fields of expertise in comps exams.