History Slam Episode Ninety-Nine: Digital History Open House

By Sean Graham

A new semester started for me yesterday as I’m teaching an introductory survey course this summer. Something was different when I walked into the room, though – there were no laptops or tablets. All the students had paper and pens and while some did use their phones to take photos of the slides, the distinct lack of typing sounds felt strange. It reminded me a little of when I was an undergraduate student and the idea of lugging a heavy laptop to and from class was remarkably unappealing.

The speed with which digital tools have come to dominate the academic experience represents a major change in the way we all do and consume history. From mining big data to disseminating history in forms other than academic prose, the expansion of digital methodologies has been swift. At schools across the country, faculty have been incorporating these into their classes and students have been producing some outstanding digital history projects.

In this episode of the History Slam, I venture to the University of Ottawa’s Digital History Open House. I talk with the Open House’s organizer, Jo McCutcheon, about her digital history class, teaching students to use digital tools, and the challenges associated with non-traditional projects. I then speak with two of the presenting students, Chris Pihlak and Chloe Madigan, about their respective projects. The episode finishes with my conversation with Carleton University’s Shawn Graham, the Open House’s keynote speaker. We chat about failing in public, creating spaces where it’s ok to productively fail, and how to assess non-traditional history work.

Sean Graham is an editor with Activehistory.ca and host/producer of the History Slam podcast.

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