Month: August 2016

Jackson Pope’s #DHPS2016 Presentation on Collecting the Sounds of Nature

Jackson Pope, an MA student in History of Science at the University of Oklahoma, gave the second presentation at #DHPS2016. Entitled “Collecting the Sounds of Nature: Building an Archive of Bird Song Records,” Jackson’s presentation related his attempts to build a digital repository of bird songs as a historical parallel for the public science led by Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology.

Cornell’s Lab, established by Arthur A. Allen, was the first graduate level ornithology program. They originally recorded birdsongs themselves, but as the lab grew, they also received / collected bird song recordings from a broad array of amateur birders. This public science or “citizen science” project has remained an integral part of the Lab’s down to today.

Like the Cornell Lab, Jackson started by drawing on the Lab’s recordings, but has now started collecting / receiving recordings from South American, European, and African sources.

Jackson’s work is really interesting from the meta level. As a DH project it both reproduces the original physico-auditory collections of the Cornell Lab, and now, it has grown into a public science project. The ability to collect and share bird song publicly is an obvious affordance of the web. The ability to schematically catalogue and map these songs, both potentially in terms of where they were recorded and where they were later sourced for the project, is also a fascinating dimension.

Jackson’s project is also a fantastic example of a history of science project not only available to but actually intended for a much broader audience. As Jackson noted, the birding population is measured in the millions, while historians of science and digital humanists can be counted in the thousands. Jackson is using DH to transform a traditional history of science graduate student project into something much more meaningful.

Pamela Gossin’s #DHPS2016 Presentation on the Neihardt Projects

Pamela Gossin of UT Dallas kicked off the presentations with a presentation entitled “The Neihardt Projects: Unexpected History of Science.”

 Gossin “studies the interdisciplinary interrelations of literature, history and science, especially astronomy and cosmology, from the ancient world, through the Scientific Revolution to the present.” In this presentation she discussed her own evolution as a humanist challenging the perceived boundaries between “The Sciences” and “Literature.” She related how her own research of disciplinary boundaries helped her to negotiate the evolving boundaries between the digital, the humanities, the sciences, libraries, archives, etc.

John G. Neihardt, the Nebraska Poet Laureate, was a writer of Great Plains literature. One of his best known works, Black Elk Speaks, is a biography of a Lakota holy man which has received both positive reviews for an insight into the Lakota people and critical review from Lakotas as the naive writings of an outsider. Gossin’s digital project “provides an extensive searchable digital archive of Neihardt’s collected professional and personal letters along with previously uncollected essays and reviews. Accompanying interpretative essays provide a contextual framework for the digital archive.”

Hosted by the University of Nebraska, “The Neihardt Projects,” reflects the host’s success in funding, developing, and supporting DH projects. Gossin reflected on how absolutely necessary the partnership with established digital humanists in terms of navigating TEI, markup, web coding—the translation of a project that would have been a collected book of correspondence in the past into a digital archive.

The utility of this particular DH project is in all of those things that a collected book of correspondence would have failed to do. Sharing and even teaching the Lakota language is a powerful part of the tool. This site can be used as an educational tool, as an OER tool for Neihardt’s works, and as a model for other projects.

Gossin’s message focused on her own transition from humanist as solitary thinker, into a collaborative member of a broader project with wider impact. Coming from my own support position in the Center for Teaching Excellence, I really appreciated Gossin’s public appreciation of her collaborators, the DH specialists who like early scientific assistants are often omitted from discussions of DH projects.

Humanists have long worked in a model of single authorship and their professional advancement has relied on their ability to write and publish on their own. This history has spilled over into the early years of DH as confusion over how to credit the large working groups that are often required to develop DH projects. In hiring and evaluating tenure portfolios, single-author article and monographs are still often weighted ahead of collaborative projects. Gossin’s presentation served as a reminder of how powerful collaborative research can be and how useful it can be to acknowledge this collaboration.

Canvas LMS tools for tracking student engagement

A couple of days ago I read a study by Civitas of more than 600,000 students, which found that low student engagement with the LMS was significantly correlated with dropping out. Having just returned from #InstCon, I immediately started thinking about how we at OU could use some of the reports and API tools from Canvas to identify students with low LMS engagement levels.

On the scale of an individual course, instructors at OU can access student activity reports through the people menu item.

Screenshot of the Canvas LMS people menu

You can then click on the ‘Access Report’ for that student which will bring up the number of times the student has viewed each item in the Canvas course, their participation with the Canvas assignments and the Last Viewed time for those items:

Canvas LMS student access report

As an instructor, you could use the student access data to identify those students who have not viewed or interacted with your course for a few days or a week and send a message to those students reminding them of the importance of consistent engagement and timely interactions.

Another strategy for using Canvas engagement data is simply emailing students who haven’t turned in an assignment. On every assignment in the Canvas gradebook, there’s a little arrow to indicate a dropdown menu. From that menu, you can select “Email students who….” This will bring up a menu to allow you to email all students who have yet to turn in an assignment or those students who scored below a certain threshold, or those students who did a great job that you want to praise.

At the university level, we could use the Canvas API to collect data on the activity of all of our students. We could then develop a report to identify those students with lower LMS usage and possibly refer them to student retention counselors. However, this report would likely be a better indicator of those departments and colleges that don’t use the LMS extensively. If for example a student was a junior taking and taking all of her classes in her major, but that particular department wasn’t using Canvas for anything other than syllabus and gradebook hosting, the student would likely have extremely low LMS usage statistics. Therefore any reporting done above the level of an individual course would need to think about normalization of the data and identify reasons that a student might not be using Canvas.

*the screenshots above were pulled from the Canvas Guides

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