English 3450a: Old English (Fall 2015)

Note: This is a draft syllabus and is subject to revision before the last day of the add/drop period.


Essential computer tools and skills for humanities students

The Digital Humanities is a hot new field within the Arts. Its practitioners are often at the forefront of developing new topics within ICT itself.

But what about if you are not interested in the Digital Humanities? Or are interested in them, but don’t consider yourself particularly computer literate? What are the computer skills you need to thrive in the traditional humanities or get started in DH?

This is the first in what I hope will be a series of tutorials on basic computer skills and tools for students of the Humanities. It should be of use to those just beginning their undergraduate careers, for graduate students hoping to professionalise their research and study, and for researchers and teachers who have other things to do that follow the latest trends and software.

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Class 2.0: Digital technology & digital rhetorics in the undergraduate classroom.

I just posted the slides for my lecture to the Department yesterday: Class 2.0: Digital technology & digital rhetorics in the undergraduate classroom.

Abstract: This lecture discusses some preliminary results from an ongoing research project on the use of digital technology and digital rhetorics in the undergraduate classroom. The goal of the project is to explore how these technologies and rhetorics can address common problems in the literature classroom: weak composition skills, lack of engagement, poor preparation. Initial, at this point still largely anecdotal, results suggest that the committed integration Web 2.0 technologies and rhetorics in the classroom can greatly improve outcomes in this area.

The lecture discusses how these techniques are used and some of the results we have seen.

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English 2810a: English Grammar (Spring 2014)

English 2810 Grammar is a technical course in the form and structure of the English language. Our focus will be descriptive rather than prescriptive. Students will learn how the language works in actual practice rather than how people think it ought to be spoken or written.

In addition to its intrinsic interest, the study of descriptive grammar can be useful for anybody interested in working with the English language, as it provides a framework and set of terms for understanding how the language works.

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Visualising grades: An interesting idea from the Globe and Mail

The Globe and Mail ran what looked like a genre piece this morning about badly-written and hard-to-understand report cards–an annual rite it seems to me. But it ended with a side bar that I found quite thought-provoking: what a better-designed report card might look like:

The Globe and Mail’s proposal for a more visual report card.

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Active Pedagogy and University English

For the last four or five years, I’ve been investigating ways of changing my teaching. Like most faculty of my generation, I learned to teach largely by imitation and guesswork. I mimicked the teachers and classes I enjoyed as a student and otherwise experimented with techniques and ideas grabbed magpie-like from various sources. This worked well at Yale, and, as I was recently reminded during a PhD seminar in Digital Anglo-Saxon studies at Memorial, is probably generally a good approach with highly motivated students who already have a sense of how literary scholarship works. It works less well with students who don’t have a natural sense for what is interesting and appropriate in critical discussions or who have yet to develop experience in that kind of debate. Read the rest of this entry »

Byte me: Technological Education and the Humanities

I recently had a discussion with the head of a humanities organisation who wanted to move a website. The website was written using Coldfusion, a proprietary suite of server-based software that is used by developers for writing and publishing interactive web sites (Adobe nd). After some discussion of the pros and cons of moving the site, we turned to the question of the software.
Head of Humanities Organisation: We’d also like to change the software. Me: I’m not sure that is wise unless you really have to: it will mean hiring somebody to port everything and you are likely to introduce new problems. Head of Humanities Organisation: But I don’t have Coldfusion on my computer. Me: Coldfusion is software that runs on a server. You don’t need it on your computer. You just need it on the server. Your techies handle that. Head of Humanities Organisation: Yes, but I use a Mac.
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