In discussing DH pedagogy, it feels inevitable that whatever project you’re working on will “break” – technically speaking – during the semester. Although some DH scholars have made compelling arguments about the utility of failure when employing DH tools in the classroom, if the course is not designed to be DH at its core, I am concerned about the commitment of students to the DH aspects of the learning (certainly I have already witnessed lackluster enthusiasm for courses not related directly to students’ majors).

This week in CHI, we worked as a group to build a website using a Bootstrap template. Half of our group had very little experience with this or had not used external editors, different programs etc. to edit html. For this reason, integrating senior CHI fellows with new fellows is essential to the completion of the rapid development projects. A group with some experienced users is able troubleshoot issues within itself. Even if a senior fellow forgets the exact steps, previous knowledge includes the possibilities and therefore the ability to find solutions. However, in a classroom setting, I cannot rely on this kind of dynamic, thus troubleshooting even small issues would become an additional instructional burden in addition to the historical content in my classes.

Working through this past week’s rapid development project has reminded me of this difficulty as I prepare syllabi for future history classes. Currently, I have one course framed around building a Scalar book. The class would, collectively, pick a topic, then break into groups to create chapters for the book. While this platform is simpler than creating a website, students are not necessarily prepared to create and troubleshoot this kind of digital scholarship. Moreover, recent experience and anecdotal evidence suggests that Gen Z students are far less digitally literate than millennials. Many Gen Z students have only ever interacted with applications and lack a basic understanding of files and pathways. Meaning, that I should anticipate a rather steep learning curve.

Our next CHI rapid development project is centered on map-making, another potential option for classroom projects. I look forward to considering the viability of this kind of assignment.