Last semester I ran an entire class organized around three Reacting to the Past (RTP) games. For those of who unfamiliar with RTP, it’s a curriculum that introduces students to major ideas and texts through a highly detailed, intense role-playing format to replicate the historical contexts in which these ideas acquired significance. These games are interdisciplinary, involving not only humanities but often social science and even STEM topics — and they require active learning in which the students are motivated to excel. Simply put, it’s the most fun and the most engaged learning I’ve been able to foster in the classroom. But more than that, it also engages students’ emotions, in a way that education has historically neglected, and, at least in the United States, we need more than ever.
This is the first time I’ve designed a DH course (though far from the first course I’ve designed, of course). It wasn’t an easy process, and the product is necessarily idiosyncratic, but, writing the afternoon before the class’s first meeting, I’m pretty excited. I started by thinking about what I wanted students to come away with. A great way to get one’s thoughts together, for those of us who may be visually-oriented, or think non-linearly, or just like playing with toys, is to compose a mind-map. In my case, I used coggle.it, a free web-based tool that is easy-to-use and allows both for downloading mind-maps in a variety of formats and for inclusion in other pages in an iframe; you can see my results on the course home page. I wanted students to get a sense of the main ideas circulating in and about the field (if it is a “field”—that’s a class discussion for another occasion), to gain a basic level of proficiency in some basic skills, and to give them some examples of how people have used or engaged with DH. Plus, I wanted to give them some experience doing.