DH Reads

DH Read: “Teaching Underrepresented Students How to Navigate Higher Ed Via Digital Humanities”

This post on DML Central by Elizabeth Losh features an email interview with Marisa Parham. After describing her earliest experiences with digital media and how those experiences have shaped her as a digital humanist, Parham explains how K-12 educators can use digital humanities to serve the needs of underrepresented students. Specifically, Parham sees DH as a tool for teaching K-12 students the strategies they need to navigate higher ed when they get there. As she asserts,

“We know that, nationally, the greatest contributor to attrition across identity groups isn’t preparation, it is student inability to navigate higher ed, which has extensive repercussions for members of historically underrepresented groupsAll students have to understand how to advocate for themselves, but the burden to do so is especially heavy for people of color because they are being asked to navigate systems that are historically pivoted toward the exclusion of their presence and interests.”

“In other words, in addition to the academic subject work that K-12 educators provide, we must also teach students how to flourish. We must teach students how to find help and how to make various kinds of intellectual, emotional, and social communities, how to pursue passions and how to draft others into that pursuit. How to listen, how to collaborate, how to problem-solve. For students in most higher ed settings, successful academic life requires an ability to navigate complex bureaucratic systems around academics, enrollment, aid, and housing. That isn’t about knowing everything about everything, but instead about knowing how to find things out and get them done.”

Parham covers several examples of DH work that can be implemented in a K-12 classroom, including virtual reality technologies, immersive digital spatial projects, and computational approaches to humanities texts. From her own experiences doing DH with students, Parham has found that, “Not only were the students given a way to connect to conceptually complex content, but planning and executing their own mini-projects was an empowerment opportunity, the feeling of which they can carry forward in their schooling.” Instead of calling for more STEM instruction, Parham makes the case for better STEM that is more fully connected to the humanistic and social scientific. As Parham’s interview makes clear, digital literacy is crucial (especially for underrepresented students), and computational/quantitative/digital humanities should be a part of how students develop digital literacy. As she points out, not all schools have the funding and flexibility for this kind of project-based learning. The great thing about DH, though, is that it can be done on so many different scales and levels, as her examples demonstrate.

Too often, digital humanists think about DH education only in the context of the university, but Parham makes a compelling case for bringing this work into K-12 schools. Here at the Center for History and New Media, we have a whole division dedicated to K-12 education. The Center was born out of Roy Rosenzweig’s goals of democratizing history through digital access, and since then, the Center has been an innovator in making it possible for students to be digital creators, not just digital consumers (see Eagle Eye Citizen). Having been introduced to the field of DH in this context, I’ve probably thought about K-12 more than some digital humanists, but this post has me thinking more than ever about the possible futures of DH in a K-12 setting.

See the original Editors’ Choice piece here.