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Information Literacy at Belmont: Digital Research Assignment Tools

Belmont's Information Literacy program. Information for faculty.

About

Using digital humanities tools in the classroom can be an innovative way to integrate a research-based assignment in a variety of classes. Below are some recommended tools as well as some practical assignment suggestions for each one. If you 'scaffold' your research assignment, many of these tools can be used during a variety of points during the process, from selecting a topic to creating a presentation.

Have a question? Do you think another tool should be listed here, or maybe you want to talk more about digital humanities and assignment design? Please feel free to contact Nicole Fox at nicole.fox@belmont.edu. I'm happy to help!

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StoryMap

StoryMap is an open-source storytelling tool. Like Timeline, you can embed a variety of media into your map, including pictures, video and audio. Check out some interesting examples of StoryMap in action here. For more information on using StoryMap check out their documentation here

Usage Ideas for StoryMap

  • Visual Research Assignment. Students can utilize storytelling skills to present non-linear information on a topic. Practical example: Students in an Art History class can be assigned a project to annotate a famous work of art, pointing out various design aspects of the work or providing context about certain design choices. 

Timeline

Timeline is an open-source tool that allows users to create interactive timelines. Timeline uses Google Sheets to create beautiful timelines, and you can embed a variety of media into your timeline, including pictures, video and audio. Check out some interesting examples of Timeline in action here. For more information on using Timeline, check out their documentation here

Usage Ideas for Timeline

  • Presentations. Students can utilize storytelling skills to present linear information on a topic, using Timeline to neatly organize information into a visual timeline. Practical example: Students select a biography or autobiography to read and learn about someone in a particular field. They could write a book review and/or present what they learned about their subject with a timeline.

Voyant

"Voyant Tools is a web-based reading and analysis environment for digital texts." It's easy to use and has a ton of practical applications. Click here to get started with using Voyant Tools. If you have questions about Voyant Tools or need help, check out their documentation here.

Usage Ideas for Voyant Tools

  • Generate keywords and topics. Students writing a review or a research paper could input the text of the document and analyze the most common words. Practical example: FYW students are working on an assignment where they can pick the topic they write about. After doing some ‘presearch’, the student picks an interesting article, and feeds the text into Voyant. They can then take some of the most common words to create a brainstorm exercise, where they come up with some possible topic ideas to research further.

  • Analyze writing style. Students or faculty can use Voyant to see not just common words, but common phrases, number of unique words, and see common correlations. Practical example: Students in Songwriting classes are comparing and contrasting two different songwriter’s collective works. By feeding the text of Artist A’s works in Voyant, they will be able to see common words, phrases, and how they’re linked. After the students do this with Artist B, they’ll be able to write about how each artist uses language in their works, and compare and contrast them.

  • Analyze feedback. Faculty members can use Voyant to analyze the feedback they receive from end-of-course evaluations. Feeding the text of the feedback comments and concerns will allow the faculty member to see commonly used words and phrases, which they can then use to find out commonalities between all the evaluations. Practical example: Using the feedback you receive from classes, you develop a response to your own professional evaluation detailing how you’ll address common concerns from your students.

Wordpress

Wordpress is a widely used tool for creating blogs and websites. For more support on using Wordpress, check out their documentation here.

Usage Idea for Wordpress

  • Blog. Wordpress is the world’s top blogging platform, and the free portion of it is fairly robust, with plenty of themes and plugins to choose from. Students or faculty can share their writing, photography, art, videos or other media through Wordpress. Practical example: Students on a study abroad trip document their experience in another country through the use of a blog. The instructor can assign set topics to write about, or the student can pick their own overall theme to write about.

  • Annotate an article or essay. The instructor could publish a document on a blog and use the free Commentpress plugin to allow students to comment on individual sections (line by line, paragraph by paragraph or block by block) in the margins of the text. Since the plugin works with either standalone documents or a running blog, faculty can also use this plugin to come up with a group discussion blog assignment. Practical example: Each week, a different Creative Writing student is tasked with updating the class blog with an original poem. The rest of the class takes turns critiquing / commenting on sections of it, helping them edit and gather feedback.