Digital Pedagogy Ideas from The Once and Future Classroom

Carrie Johnston, Z. Smith Reynolds Library
Gale Sigal, Department of English

A multicolored banner reading The Once and Future Classroom with statues in the background

The Once and Future Classroom is an online, peer-reviewed journal published by the Teaching Association for Medieval Studies (TEAMS), and dedicated to encouraging and facilitating the teaching of medieval studies at all levels of instruction. The articles published in The Once and Future Classroom include sample lesson plans and syllabi; audiovisual materials; and reports on innovative new classroom techniques, curricula, educational programs, and digital experiments. 

The journal has published essays on a wide range of digital classroom projects for medieval studies and best practices for online teaching. As many of us prepare to shift to online instruction in the fall, Gale Sigal, Managing Editor of OFC and Professor of English, and Carrie Johnston, Digital Humanities Research Designer at ZSR Library, have put together a list of recent articles in OFC that offer creative, innovative ideas for digital pedagogy that can be applied in and beyond the medieval studies classroom.

Mapping Primary Sources

In Mapping the Middle Ages, Yvonne Seale demonstrates how to engage active student learning through the use of mapping skills and available mapping technologies. Her prize-winning two-part lesson “Mapping the Middle Ages,” provides an exciting hands-on introduction to mapping technology for her history students so that they can move beyond conventional rote learning. Her lesson plan enhances students’ ability to better conceive of the horizons of the medieval world.” By using the Virtual Mappa (VM) project and other online archives, Seale makes a number of digitized medieval maps and instructions for using them  available to her classes. Her use of this technology makes global, geographical and contextual interconnections visible so that students can study not only how medieval map-makers conceived of and reflected their world, but also how their views evolved over time.

Historical Research with ArcGIS

Also focusing on spatial learning techniques, Chelsea Skalak describes an approach to teaching the medieval world as one in which “race and religion, among other social and political controversies and struggles have been taking place across the world for centuries.” In “Mapping the Global Middle Ages: Diversifying the Classroom with GIS,” she describes rer innovative interdisciplinary seminar, which focuses on the diverse traditions and encounters that were encountered through travel in the Middle Ages so that the actual diversity that existed at that time becomes visible. Skalak uses the web-based tool ArcGIS to help students trace historical changes in climate, terrain, cities, and roads that led to different travel routes.  Countering the portrayal in contemporary culture today that “the medieval world was exclusively white, Christian and European,” Skalak’s introduction of the mapping technology instead reveals the web of alliances that enriched medieval culture. 

Collaborative Engagement through a Learning Management System

Albrecht Classen’s timely essay, “Teaching Medieval Studies with a Modern Learning Management System: Top Hat in a Medieval Seminar” will be of especial interest considering the quick shift many teachers have had to make to online teaching for our courses. By shifting us away from our traditional teaching methods and into a “more collaborative learning situation,” he explains how teaching with such a system generates innovative, relevant, and engaging teaching practices. Effective use of a learning management system, he believes, makes every student feel equally included in discussions and makes especially shy students less intimidated to express views. And rather than the students’ handy electronics being a distraction, they can now be “functionalized” and applied to the classwork of the day. Through the use of discussion boards and online assignments, the students are encouraged to write more often, and build their confidence through the kind of collaborative learning that a learning management system allows. 

Developing a Multimodal Anthology in the Literature Classroom

In “Student Scholarly Identity and Multimodal Making with a Digital Anthology Project,” Corey Sparks and Miranda Yaggi outline their collaborative course in which students were tasked to create their own literary anthology. This web-based, multimodal writing project involved literary research, writing, and publication, which the authors claim, reinvents the traditional role of the “student writer.” Being put in the position of scholarly editors, the students began to think in more complex ways about the purposes of an anthology, what should be included, and how to invite others to enjoy their work. The result was a digital production “integrated with strong claims about the literary period, well-written syntheses of dense material, and a variety of embedded media, including archival documents, pictures, and videos.” Students felt a sense of empowerment and educational ownership by tackling this “hands on” work. The “core skills of a literature course—primary- and secondary-source research, thesis and claim generation, drafting, and revision—took on new life as students made sophisticated choices to frame literary texts meaningfully within larger historical, theoretical, and formal contexts and, thereby, grapple with the fraught practice of canon making (and breaking).” Their essay delineates the many processes and procedures they developed in bringing this project to its successful conclusion. 

All essays are openly available at https://once-and-future-classroom.org/. We hope they inspire new ideas as you plan for the fall semester!

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