I started off excited to take this class. I have enjoyed Prof. Smith’s classes and his teaching style. What I didn’t expect what the amount of information I didn’t know about digital history and how it is used. I came in thinking I was knowledgeable about digital methodology and learned that there was much that I had to learn. Understanding the how to use digital history in my research is something I gained as well as being able to create digital content for history. These are not the only things I learned, and I am glad I received so much knowledge in this class.
The first thing that came to mind when starting this reflection was our content input. Understanding how to make a digital archive was one of the first steps we learned in this class. The difference between using hi resolution and medium resolution and why you should use one or the other for certain digital projects or archives was another aspect of digital methods that was new to me. I would say I had to start from the beginning to really understand the ways to complete a digital archive. On top of that I gained a respect for those who have created a digital archive. The time-consuming process is enough to deter someone who is not committed to creating an archive for all to use. I believe the problem is also there is not much money behind these projects. Those of us historians who would choose to create digital content will usually be doing it for the good of the field. Although it is an admirable project it is not an easy one to get people to do. This is one of the major issues why we do not have more digital resources. I know through doing my 499 paper that it would be much easier to research if I could find all my sources digitally. The caveat is many historians believe we will lose the tangible items and sources if we digitize everything. I think this is an unfounded argument. Just because we create a digital archive of books and items and pictures and so on doesn’t mean we will destroy them. I am one who loves the experience of reading an old book. The smell, the texture, the age are all things that digital cannot give you. I think in this class we learned that having digital archives will do two things. One, it will give access to those who were not able to gain it before, and it will protect these tangible items. There will always be a way to read an original manuscript and that manuscript will not deteriorate due to millions of hands handling it.
One of the other interesting things I learned in this class is the validity of the use of games and movies as historical teaching documents. Prof. Smith had a lot to say about the use of games in history. Of course, there are some games that have no business being categorized as teaching material, but there are some that might spark the intrigue of a future historian or even just a student learning about the time of colonial America. The use of games in history has been around for a while. We discussed the use of Oregon Trail in schools in the 80s and 90s. It was not very historical accurate, but it gave students an idea of context that they could use to understand the time period. A modern game that I think is useful is Assassins Creed. All of the iterations of the game give a somewhat accurate historical feel for cities in the time period they take place in. Using these games to set up an actual lesson is a great way to get students excited to learn. Gaming is such a big part of the culture of Gen Z there is no reason it should not be harnessed to educate and help them discern between the really historical themes in the game and the ones that are dramatized. I look forward to using these ideas in my classroom when I finish my teaching credential.
Understanding the good side of social media is also something Prof. Smith showed us. Although social media can be a terrible place to find information, if you know where to look and who to look to you can find scholarly facts and information that can help you with research. I have actually created a history twitter and have added a few professors of history to my follows. One such professor was Marina Frolova-Walker. She is a professor of musical history and fellow at Clair College in Cambridge. I used a lot of her ideas in my 499 essay and I have been reading her tweets daily now. I used to hate Twitter and never used it, but now I get excited to see what the historians I follow have to say.
Although it does not only pertain to digital history, I also learned how to use HTML5. I had always been scared to even try to use it. With Prof. Smith’s help, and a templet. I was able to create a website for our Digital Methods project. That was something I had never thought I would be able to do. It was so exciting to finish that site, I felt so accomplished. I still know I have a lot to learn when it comes to HTML, but I got a start. Throughout this class I have been challenged to look at history in a new light. I have used methods that I had never used before and I gain an understanding on digital history. I do believe we as historians must move forward towards digital history for the sake of the practice of history. We must be open to share our research and allow other historians to build upon our work. Our new methods of digital are the next step in the progression of historical understanding and if we don’t all remain open to it it will pass us by very soon.