Digital Scholarship Incubator Reflections: Sarah Thomas

This post is part of a series of reflections from 2017 Digital Scholarship Incubator participants.

Sarah Thomas: As I begin to delve into my project, I am excited and overwhelmed. Listening to everyone describe their projects last Monday really got me excited and the “juices flowing.” Then I got nervous. I’m overwhelmed at all the possibilities for engaging students to be more interactive with course content—that is the crux of my project to develop a more digitally-oriented (and hence interactive) syllabus for an introduction to Catholicism course. I began to think of this project after having my first teaching experiences as a teaching assistant and then as a teaching fellow. The assignments I created that were more challenging, that required more research and introspection, that required students to connect the material to other aspects of their studies and interests, are the ones that were the most effective. If I can tweak some of my past assignments and create new ones that allow them to make the most of what the digital world has to offer, I will meet my goal. But it feels like a really huge goal and I need to break it into smaller pieces.

I’m a bit of a worry wart, so there are many aspects of this that I am concerned about:

• Although I’m steering future students toward digitally-oriented projects, I want the students connecting their research to the “real world” as well as the virtual. I want them to be engaged personally in the classroom, maybe present and discuss their research with one another. Perhaps they can exhibit their research and share it with the larger community. I hope what I create can have the right balance between digital and in-person aspects.
• Another worry is designing a curation project that will allow them to follow a theme throughout the semester. I want to make sure I’m putting the objectives of the course front and center, and not putting “product over process.” I don’t want to get seduced by the novelty of tools and technology and ignore the course’s primary learning goals. So my starting point will be some good old-fashioned syllabus design and get my objectives in order before choosing the material and designing the assignments.
• Finally, I’m worried about the schedule. I want to be realistic and make the most of the next several weeks. I would love to have a “prototype” by the end of these next several weeks so that I have something to gain feedback on. Even though I envision a larger set of interactive assignments, I think for the next several weeks I should focus on the one digital curation assignment and use that as a foundational knowledge for further developments on this project beyond our next several weeks together in the Digital Incubator.

In the meantime, I will put together a basic syllabus with my objectives and units. I will also start doing research using our Zotero library as well as going through one of my favorite journals, Teaching Theology & Religion for ideas. I hope to have this ready by Monday (even if it’s not pretty).