6.0103 R: Computing Course for Humanists (1/47)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Thu, 25 Jun 1992 16:36:44 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 6, No. 0103. Thursday, 25 Jun 1992.

Date: 24 Jun 92 08:31 CST
From: HuntleyJ@epb-po.epb.uiowa.edu
Subject: Computing course for humanists

Text item: Text_1

Dear Mr. Faulhaber,and other Computing Humanists:
I've read your messages about courses for humanistic computing, and wonder
whether my experience this past semester might be helpful.
This past Spring term,I gave a course to 9 undergrads and 2 grads called
8:195 "Computer Applications for Teaching and Research in the Humanities." We
used Macs exclusively; they were networked on Local Talk and used Apple Talk;
we had SE/30's and MacIIx and IIci's with color monitors to work with; we also
used Telnet, Encore Mail on the Unix main frame, UseNetNews, and CDRoms in the
Library for our work.
The students ranged in entry-level skills from zilch to sophisticated. I
myself got into this business about 15 years ago. The course succeeded beyond
my hopes. We had fun, gained confidence, learned lots of stuff, and left
happy. Looking back, I think it turned out to be a "liberal education" course
in computing in which people learned to explore before reading manuals, to
acquire and then to trust instinct and intuition, to keep everything task-
focused and job-oriented (never abstract or theoretical, and never learn more
than what's needed for the job at hand), but then to become aware of the
knowledge acquired peripherally, to cope with frustration (nothing works right
the first 5 times, then it always works and only dummys screw up), etc. And
always, people are more important than computers.
A lot of the work was done by small teams of 2 or 3 who would then demo
what they'd been able to do for the rest of the class. I wanted people to cash
in on each other's learning. This, naturally, fostered a wonderful group
I divided the material into 4 parts: 2 opening weeks on personal utilities
and programs like word processors, outliners, etc. Second 2 weeks on hardware
and network conventions: hierarchical filing, network protocol and ethics, e-
mail, telnet, bulletin board, distant access to our on-line library catalogue,
access to distant catalogues (including yours at Berkeley), etc. Next 5 weeks
on research apps: note takers, search strategies, etc. Final 6 weeks on
teaching applications and an independent project. EAch person created a unit
(using PageMaker, or the Multi-Media Annotator, More, Persuasion, or Director
that would teach and delight the rest of us about something, something
personally interesting, not necessarily academic. We got projects on Nat.Am.
folklore and narrative, musical structure, Kathy Aker, job interview technique,
horseback jumping technique, etc. Our final consisted of each Hum-Comp (as we
called ourselves) demonstrating the project.
Lots of other details, but this gives a general picture. Happy to answer
further questions if you have them.
John Huntley
308 EPB, Univ. of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa 52242