Net.Create: Using Network Analysis to Support Digital Humanities in Large History Classrooms
This is an EAGER award to use Network Analysis to Support Digital Humanities Learning in Large History Classrooms. It is an innovative approach to network analysis that brings simultaneous multi-user predictive network data entry and live visualization into university history classrooms to support pedagogy and learning. The network tool is called Net.Create and it will provide an easy-to use interface and curricular materials that are designed from the ground up to be successfully implemented in a lecture classroom. Net.Create supports the collaborative generation of data as a method of interpreting evidence from multiple historical texts and then using network analysis to understand the complexity of historical interactions. Net.Create will also give practical guidance for how instructors in a variety of disciplines with similar complex interactions can adapt network visualization and analysis skills, typically the focus of STEM disciplines, to support students as they engage with humanities and social science learning.
Network analysis is an increasingly popular and powerful computational tool for the analysis of large data sets. Digital historians have used these tools to represent and analyze historical contexts because they support scholars in looking at a broad range of connections between people, places, and events. While humanities pedagogues are optimistic that these capabilities also provide unique opportunities for supporting students in learning history, available tools do not support easy integration into humanities classrooms, and there is not yet empirical or theoretical support for how this might be accomplished effectively. As part of this integration, Net.Create aims to support novice history learners in recognizing how historical practices are grounded in argumentation rather than in single authoritative accounts by scaffolding students in creating and refining visualizations of historical corpora, allowing them to see these rich contexts, and then challenging them to develop and defend historical argument using these visualizations. Analysis will explore how the Net.Create tool and curricular activities contribute to students' historical practices and to student understanding of network analysis approaches, and whether these network-analysis practices result in new historical learning, retention, and understanding. The design of Net.Create is intended to support students in a wide range of contexts in engaging in challenging historical practices, and in appreciating how these practices are grounded in constructing arguments using evidence from the past. These approaches generalize beyond the 200 students of this initial pilot to students across the country via freely available tools, and across disciplines through an easy customization process. Net.Create and the associated curriculum also provide a unique opportunity to teach students to use humanities classrooms to learn cutting-edge digital approaches to scholarship which can apply across disciplinary boundaries.