Digital Archives That Count

Our project explores new archival forms, new data streams, and new disciplinary models, as well as in developing a level of technological literacy sufficient to progress in evolving research and pedagogical practices.

Reflection: Michael Svec (Furman University)

The goal for Furman’s Archives that Count project was the creation of an archive for use with in-service teachers enrolled in a graduate course Culture of American Schools.  The archive consists of images and documents from schools from around the world and has the pedagogical function of engaging teachers in reflections on the culture of their own classrooms. Through comparisons of their space, materials, etc., with those of other classrooms in different times and countries, teachers examine their underlying cultural messages and then redesign some element of their classroom to make the classroom more culturally inclusive.

The first activity involved identifying and gathering artifacts and images to be included in the digital archive. Using my personal collection of images, 200 photographs from schools in the United States, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, and China were identified and coded. Additional material such as textbooks and school report cards were also gathered.  Faculty from India and Romania are collecting materials from their education to contribute. Education Professor Scott Henderson recently completed an exhibit of photographs focusing on historic South Carolina school buildings and a recent education focused study away to New Zealand by Drs. Lipscomb and Ritter will also enrich the collection.

Once collected a student worker during the spring prepare some of the files for submission to Furman’s Digitcenter.  The Digicenter facilitates digital collections that are made available through a web-based digital assess management system, LUNA Insight. Once the collection has been created on LUNA, teachers in the course can access the objects to develop the skills necessary for analyzing cultural artifacts. The artifacts have been selected, the Digicenter is ready, and over the summer of 2012, I hope to complete the digitalization of the artifacts with a new summer student worker.

The second activity involved the creation and implementation of a new assignment in the Culture of American Schools course. During the spring of 2012 the artifact analysis paper was first implemented. Although the digital archive was not available on line, a smaller subset of the artifacts was used in the class. The artifact analysis combines multimodality with ethnography as a method to explore the symbolic and technological expressions of the teacher’s school or classroom. As part of the assignment the teachers submit images of the artifacts from their classrooms.  These artifacts will find their way into the digital archive. Twenty-four students completed the artifact analysis assignment in the spring 2012 and an addition twenty-three students during the first summer session of 2012. The assignments have been a valuable addition to the course and the teachers have commented on the assignment impacting their K-12 classrooms.  Samples of the teachers’ work are available if desired.

The funding enabled a significant and meaningful revision to the Culture of American Schooling course. The creation of a digital archive has enriched the class discussions and skills of the teachers as well as creating a digital product that will continue to grow in its size and function. There have already been a few discussions with local education historians about how to grow the collection to include teaching and scholarly research. The funds have served as a seed that will continue to grow and enrich our department’s curriculum and the experiences of our students.

An additional by product of this project involved working with the University of Illinois Department of Astronomy.  The university’s Observatory is a National Historic Landmark and I worked with the department on documenting its instrument collection. That report is now available here.

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This entry was posted on July 2, 2012 by in reflections.

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