The semester is in full swing, and I am sure that like me you are extremely busy. I thought I would take a minute to talk about a recent assignment I assigned my students utilizing a digital humanities project. This is also a request for others to share their experiences using digital humanities to get students engaged in our fields.
Briefly, I recently asked my students to use the Slave Voyages website. I assigned them a particular ship, which in this case was one that left from Boston, Massachusetts. They were then asked to compare and contrast this ship to others from roughly the same period answering the question "Was the voyage of the Neptune indicative of the slave trade as a whole?" This was intentionally open-ended to allow them to pursue their investigation in any way they saw fit.
The results were pretty mixed. Many students felt that the assignment needed more structure, or they found the database confusing. Oftentimes, they became frustrated by the lack of information available. After some reflection, I think that this assignment is useful but requires a lot more preparatory work before setting students loose in the database.
So, I am curious. Have any of you ever had an assignment that you thought would be really great, and it ended up not working out quite as well as you expected? I am curious to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
I am currently an Adjunct Professor of History at Lynchburg College in Virginia. I received my PhD in Modern British History from Florida State University in 2016. My research explores the way in which competing definitions of masculinity influenced army reform in the mid-nineteenth century. Civilians called for moral reforms; however, they were constantly hampered by politician and military officials' financial concerns. This work offers a number of interventions in the current historiography by exploring issues of corporal punishment, soldiers' sexuality, military suicide, and soldiers' families.