Whittier College English Department Fall 2016 Classes & News

Click on any course below for detailed descriptions of Fall 2016 English Department courses. Click on English News Vol 16, #2, March 2016 for the full “In English” newsletter, edited by Professor Charles Adams, with news and updates about the department’s faculty and students.             Read more →

Work-Life Balance and the Importance of Self Care

All-Mothers-Are-Working-MothersI love my job.  I really do!  There are times however, that I struggle to remain motivated and my creativity is clouded by the many to do lists in my life—from work to home.

Last week I took a day off work.  I didn’t alert my family.  I told my boss I just needed a day.  “Mental health day” she said “got it.”  I love that she gets it.  It was spring break at the college and there wasn’t lots of the usual activity going on anyway. One of the reasons I enjoy my job is because of the leadership in my office.  There’s little micromanaging with encouragement and support when needed.  I find that I thrive in this work environment.  Sure, there are timelines, scheduling, and ‘deliverables’ that are required.  But I believe a certain level of autonomy is important in what we do.  We are humans after all, not machines.  We recharge our batteries in different ways.

So I took the liberty to re-arrange a day in my life.

8:00am Took the kids to school but with no makeup, hair in a tousled ponytail and dressed in yoga wear (wasn’t going to a yoga class).  Came back home and hubby had left to work. I had the WHOLE house to MYSELF! Omigosh!  I poured myself an extra cup of coffee and read a couple of chapters from a book I’m using for research with the subtitle, “:uncovering the secrets of the world’s happiest country” (I see a pattern here).

9:00am Netflix time!  I watched a few episodes of a series that was recommended to me with tons of swearing and nudity that I can’t have on with the kids in the house.

10:00am Maybe I should go get a mani and pedi?  I’ve been avoiding sandals and it’s not because we haven’t had warm, sunny weather.  I text my friend asking if she can have lunch and then I run a bath with some aromatherapy product I got last Mother’s Day.  I decide that I have all of the tools to make my own nail salon at home and I pick the prettiest, brightest red nail lacquer that I own. On fleek!  I’m the only one at home which means I launch my Fleetwood Mac radio stream and now I’m singing out loud to “Dreams” while I pretend I’m in one of those “Calgon, take me away!” commercials from the 1980s. I didn’t understand that commercial as a young girl but I do now. This is also my way of saying I remember the advertisement but I’m not that old.   

11:30am Drive to meet my friend for lunch.  In the car I switch station streams to Notorious BIG radio. Usually inappropriate for my mommy mobile but I’m alone and I proudly practice my rapping skillz while driving.  This is the only multitasking I plan for today.

Noon Meet my friend for lunch. We start off asking how each other is doing.  We order more kimchi and proceed to catch up on gossip and other BS over Bibimbap and I’m pleasantly surprised that we don’t mention each other’s children or husbands once.  We catch our breath from laughing so hard over a shared memory and then we make a pledge, though not a date (yes, many schedules to consult before a set date) for another lunch like this. Good friends are magic for the soul.  I am grateful!

2:00pm It’s only early afternoon. I treat myself to a frothy, decadent venti drink that I normally don’t spend $5 on and I head over to a nearby bargain department store where I take my time going aisle by aisle.  I’m only window shopping but it feels incredibly nice not to have anyone rushing me or the constant worry that I’m on my lunch break and need to get back soon.

3:30pm It’s happy hour somewhere!  I send another text and decide to continue the tour of dive bars that my husband and I have been visiting near our neighborhood.  I walk into a questionable yet cheerful one that has a sailing motif but we are not near the sea and my eyes take a moment to adjust to the low lighting of this drinking den.  I take an empty seat at the bar and I order a beer.  The Barflys go about their business shooting the shit with the bartender and I pick up that there’s some inside jokes that are a part of their high-pitched laughs.  I search my wallet for a dollar bill and I feed the Lotto machine to get a Scratcher.  I hold my breath expecting that I’ll be California’s newest millionaire but I don’t even get one matching pair.  Oh, well!  A handsome man walks in and squints while his eyes adjust.  I smile at him and he takes the seat next to me.  He asks if I’d like a drink.  I tell him that I’m playing hooky and he tells me a joke he heard at work.  We laugh and ask for the check.  Then he turns to me and says, “I’ll meet you at home.  I’ll stop to get milk.”

5:00pm I head home at the same time I’d be leaving work.  I think about how my day went and how relaxed I feel.  I so needed this.

Establishing a work-life balance is hard for working mothers.  Our needs are usually at the bottom of the list- any list.  When I first started my career someone told me “take care of number one— that’s you!”  When I became a wife and then mother the idea of ‘taking care of yourself’ seemed selfish.  When someone would say ‘take care’ to me that meant, get a flu shot, be careful with the pine cones near the sidewalk so you don’t sprain your ankle.  Your children depend on you and there’s no down time.  It didn’t mean, get more sleep or take a day to do things, no matter how small, that make you feel refreshed—like a software update for your brain.  

The importance of self care is obvious but not always easy. But of course I should take care of myself.  This will help me be a better wife, a better mother, a better colleague, a better employee.  My day off wasn’t Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  It was an opportunity to recharge, hear my thoughts, and turn off the digital reminders on my phone that say I have a meeting coming up in 15. I’m still figuring out what the right balance is for me and my family but this day reminded me that it’s not selfish to take some time to yourself.  Perhaps I’ll stop looking at my phone or email after I put the kids to bed.  Instead, maybe I’ll put on one of those moisturizing sheet masks that I love and browse the backlog of my Vogue magazines.  It’s a start and I like it already!


Digital Pedagogy as Transformative Digital Humanities

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting Fresno State University to give a talk at Manning Library to a digital humanities focused Faculty Learning Community about digital pedagogy and digital humanities. Many thanks to David Drexler for the invitation, and to John Beynon and Kathee Godfrey for their hospitality!

I’m sharing the talk and slides below. I spoke mostly from notes, so I’ve tried to recreate it as closely as I can from memory (with some added references). A note of preface: this talk was written for a community is just getting started with dh, and the talk is aimed at people who have never heard of dh, but also was meant to be practical and helpful for those who are already in the field and looking to bring digital methods into their classes.

In any case, enjoy!

Digital Pedagogy as #transformDh

Talk Outline:

  1. What is the Digital Humanities?
  2. Digital Pedagogy, #transformDH, and Transformative Digital Humanities Praxis
  3. Getting Started
    1. Examples
  4. Additional Resources


What is Digital Humanities?

This is somewhat of a loaded question, but the definition that I’ve heard Miriam Posner and others use, that I like, goes something like this: Digital Humanities is the scholarly endeavor of using digital tools and methods to answer humanities questions.

Digital humanities has been described as a “big tent,” an inclusive umbrella under which many activities and people can be labelled “dh.” (Melissa Terras gives a nice definition and critique of big tent dh here, and Patrik Svensson has written broadly on the topic.) Despite this big tent, dh is known for its large projects. Often big, multi-year grant-funded public humanities projects, featuring collaborations with different institutions and campus units.

Here, shared several examples of long-standing (and some newer) dh projects:

The English Broadside Ballad Archive under the direction of Patricia Fumerton at UCSB. This project has won numerous grants, and is a long-running project involving the work of multiple faculty members, archives (across nations), and has funded many an English grad at UCSB.

The Women Writers Project at Northeastern, and formerly of Brown, which is under the direction of Julia Flanders. This is a massive, multi-pronged project that recuperates, contextualizes, and encodes the work of pre-Victorian women. Though the project shares many materials, their archive and resources are primarily accessible through a subscription.

Six Degrees of Sir Francis Bacon, directed by Christopher Warren at Georgetown, visualizes social networks of Early Modern Europe, with the support of the institution and Carnegie Mellon Foundation.

The Negro Travelers’ Green Book, headed by Connie Geer and Matthew W. Shepard, and hosted by the University of South Carolina Libraries, Digital Collections, and African American Studies Department. This project maps locations present in the Green Book, which documented safe locations for black travelers in the mid 20th century. This project is possible through institutional support and staffing.

In addition to these higher profile projects, there are many projects on shoestring projects. These are often labors of love for those involved, and are created to address social issues or concerns. These are almost always created as public humanities projects as platforms for public education.


FemBot SOS Map

Mapping Police Violence

Projects aside, there has been a lot of controversy about the digital humanities.


Some have been saying it’s the savior of the humanities:


While, others have been vocal in their critique, often to help shape and mold the practices and methods of the community:


Digital Pedagogy

Before I go into the main part of this talk, I should preface this talk with a bit of background about me:

I have a PhD in English from UC Santa Barbara, where I studied digital humanities, Asian American, transnational, and global literature & media. Aside from my training in writing composition instruction done in a separate MA program, I don’t have much formal training in pedagogy. Very few graduate students in the humanities receive any pedagogical training. Much of what I will speak about comes from my post graduate school experience working in a library as an academic staff member supporting digital pedagogy and research at a small liberal arts college. Here, I also teach my own courses in Asian American and digital literature. I also serve as the co-facilitator of FemTechNet, a distributed network of scholars, artists, activists teaching and producing resources for teaching feminism and technology. My experience then, comes from a few different perspectives that inform my take on digital pedagogy.

Digital projects can be fancy, get you attention and funding, but ultimately, most faculty in higher ed are not going to be receiving thousands or millions in grant funding to take on digital projects of this scale, we won’t have a wealth of time to travel to or attend workshops to learn new digital skills, to hire technical labor. Our bread and butter is in the daily work of teaching. Teaching is also the one place where we can purposefully weave digital methods and tools into our daily practice to help students engage with course content, reinforce content, etc. 

So … Digital Pedagogy. What is it and where does it fall into the umbrella of digital humanities?

Brian Croxall and Adeline Koh, organizers of the Modern Language Association Digital Pedagogy Unconference in 2013, explain it as “the use of electronic elements to enhance or to change to experience of education.” (citation)

If we focus on the “pedagogy” of that phrase…

Jesse Stommel of Hybrid Pedagogy states: “Pedagogy is not synonymous with teaching or talking about teaching, nor is it entirely abstracted from the acts of teaching and learning. Pedagogy is praxis, the place where philosophy and practice meet.” (citation)

Digital pedagogy then, should not be additive.
It’s not just about using technology or digital tools.

  • Digital Pedagogy is about:
  • Interactive learning – social and active learning
  • Brings together theory and practice (Freire and bell hooks)
  • Reflexive and critical
  • Encourages experimentation, creativity, play, problem solving
  • Develops information and digital literacy

We’re not looking for new hammers to hit the same old nails. Instead, digital pedagogy must be self-reflexive.

IF we bring tools into our classrooms, as part of activities, for group projects, as elements of assignments, etc. and we don’t always need to bring tools into our classes, we must always ask a few questions before we do so:

  • Is this even necessary?
  • Why do I want to bring this into my classes? Purpose of the tool/activity?
  • What does it add to the process of learning?
  • Cost/benefit?

Why might you take on digital pedagogy then?

In my own teaching, and in working with faculty, I would say there are many potential benefits to taking on digital pedagogy in your own classes (or in working with faculty). But, as with all things, it depends on many factors. I would say, however, that there are many potential pros to digital pedagogy if it is undertaken thoughtfully/

  • Improve student participation, interest, and ownership of work
    • Give them choices and make them responsible to one another
    • Encourage undergraduate research and student/faculty collaborations
  • Collaboration – collective intelligence
  • Communication – learn effective skills to produce content, revise, and share
  • Problem solving
  • Information & digital literacy
    • This is where librarians are super important! Work with your librarians! You know stuff and are so helpful!
      • Copyright & Copyleft
      • Creative commons
      • Open access
      • Fair use
      • Public Domain
      • Archives
      • Metadata
  • Project management skills
    • Delegating duties
    • Problem solving
  • Community engagement (but discuss with offices of service learning on your campus so you design classes that are beneficial to students and the communities or community orgs)
  • Gain awareness of contemporary issues, work toward social justice, public engagement

When we get to the end there, and examine the potential for digital pedagogy, it starts to look an awful lot like critical or radical feminist pedagogy:

  • Democratic and non-hierarchical
  • Perforated – brings contemporary issues, community, non-students and instructors, etc. into the classroom
  • Gives us the chance to have students interrogate the tools they use, the history of them, the politics embedded in their becoming and their use (the Internet, their phones, proprietary software or platforms)

#transformDH and Digital Pedagogy

As a graduate student, I co-founded the #transformDH collective with a handful of other graduate students working at the intersections of critical race studies, gender & sexuality studies, and digital studies. I’m now the Digital Scholar at Whittier College, where I’m the co-coordinator of the Digital Liberal Arts program, where I support digital pedagogy and research, and where the early work of #transformDH still informs the work I do with faculty and staff across the campus.

In a forthcoming “manifesto”/reflection co-written with Moya Bailey, Alexis Lothian, Amanda Phillips, and to be published in Debates in DH 2016, eds. Matt K. Gold and Lauren Klein, we identify the following key claims as constitutive of #transformDH:

  1. Questions of race, class, gender, sexuality, and disability should be central to digital humanities and digital media studies.
  2. Feminist, queer, and antiracist activists, artists, and media-makers outside of academia are doing work that contributes to digital studies in all its forms. This work productively destabilizes the norms and standards of institution- ally recognized academic work.
  3. We should shift the focus of digital humanities from technical processes to political ones, and always seek to understand the social, intellectual, economic, political, and personal impact of our digital practices as we develop them.

These tenets that guide my work, and the work of many who see themselves as somewhat marginal to digital humanities, are essential to how and why we may bring digital elements into our classes.

At my own home institution, we have a very different institutional identity than previous universities I’ve worked at (UCLA, UCSB): We’re first and foremost a teaching college. Though officially secular, we are still Quaker in practice, with a commitment (at least among faculty and staff) to social responsibility and community. We pride ourself on the diversity of our student body, which is 60% students of color, 20% are 1st generation students, and 1/3 of our students are Pell grant eligible. Most of our students hold jobs, if not multiple jobs. Increasingly, our faculty and our administration are reflecting this shift in our student body; they are increasingly less white, less male. Our faculty are aware and sensitive to the notion that we should endeavor to be a Hispanic Serving Institution, and not just a Hispanic enrolling Institution. Across the board, faculty and staff care a lot about issues of race, of gender, of equity.

With this in mind, I firmly believe that in our teaching, we can mobilize digital pedagogy for these transformative purposes.
So, I’ll repeat. It’s not just about tools, it’s about how you use them. Why you use them. Where they come from. How they change or improve learning. How to empower students to go out there and be fearless. To know that they can learn, can teach themselves any digital skill and then use it for good.


Digital Pedagogy: Getting Started

Now that you have an idea of what digital pedagogy is. How can you do it or work to support it? Some things I would encourage all faculty and staff to make sure they do:

  1. Start small. You don’t have to design fully online classes or convert entire courses into flipped ones! Toe-in-the water assignments or in-class activities. If you’re used to using Moodle, Blackboardm or Canvas, try adding a discussion board, a gallery, or a small wiki assignment. (Lisa Spiro – https://digitalscholarship.wordpress.com/2013/03/04/digital-pedagogy-in-practice-workshop-materials/)
    1. Live-tweet a film screening (or Etherpad, if you want to stay off proprietary software)
    2. Collectively map historical locations
    3. Create a timeline
  2. Learn the tools and skills you ask your students to learn. This sounds like a given, but I cannot tell you how often faculty expect academic staff to take on this work for them. Create your own example (video, digital book, etc.), and then you can teach and troubleshoot with your students. This is especially important at resource poor institutions where staff end up taking on a lot of extra work to help support innovative teaching.
  3. Scaffold Everything: break up assignments and build your way up to a larger projects. Guide students to be critical readers of media and help them to gain skills needed for their assignments and for the future: writing, editing, citation, hyperlinking, annotating
  4. Evaluation – Assessment should be secondary to learning. Design rubrics to fit your class and its learning goals! Tweak existing rubrics, or design them collaboratively with students to meet the specific goals of the course. Have students assess their peers and each other.
  5. Take risks and allow for failure – Know that there is always a learning curve and that as a class you are experimenting and learning together. Learn from those mistakes and issues and revise the activity for next time

Bonus tip!

  1. Share your successes and failures, and ask for advice and assistance – there’s a large community of people working and developing their own teaching who share and build together. Add your voice to the conversation, and learn from the work of others! Use twitter, search blogs, scour Grad and ProfHacker on the Chronicle

And always come back to my own institutional context. What are the strengths and weaknesses of your institution? Always keep your students in mind. They are not digital natives. That is a myth. They’re also not just media consumers. How can we best prepare them for the future? What skills do they already bring to your class? They’re already using social media, producing content, circulating and sharing media – but we can help steer them to do this same activity critically, responsibly, and with purpose.


Digital Stories

On our campus, “digital stories” started with narrative videos (see: University of Houston, Center for Digital Storytelling) and has expanded to include podcasts, digital books, and narrative games.


From Environmental Science to Child Development to English, I’ve worked with Faculty to develop scaffolded assignments using Piktochart (other options include Powerpoint) to translate dense information into visual arguments. This activity is actually deceivingly difficult, and I help faculty to break this project up, starting with a research paper (with citations) and then work to condense that information. I suggest including in-class close-reading activities of effective (and less effective) infographics, and building in peer-review workshops so students can get feedback on their work. As with writing, students need to understand that communicating through visual rhetoric is also a process.

Mapping Assignments

If your institution has an institutional subscription (ask your librarians!) to PolicyMap or SocialExplorer (SocialExplorer also has a limited free edition), students and researchers can very easily map narratives and arguments onto geospatial visualizations using social science data, census information, etc. Alternatives include MapStory, which doesn’t require an institutional license, and doesn’t have its own data sets built it, but which may be more helpful for students working on regions outside the US.


I love pairing with librarians and archivists to bring archival materials into a classroom. It helps students to understand the materiality of history, and gives them experience in working with primary materials. The National Archives have resources on doing this with collections (both visual and textual) of digitized materials curated around historical period. The University of Iowa also made their DIY History project open, which allows students and community members to contribute to transcription efforts that will make the institution’s digitized (but not machine readable) materials accessible to larger publics.

Web Building:

Lastly, the Domain of One’s Own project, which started at UMW, is expanding to a range of different campuses, and allows instructors to teach students digital literacies, and to give them the space and the opportunity to take ownership of their online identities, curate their digital content, and interrogate the tools and platforms that they use.


Facebook Group: DigLibArts, Digital Learning Professionals in Higher Education

Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy

HASTAC Pedagogy Project

Hybrid Pedagogy

Workshops: DHSI, DigPedLab, HILT

FemTechNet CRES Pedagogy Workbook