Final Syllabus

Virginia Wesleyan College

Hist 250: Digital History

Fall 2015


Dr. Richard Bond                                                           Office Hours

Office: Blocker 24                                                          TTH, 12:00-2:00 pm

Email:                                                  Or By Appointment

Phone: x3355                                                                                  


Class Meeting Times & Location:

TTh, 2:30-3:45, Clark 217


Course Description


During the recent decade, a new approach has been sweeping the discipline of history and arguably the entire humanities. This approach, broadly referred to as “digital”, has been called both the next great frontier in historical and humanistic thinking and the “doom” of such thinking. Similar comments have been made about all technological changes (note that I DID NOT say “advances”) over the course of the centuries. It does not take too much searching to find articles across the Internet both celebrating and decrying the role of technology as it relates to our nation’s youth.

Moreover, as one might imagine, this burgeoning field is frequently at odds with itself. No easy, single definition of either “digital humanities” or “digital history” (or “DH” for short) has yet to emerge, though I might point you here, here, or here for resources wrestling with such a definition. Following Stephen Ramsay’s analysis of DH, we might suggest (at the bare minimum) that there are two competing identities within DH. The first, he argues, “[is] united not by objects of study, per se, but by a set of practices that most regard as intimately related: text encoding, archive creation, text analysis, historical GIS, 3d modeling of archaeological sites, art historical cataloging, visualization, and general meditation on what all of these new affordances might mean for the study of the human record.” Broadly, then, this approach focused upon a set of digital practices, frequently called “tools”, that could be applied to humanistic disciplines in order to ask new types of questions about traditional humanistic topics.

Alternatively, and more recently, there has been a second identity attached to this broad term. Ramsay again: “‘Digital humanities’ . . . [isn’t] a set of practices; it . . . [is] the recreation of the humanities itself after some technological event horizon. Or, less grandly, it sounds like” reimagining humanistic inquiry. Here the humanities and the digital are flipped. Digital no longer refers to the methods used to inquire; it is the entire point of the inquiry itself.

Student Learning Outcomes:


1.      Students will learn to assess and evaluate digital tools

2.      Students will ask historical questions and the tools’ utility to historical methodological approaches

3.      Students will produce scholarly materials for the digital world


Required Reading: Available in the campus bookstore

Winston, Brian. Media, Technology and Society: A History From the Telegraph to the Internet. Routledge, 1998.

Cohen, Daniel J. and Roy Rosenzweig. Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web.

Course Policies

Attendance and Participation:

You will be expected to attend classes regularly and complete all assignments promptly.  You will be allowed no more than two unexplained absences during the course of the semester.  An “explained absence” is defined as an absence that can produce a written explanation by another party, such as the school nurse (who can send documentation for sickness) or the dean of the college.  Additional unexplained absences will result in failure of the course.

Since our classes require the active participation of the entire class (notably not just me), you will be expected to come to class having not only read, but reflected upon, the readings assigned for a particular day.  Additionally, you must come to class with the reading assigned for the day.  Please note, “active participation” is not construed to mean your “constant” participation.  Quality in discussion will count more favorably than quantity in discussion.  Think about important questions that arise to you while doing the reading, and how these relate to our previous discussions.  Be able to discuss these issues, and you will be fine.

The following chart should give you some understanding on how I grade participation:

A: Shows excellent preparation. Analyzes readings and synthesizes new information with other knowledge (from other readings, course material, discussions, experiences, etc.) Makes original points. Synthesizes pieces of discussion to develop new approaches that take the class further. Responds thoughtfully to other students' comments. Builds convincing arguments by working with what other students say, but may question the majority view. Stays focused on topic. Volunteers regularly in class but does not dominate.

B: Shows good preparation. Interprets and analyzes course material. Volunteers regularly. Thinks through own points, responds to others' points, questions others in constructive way, may question majority view, raises good questions about readings. Stays on topic.

C: Shows adequate preparation. Understands readings but shows little analysis. Responds moderately when called upon but rarely volunteers, or talks without advancing the discussion.

D: Present. Shows little evidence of preparation or comprehension. Responds when called on but offers little or distracts the discussion.

F: Absent


Like all college courses, this course requires students to devote 2-3 hours outside of class for every hour in class.  This means that you should plan to study 6-9 hours per week for this course.  Much of your study time will be devoted to reading and taking notes on the assigned readings.  Also, plan to devote additional time to writing the papers as well as preparing for exams.


Note: Understand that the following serves as a contract regarding plagiarism.  Below, you will be warned what constitutes plagiarism, and if you have specific questions, please come and see me.  If I find any work that I deem to be plagiarized, I reserve the right to take any of the following actions: fail you for the assignment, fail you for all the remaining assignments in that grade category, fail you for the course, and/or bring you before the Honor Council for expulsion.  In addition, I will place a letter in your academic file detailing the offense no matter the penalty.

Virginia Wesleyan College and I consider academic integrity an essential element of higher learning and an explicit value of this community.  Cheating, academic theft, and plagiarism violate the learning community.  Many students have trouble understanding what exactly constitutes plagiarism. Plagiarism is using someone else's words or ideas without proper documentation.  This includes turning in an entire paper that someone else wrote or any portion of someone else’s paper.

To preserve academic integrity, VWC has instituted an honor code, which is fully explained in the Student Handbook.  All work you turn in for this course must be your own.  Any violation of the Honor Code that falls into at least one of the categories in "Section II: Definitions" of the Honor Code will be handled according to the procedures governing academic dishonesty.  Please read the relevant sections of the Student Handbook for information about policies and procedures regarding academic integrity. If you have any questions about academic misconduct, please see me.



A REQUIRED component of this course is Virginia Wesleyan College’s electronic course management system, known as Blackboard.  Blackboard facilitates communication between professors and students – especially on days we do not meet.  All students registered for this course should check their Blackboard account on a daily basis, which can be accessed from the VWC home page.  Any questions about your personal Blackboard account should be directed toward Robin Takacs (ext. 2112;  In general, your username for Blackboard should be your first and middle initials followed by your surname (rebond for me), and your password will be the same random alphanumeric password assigned to you for email and network access (unless you have changed it already).


Blackboard also has an email component, which I will sometimes use to communicate with students.  Please update your email address to ensure that you receive email communications from me.  By default, your VWC email address has been entered.  If you do not use that address, enter your current address as soon as possible.

Late Assignments:

Assignments are due on the day that they have been assigned to be due.  Papers that are not turned in at the beginning of class are considered to be late.  Late assignments will have one grade level (A- to B+) deducted for every twenty-four (24) hours after an assignment is due.  Please note that the clock begins following the end of the class on the day an assignment is due.

Late assignments can only be turned into me personally.  I do not accept late assignments slipped under the door of my office.  I also do not accept late assignments that are sent via email (either in the body of the text or as an attachment).


Penalties will still be assessed for late work no matter what the excuse, unless prior arrangements have been made with me before the assigned due date.

Technology Policy:

Technology is fundamental to our everyday lives, and I know we all carry a variety of technological devices into this classroom (laptops, smart phones, and other new and cool pieces of technology I do not even know about). Technology can be amazingly beneficial, but it can also be a massive distraction. I also recognize that there are times when we need to reach the outside world or be available so that it can reach us. Finally, this is a class on digital history, and as such we need digital technology for this class. Thus, I am not opposed to you having technology in the classroom.

However, I am equally adamant that the classroom is an important space for dialogue and exchange, and in order to ensure we are all present in the conversation, we all must actually be available to listen and to talk. Web surfing, texting, listening to music, etc., all take us away from this enterprise. So, while I am not interested in banning technology in the classroom, please be aware that I WILL if this policy is abused. In a digital class, I am sure this will NEGATIVELY affect your grade. 



I encourage you to e-mail me whenever you have a question that you feel I can address.  I check e-mail several times every day, and I will make a strong effort to respond to your request/question/concern as quickly as I possibly can.  However, please note that under NO circumstances will I accept assignments through e-mail, unless prior arrangements have been made, and there are extraordinary extenuating circumstances.


Incomplete Policy:


An Incomplete is given at the discretion of the instructor when circumstances beyond the control of the student prevent the completion of course requirements. See Catalog, p. 34.


Virginia Wesleyan Policy for Special Needs and/or Accommodations:


Virginia Wesleyan College is committed to giving all students the opportunity of academic success. If you are a student who is requesting accommodations based on the academic impact of a disability, speak to me about your accommodations letter and your specific needs. If you do not have an accommodation letter for this course, you will need to visit or call for an appointment with Disability Support Specialist Crit Muniz at (757) 233-8898 or by email at to coordinate reasonable accommodations. He is located in the Learning Center, Clarke Hall.


Projects, Writings, & Grades


Tool Review: Due Day of Presentation AND FIVE WEEKS after your presentation


During the first week of class, I will be asking you to sign up to review a digital tool and to present your findings to the class. For each presentation, you will be asked to produce two items:

1.      An introduction to the tool during the day that the presentation is scheduled. This presentation should explain to your classmates: a. what the tool is, b. how you think it works, c. how you would use it to help you in a class project, d. where your classmates might look for additional information about the tool. These presentations should last no longer than five minutes.

2.      A tool introduction and review, due on FIVE WEEKS AFTER YOUR PRESENTATION. The document should be produced based on your continued review of your own personal tool during the semester (which may require you to set up a test account to see how the tool works). you should produce a 1-2 page “introduction to the tool” that will lead a reader through how to use the tool (a technical report). In addition, you will be asked to produce at least 500 words that evaluates the tool’s utility (noting where and how it will and will not be useful).


Autobiography: Due September 29


By September 29, you will be asked to produce an autobiographical assignment using TimelineJS and Google Earth/Map (you will create a pinned map using Google Map and then have to save it as an image for inclusion in TimelineJS). Your timeline should have at least three times your age entries, and these entries should include both text AND images. These can either be images of documents, still images from your life, entries from Youtube/Vimeo, Wikipedia, or Google Maps/Earth. You will be trying the Beta version of TimelineJS 3.0. You can find a small set of instructions on what to do here. Note that in the end: A. You are going to need a permanent web location for your images for Timeline to draw from (such as Flickr or Dropbox), and B. You will need to embed the Timeline into a website in Google Sites for me to view it. Here is an example of a Timeline site. We will be reviewing all of this in class.


Class Project: VWC Yearbooks: Due December 1


Our semester long class project will focus on VWC Yearbooks. We will be creating a digital archive of various portions of the yearbook (almost all exclusively still images), tagging and coding these images according to a controlled vocabulary (link) we will be creating that is conversant with the Dublin Core (link), and then mounting online exhibits about VWC history using the archives that we collectively create. We will be using an online application called Omeka. We will be dividing into five different teams, and each team will be assigned a certain part of each yearbook to digitize and correctly code. Each team will also be responsible for creating one online exhibit that will be PUBLICLY available on the school’s website. More information will follow.


Ongoing Reflections on Learning: Due Every Week


I am going to ask you to provide me with some ongoing reflections on what it is you think you are learning throughout the semester. You can choose to do this publicly via starting your own blog and/or Twitter account, or you can do it in a series of emails that you can send to me. These reflections should explain what you did in a particular week, what you found useful and/or frustrating about what we are working on, and some suggestions on ways you might use any of this in other classes.


Grade Scale

1.      Tool Review: 15%

2.      Autobiography: 15%

3.      Class Project: 30%

4.      Ongoing Reflection: 15%

5.      Low-Stakes Assignments:15%

6.      Class Participation: 10%


Tuesday, August 25: Introduction

A.        Handout: Introduction to Google Sites (of use may be:

Thursday, August 27: Let’s Build a Syllabus (an Introduction to Google Sites & Identifying Relevant Material)

A.        “Designing for the History Web” & “Building an Audience”, from Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig, Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web

B.         Assignment: Finish building your collaborative website for the class, using the text provided and Google Sites

Tuesday, September 1: What is Digital History?

A.        “Web 2.0: The Machine is Us/ing Us” (video)

B.         “Do Digital Natives Exist?” (video)

C.               What is Digital History? Perspectives on History  

D.        “Becoming Digital” from Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig, Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web

E.         Student Presentations on: Google Books and Google Scholar

Thursday, September 3: Introduction to Digital Literacy (Librarians)                

A.        Exercises designed by librarians to introduce concepts of “natural language”, “controlled vocabulary”, and advanced Google searching

B.         Of potential use:

C.         Student Presentations on: Google NGram and SketchUp2

Tuesday, September 8: Toolbox I – Google (Scholar, Books, N-Gram, Sites, Apps)

A.        Media and Technology, Chapter 1

B.         “Getting Started” & “Collecting History Online”, from Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig, Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web

D.        Student Presentations: Timeline JS and StoryMap

Thursday, September 10: Toolbox II – TimelineJS and Google Earth (“Spatial Turn”)

A.        “Digital Maps are Giving Scholars the Historical Lay of the Land

B.         “Intro to Google Maps and Google Earth” (tutorial)

C.         “What is Spatial History?

Tuesday, September 15: Toolbox III – Crowdsourcing, Wikipedia, and Data Analysis

A.        Roy Rosenzweig, “Can History Be Open Source: Wikipedia and the Future of the Past”, The Journal of American History Volume 93, Number 1 (June, 2006): 117-46

B.         “Comparing Corpora in Voyant Tools” (tutorial)

C.         “How to Lie with Visualizations

D.        Class will focus on an introduction to Wikipedia (show History function) and data analysis – Lecture only, no hands-on, though students will have arrived having done a walkthrough of Voyant with a set of texts.

E.         Student Projects: Voyant and Wordle

Thursday, September 17: Toolbox IV – Social Media and WordPress – Meet in Pruden 101

A.            Media and Technology, Chapter 2 and 3

B.            “Every 3 Minutes a Slave is Sold

C.            “When History on Twitter is Bad

D.            Student Projects: Twitter and ThingLink

Tuesday, September 22: Good Digital History Projects I

A.        Review the Following Projects:

i.            History Harvest (Crowdsourced digital archive/Omeka)

ii.              The Real Faces of White Australia (Still image archive)

iii.             Valley of the Shadows Project (Document archive)

iv.              Redlining Richmond (Spatial history)

v.              The Roaring Twenties (Sound archive)

B.         Student Projects: Wordpress and Tumblr

Thursday, September 24: Good Digital History Projects II – Meet in Clark 217

A.        Media and Technology, Chapter 4

B.         Review the Following Projects:

i.              Dick Dowling and Sabine Pass in History and Memory (Omeka)

ii.              Our Marathon (Omeka)

iii.              September 11 Digital Archive (Oral history project)

iv.              Tour the Town (Colonial Williamsburg)

C.         Student Projects: YouTube and IMovie/Windows Movie Maker

Tuesday, September 29: Copyright and Ethics

A.             “On Fair Use

B.              Creative Commons License

C.            Student Projects: TinEye and Instagram/Flickr

D.         Quiz

Thursday, October 1: Discussion of Readings, Taking Stock of the Class – Meet in Clark 217

A.        Media and Technology, Chapter 8 and 9

B.         Student Projects: Zotero and Omeka

C.         Assignment: Online Autobiography Due

Tuesday, October 6: Break Day

Thursday, October 8: Fall Break

Tuesday, October 13: Introduction to Archival Management (Librarians) - MEET IN THE LIBRARY

A.      TBD Reading from Google Doc (in consultation w/ students and librarians)

B.     Student Projects: Drupal and Scalar

Thursday, October 15: Examining Images and Building a Controlled Vocabulary (Librarians) – Meet in THE LIBRARY

A.        “Dublin Core User Guide

Tuesday, October 20: Introduction to Final Project & Omeka (Librarians) – Meets in THE LIBRARY

A.         “A Brief Introduction to Omeka

B.         “Omeka in the classroom

C.         “Omeka for Millennials

Thursday, October 22: Class – working on project, finish class presentations

A.         Email Group Contract to

Tuesday, October 27: No Class – working on project

Thursday, October 29: Project Design / Sketching the Site - Meet in LIBRARY

A.         “Creating an Omeka Exhibit”, “ExhibitBuilder 3.0”, and “Site Planning Tips

Tuesday, November 3: No Class – working on project

Thursday, November 5: No Class – working on project

Tuesday, November 10: Creating the Computer - Meet in Classroom

A.        “Creating an Omeka Exhibit”, “ExhibitBuilder 3.0”, and “Site Planning Tips

B.         Media and Technology, Chapter 13

C.         Metadata for Omeka sites completed

Thursday, November 12: Creating the Internet – Meet in Clark 217

A.        Media and Technology, Chapter 18

B.         “The Birth of Silicon Valley,” NPR, March 26, 2012

Tuesday, November 17: No Class - Working on Class Project Exhibit Design

Thursday, November 19: Checking in- Meet in Clark classroom

A.        Two page technical manual based on oral presentation DUE

Tuesday, November 24: No Class - Working on Class Project Exhibit Design

Thursday, November 26: Thanksgiving Holiday

Tuesday, December 1: Presentation of Exhibits in Library

A.    Assignment: Omeka Exhibit Due

Thursday, December 3: DIRT

h/t Shapiro’s “Seminar in Digital History and New Media”; McClurken’s “Adventures in Digital History” and “History of the Information Age”; Heppler’s “Digital History: Concepts, Methods, Problems”; Kane’s “Practicum in Digital History


A.              “Privileging Form Over Content

B.          Surviving History: The Fever!

C.          Pox and the City

D.          “Pox and the City: Designing a Social History Game

E.           “History as it Can Be Played: A New Public History?”

History 250

Tools I Worksheet

  1. Google Drive: A. Create a document; B.Share it With Me; C. Move the File from your Google Drive into a File Folder I shared with you. Be sure to practice:
  1. Inserting a Link
  2. Inserting a Bookmark
  3. Create a Link to the Bookmark you created (this is how to create table of contents)

2. Google Calendar: Create a Class Session for the Class; Share it with the Class

3. Create a Google Form: Send out the survey to one member of the Class

4. Go to Google Scholar: Find the most recent publication produced by our Biology professor, Dr. Victor Townsend.

5. Create a new Google N-Gram. Embed the chart into your Google webpage. Offer a historical explanation that might account for the change in percentage that you see.

6. Go to TimelineJS:

  1. Make a Timeline (use the Beta for 3.0)
  2. Make a Spreadsheet. Use the suggested template
  3. Create a seven-item timeline, using examples from Flickr (two, including a first page image), Vimeo, Soundcloud, Twitter, Youtube, and Google Maps. Fill in each cell for each item (it need not be accurate).
  1. Publish the spreadsheet to the web. Embed the timeline on your website.

Blogs:         Victoria Stafford:

                Cierra Griffiths:

                LeAnn Adkins:

                Daniel Elmore:

                Matthew Hasty:

                Jessica Lindsay:

                Essence Jackson:

                Fatima Davis:

                Brandon Kussmaul:

                Ashley Archer-Mack:

                Armon Ardila:

                Sammy Espejo:

                India Lassiter:

                Deja Washington:

                Bryce Slabinski:

                Rebecca Winslow:

                Roberto Solano:

                Aimee Haywood:

                Patrick Barrett:

                Alexandra Cortright:

        Email:         Adkins, LeAnn F.

Archer-Mack, Ashley M.

Ardila, Armon A.

Barrett, Patrick J.

Cortright, Alexandra K.

Davis, Fatima B.

Elmore, Daniel P.

Espejo, Samantha N.

Griffiths, Cierra L.

Hasty, Mathew C.

Haywood, Aimee D.

Jackson, Essence T.

Kussmaul, Brandon T.

Lassiter, India L.

Lindsay, Jessica M.

Patel, Kaveet D.

Slabinski, Bryce S.

Solano, Roberto A.

Stafford, Victoria L.

Washington, Deja L.

Winslow, Rebecca A.

Assignment #1

History 250: Timeline JS Assignment

Introduction: For your first major assignment for this class, you are being asked to create a timeline of your life using Timeline JS. The assignment will ask you to wed some of the technical skills we have been practicing with some of the questions we have been asking about how one can tell a historical story.

Goal: To create at least a 40-slide timeline using Timeline JS, including both text and some type of graphic on each slide (including photos, video, a Google Map, and others of your choosing), that tells a historical story about some key aspect of your life. The timeline should be embedded onto your website.

Learning Outcomes:

  1. To demonstrate proficiency in creating basic online materials (Google Sheets, Google Maps, Timeline JS, and others) and in linking these materials together through HTML embed codes
  2. To tell a historical story of your life that demonstrates a basic understanding of what historical chronology or contextualization might be.

Explanation: You will be developing a timeline using the Beta 3.0 version of Timeline JS, just as we practiced using in class. The timeline should choose some important theme in your in life (since you certainly will not be able to narrate your entire life in 40 slides) that will allow you to demonstrate an understanding of both chronological thinking and contextualization. This means that it will probably be inappropriate to choose just a single event from your life, as it will be difficult to establish the way chronology is important to the story. However, it will be equally difficult to tell the whole story of your life, as you will also have no time to develop slides that highlight the significant context that gives an event its meaning.

        You will be graded on both the technical and the historical aspects of this assignment.

  1. You are required to produce at least 40 slides to narrate your story.
  2. As we saw, Timeline JS links text together with images, videos, audio files, and other types of media. This allows you much more flexibility in thinking about how to narrate a story then just with text.
  3. As we saw, media that is to be included in Timeline needs a stable URL to link to. The easiest solution for images you plan to use (that are already not on the web) is to create a small photo archive in Flickr.
  4. You will need to include at least one clip from Youtube, one Map from Google maps related to the story, and images you own or can link to related to your life. You are also free to use sites such as Wikipedia to link a reader to in the material. Use the web to help you tell your story.
  5. The timeline should ultimately appear on the Google Sites we are experimenting with as your homepage. Please have the timeline embedded onto the page by Tuesday, September 29 at the start of class.

Grading Rubric


  1. Demonstrates no proficiency with manipulating basic digital applications. Cannot open applications, cannot find the applications.
  2. Demonstrates a basic proficiency with digital applications by being able open the applications, input data in an online visual editor, structure a data sheet. However, student has trouble linking different applications together.
  3. Demonstrates an expected proficiency in technical skills, being able to create documents and applications, find appropriate web materials, and link these different and required applications together through HTML embed codes. Uses assigned web resources appropriately, like photos, videos, and a Google Map.
  4. Demonstrates an advanced proficiency in technical skills by being able to incorporate applications and materials beyond what we learned in class.

Aesthetic / Grammar

  1. Demonstrates little aesthetic sense when it comes to conveying information, such as providing images with no connection to material. Tables are sized incorrectly, designer chooses poor colors, text sizes, etc.. Material written poorly with frequent grammatical, spelling, or usage errors.
  2. Demonstrates a basic aesthetic proficiency by making reasonable choices in text size, color, appropriate use of bolding, italics, and table size. Material is written with few errors in usage and grammar and there are NO spelling errors.
  3. Demonstrates the expected proficiency regarding aesthetics, grammar and usage. Materials are generally aesthetically pleasing, appropriate used for the audience in mind, and conveys information through the interplay of text and visual/audio materials. Almost no errors in grammar and usage.

Historical narrative

  1. Demonstrates little to no understanding of how historical chronology and contextualization work. Narrative is entirely disjointed, jumps around in time and space, and individual slides appear to have no bearing on what comes before or afterwards.