This fall marks the one-year anniversary of LEADR (the Lab for the Education and Advancement in Digital Research), a new joint initiative among Anthropology, History, and MATRIX Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences. LEADR functions an interdisciplinary classroom, digital resource library, and a pedagogical and methodological support center located in 112 Old Horticulture. LEADR was initially funded by the Office of the Provost as part of an effort to create robust technology environments for teaching and learning at MSU.
The Lab is staffed by three graduate assistants, including Brian Geyer from Anthropology, and is under the direction of Brandon Locke, a digital humanities specialist from History. This semester alone, staff are working with 22 different courses in History and Anthropology on class assignments that range from blogging to text analysis of web sources. Projects from last year include an interactive map of archaeological sites in Egypt, created by students of ANP 455. Students learned basic HTML coding and incorporated web links into their essays for online publication. The entire project was hosted on GitHub (a social code-sharing platform), allowing both code and content to be shared with the public when students desired it. LEADR also assists Anthropology majors in developing an online portfolio as part of their capstone class, ANP 489.
LEADR is a teaching space, but also a space for research innovation. The Campus Archaeology field school worked with LEADR this past summer to create visualizations for the metadata collected over the years. Graduate students in Anthropology are using the Lab to contribute to their dissertation research. Adrianne Daggett and Blair Zaid have each used the 3D scanning technologies at the Lab to scan and print artifacts. The Lab hosts Nvivo for qualitative analysis, as well as transcription pedals and software. A wide range of equipment is available to be checked out, from tablets to cameras to audio recording equipment. One of the purposes of the Lab is to promote ‘scholarly play’ and experimentation, adding a range of skills to anthropology degrees.
Instructors hoping to integrate digital technology into their teaching methods can find support at LEADR for both undergraduate and graduate courses alike. Staff are available to help design assignments that achieve the learning outcomes instructors desire. The Lab’s pedagogical approach emphasizes new literacies: digital literacy (the ability to use technologies to find, understand, evaluate, create, and communicate information) and data literacy (becoming critical consumers and producers of data and the arguments made with it, within the discipline as well as in the news and politics). Students achieve these literacies while acquiring skills in coding, web writing and design, and multimedia data collection and dissemination techniques. The result is an increased capacity to make meaningful contributions to digital scholarship. In the future, Brandon would like to see more immersive projects for students, such as exhibition development. Brandon recommends that interested instructors meet with staff prior to the start of the semester for optimal course planning.
Images: Brian Geyer instructing students (above); Digital technology allows artifacts to be scanned and printed in 3D (below)