Teaching by example?

There’s been plenty of discussion within the digital humanities community about the difficulty of getting academic recognition for digital projects. But what about being recognised for alternative forms of teaching? I don’t mean online courses, I mean the sort of peer-to-peer teaching that takes place through blogs, or Twitter, or the comments in our code. We all learn from each other.

I’ve been thinking about this while working on a few job applications recently. My opportunities for formal teaching or supervision have been limited, but over the last few years I’ve worked hard to introduce the digital humanities to a broad range of audiences. I’ve given talks to all sorts of professional and community groups, including librarians, museum curators, archivists and family historians. I’ve organised a couple of THATCamps. I’ve given papers at disciplinary conferences. I’ve blogged about my experiments and my frustrations. I’ve created a series of digital tools and made them available for all to use. Most recently I’ve been visiting universities giving talks and workshops to help staff and students make use of digital tools and resources in their own research. But I don’t ‘teach’ — or do I?

Most of this work is unpaid of course. I do it because I love it, and because I think it’s important. I do it because I want DH to live up to it’s promise of being open and engaging — I want others to share the excitement, the possibilities and the power. Sometimes it’s hard to know if it really makes any difference — usually I only hear anecdotally about the way my tools are used. But when I do receive feedback from people it’s often to say how I’ve ‘inspired’ them.

It seems to me that the ability to teach by example, to broaden horizons, and offer inspiration, is something that should find a place in a job application, but where? As I was pondering this the other night I fired off an idle tweet that brought a couple of encouraging responses:

So I’ve adopted @ProfessMoravec’s suggestion and created a Testimonials page. If I’ve managed to inspire or assist you in some way, feel free to leave a comment. Maybe next time I put together a job application I’ll have something to point to to demonstrate my ‘teaching’ credentials.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Tim Sherratt Written by:

I'm a historian and hacker who researches the possibilities and politics of digital cultural collections.

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