Lessons learned while teaching Digital Classics
When you are a trained archaeologist and a trained Classicist by means that you have your MA in both disciplines – and now a PhD in Archaeology as well – you can easily give university lectures in both disciplines – especially in those parts where the various classics, meaning archaeology, philology and ancient history are coming together, sometimes even mixed with epigraphy and numismatics as well.
I gave a course on Digital Classics this winter semester at the University of Graz. Despite Covid-19, it went better than thought. The only lesson learned with distance teaching DH-related contents – without two screens your students will somehow go crazy. And you too. 😉 But we did it.
So, what are the other lessons learned?
- Planning and preparation routine. Well, that’s… obvious. Yeah, quite. I know, I know, but listen (or: read on): I had to prepare this course next to my work at Bamberg. The good news: The salary earned in this semester at Graz is actually paying my rent for this semester at Bamberg. Right in the middle of various Lockdowns it’s good to have some extra money. The bad news: Due to Covid-19, there was a lot of extra work, in every part of my teaching.
Preparation in the normal way meant also to do the preparation for videos, the presentations, the step-by-step-tutorials, scheduling the work on various reading materials etc. Thus, a good and easy planning routine would have been nice and really helpful. I took it a little bit lightly and October and November were quite though on my working schedule. Would not happen again, I hope… I will remember this very clearly.
- Show, don’t tell. In the end, what will work the best way to motivate your students, are examples. So, after explaining the basics – there is no way around explanations – a really good showcase and a good example is a must. Thus, they can work with their own research in a easy and simple way, are happy because they learned to use a tool directly for their own needs and they will be encouraged enough to try other things with the same tool.
- Stick with formalia for written homeworks or digital submissions. When teaching more than one course and asking for a lot of submissions via various learning platforms like moodle, it is worth a lot to stick with simple rules on how your students have to name their documents and in what weekly or monthly rhythm they will have to hand in their homework or little research projects.
- Stick to your working hours. Meaning, no mails answering on weekends, holidays or late at night. I have my working mail at my phone, yes – so, I see the mails coming in. But I told my students that I am not during any work on weekends. And I am not reading or answering them at my free time.
- It is okay to say that sometimes you do not know the right answers. I had a pretty cool group, we had a lot of discussions and there were some really good hints about certain problems and unanswered questions. I learned a lot by their different views and we tried some things and discussed errors and solutions together.
I cannot deny that I am still new to the whole teaching stuff and that I am struggling with the whole situation. I am sometimes not so sure wether my ideas for an interesting lesson are really good or at least good enough. I talk a lot with friends who already have a certain knowledge in pedagogy or at least the experience in teaching at university. Their help is vital for me and I want to use this post to thank them all for being there for me.
And now with the end of this winter semester at hand, I am diving into my next teaching adventure… Some of you may have read my blogpost on the real archaeologist (and why epigraphy is involved). I am getting back to this topic by working on a course in Roman provincial archaeology that actually uses all the important stuff like written sources, inscriptions, coins, statues etc., next to the well-known archaeological work on excavations. Because we Roman provincial archaeologists are Roman at heart and on the outside, all of the provinces of the Roman Empire have left their traces in various ways.
I am still going on with DH and Digital Classics – there are some online workshops coming up, as well as the work I still have to do for finishing our project at Graz. QGIS and R won’t leave me and I thought actually about doing a #100DaysofCode-Challenge in March or April, because I still have to learn Python in a decent way. 😉
So, stay tuned for more and stay safe in this mad world of ours.