Digital Scholarship: Old School Methods and New School Tools.

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By Rebekah Silverstein, Graduate Student, School of Library and Information Studies

Voguish terminology is abundant in academic librarianship, especially when referring to words about learning. Academic scholars are qualified to incorporate compound words to express what they mean. By tacking together familiar words, like digital hygiene, digital literacy, and digital scholarship, for example, scholars generate innovative ways to communicate.

“inventing new words helps us to grab people’s attention and get them to focus on what you’re saying”.

Erin McKean. Lexicographer, TedYouth2014

Digital Scholarship (DS) is an expression that blends two words together, a positive connotation marrying technology and learning.

Academic libraries implement digital scholarship (DS) for research, teaching, and learning. DS Librarians provide individual consultation to graduate students, faculty, and staff and they support the exploration of open tools and critical learning resources to engage academics in active learning . DS also fosters transdisciplinary relationships between libraries and academic institutions. 

Sharing is considered a virtue, and within scholarly work, it promotes an institution’s visibility and highlights a scholar’s digital identity. This idea of digital identity is supported by Christina Costas work, she introduces the participatory web as a space for collaboration and sharing. Costa uses the term Participatory Web to mean:

“a set of digital communication networks, applications, and environments of which individuals act as active participants, contributors, and co-creators of information, knowledge, and opinions, which contribute to what she refers to as the habitus of digital scholars”

Christina Costa

The participatory web not only creates new paths for intellectuals, but it also helps emancipate education for different groups of society; students, communities, and minorities who ultimately are the audiences higher education serves to reach. 

 OU create is a free to low-cost web hosting platform available through the University of Oklahoma. It offers students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to register a domain and create a digital identity through various mediums such as blogs, portfolios, and Wikis.

OU faculty can receive consultation from the Digital Learning Office or Digital Scholarship Lab to integrate WordPress, Omeka, and Drupal lessons into their curriculum. Faculty and staff have utilized OU Create to publish curriculum vitae’s(CV) and digital portfolios that can be shared or openly linked. 

Faculty who incorporate emerging technologies within pedagogy are engaging critically in DS. Renewable assignments provide students with opportunities to engage in meaningful work, add value to the world, and provide a foundation for future students to learn from and build upon.

An example of renewable assignments are Wikis, web-based tools allowing users to collaboratively add/delete/modify content directly from the web browser; the most famous wiki is Wikipedia. Educators are actively using wikis to develop and engage civic skills of critical thinking, deliberation, thoughtful listening, and dialogue, particularly with opposing views and perspectives.

The Digital Skills Hub was initiated to help students and faculty be better informed about emerging technologies and access services throughout OU’s campus. The Digital Skills Hub provides opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration through workshops and presentations, which are offered by subject experts in the community.

The Digital Skills Hub not only teaches participants how to use emerging technologies, but how to be critical digital consumers of the value added by these technologies. 

Although higher education institutions are in favor of innovation, their pace in promoting change and adopting new practices is often slower than other areas and sectors of society. However, the University of Oklahoma’s Interim Dean of Libraries, Carl Grant, is invested in exploring digital literacy.

Libraries can serve as a hub that connects stakeholders under a larger umbrella to enhance communication and promote resources. Libraries have long been one of the most trusted entities in society. Campuses are often a microcosm of the larger society they serve, and the libraries in academia serve this same role for the university they serve.

Carl Grant

 The University of Oklahoma Libraries is invested in building a transdisciplinary community, which utilizes new tools and insights to support the continuous exploration of digital scholarship.

 Digital Scholarship @ OU Libraries has partnered with the History Department since Spring 2018 to offer internships, where undergraduate students work with the DS team to learn digital humanities(DH) methods and create individual DH research projects. The head of the DS team, Tara Carlisle, is a dynamic individual, she serves as a consultant and contributes to an array of hubs including, Digital Skills Hub, and Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). Tara diplomatically networks with the universities experts to provide DS consultations for all faculty, staff, and students.

The Digital Scholarship team is culturally congruent with OU Libraries competencies because information workers understand the importance of critical scholarship and they place emphasis on Open, transformative, empowered culture.

Regular workshops and brown bag lunch learning opportunities are offered throughout the academic year to help faculty, students, and staff to explore and engage with new-school digital tools. The DS team develops learning aids and tutorials that are integrated within DAVIS, Digital Skills Hub, Canvas, and University Library guides

Transdisciplinary tools might include Open Refine an application for data clean up, ArcGIS a tool for mapping and analysis, or a DAVIS software carpentries workshop for teaching and engaging academics in programming computer code.

The intersection of the old school methods and new-school tools is where critical librarianship and digital scholarship live. OU libraries have embraced new technologies and are exploring tools to provide democratic access to learning. Digital Scholarship @ OU Libraries serves as a compass to help academics master and navigate the deluge of information.