Category Archives: Projects

HIV Prevention (Responsive Web-based) App

ITP student Sonia K. González (Public Health) reflects on her independent study project 

HIV Prevention (Responsive Web-based) App

Photo by Jacinta Lluch Valero on Flickr

Introduction/ Overview

I entered the Interactive Technology & Pedagogy (ITP) certificate program with over 15 years public health experience. I primarily worked to prevent HIV, other STDs, and unwanted pregnancy with young people under 24 years old in Austin, Texas and in New York City. Through this work, I developed a commitment to reproductive justice. In addition to the ITP certificate program, I am also a doctoral candidate in Public Health at the CUNY School of Public Health. For the ITP Independent Study (IS), I developed a beta version of a sexual health education app and conducted focus groups to pretest an early version of the app. Knowing that young people spend many hours on their phones, as a public health doctoral student, I sought a way to supplement my technological skill sets, which led me to the Interactive Technology Pedagogy (ITP) Certificate.

Why focus on Young Women of Color in NYC?

In brief, the STD rates among young women of color are staggeringly high throughout the country and especially in NYC.

Sexual Health Disparities: In 2012, new HIV infections in the U.S were highest among young people aged 20 to 24 (36.3%), Black individuals (58.3%) and young Black women and Latinas compared to White women(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014). HIV incidence rates among youth in the U.S. by race have either remained constant or are increasing (Prejean et al., 2011). In fact, people ages 15 to 29 accounted for the largest share of any age group: 71.8% of new HIV infections in 2012, primarily via sexual transmission (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014).

HIV and Women: The HIV epidemic continues to disproportionately affect vulnerable communities, especially young people of color in urban areas (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014). Total HIV diagnoses in New York City (NYC) in 2013 over-represent Blacks (42%) and Latinos (34%) versus Whites (18%) (Epidemiology, Field Services Program, & Hygiene, n.d.). Over half of Black (57%) and a third of Latina (30%) women receive a concurrent HIV and AIDS diagnoses in NYC (Epidemiology et al., n.d.); suggesting that they are not being tested prior to experiencing symptoms, which can hinder infection management and result in unwittingly placing others at risk for contracting HIV whereas treatment reduces viral load and thus, transmission (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014; Cohen et al., 2011; Epidemiology et al., n.d.). Known barriers to accessing healthcare among young Black and Latina women include cost, distance, and lack of knowledge regarding need for preventive healthcare (Allison et al., 2012; Malbon & Romo, 2013; Sumartojo, Doll, Holtgrave, Gayle, & Merson, 2000; Sumartojo, 2000).

Low STD testing rates: The CDC reports that most young people are not getting tested for HIV: 60% of all youth, with HIV do not know their status and that they can infect others. In addition, the asymptomatic nature of Chlamydial (Berman & Ellen, 2001; Scholes et al., 1996; Stamm, n.d.) and Gonococcal (Marrazzo, Handsfield, & Sparling, n.d.) infections in women, discourage women from seeking early treatment, leaving them susceptible to unwittingly transmit their infections and to long-term health consequences such as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). Bridging the gap to testing and treatment is essential to combating HIV and other negative SRH consequences, an app that provides free access to National peer educators as well as directions to nearby clinics could offer an important tool to combating HIV and other STDs. Two controlled trials of chlamydia screening suggest that screening reduce PID incidence. (Oakeschott et al., 2010; Scholes et al., 1996).

In addition, 82% of pregnancies are unintended for women between ages 15 and 19 years (Dalby, Hayon, & Carlson, 2014). Further, since 2010, women ages 20 to 24 and 15 to 19 had the highest and second highest Chlamydia rates respectively compared with any other age or sex group (Disease Control & Prevention, n.d.; Haggerty et al., 2010).

Why an app?

The data show that young people are early adopters of new technology. The questions I wanted to explore through my research were: if I build an app with community input, is it something that could be useful to young women in NYC? Would they be interested in it? Would they use it regularly? Or only in instances of “crisis” i.e., the condom broke, or I think I might be pregnant – where do I go from here? I know this may sound hyperbolic, but in a young person’s life, these situations constitute moments of crisis.

These questions are complicated for a number of reasons. First, what would young Black and Latina women want to see in such an app? Second, would the same app be culturally appropriate and meet the needs for both young Black and Latina women? They are obviously different ethnic groups, but are they similar enough to be a singular target audience for this app?

An app offers accessibility anytime and anywhere, as long as the phone battery is charged. This includes a range of private to public settings i.e., bedrooms, bathrooms, on public transportation, in cars, etc. In addition, an app that can be accessed on a phone or a tablet is relatively private. Sexual health is still relatively taboo in this country, and there is a wide range of sexual health education across the county, even within cities.

Connecting the Pieces

In the ITP courses, I learned about usability constructs and applied them to developing a web- based sexual health education tool: usability, user interface (UI), user experience (UX) and user-centered design (UCD); these are fundamental concepts for those interested in technology development. I briefly summarize these concepts here.

Designing user-centered interactive digital technology Usability is a product design process incorporating direct user feedback throughout the interactive digital technology development process to meet user needs; (Usability Professionals’ Association,) and is an inherent measurable property of all interactive digital technologies. (Cockton, 2013) The International Organization for Standardization (ISO 9241-11) defines usability as, “the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use”.(Usability Professionals’ Association, ) The U.S. Health and Human Services adds that usability, “refers to the quality of a user’s experience when interacting with products or systems, including websites, software, devices, or applications,” and includes a combination of the following characteristics: intuitive design for the architecture and navigation of the site, ease of learning, efficiency of use, memorability to effectively use it during future visits, error frequency and severity and the ability to recover, and subjective satisfaction (i.e. if the user likes using the system).(U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, )

Usability and User-Centered Design Methodology

To achieve positive usability experience and successful user-centered design, teams draw from the following potential processes: understand the context in which users may use the interactive digital technology through personas, and scenarios; design the technological product through visualizations, defining what the site requirements will be, performing card sorting, developing a prototype and launching it; and finally, testing and refining the product through an iterative process (Bowles & Box, 2011; Per Axbom, 2011; U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 2013b). The design team determines which components are implemented, usually driven by the target population and the specific interactive digital technology in development. An example of implementing this process is Rapid Prototyping (RP), an iterative development process involving user input with roots in UI design (Najjar, 1990). First, the design team identifies user needs, general requirements for the product, the objects (i.e. information memo) and actions (i.e. providing directions to health clinics) and assembles these objects and actions in a logical way for target users (Najjar, 1990). Then they develop visual representations known as mock-ups, wireframes, blueprints, sketches and prototypes of an interactive technology product used for early testing, prototyping or proof-of-concept (Per Axbom, 2011). During this phase, designers obtain feedback from other developers and experts who have knowledge and interest in the product to improve the prototype iteratively (Najjar, 1990). The prototype code is then converted into actual code, during which users representing the target population provide feedback to refine code and repeat this process until users respond favorably to the proposed product visualization. User feedback is solicited through a variety of methods including: individual interviews, focus groups, contextual inquiry, surveys, usability testing, card sorting, and analytics (Bowles & Box, 2011). Once again, through an iterative process, prototype code is improved upon until users respond well to the visualization of the proposed product (Najjar, 1990). Finally, the interactive digital technology is released.

It is critical to gather user needs and expectations for design and user interaction design along the way (Hassenzahl, 2013; Moreno et al., April 2013). By conducting usability testing such as RP, the designer is able to make modifications to visualizations and add requirements to make the end product more usable and desirable for the target population. Similarly, the RP process includes other key stakeholders and coding experts to provide early input to work alongside as the code is developed. Finally, this process reduces time required to create a functional product by utilizing prototypes to save significant documentation time and promotes comprehension of concepts by the intended target population. However, a criticism is that the iterative process lacks a clear stopping point. Similar to qualitative research where data collection continues until saturation is reached, there is no standardized end point (Najjar, 1990). Repeating iterative phases until users respond well to that version is subjective and the designer or design team must be able to establish an end point for that version. An important consideration is how many users are needed for usability testing. This consideration is akin to public health researchers calculating power analysis. Nielsen and Landauer established the following formula: where N is the total number of usability problems in the design, L is the proportion of usability problems discovered while testing a single user; therefore, the number of usability problems found in a usability test with n users is: N (1-(1-L)n) (Nielsen & Landauer, 1993; Nielsen, 2000). The first, second, and third test users will identify the most usability problems, but up to five users provide designers with a range of issues that can be addressed; adding more users allows designers to learn less with more tests. While Nielsen and Landauer demonstrated that at least 15 users reveal all usability problems (Nielsen & Landauer, 1993); a more cost-effective approach is to conduct multiple tests with 5 users each to achieve the goal of improving the design and not simply documenting its weaknesses.(Nielsen, 2000). In general, three to four users from each subpopulation of highly distinct groups of users are recommended for two groups of users, or three users from each subpopulation for three or more groups of users; a minimum of three users is recommended to ensure the diversity of the behavior within the group has been covered (Nielsen, 2000).

Limitations of Usability, UX and UCD Concepts

The various design fields covered here are evolving and one of the challenges is a lack of clear definitions and a prolific use of jargon (Bowles, 2013; Carroll, 2013; Hassenzahl, 2013; U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 2013a) with a tendency to collapse all design-related issues under the label of “usability” (Morville, 2004). Circa 2004, Morville created the UX honeycomb still in use today with the following UX constructs: useful, usable, desirable, findable, accessible, credible, valuable (Morville, 2004). While there is some debate as to whether the constructs are a subset of the pillars of information architecture (e.g., context, content, and users), the visualization serves to begin a conversation to prioritize UX needs (Morville, 2004). Different terminology has implications on viewing the construction of software development differently in part because of the various perspectives that each discipline or approach offers. This has implications for understanding constraints and limitations under which the other communities must operate (Moreno et al., April 2013).

One of the challenges of conducting usability or UCD testing is the proliferation of informal literature about how to conduct usability testing. Krug, for example has written two books, one of which is dedicated to coaching non-professionals on executing usability testing. The recommended methods are not rigorous (nor does he claim them to be) such as only using three testers and suggesting taking a non-targeted approach to recruiting users is just as good as using intended users (Krug, 2010). Public health practitioners who are implementing usability practices to build good design and others should be aware of and avoid such recommended practices.

Learning by Doing: From Wireframes to App Prototype Testing

Prior to starting the coding process, ITP Core II provided a forum to teach technology. A few key concepts stand out: first, Professor Michael Mandiberg presented the notion of “failing forward”, which highlights the importance of learning from mistakes to advance progress; I still celebrate when I get a new error as I believe this is an indication of progress. This approach was instrumental in getting me to the next step (and the next one) and kept me focused on one small task rather than getting overwhelmed by the entire project. Getting Real was another important reading that helped me get started and maintain on-going progress. Perhaps one of the most salient messages that influenced me from Getting Real was that the best way to learn most things is by doing and that developing technology is no exception. I revisit this reading as I move forward with each new phase of my dissertation.

My initial concept for my ITP IS was to rework a sexual health app created by Jenny Blevis, “Chat About That”. I opted to create my own app because Ruby on Rails seemed a more accessible programming language to learn and maintain. Once I made the decision to make my own app, I began to think about the technical pieces that would be required to build an app. First I had to decide if the app was going to be a responsive website or if I would build an app on a native platform that was specific to the Apple or Android platforms. I did not want to build two apps and have them work differently on different platforms, nor did I want to exclude participants based on the kind of phone they had, so I decided to make a responsive web-based application. Through this process there was a lot of failing forward. I explored webinars and other online learning opportunities through sites such as, and Code Academy; however, the amount of information and the number of options were overwhelming. So I relied on my network to help me proceed. By speaking with people with technology expertise from academia, community based organizations, and for-profit tech spheres, I was able to advance the project. These discussions helped me remember to return to developing minimum viable cases and products and personas, an exercise I first did during ITP Core II to identify what gap I was filling with my app, for whom, and how (what the app was going to do?). Here is a link to the closed website that captures this process.

Learning Technology

ITP Core II teaches one how to approach learning technology. This section details the choices made in developing the sexual health education web-based app, which others might learn from in their own efforts to develop interactive technology. Approaching technology projects is akin to learning a language or statistical programming software: regular exposure and constant immersion result in a steeper learning curve. Two class exercises early on in particular helped me become comfortable learning different forms of technology: 1) posting to Wikipedia and “playing in the sandbox”, both as an individual creating a page and collaboratively adding to an existing wiki page in small groups; and 2) using a WordPress blog to interact with fellow students. These exercises built my confidence around learning how to develop technology, as they allowed me to learn basic skills, including HTML, using widgets, and searching web sites such as to address errors. In addition, I learned common technology practices in safe spaces where “breaking” things was not a concern.

Introductory technology workshops were another important step to learning technology. I took a variety of in-person hands-on ITP skills workshops, including Adobe Photoshop, ARC GIS, visualization workshops, and data mining discussions. In addition, the primary author was a member of the New Media Lab (NML), which works with Graduate Center and CUNY faculty and doctoral students to conceive and create groundbreaking multimedia projects based on student and faculty scholarly research. The NML’s goal is to, “integrate digital media into traditional academic practice, challenging scholars to develop fresh questions in their respective fields using the tools of new technology.” Having classmates and an appointment at the NML allowed me to lean on others for technical support and to have a community of people who were experiencing similar challenges. In addition, the NML was another forum to present obstacles as they arose and brainstorm solutions.

There were two critical junctures to developing this app. One was when I began using Balsamiq to generate wireframes (or sketches). This step allowed me to articulate and envision the appearance, content and design of the app. Prior to this step, conversations about my project were very abstract. The act of putting my ideas on paper transformed the project from a theoretical concept to something that was real, and having a wireframe made it far easier to communicate with people about my project. The other pivotal point came from a classmate, who emailed me an announcement for a webinar for $20 called Teach Yourself to Code: One Month Rails. It was through this guided process that I built confidence and started believing that I could make an app. I completed the initial sessions as instructed, but quickly adapted the process for my own needs. I set up the Ruby on Rails (RoR) 9.2.0 environment, installed appropriate gems as the Skillshare webinar instructed, and launched the app on Heroku. I am still very much a novice RoR user, but rolling up my sleeves to set up the beta version of the app gave me to the opportunity to learn the environment and how to troubleshoot. Haing this foundation allowed me to be able to have informed conversations with my RoR developer who I later hired to build out the full app version.

Products, Findings and Conclusions

Building an app is hard work, but it’s also really fun and rewarding. I found that the young women want information they can trust. Young women of color are known to be early adopters of technology and it is critical that public health practitioners figure out how to “meet them where they are”. So even if I’m not necessarily interested in making apps for a living, I am grateful to the ITP program to learn enough to be able to communicate with coders who are. Having invested this time in learning technical skills will allow me to launch a public health career that includes technology as a central focus to addressing public health needs.

Concluding thoughts for ITP students and others taking on their first tech project. Having a vision is important, but the way to getting this work accomplished is by taking on small, discreet tasks.

  • An achievable task gets done; too many large pieces are overwhelming. So I recommend finding ways to break things down to small achievable parts.
  • Celebrate new error messages, it means you have moved past the last error message.
  • If you are at the Graduate Center, use their resources: the knowledge base and camaraderie found at the New Media Lab fueled me. The Digital Fellows have office hours, use them.

Allison, Susannah, Jose A Bauermeister, Sheana Bull, Marguerita Lightfoot, Brian Mustanski, Ross Shegog, and Deb Levine. 2012. “The Intersection of Youth, Technology, and New Media with Sexual Health: Moving the Research Agenda Forward.” Journal of Adolescent Health 51 (3): 207–12.

Berman, S M, and J M Ellen. “Adolescents and STDs Including HIV Infection.” In: P F Sparling, W E Stamm, P Piot, J N Wasserheit, L Corey, M S Cohen, and D H Watts (editors). Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 4th Ed. New York: McGraw Hill Medical; 2001: 165–85.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2014. “HIV Among Youth: Age, Risk & HIV/AIDS.”

Cohen, Myron S, Ying Q Chen, Marybeth McCauley, Theresa Gamble, Mina C Hosseinipour, Nagalingeswaran Kumarasamy, James G Hakim, et al. 2011. “Prevention of HIV-1 Infection with Early Antiretroviral Therapy.” N Engl J Med 365 (6): 493–505.

Dalby, J, R Hayon, and J Carlson. 2014. “Adolescent Pregnancy and Contraception.” Primary Care 41 (3): 607–29.

Epidemiology, H I V, New York City Department of Health Field Services Program, and Mental Hygiene. “HIV Surveillance Annual Report, 2013.”; Disease Control, Centers, and Prevention. “Trends in Reportable Sexually Transmitted Diseases in the United States, 2007: National Surveillance Data for Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis.”

Haggerty, C L, S L Gottlieb, B D Taylor, N Low, F Xu, and R B Ness. 2010. “Risk of Sequelae after Chlamydia Trachomatis Genital Infection in Women.” J Infect Dis. 201 (Supplement 2): S134–55.

Malbon, K, and D Romo. 2013. “Is It Ok 2 Txt? Reaching out to Adolescents about Sexual and Reproductive Health.” Postgrad Med J 89: 534–39.

Marrazzo, J M, H H Handsfield, and P F Sparling. “Neisseria Gonorrhoeae.” In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R (editors). Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, 7th Ed. Philadelphia, PA: Churchill Livingstone; 2010: 2753-2770.

Oakeschott, P, S Kerry, A Aghaizu, H Atherton, S Hay, and et al. 2010. “Randomised Controlled Trial of Screening for Chlamydia Trachomatis to Prevent Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: The POPI (prevention of Pelvic Infection) Trial.” BMJ 340: c1642.

Prejean, J, R Song, A Hernandez, R Ziebell, T Green, F Walker, L S Lin, et al. 2011. “Estimated HIV Incidence in the United States, 2006–2009.” PLoS ONE 6 (8).

Scholes, D, A Stergachis, F E Heidrich, H Andrilla, K K Holmes, and W E Stamm. 1996. “Prevention of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease by Screening for Cervical Chlamydial Infection.” N Engl J Med 34 (21): 1362–66.

Stamm, W E. “Chlamydia Trachomatis Infections in the Adult.” In: Holmes KK, Sparling PF, Stamm WE, Piot P, Wasserheit JN, Corey L, et Al, (editors). Sex Transm Dis. 4th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2008: 575-93.

Sumartojo, E. 2000. “Structural Factors in HIV Prevention: Concepts, Examples, and Implications for Research.” AIDS (London, England) 14 Suppl 1: S3–10.

Sumartojo, E, L Doll, D Holtgrave, H Gayle, and M Merson. 2000. “Enriching the Mix: Incorporating Structural Factors into HIV Prevention.” AIDS (London, England) 14 Suppl 1: S1–2.

An Assessment of Pedagogy and Digital Tools in a Classical Mythology Course

ITP student Jared Simard (Classics) reflects on his independent study project 

Visit Mapping Mythology

Visit Mapping Mythology

The most recent advances in pedagogy have come about as a result of the integration of digital technology into learning environments in a manner that helps teachers move their pedagogy forward. Unfortunately, not every scholar views research in pedagogy and teaching as scholarship. If conducted with broad applicability in mind, however, the teacher can assess his or her own specific pedagogy, while contributing to larger debates in their academic disciplines. Audio-Visual departments across university campuses are equipping classrooms with a variety of technologies, presumably to aid the teacher in the classroom. Thus, now more than ever, assessing the techniques for using and creating digital applications and tools for the classroom is an important endeavor.

In a traditional classical mythology introductory course at Hunter College, CUNY, the current project sought to assess the use of images of mythological art in tandem with an online database called Mapping Mythology and a comprehensive final project which integrates both images of myth and the website. The study took part over two Fall semesters in 2011 and 2012. Below, the project is described, placed in the context of digital humanities scholarship on technology and pedagogy, and followed by a results and analysis section.

Classical Mythology

This project is an assessment of the application of various digital technologies in a traditional Classical Mythology course. Mythology courses usually involve the reading of certain sections of Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey, as well as Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and a selection of Greek tragedies. The primary course objectives were to demonstrate a familiarity with the characters of mythology as read in the primary sources and to assess that knowledge through standardized tests, usually midterms and finals. My pedagogical approach differs from this traditional model. Many Classics departments have stand-alone courses on Homer’s works. The characters in the Iliad and Odyssey are limited and the larger concepts of mythology are not as evident to warrant their inclusion in course readings.1 Instead, my students read nearly all of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, out of order, along with three tragedies representative of the genre and mythology, and a sampling of smaller, but well-known mythological stories from a wide range of Greek and Roman authors. Homework assignments are rarely more than twenty pages of reading, and as a result, every student is expected to have read and taken detailed notes on each story and to be prepared to participate and contribute to classroom discussions.

The overall course objectives are that students become familiar with the major deities and stories associated with classical mythology, and to enable students to discuss them in more thoughtful ways other than mere storytelling. To that end, they focus on broad similarities across stories, namely archetypes,2 and demonstrate basic theoretical approaches to mythology through discussion and testing. In contrast to traditional mythology courses, special emphasis is additionally placed on the reception of mythology in artistic media: sculpture, architecture, painting, digital art, newspapers, etc. A broader exposure to the ways various generations and cultures have read the same classical myths enables students to better understand and engage with the story read in class, and provides an avenue for each student to relate mythology to contemporary society and their own life. This is achieved by showing pictures of myth in art three times per semester, after enough stories have been discussed and read and iconographical attributes of the major gods and characters have been learned.3 These image showings are pseudo-test environments, and students gain secondary skills in learning how to “read” and “look” at art, and discuss it beyond simple description.4 For example, students may observe that certain plots or iconographical elements have been altered by the artists, and learn to discuss what they are and why that might be the case, especially how it might show a different, nuanced perspective of the myth. The image showings build up to a Picture ID exam, where students are shown numbered pictures, asked to identify specific figures, and to state why that is the case based upon their iconographical attributes.5

The images of art shown not only reinforce the stories discussed, but also help students remember and discuss them with a more nuanced understanding of how literature and mythology in particular can play an important role in shaping one’s outlook on the world.6 Further, students explore the ways myths are connected to one another and how mythology reveals a central facet of the human condition across cultures.7 Students see how pervasive such myths remain in human cultural production, be it literary or artistic. Lastly, then, the course finishes with a final capstone art project that encourages and leads students to engage on a deeper level with the reception of mythology in art, engage with that art in person, and discover and think about that art in the contemporary urban environment of New York City.

The final art project replaces a traditional final exam, since smaller quizzes throughout the semester will already have assessed their acquisition of course material, and it is a primary course objective to have students learn about the larger concepts of mythology and the various ways cultures have expressed those concepts, mainly through the production of literature and the visual arts. Appendix B is a copy of the instructions for what is called the “Classical Mythology & Reception in Art Final Project.” The project’s goal is to have students engage with art in person and on their own by using the skills they learned in classroom showings of images of mythic art, and to determine to what extent they can successfully accomplish a large project and discuss myth and art when faced with images and perhaps myths they have not read about before. The project is broken down into a series of steps, the first of which is to have students view and use the Mapping Mythology website.

Mapping Mythology

Mapping Mythology was first conceived as a pedagogical tool during the core course sequence for the Interactive Technology & Pedagogy Certificate program at The Graduate Center, CUNY. It was subsequently built at the New Media Lab beginning in 2011 and has continued to undergo development. The site features mythic art, called items, across New York City in the diverse media of public sculpture, architectural sculpture and relief, and paintings at local museums. Students and others alike can browse images of art by artist, myth character, place, or media, to name a few.8 The site is demonstrated in class and students are encouraged to begin using the site in preparation for the final art project. A key feature of Mapping Mythology is its integration of mapping and timeline features that will eventually enable students and researchers alike to visually depict clusters of mythic art production in specific locations and times across the three media represented. As the website’s database of art grows, it will begin to show that myth has always been a part of western culture in very deep and lasting ways that have inadequately been explored by scholars to date. Thus, the site is a good example of how pedagogical tools designed for in classroom use can also serve a larger role in producing innovative scholarship in the digital humanities.

In subsequent steps, students are asked to visit three to four public sculptures featured on Mapping Mythology and then 1. identify the myth/myth characters based on their iconographical attributes; 2. link the myth or character to stories read in class; and 3. discuss whether or not the sculptor has changed, altered, or emphasized the iconography in some unique way, and what this might convey to the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, and their appropriation of iconography in their own time. All three parts of the assignment replicate classroom activity, and although part 3 is the most challenging, because students may not know enough about a given time period or artist to adequately discuss changes in that context, they can still discuss and identify the changes and come up with ideas, which is the objective of the exercise. In addition, students are viewing public sculptures already analyzed on the website in the exhibits section, so they have a discussion to refer to in case they are stuck with how to proceed. The final steps of the project have students repeat the above format but visit 1. Rockefeller Plaza to engage with architectural sculpture and relief not discussed on Mapping Mythology; 2. explore New York City and find one or two new mythic art images; and 3. explore painting exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. At the end of the project, each student is asked if they had a smartphone when completing the project, and the extent of their use of Mapping Mythology in completing the final project. This data on smartphone usage helps assess how useful the website is as a resource for use in the field and helps determine which areas of the website need additional development. The project is submitted via a Google Form that replicates as closely as possible the worksheet provided to complete the project. Students are asked to send via email attachment any photographs they took of the artworks.9

One last feature of the course has students write their own myths. This creative writing assignment is very open-ended and is completed within the first three weeks of the semester, after they have been introduced to the basic archetypes and concepts of mythology. Students are asked to write a short three and half page myth, whose only required feature must contain an original etiology.10 The purpose of the assignment is to have students engage with mythology from the perspective of the myth creator, in order to provide them with an added perspective on the abstract concepts of mythology, and the decisions that are made when crafting a myth. Students are expected to use these new perspectives in the rest of the course to deepen their discussion of classical mythology. The assignment is another way for students to relate to and explore mythology from their contemporary perspective. Students generally come up with unique and creative etiologies.

The Role of Digital Humanities Pedagogy in Mapping Mythology

This assessment project was completed with numerous perspectives drawn from digital humanities scholarship on technology and pedagogy. Having come into its own as an emerging discipline from what was earlier known as humanities computing,11 the explosive growth of the internet and powerful internet software with simple, easy to use front-end interfaces has led to a growing number of scholars and laypeople alike engaging with technology in new and exciting ways. While much of that engagement has focused on innovative uses of technology in the pursuit of new research questions to ask of traditional primary sources, a growing cadre of digital humanities scholars exists that seeks to apply the very best of the digital humanities to improving classroom teaching and pedagogy. What follows is a discussion of theoretical approaches to learning and education, their intersection with digital humanities, and how my overall pedagogy fits within these two models.

To start, the National Resource Council’s summary12 on how people learn provides important concepts and analyses of the relationship between understanding learning and good pedagogical practices. Some of the first concepts promoted are critical thinking, self-learning, and the novice-expert spectrum.13 Training people to think critically is one of the most important tasks of education. Although my course is only introductory, I seek to do exactly this sort of critical thinking training by teaching my students to thoughtfully read and analyze classical mythology in literature and in its reception in later art both historically and as found around them in New York City. In my view, very little is gained from traditional approaches to mythology that reduce mythology to a mere memorization of myths and characters. Rather, I seek to promote a broad understanding of mythology through the specific instance of classical mythology. Part of that learning outcome is achieved by promoting self-learning through the third part of the final art project, which, as described above (again refer to Appendix B, Step 2C), has students engage with new mythic art images on their own, and discuss the iconographical attributes and scene depicted in the context of class readings and larger myth concepts. The concepts of literary mythology are not the easiest for members of contemporary society to understand, since we use some of the same concepts much more loosely. This is what the NRC report might refer to as students’ preconceptions.14 I engage with my students’ preconceptions from day one, by immediately questioning what they think classical mythology is, is about, what “myth” means to them, how we define “hero,” and how we use the concept of “myth” in contemporary life. The ultimate goal is to provide a common denominator for our own experiences with myth, so as to accurately compare that with how the Greeks and Romans formed a different concept of mythology. In the final art project, then, students are forced to separate and then merge their own preconceptions about mythology with those learned in class.

The NRC report also devotes a large amount of space discussing what might be called the novice-expert spectrum. Researchers are particularly concerned with how the thinking of a novice differs from that of an expert, and how one progresses from novice to expert.15 In my classical mythology course, I assume a novice level for everyone, thus equalizing the playing field, and slowly bringing everyone up to a basic level of knowledge of mythology, both classical and the larger principles. Students can then take and use this knowledge to understand their own use of myth, that of other culture’s, and even to understand literature which may not be categorized as myth. Expertise in mythology is just as much about knowing who Medusa is and what happened to her as understanding what Medusa represents in Greek society and how later cultures take, adapt, and engage with the concept of the “other.” Part of students’s progress into expert status is achieved by engaging in classroom discussion, and by showing pictures of myth in art three times before they get the final art project to complete on their own outside of class. In effect, my students are led to expertise in mythology by incorporating two of the characteristics of expertise the NRC report cites, namely “patterns of information” and “adaptive expertise.”16 Students are continually expected to engage with the larger abstract concepts of mythology, in class and during the final art project (that’s the pattern of information). They must also learn how to engage with mythic art they have not seen before or which may have been altered in severe ways by the artists and judge for themselves what it may mean (that’s the adaptive, self-learning part).

John Dewey, in Experience and Education (1938), argues for another theoretical approach to pedagogy and learning.17 Dewey raises the problem of relating past “static” events to the present; more to the point, how studying the past can develop more tools to engage the future more effectively, i.e. the study of history.18 I hope that I am doing exactly that. Classics as a discipline is not so different from the kind of history Dewey is discussing. Mythology is ever present in contemporary society, the concepts of myth, especially of heroes or something not to be believed (the mythos, story part), and the iconography of mythic characters, are all around us, being used in various ways.

Dewey also discusses what he calls “the Nature of Freedom” as a key finding in terms of how to engage student-learners.19 Dewey states there is a false notion of freedom as freedom of movement only; more important is the freedom of thought or intelligence. Dewey warns progressives (those who support the new system of learning), that a teacher, one who has more experience, cannot guide younger “immature” students to possible outcomes with the materials put before them.20 Dewey’s “meaning of purpose” further takes up this matter, as he puts it, “the way is, first for the teacher to be intelligently aware of the capacities, needs, and past experiences of those under instruction, and secondly, to allow the suggestion made to develop into a plan and project by means of further suggestions contributed and organized into a whole by the members of the group.”21 I try to offer the best of the progressive tradition, by providing a range of art media, myths portrayed in them, and then through the showings of images of mythic art three times in class discussion. We talk about them by example, and then students go off to complete their final art projects independently. They still have steps 1 and 2 of the final project, however, that deal with images on the website and which are already curated as examples of how to thoughtfully engage mythic art. Students are less familiar with only steps 3 to 5 of the final project. By the time they begin work on their final projects, however, students have past experiences to draw upon in order to talk intelligently about the art pieces they have chosen. No doubt, they will chose pieces in which they either recognize key concepts they know they should talk about (easy) or ones that seem to generally interest them in some other way.

Lastly, Dewey ends his long argument in favor of this new school of thought on education by flatly stating, “but the achievements of the past provide the only means at command for understanding the present.”22 This is his largest support for history. Indeed, so it is with mythology, and the final art project begins to bring home the possibility for students to see that myth has continued to remain a potent method of communication of complex and abstract ideas, things like political slogans (the Obama campaign’s sunrise over farmland, for example), and archetypes which are continually evoked in contemporary society. An understanding of mythology can help the contemporary individual become a better, more informed citizen.

The concepts discussed so far related to education and learning directly connect to some of the scholarship produced in the digital humanities. To begin, Lisa Spiro’s article “‘This is why we fight’: defining the values of the digital humanities” sets out to explore the values that are expressed within the principles and approaches of the digital humanities.23   One of the core values that Spiro argues for in the digital humanities community is “openness.”24 In quoting Jaschik,25 Spiro argues that digital humanities should bring scholarship and scholars in contact with larger audiences than academic journal readership, and should act as “public servants” participating in public exchanges and thereby increasing their own visibility.26 I totally agree, which is why Mapping Mythology is open-source, free, crowdsourced, and seeks to focus on myth in public art, whether sculptural or architectural, in order to engage the larger community to think about the art and myth in their environment. Indeed, such a project fosters the opportunity for universities and classrooms to link with larger community organizations and cultural heritage foundations.

Spiro’s also values “experimentation,” which she directly correlates to the classroom and pedagogy, arguing that we should use experimentation to “transform traditional approaches to teaching and research.”27 In thinking about new ways to connect to today’s youth who wish to explore the environment they live in, teaching them to think critically about the built environment, how it was shaped, by whom, for what purpose. In addition, students are encouraged to contemplate myth’s connection to their environment, its essential role as a communicator, as a vehicle for abstract ideas and cultural topics otherwise too taboo to discuss. Students are simultaneously engaged on the visual level; and because so much of today’s society is about the image, thus, an understanding of myth can help them see the uses of myth in contemporary society. The values of openness and experimentation have their place in pedagogical practices and research, and allow fellow educators to learn about each other’s methods and try them out for themselves, and hopefully, further contribute their own findings.

Matthew Wilkens’ article, “Canons, close reading, and the evolution of method,”28 also brings up important questions about what is gained and lost in some digital humanities approaches to larger corpora of data, itself a challenge to any canon.29 Classics is also very much a servant to its own canon, which has led to countless commentaries on a few dead Greeks and Romans, mostly historians, philosophers, or poets. Classical mythology in particular is traditionally a set of readings from Homer, Iliad (or Odyssey), along with Ovid’s Metamorphoses. I break from that canon, as discussed above, by giving smaller snippets and a broader range of myths, in order to show similarities among myths and the archetypes of mythology. This approach helps students understand mythology’s influence and reception in various media, in particular literature and the visual arts. In many ways, I am more concerned that my students understand the concepts and abstract qualities expressed in mythology, rather than remember specific instances of classical myths, although that is a common starting point. The canon of myth is a set of archetypes, for example the concept of the hero; it is not specific instances of their expression, for example, Hercules. Both Mapping Mythology and the final art project seek to have students engage with the archetype and their expression in specific instances in myth in the visual environment around them—and done in a way that brings an immediacy through visual images that brings to life, personifies written text in entertaining and functional ways. This creates a space in which to explore mythology, its concepts, and its traces as an artifact of human construct. Digital methods enable and enhance that process.

Kathleen Fitzpatrick, in “The humanities, done digitally,” discusses the power of scalability of large collections and their analysis as an example of what makes the digital humanities so exciting in terms of using technology to analyze more traditional humanities materials.30 Suddenly, the possibility of linking pictures to texts and primary sources in Mapping Mythology forces students to engage with myth in an entirely different way. It forces them to see the complexity of humanity’s use of myth as a means of understanding their environment and human personalities. Fitzpatrick makes a second powerful point that interdisciplinary, and I would add multi-disciplinary, digital humanities projects are more productive.31 Mythology is a great example of that potential. Its reception in a host of western cultures and non-western cultures alike, affords comparative mythology a place of study in itself. In particular, mythology’s reception in visual material, how it is used today, and the very process of meaning making (for example personifications like Columbia and her associated symbolism) are all topics more readily analyzed with digital tools and through the perspective of many disciplines (Classics, Art History, American History).

Lastly, despite a natural connection to the digital humanities, pedagogy cannot be taken for granted. Stephen Brier’s article “Where’s the pedagogy,” offers numerous examples of digital humanities definitions and projects that do not even mention pedagogy, let alone teaching and classrooms.32 Brier cites the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Brett Bobley’s definition of digital humanities, among others, for its inclusion of the classroom: “digital humanities is really applying digital technology to doing traditional study and also trying to determine how do you use technology best in a classroom setting. So it’s really about the research and the education.”33 Brier notes that one vision for the future of the digital humanities is a discipline deeply engaged with the quality of teaching and its links to learning outcomes and course objectives. That is to say, one that seeks to use technology to improve the classroom environment or supplement and enhance learning potential.34  Brier goes on to discuss a plethora of diverse examples of digital humanities projects that combine digital scholarship and digital pedagogy.35 Mapping Mythology is one such endeavor in digital research and pedagogy, and the larger project that is being assessed seeks to bridge that divide for my own discipline, Classics.

The Assessment

The final sections of this assessment report the findings of two surveys of classical mythology students taken in the Fall semesters of 2011 and 2012 at Hunter College. Students completed the survey after grades had been submitted. Responses were voluntary and anonymous. The survey sought to assess to what degree students thought various key components of the course helped them understand the core course objectives. The key components are the creative writing assignment, the showing of images of mythic art, the frequency of that showing, the Mapping Mythology website, the final art project, engaging artworks in person, Smartphone access to the website, and the overall impression of the course. The survey includes a final open text box for additional unstructured responses. Survey results were tabulated on a per question basis and are provided in Appendix C (Fall 2011) and Appendix D (Fall 2012). Results for Questions 1-8 have three columns of information, from left to right: Likert response scale, Number of Corresponding Responses, Percentage of Corresponding Students. Percentages are calculated based on the total student population for the course, not the number of students who responded.

In brief, for the Fall 2011 Classical Mythology course, 47 out of 55 students, or 85 percent of students responded to the survey. For the Fall 201236 Classical Mythology course, 51 out of 58 students, or 88 percent of students responded to the survey.

An analysis of the results follows.

Question 1

In Fall 2011 78 percent of students stated that the creative writing assignment helped them understand the basic concepts of classical mythology. For Fall 2012, that percentage increased to 81 percent of students. This reflects a predicted outcome, considering nearly every student does very well on the assignment, and when put in the context of “to write a myth helps you understand one and how to read one,” the assignment directly reinforces course objectives. It also helps that it is early on in the course, forcing students to think through the archetypes, etiologies, and how myths function as literature.

Question 2:

81 percent of students in Fall 2011 and 87 percent of students in Fall 2012 stated that being shown images of artwork featuring mythological subjects helped them understand the basic concepts of classical mythology. Further note: percentages for both semesters reflect a 100 percent positive feedback on the showing of images from those that responded. This corresponds to colloquial feedback in class that indicates students are engaged when looking at the images, and actively learning about myth and acquiring new skills in how to “look” at art. These image showings break up the class discussion in more dynamic ways than the regular classroom discussion.

Question 3

In Fall 2011 48 percent of students agreed that images shown more than the three times in class. In Fall 2012 that number increased to 54 percent of students. It is interesting to note that in Fall 2011 only 14 percent of students indicated “very much” in response to the question compared to the Fall 2012, which had 20 percent of students indicating the highest response value. In the Fall 2011 20 percent of students selected undecided, while by comparison in Fall 2012 only 8 percent did. 25 percent of students in Fall 2012 indicated the showing of images three times was sufficient, and just 10 percent indicated “Not at all.” Thus, Fall 2012 students were far more polarized which may reflect their desire to discuss the literature more than the mythic images. That said, both classes still had a majority or near majority of students saying more image showings would be better, and reflects the enjoyment of that classroom activity, which requires no reading to prepare for and just that they come knowing the iconographical attributes already discussed.   The relatively high percentages of those students responding for undecided or not at all could also be attributed to a necessity to attend class 100%, since iconographical attributes are discussed only in class lectures, and that information cannot be found easily elsewhere. Either way, Question 2 supports images being shown overwhelmingly, and the number of times is now up for debate.

Question 4

Perhaps the most important question, question 4, provides feedback on how much students thought the final art project was worthwhile and helped them understand the larger course objectives. 76 percent of students in Fall 2011 reported positive feedback on the project helping them understand course concepts. In Fall 2012 that percentage increased to 81 percent of students. In each semester, only one student respondent replied “very little” and both Fall 2011 and Fall 2012 have only 3 and 2 students “undecided.” Thus, an overwhelming majority thought the project helped them in the course. Fall 2012 was again a bit more polarized with 63 percent stating “very much,” while Fall 2011 was more evenly split with only 40 percent responding “very much” and 36 percent “somewhat.” This corresponds to colloquial impressions of classroom discussion and a few more art history and artistic students in Fall 2012 that personally would come up to me and state their enjoyment. On the whole, classroom discussion was more engaging and better in Fall 2012.

Question 5

Seeing artwork in person also had a majority of students stating “very much” and an overwhelming majority of students saying that the in person part of the project was engaging for them on a different level. For Fall 2011 75 percent of students responded favorably to the in-person artwork portion of the final project. For Fall 2012 that percentage increased to 80 percent of students. Both semesters had only two respondents reply “not at all” or “very little.”   It isn’t known to the PI whether studies have been done by art historians or museums to support this, but that a large part of the project is spent not in museums but moving around various locations in the city, for locals who don’t get the chance to see other parts of the city, this might be a new, enjoyable experience. Further metrics, for next time, would be to distinguish Metropolitan Museum of Art viewings from those in the public environments.

Question 6

Question 6 focused on the usefulness of the Mapping Mythology website in learning course objectives. It should be noted, the only difference in semesters is what was public on the website at the time students completed their projects. Fall 2012 had some Metropolitan Museum of Art materials and architecture materials, while Fall 2011 had a more limited narrative for public sculpture only. That said, in Fall 2011 75 percent of students replied that the website helped them in the course. In Fall 2012 that percentage was 76 percent. Further metrics might be what specific portions of the site helped the most: exhibits (narrative), basic search for items, or collections (medium focused). This would help the developer put more time into those sections that have positive feedback. I would predict it is both the simple ability to search for a god, or randomly sample images in the “items” section, as well as narrative sections that help frame each artwork in the context of mythology are two sections that students find most helpful. Further, the site affords the only opportunity for students to view vetted images outside class, unless they search “Google images” on their own, in class is the only time they can see images of myths.   Further, classroom images, from which the Picture ID ones are chosen, are not duplicated on Mapping Mythology. Thus, for the purposes of the test, and practicing iconographical attribute recognition, a further metric might be to ask if the narrative section, where I also talk about iconographical attributes, is most helpful or not. One might think that students liked that section the most because they can self-quiz.

Question 7

In Fall 2011 57 percent of students responded that Smartphone access to Mapping Mythology helped them complete their projects. In Fall 2012 that percentage was 53 percent. Better metrics would be to follow-up and ask which sections they looked at while on the go, and cross reference with question 6’s follow-up and see if the data agreed. This would show which sections are most helpful to students just learning about all of this, while the basic database search and collections might be more useful to researchers. In both cases, while a super majority of students clearly had access to smartphones, still 20 percent of students in Fall 2011 and 17 percent of students in Fall 2012 were undecided on the usefulness of smartphone access. Again, follow-up metrics stated above could help clarify the data. It may be that the site is useful for studying for Picture ID exam and self-quizzing, more than it is for completing the project, which by that point in the semester most students have acquired the skills to answers all of the questions in the project on their own without reference to outside material, even their own notes.

Question 8

In Fall 2011 85 percent of students reported positive feedback. 76 percent of students indicated “very much”. In Fall 2012 85 percent of students reported positive feedback and 79 percent of students indicated “very much”. This again reflects that Fall 2012 was slightly more engaged on the whole and more polarized than Fall 2011, but both semesters show an overwhelming response to the course and one might say teaching and instruction. Only Fall 2012 had one “not at all” response, and while this person did not write further in the textbox, there was a first negative response on “rate my professor” for the course, and I imagine that this is a case of sour grapes over a grade. It should be noted that students had the grade prior to the responding to the survey. Classical mythology is by nature a course that interests people. I hope the extra layers I have added continue to interest further classes.

Question 9

Fall semester 2011 had 24 write-in responses (43 percent of total class); 7 responses gave direct critical and constructive feedback on various portions of the course.37 The remaining responses are by no means worthless. Many give positive general feedback both on the course and the instructor himself. Overall, it is clear the students enjoyed the course!

The 7 constructive responses gave specific feedback on course elements. Two students commented on gaining an understanding of myth, but one wished to have more discussion of the underlying philosophies or approaches to myth. This student thought such knowledge would help them better connect to the culture that produced the myth. In terms of showing pictures and the final art project, many specifically wrote they enjoyed both course elements. One student mentioned the picture ID exam was interactive. Another suggested that more time be given to the final art project.38 Another student thought the pictures helped students relate to the stories better and particularly enjoyed the “hunt” aspect for mythic art in the city. A third student said the picture ID was great for learning iconography and visiting the MET was their favorite part. A separate student suggested that fewer pictures be shown more often throughout the course. Overall, these show that the Picture ID is welcomed and liked, as seen from question 2 about showing images in class. A few highlighted the interactive quality this brings to the course, whether in class with images, or the “hunt” in the city.

Fall 2012 had 19 responses (32 percent of total class); 5 were the most helpful constructive criticisms.39 Like Fall 2011, the rest were overall positive about the interest and engaging level of the course. The 5 constructive responses were on the whole quite specific in their course recommendations. Two, numbers 11 and 18 gave specific feedback to show pictures targeted to stories after discussing them in class. This would directly reinforce the story material, as well as increase the net number of times pictures are shown in class. These students thus both clearly liked the mythic art element of the course, wanted it increased, and thought the best way to do that would be to show mythic art for each story.40 I am seriously considering taking up their suggestion. I think it would better integrate mythic art into the course objectives and also provide for great discussion. In order to show comparisons, I would want to add in pictures of ancient mythic art as well, so students could see how Greeks and Romans depicted their own stories compared to later artists.   One student wanted to learn more about myths from other cultures.   I don’t do much of this since the Classics department does offer a comparative mythology course which students can take after they complete Classical Mythology. Another student liked the creative writing assignment and a different student liked the engaging quality of seeing artwork in person.

Like Fall 2011, some students in Fall 2012 felt that seeing the images directly linked to the stories would be helpful. The exhibits section of Mapping Mythology does exactly this, and thus, might also help explain why students find the website so helpful. Including the metric that I suggested above to ask a follow-up question on which sections of the website were found most helpful, would again, in light of these responses, help improve future pedagogy and instruction. I predict that the exhibits sections are most popular because they directly link to a story and iconographical attributes are given, which enables self-study.


Pedagogy becomes better through reflection. This assessment of both a unique approach to teaching mythology and the use of digital tools for its facilitation have helped shape the ways in which I will approach this type of digital humanities pedagogy in the future. The most important insight is what I learned from teaching with technology, both the practical and the theoretical concerns.

On the practical side, technology, even when implementing the simplest of tasks, does not always work out as planned or at all. One example I encountered frequently early on in this process was the task of showing high quality photographs of paintings and sculptures to my students. Such a simple task would seem fail proof, but, as I learned the hard way, it is not. One hurdle was the technology in the classroom. The projector was mounted to the ceiling and thus I could not access the manual controls, and the Audio-Visual department would not give me a remote control. Their reasoning was that I was the only instructor having problems with the projector, every other teacher only showed powerpoint presentations with text and the projector was optimized for that, not for my high quality pictures. The pictures showed darker than normal and one could barely see a thing. This situation presented me with a problem; I could not show the pictures through powerpoint, because I needed to be able to zoom in on the iconographical attributes of characters in the photographs. My only solution was to learn how to manipulate, edit, and add text to photographs in order for them to be tinted the right way to show clearly using the ceiling projector. But, as a result, students were shown a tinted black and white photograph of a wonderfully colored painting. How can they locate the peacock if it looks black and white instead of brilliantly colored blues and greens in its feathers? And on, and on. Part of the solution was to build Mapping Mythology, so students can view images on their own as well as in class. Another solution, but one that adds to the hassle of teaching and that is not always available, is to check out a separate projector and VGA hook-up which rolls on a cart and wheel that to class from the Audio-Visual department every time I want to show images. This would afford me access to the manual controls in case I needed to adjust the brightness of the projector so that the high quality color images could be shown as they are. Unfortunately, teaching at Hunter College in the busiest time of the afternoon and trying to get an elevator in time for class, adds an extra thirty minutes to pre-teaching arrival, and an extra thirty minutes after class, which for a graduate student adjunct for whom Hunter is not his main campus of research can present a quandary. Not to mention, the Audio-Visual department does not give me priority for an extra projector since my classroom already is equipped with one and they would rather reserve the cart projectors for those teachers who are in classrooms with no projector.

On the theoretical side, teaching with technology also alters the classroom environment. Ideally, the teacher can see the screen and observe the students at the same time. Displaying photos directly from the computer, not in a powerpoint, forces manual slide operation and at times, my back is to the classroom. The ability to show pictures and face the classroom while using a remote to scroll through pictures would be more ideal. In addition, anytime a teacher wants students to use a specific website or digital tool, class time is inevitably used to demo the site and guide students through how the tool operates. I have had to do this with Mapping Mythology, especially in order to show students the best places to find information on the website that would be helpful for them and their final art project. An ounce of encouragement for self-exploration at home goes a long way.

Thus, one challenge for technology in the classroom is to integrate it with classroom discussion and engagement. Even a small writing prompt either low-stakes in-class writing, or some form online, perhaps through a simple blackboard post, could help students scaffold to the final art project. This is one useful addition I would like to implement for the next semester. An additional exercise to further engage students with mythology might be to have them find references in newspapers, magazine, music, or digital art. Students can either write up smaller responses to what they find, similar to the final art project; learn how to contribute information to Mapping Mythology (they will learn then the connection between teaching, research and publication of one’s ideas); or engage in more traditional comparative mythology found in English literature. The benefit of the digital tools would allow students to share their discoveries in a meaningful way in class and builds a responsibility for collaboration into classroom assignments, while simultaneously exposing them to myth in other media.

A final idea for further incorporation of technology in the classroom could be through smaller evaluations immediately after a viewing of mythic art. Spread throughout the semester, it would provide me with results to better enhance how I have students engage with the literature and mythic art at the same time. The course objective is always to have students think critically about the connections between ancient mythology as read in literature and in the mythic art of subsequent more modern generations, even down to their own lives.

In terms of assessing a course in its totality, including a specific set of projects or course elements, and the extent to which they promote the course objectives, the evidence supports the conclusion that all of the course elements do in fact promote the course objectives. Students are overwhelming positive in their feedback that all these elements, the creative writing assignment, showing pictures of myths in class, the comprehensive art project, and the Mapping Mythology website provide an interactive component to the course, which they like to take on the go with their smartphones and which make for a more enjoyable course.

The course elements were designed with larger theoretical and technological principles in mind in order to create the most likelihood of their desired effectiveness in the classroom and as teaching tools. Other mythology instructors can replicate nearly every course element and the entire study, adding to the research and vastly improving mythology instruction. Of the tools under review in this study, the showing of pictures, the Mapping Mythology website, and the comprehensive art project that combines elements of the previous two, were seen by students as very beneficial, enjoyable, and helpful in learning course objectives. The course elements together are designed to train a beginning student to think critically about mythology, beyond description, and effortlessly takes them from novice to expert in their ability to engage not only with the standard literary texts of mythology, but adapt and explore how myth changes when received in artwork, across generations, cultures, and media. Further, the students themselves provide the evidence that being exposed to certain elements, mainly pictures directly after story discussion, is better for learning outcomes, and enjoyed the interactive quality of exploring or going on a “hunt” in their own urban environment, which they may not have thought of in that way before.

Incorporating various principles from Dewey’s Experience and Education helps demonstrate to students that mythology has always been present since even before written literature, and is fundamental to how humans and society’s construct meaning for their environments and the people and phenomena in them. Indeed, it is only by learning those common truths, by studying historical mythology, and its permutations across time and cultures, that one begins to understand why we study the past, why history matters.

I would add that the exhibit portion of the site, predicted to be the most helpful to students, is also the most web 2.0 portion of the site as a whole, incorporating tagging and linked data principles. As Brier and Fitzpatrick point out in their discussion of digital humanities, the Mapping Mythology website can be viewed as both a powerful pedagogical tool and a vast inter- and multi-disciplinary project that articulates a shared and wider vision of the humanities from the perspective of mythology.

Finally, by incorporating Wilkens’ discussion of canons, I think there is much to gain in terms of approaching the teaching of mythology in this diversified manner. As the website grows with data, I would argue students will find it even more helpful. By adding Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibits and architectural sculpture, Fall semester 2012 showed a more polarized and positive response to the site and the art project. I anticipate that would grow even more when student recommendations are incorporated into the course, especially a targeted showing of pictures after discussion of the stories. No one is suggesting to take away the canon of classical mythology, but by using such digital tools for pedagogical purpose, and closely linking them with course objectives and learning outcomes, assessed through studies such as this one, it is the hope that mythology will become even more instructive for students as a reference tool in their everyday life.

Works Cited

Brier, Stephen. “Where’s the Pedagogy? The Role of Teaching and Learning in the Digital Humanities.” In Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K. Gold, 390-401. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

Dewey, John. Experience and Education. Simon & Schuster and Kappa Delta Pi, New York: 1938 and 1997.

Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. “The Humanities, Done Digitally.” In Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K. Gold, 12-15. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

National Research Council. “How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition.” The National Academies Press, Washington, DC: 2000.

Spiro, Lisa. “’This is Why We Fight’: Defining the Values of the Digital Humanities.” In Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K. Gold, 16-35. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

Wilkens, Matthew. “Canons, Close Reading, and the Evolution of Method.” In Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew K. Gold, 249-258. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

Appendix A

6. a. Who is the male on the right? __________________________________________

b. How do you know? __________________________________________________

Appendix B

Hunter College – The Classical & Oriental Studies Dept

Classical Mythology – CLA 101

Jared Simard



Instructions for Classical Mythology & Reception in Art Final Project

Step 1: Explore the website

You can explore “Browse Items,” “Browse Exhibits,” and “Browse Collections.” The Search function is also a great way to find artworks.

Step 2: Visit 3 to 4 public sculptures from the collection on the website. Most are in Manhattan.

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time? NB: Each “Item” on the website lists the dedication of the sculpture.

Step 3: Visit Rockefeller Plaza, a large complex of several buildings. Without doing any research beforehand, explore the architectural sculpture of the buildings in the Plaza. Identify three mythological figures or deities. Repeat Steps 2A-C above for each figure.

3A: Also, record the location of the figure and a brief (1 sentence) description of the figure, and if you can, take a photograph of the figure and email the images to me.

Step 4: As you traverse New York City, pay attention to the architectural sculpture on buildings and any public sculptures you encounter. Can you recognize any of the iconography of classical mythology? Do any of the sculptures look like deities or mythological figures? Repeat Step 3 above for two pieces of artwork you find.

Step 5: Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Visit any of the following galleries: (1st Fl.) Medieval Art, Modern and Contemporary Art, European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, (2nd Fl.) Drawings and Prints, European Paintings, 19th– and Early 20th Century European Paintings and Sculpture AND/OR visit the Greek and Roman Art Galleries. Do any of the pieces of artwork depict mythological figures or deities? Find three that do. Repeat Step 3.

NB: Complete Step 6 after doing Steps 1-5.

Step 6: Do you own a smartphone with internet connectivity? (Yes/No) Circle One. If yes, skip to 6A. If no, skip to 6B.

Step 7: Please fill out your answers on the electronic form located here:

  • You may wish to print out the blank form below to bring with you and fill out, and then type in your final answers at the end. You must fill out the electronic, official, form at the end, only after finishing the entire project. You cannot do it piecemeal and save as you go.

Step 8: EMAIL as attachments any photos that go along with the project, taken either from your smartphone or digital camera. Please indicate in the email which photo goes with which answer.

Sculpture #1 for Step 2

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time?

Sculpture #2 for Step 2

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time?

Sculpture #3 for Step 2

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time?

Sculpture #4 for Step 2

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time?

Architectural Sculpture #1 for Step 3

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time?

3A: Record the location of the figure and a brief (1 sentence) description of the figure, and if you can, take a photograph of the figure and email the images to me.

Architectural Sculpture #2 for Step 3

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time?

3A: Record the location of the figure and a brief (1 sentence) description of the figure, and if you can, take a photograph of the figure and email the images to me.

Architectural Sculpture #3 for Step 3

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time?

3A: Record the location of the figure and a brief (1 sentence) description of the figure, and if you can, take a photograph of the figure and email the images to me.

Architectural Sculpture #4 for Step 3

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time?

3A: Record the location of the figure and a brief (1 sentence) description of the figure, and if you can, take a photograph of the figure and email the images to me.

Artwork #1 for Step 4

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time?

3A: Record the location of the figure and a brief (1 sentence) description of the figure, and if you can, take a photograph of the figure and email the images to me.

Artwork #2 for Step 4

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time?

3A: Record the location of the figure and a brief (1 sentence) description of the figure, and if you can, take a photograph of the figure and email the images to me.

MET Artwork #1 for Step 5

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time?

3A: Record the location of the figure and a brief (1 sentence) description of the figure, and if you can, take a photograph of the figure and email the images to me.

MET Artwork #2 for Step 5

2A: Correctly identify the mythological figure or deity based on the iconography. Be sure to include the iconography in your ID. (1 Sentence)

2B: Link the figure to one of the stories we have read in class. (2-3 Sentences)

2C: Has the sculptor changed/altered/emphasized the iconography in some unique way? What might this tell the viewer about the sculptor, their interpretation of the myth, their appropriation of iconography in their own time?

3A: Record the location of the figure and a brief (1 sentence) description of the figure, and if you can, take a photograph of the figure and email the images to me.


6A: If you own a smartphone with internet connectivity, did you pull up the website as you found and viewed the artwork? Was the information on the website helpful in forming a point of view on the sculpture and relating it to the myths read in class? In what ways was the website helpful or not? Be specific.

6B: If you do not own a smartphone and thus had no connection to the website while you were viewing the sculptures, did you view the website before embarking to visit the sculptures? If yes, was the information on the website helpful and how? If it was not helpful, explain why.

6C: Did you print out “Item” pages for the monuments you were going to visit? Was a printed version helpful or did you want access to the interactivity of the website?

Appendix C

Fall 2011 Survey Results

Question 1: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

Creative Writing Assignment (create your own etiological myth)

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 0 0 %
Very Little 3 5 %
Undecided 1 2 %
Somewhat 5 9 %
Very Much 38 69 %

Question 2: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

Showing images of artwork featuring mythological subjects

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 0 0 %
Very Little 0 0 %
Undecided 0 0 %
Somewhat 8 15 %
Very Much 37 67 %

Question 3: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

Images of artwork were shown three times during the semester.   Would you wish images were shown more often than three times during the semester?

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 4 7 %
Very Little 6 11 %
Undecided 11 20 %
Somewhat 19 35 %
Very Much 8 15 %

Question 4: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

“Classical Mythology Reception & Art Project”

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 0 0 %
Very Little 1 2 %
Undecided 3 5 %
Somewhat 20 36 %
Very Much 22 40 %

Question 5: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

During the project, engaging the artworks in person

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 1 2 %
Very Little 1 2 %
Undecided 3 5 %
Somewhat 13 24 %
Very Much 29 53 %

Question 6: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

Mapping Mythology website

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 1 2 %
Very Little 2 4 %
Undecided 4 7 %
Somewhat 18 33 %
Very Much 24 44 %

Question 7: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

Mobile access (e.g. a smartphone) to Mapping Mythology helped you better understand and complete the “Classical Mythology Reception & Art Project”.

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 2 4 %
Very Little 4 7 %
Undecided 11 20 %
Somewhat 14 25 %
Very Much 18 33 %

Question 8:

The Classical Mythology course was an engaging experience?

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 0 0 %
Very Little 0 0 %
Undecided 0 0 %
Somewhat 5 9 %
Very Much 42 76 %

Question 9:

Please use the following textbox to indicate any comments. Please note that the text box expands. (N.B. The numbers correspond to the nth response. 1 is the first student response to the survey and so forth.)

1. Give the Mythology Reception and Art Project to students way more time to complete. The assignment was given with about a month before the semester ended, and it was very difficult to plan out trips to Manhattan among all other obligations.
4. I really appreciated how the class was not stressful, and yet I learned just as much (if not more) from it than any work-intensive course.
5. I thought that the course was very engaging and also a great introduction to Mythology.
7. I feel this course was a very interesting course alone, but with Professor Simard teaching the course, the learning experience was so much better. His personality and live for mythology made me want to really learn about what the class had to offer.
8. I really enjoy the interactive aspect of this course. Picture ID was one of my favorite components of this class.
9. In all honesty, I fell in love with this course. Not only was the course descriptive towards mythological creatures but as well as an understanding of the classical gods and creatures.
10. I personally never had a strong interest for Greek mythology until I took this class. It was taught with such enthusiasm and all the myths we read were enjoyable to read.
18. you rock!
21. I enjoyed the hunt for other mythological art around the city. You made the class a lot more interesting with the project because if helped me relate to the different stories.
23. This course was fantastic. I learned an incredible amount in a fun and engaging way. The professor was passionate and inspiring, thus making class (and the learning experience) exciting and enjoyable.
26. Classical Mythology was one of the best courses I have taken so far. I learned I knew a lot less about mythology coming into the course than I thought I did. Honestly there’s very little to nothing that needs to be changed about this course.
27. I wished I could have taken another of Jared’s classes but they were filled and I had issued with registrar but as a whole Ihe. Are the class entertaining and enticed us. I would and have recommended him.  He’s what I call an ideal teacher..
29. I really enjoyed learning the classical myths. The picture ID exam  was great because it really made me learn mythological iconography. The project was a bit extensive and time consuming, but I enjoyed going to the MET. I found this class very enjoyable.
30. Taught very thoroughly and in an engaging manner.
31. I really enjoyed this class.
32. I love this course you don’t have to change anything
33. I think it would be more helpful to see fewer pictures, more often, as opposed to seeing many pictures on the projector all in one sitting.
35. The professor was very engaging and brought a lot of enthusiasm to the course. It would have been even more beneficial to discuss the philosophies behind the myths, because some of us might not know what the culture and thought was at that time.
37. Great class that really was informative and well-taught
40. this class taught me everything I know about mythology today. Professor Simard is a wonderful professor and has kept my interest in the class throughout the semester. Moreover, he has increased my interest in learning more about mythology


44. It was an interesting class and it helped me better understand the Greek mythological universe.
46. This was a wonderful class! I enjoyed it very much and wish to take another of Professor Simard’s courses. He is so personal and exuberant.
47. thank you Professor for such a wonderful class….I really enjoyed learning about the Gods/Goddess’ and the class was fun and interactive….one of the classes I looked forward to going to during the semester. Thank you

Appendix D

Fall 2012 Survey Results

Question 1: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

Creative Writing Assignment (create your own etiological myth)

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 0 0 %
Very Little 1 2 %
Undecided 3 5 %
Somewhat 15 26 %
Very Much 33 57 %

Question 2: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

Showing images of artwork featuring mythological subjects

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 0 0 %
Very Little 0 0 %
Undecided 0 0 %
Somewhat 5 9 %
Very Much 46 79 %

Question 3: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

Images of artwork were shown three times during the semester.   Would you wish images were shown more often than three times during the semester?

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 6 10 %
Very Little 9 16 %
Undecided 5 9 %
Somewhat 20 34 %
Very Much 12 21 %

Question 4: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

“Classical Mythology Reception & Art Project”

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 0 0 %
Very Little 1 2 %
Undecided 2 3 %
Somewhat 11 19 %
Very Much 37 64 %

Question 5: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

During the project, engaging the artworks in person

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 1 2 %
Very Little 1 2 %
Undecided 3 5 %
Somewhat 15 26 %
Very Much 32 55 %

Question 6: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

Mapping Mythology website

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 1 2 %
Very Little 2 3 %
Undecided 5 9 %
Somewhat 23 40 %
Very Much 22 38 %

Question 7: (Check the box indicating to what degree each of the following course elements helped you understand the basic concepts of classical mythology.)

Mobile access (e.g. a smartphone) to Mapping Mythology helped you better understand and complete the “Classical Mythology Reception & Art Project”.

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 5 9 %
Very Little 6 10 %
Undecided 10 17 %
Somewhat 18 31 %
Very Much 13 22 %

Question 8:

The Classical Mythology course was an engaging experience?

Likert Scale Number of Responses Percentage of Whole Class
Not at all 1 2 %
Very Little 0 0 %
Undecided 0 0 %
Somewhat 4 7 %
Very Much 46 79 %

Question 9:

Please use the following textbox to indicate any comments. Please note that the text box expands. (N.B. The numbers correspond to the nth response. 1 is the first student response to the survey and so forth.)

2. Great class!
3. I loved your class. you were a really great professor and made learning about mythology and the Greek gods very interesting and entertaining.
4. Very informative class. Learned a great deal about Mythology. The professor taught the class with incite full knowledge
5. I really enjoyed your class. It was very insightful. Thanks for everything.
9. I had no problems with this class. Youre the best professor!
11. I think the art project/exams should have been spread over the semester to further engage us as we were seeing the stories. For example, showing a slideshow of the story’s images as we recapped in class. I had a great experience though.
13. This class (although not strongly applicable to my intended major), has been the most engaging and interesting thus far. I enjoyed the many tragedies and myths that we read and discussed in class. Overall, the class was very enjoyable.
14. The class was very enjoyable. I would have liked it very much if you had dedicated a week to myths from other countries.
17. Amazing course, amazing professor
18. I think pictures at the end of each story would make it easier to remember the story and characters. The pictures could be shown on class or posted on blackboard
26. I wish we had more time to read Euripides plays. I understand that one of things that you weren’t sure if you were going to include into the syllabus but I feel that its an important part in understanding the characters of Dionysus and Medea.
27. The class was great! the Teacher is super cool and makes it super fun
28. Loved this class!
32. Not only was the class well organized and put together, but you were a very engaging teacher. I say, change nothing!
35. The project which required us to go and visit mythological sculptures definitely engaged me as a student. Seeing examples of artwork in class was very helpful, but seeing a sculpture in person has a different effect that really captivates the viewer.
39. Taking the classical mythology course was a very enjoyable experience and very educative as well. I was able to learn a lot about mythology and professor simard was able to break down the readings in a way that is very humorous and understandable.
41. This course was very informative, my favorite assignment was the creative writing assignment.
44. It was a very fun and interesting class!
47. excellent teacher, very engaging


  1. There is also an issue of time and genre. To read even one of Homer’s works adds an additional 25-30 pages of reading per class, and detracts from the overall focus of the course. Homer’s works are also generally considered epics, both by ancient and modern literary standards. Elements of myth are present, but do not drive the plot in meaningful ways. Thus, only the selections that indicate mythic archetypes are incorporated into the course readings. Some examples include Odysseus’ encounter with the mythic monsters Scylla and Charybdis, the Sirens, and his journey to the underworld.
  2. Archetypes are attributes universal to all mythology. Examples, to name a few, include creation myths; heroic sagas; monsters (often female); the role of feminine characters, especially goddesses, in relation to male heroes; magic; taboos.
  3. Iconographical attributes are the symbols associated with a given god or character. They are the symbols most commonly used by artists, both in antiquity and in subsequent generations, to accurately identify the character. They also represent some of the abstract concepts associated with a mythic character, as well as particular narratives in their myths. Artists have been continually faithful to the attributes, since otherwise, without labels, it would be an incredible futile task for readers and art viewers to determine the identity of a figure in a painting or sculpture.
  4. “Looking” (occasionally referred to as “reading”) is a tool and concept used principally by art historians and archaeologists. It refers to a set of procedures and principles that govern how one engages with a given object, be it a piece of art or some other unknown material artifact. In most cases, the types of questions asked lead one to develop a set of facts that eventually can become the foundation for the most basic metadata on that object. “Looking” can be viewed as an application of who, what, when where, why, and how questions to material culture. For my students in mythology, the iconographical attributes are the most important element, as well as other clues in the scene or sculpture that help the viewer determine who they are looking at and what is going on in the piece.
  5. See Appendix A for an example of a numbered picture and corresponding question.
  6. Some of the key sub-genres of classical mythology are etiologies (stories whose main purpose is to explain why something is the way it is, or how it came to be a certain way; the word is derived from the Greek aitia which means cause or origin), foundation myths (these center on a particular man who, in most cases, founded an important city; the citizens often have festivals in his honor or reenact key portions of the foundation myth; the higher the status of the founder the more clout contemporary citizens have compared to other city-states), creation myths (these are the most universal of myths, with almost every culture in material record having some sort of group of deity(ies) who created the Earth, mankind, womankind (ex. Pandora), and the rest of the world), and heroes (often certain characteristics make a given person heroic).
  7. This is best seen in the tenets of comparative mythology, which first set out to describe the similarities and differences, and then seek to relate those comparisons to explain larger abstract concepts usually conveyed in mythology in general. One of the most common sub-genres discussed in comparative myth studies focus on creation myths.
  8. Tagging is heavily used in order to ensure that someone wanting to see images of Minerva will also be shown images of Athena. That classical mythology spans two different cultures with different languages, not to mention how those names are transliterated into English, forces tagging as one of the best ways to preempt such user-end search problems.
  9. One difference between the two semesters is that in Fall 2011 students did not submit their final art project digitally via the Google Form, but rather filled out a paper version. They still had to email photographs. After handwriting became an issue, it was decided to use a Google Form and have students type their own answers.
  10. Etiologies were discussed in 6 above. The course readings are arranged so that students are exposed to general etiological myths early on. This provides them with a variety of examples of etiologies (foundation myths or the origin of an iconographical symbol) with which they can use to then create their own etiological myth.
  11. Kathleen Fitzpatrick, “The Humanities, Done Digitally,” in Debates in the Digital Humanities, ed. Matthew K. Gold. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012), 13. Fitzpatrick makes the case for digital humanities’ origins, and while I tend to agree, I think there is also room for earlier digitization and digital projects that helped certain disciplines embraces technology for both research and teaching.
  12. National Research Council. “How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition.” The National Academies Press, Washington, DC: 2000.
  13. NRC pp4, 10ff, and Chapter 2 respectively
  14. NRC pp10ff
  15. NRC the explicit topic of Ch.2 pp29-50.
  16. NRC Ch.2 cites six defining characteristics of experts: meaningful patterns of information, organization of knowledge, context and access to knowledge, fluent retrieval, experts and teaching, and adaptive expertise. The first and last ones are the most important for one’s ability to “chunk” information and to “explore and expand” on current levels of knowledge when exposed to new information.
  17. Dewey, John. Experience and Education. Simon & Schuster and Kappa Delta Pi, New York: 1938 and 1997.
  18. Dewey 19-20 and 21-23
  19. Dewey Chapter 5, pg. 61
  20. Dewey 61-64
  21. Dewey 71-72
  22. Dewey 77
  23. Lisa Spiro, “’This is Why We Fight’: Defining the Values of the Digital Humanities,” in Debates in the Digital Humanities, ed. Matthew K. Gold. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012), 16.
  24. Spiro, “’This is Why We Fight,’” 24.
  25. Scott Jaschik, “An Open, Digital Professoriat,” in Inside Higher Ed., January 10, 2011 (3:00 a.m.).
  26. Spiro, “’This is Why We Fight,’” 24.
  27. Spiro, “’This is Why We Fight,’” 30.
  28. Matthew Wilkens, “Canons, Close Reading, and the Evolution of Method,” in Debates in the Digital Humanities, ed. Matthew K. Gold. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012), 249.
  29. Wilkens, “Canons,” 255ff.
  30. Fitzpatrick, “The Humanities,” 12-13.
  31. Fitzpatrick, “The Humanities,” 14.
  32. Stephen Brier, “Where’s the Pedagogy? The Role of Teaching and Learning in the Digital Humanities,” in Debates in the Digital Humanities, ed. Matthew K. Gold. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012), 391ff. One example cited is the definition of the digital humanities by the Digital Humanities Quarterly (DHQ): “Digital humanities is a diverse and still emerging field that encompasses the practice of humanities research in and through information technology, and the exploration of how the humanities may evolve through their engagement with technology, media, and computational methods.”
  33. Brier, “Where’s the Pedagogy?” 391-392.
  34. Brier, “Where’s the Pedagogy?” 392.
  35. Brier, “Where’s the Pedagogy?” 393ff.
  36. There are only two substantive differences between the two semesters. Fall 2012 students had to submit their responses via a Google Form that replicated as closely as possible the printed instruction sheet they could use as they completed the assignment. As previously noted, this was to ensure legibility for the instructor. In addition, by the Fall 2012, a selection of paintings and sculptures from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a selection of architectural sculpture and relief were added to Mapping Mythology. Approximately 65 new art items were added. A sub-set of the architectural sculpture and relief was also preliminarily curated in the exhibits section.
  37. See Appendix C. The 7 constructive text responses to Question 9 discussed are numbers 1, 8, 9, 21, 29, 33, 35.
  38. This suggestion was taken into account for Fall 2012. I gave out the final art assignment much earlier prior to Thanksgiving Break and had mentioned it several times in class as well as on the first day of class when going over the syllabus.
  39. See Appendix D. The 5 constructive text responses to Question 9 discussed are numbers 11, 14, 18, 35, 41.
  40. These two comments are even more specific than the one student from Fall 2011 who wanted them shown over the course of the semester.

Walking with Whitman

ITP student Jesse Merandy (English) reflects on his independent study project


Visit Walking with Whitman

Have you reckoned a thousand acres much? Have you reckoned the earth much?
Have you practiced so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun . . . . there are millions of suns left,
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand . . . . nor look through the
eyes of the dead . . . . nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.
Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

Walking with Whitman: A Downloadable Walt Whitman Walking Tour is a mobile learning experience that takes users to the streets of Brooklyn Heights to actively engage Walt Whitman on the same grounds that the nineteenth century poet once traversed and that provided inspiration for many of his most important works. Through downloadable audio tracks, a detailed travel packet and map, the walking tour encourages users to break away from their computers and classrooms through mobile technologies to look at the importance of location and context in the shaping of creative works, while at the same time helping foster a greater appreciation for the learner’s environment. Although intended primarily for use in college and graduate level literature courses, this IT tool that can be used in writing and history classes and also by Whitman, poetry, and New York City enthusiasts and scholars of any background. This paper will describe the Walking Tour and its creation in detail, discuss some of its underlying ideas and theories, and reflect on its successes and failures.


Whitman’s poetry often provokes us, asks us to challenge our assumptions and past learning, and prompts us to look deeply at our beliefs and to reach a new awareness through those pursuits. Similarly, when we look at technology and how it can serve us in academia, we must also challenge our assumptions, routines, and accepted practices to see if there are new and unseen ways in which we can improve our teaching methods and alter how we conduct our own scholarly research.  One challenge that has been continually intriguing to me, as an English student and teacher, is how we “get at the meaning” of literature. Understanding literature and contextualizing it, while also making the interaction personally valuable, is an extremely difficult endeavor, one that often changes for us over time as our interests and life experiences shape us. However, despite the personal nature of this discovery, finding meaning in literature is frequently approached as a problem with a solution, a puzzle that is solved through methods that we may not identify with, or maybe even disagree with. This can lead to an experience that is isolating and frustrating for the casual or first-time literature student, and disorienting when it serves as a starting point for novice literary scholars entering into a practice that ultimately asks them to utilize their own interests to develop specialized critical lenses. With this in mind, it seemed important to me to develop approaches to literature that emphasize the significance of personal discovery and allow us to explore our relationship to literature as an intimate and complex interaction between our experiences, thoughts, and contexts and those of the writer and the work itself.

To engage these challenges, nearly two years ago I began work on The Crossing Brooklyn Ferry Online Critical Edition, a web-based project that aimed to provide site users with a unique method to interact with and explore one of Walt Whitman’s most popular and enduring works. In its original version, The Crossing Brooklyn Ferry Online Critical Edition was comprised of three main areas: a Close Reading section that provided links to criticism, commentary, and multimedia resources throughout the poem; an Edition Evolution section that tracked the changes Whitman made to “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” throughout his lifetime; and an Edition Comparison section that gave users the opportunity to look at the these different versions of the poem side-by-side.  Each of these sections provided a different entry point into the poem and let users determine the path of investigation without privileging any one method in particular; the experience presented an opportunity, as Whitman suggests, to “listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.”  Instead of a conclusive end-point or solution, this learner-centric experience utilized the associative properties of hyptertext and hypermedia to give access to a network of interconnected approaches and ideas relating to the poem. The user encounters, as Jerome McGann understands in his book Radiant Textuality, a “radiant and decentered structure,” a “fabulous circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere” (25, 70).

With the learner’s investigation continually shifting based on their interests and actions, the Critical Edition’s self-directed approach to literature created a certain amount of personal investment. However, radiant textuality, even when expanded to include different medias, still resulted in an project constrained by the delivery method. No matter how many endless links the user clicked on, videos they watched, or audio tracks they listened to, they were still focused on the screen, drawn into a virtual experience that was, in the end, not so dissimilar from traditional textual practices which were rooted to the page.  It is this “atemporal gaze” Lev Manovich concluded rendered the world outside the screen non-existent for the viewer, leaving everything not in frame “immobile, reified, fixated, cold and dead” (100, 106). Even as I tried to turn the focus of attention away from one mode or medium of exploration toward a radiant methodology that included the beneficial aspects of each and strove to overcome their respective shortcomings by using them in concert, I still wondered if this experience was personally meaningful for site users. Malcolm Knowles, an early advocate of adult learning, understood that learning experiences needed to have personal meaning to be effective and have an impact. He felt that the learner needs to knowwhy they need to learn something before undertaking to learn it” and then, how this new knowledge will help them to “cope effectively with their real-life situations” (64, 67).  His words echoed the sentiments of John Dewey who found that there was a continuum of learning and that “knowledge and skill in one situation becomes an instrument of understanding and dealing effectively with the situations which follow” (44). Keeping these thoughts in mind, I wondered how I could use the technology I had been experimenting with to initiate a different kind of learning experience, and active one that would serve as a launching pad to the external world where the learner could eventually apply the knowledge that they had taken from the project. Instead of drawing the learner inward to the screen, I wanted to send them out of the classroom to make visible the connection between texts and their external world, in what I hoped would be a more holistic, intimate, and meaningful experience with literature.


John Dewey once asked, “How shall the young become acquainted with the past in such a way that the acquaintance is a potent agent in appreciation of the living present?” It was a question that I kept coming back to for my ITP project as I began to look for threads to connect the learner to Whitman’s work and life. Whitman’s writing was one element that I knew would be a focus of this exploration. His prolific catalogue of poetry, editorials, letters, and prose left a detailed account of life in nineteenth-century New York City. He thought often about the innumerable characters and sights around him; equally awed by the seagull and the steamship, his fluid democratic gaze led to the creation of his all-inclusive, free verse. These passages and their ties to New York City’s history form a powerful record for modern readers and allow us a window into Whitman’s life and times, yet, they are partial and in some ways unapproachable for readers. Whitman’s writings, although visceral and vast, do not fully convey the sensory experience of urban living and can at times seem remote and detached from the modern urban existence.  Even he was able to appreciate the limitations of his work and suggested that his readers not take his word as final, but instead “listen to all sides and filter them from yourself;” he encouraged personal experience to gain a more complete understanding of the complex experiences he documented. The Walking Tour attempts to give this opportunity to the learner by using Brooklyn Heights as the classroom and his writing as a guide, engaging Whitman on a shared ground in a full tactile and sensory experience.

Place theorist Yi-Fu Tuan concluded that place “achieves concrete reality when our experience of it is total, that is, through all the senses as well as with the active and reflective mind” (18).  It was through this process of active and deep thinking about place that he felt could help us uncover “unexpected meanings and raise questions we have not thought to ask” (3). Living or traveling in an urban center such as New York City is an overwhelming experience of place: it is face-paced, isolating, and overwhelming at times, exhilarating, inspiring, and uplifting at others. We are constantly bombarded with sensory information, yet we still often neglect the necessary reflection and contemplation to understand these experiences. When a learner takes a moment to reflect and appreciate their own environment and the vast catalogue of personal sensory stimulation that accompanies it, when they explore and consider that place as a conduit to the past, as a common ground, then the experience becomes a connection that begins to have personal relevance.  The words and life of Whitman are no longer confined to the page, distant ramblings from a disembodied voice, but are instead grounded in a shared experience of place, taking on a depth that would be difficult to achieve in a traditional classroom setting. Perhaps we do not see the shoreline hemmed with masts of ships, but we can understand what it is to be part of a living crowd and to look up in wonderment at the Manhattan skyline. Whitman’s words can help learners grapple with the urban experience by providing knowledge that someone else, however distant, struggled with the meaning of these experiences as well. At the same time, the learner, through the temporal distance to Whitman, is able to gauge similarities and differences between their experiences and his, helping raise the questions that Tuan knew led to new revelations and personal discovery.

Another key benefit of personal discovery through immersion in place is that the learner engages all of their senses. Paul Rodaway, in his work Sensuous Geographies, spoke of sense as “both a reaching out to the world as a source of information and an understanding of that world so gathered” (5). In approaching poetry, traditional classroom exercises often neglect the rich sensory context of a work because of the limitations of the printed page or screen. Instead, the learning focus is on the formal aspects of the work, or involves a dissection of text and author through critical lenses. This experience is only slightly improved through online approaches which introduce visual and audio elements to the investigation. These sensory experiences, however, are limited and can only hope to provide partial returns in our understanding of the work and its context, and as a result, of ourselves; as Tuan found, “Life is live, not a pageant from which we stand aside and observe. The real is the familiar daily round, unobtrusive like breathing. The real involves our whole being, all our senses” (146).  I wanted to promote this kind of holistic sensory experience of place instead of trying to simulate or approximate that experience with technology.  Technology’s role in this project would be as facilitator, an element of the overall experience that would engage the user in an intimate interaction with New York City where the streets became the classroom and Whitman their teacher.

MLearning: Taking Class To The Streets

With a idea of what I wanted to accomplish with my ITP project, I began to look for technical avenues and precedents to use for development.  I wanted to first explore the possibilities of mobile learning (mlearning) as a means of content delivery, and as a way of delivering the learner to the content. Mlearning is particularly adept at facilitating the kind of situated educational experiences that I wished to create, one capable of creating a learning environment out of the learner’s context (Naismith). By using mobile devices, which are accessible and essentially ubiquitous, site users could be immersed in the experience of place without the technology becoming the focus of the interaction. As Bryan Alexander finds, mobile devices are “personally intimate; they are held close to the body” (30).  This intimacy and the everyday use of these devices affords them a certain transparency that allows them be present without being intrusive.  Their association with entertainment and communication would also work to lessen the distaste that can be attached to learning tools, making it easier to reappropriate them for learning. In addition, the ease of use of these devices and their integration with digital media management software like iTunes would make content delivery to an audience with minimal technical knowledge possible and reduce the learning curve that is typically associated with adapting new technologies. These mlearning methods could ultimately embrace the intimate experience mobile device users have with their content and the freedom of movement and exploration that is already built into the culture of these devices. New York City has such a vibrant mobile culture, one even Whitman marveled at in his time, that it made sense to embrace this quality of mobility as part of the essence of the project.

Fortunately, initiatives in mlearning that use digital audio devices have a history dating back to the unveiling of the Apple iPod in Oct. 23, 2001. Although the first widely available MP3 player, the MPMan, was released by Saehan Information Systems in 1997, it was the iPod’s seamless integration with iTunes (released at the Macworld Expo in January 2001), its style and ease of use, and timing with the expansion of high speed internet that led to a seismic shift in the portable audio and mobile device landscapes.  In 2004, Duke University decided to explore the untapped potential of these devices in academia and formed the Duke Digital Initiative, formerly known as the Duke iPod Project. In the first year of the program, over 1600 first-year students at Duke received a 20GB iPod and faculty submitted proposals that incorporated the iPods into their course designs.  The final report of the initiative found many benefits of the project including a reduced dependency on physical materials, greater student engagement and interest in courses, and flexible location-independent access to course materials (Belanger). Although only one course out of the 27 selected to participate in the program was a literature course, these benefits were in line with the role I wanted technology to play in my ITP project.  It was becoming apparent that learning could take place in nearly any location and that traditional sites of learning were not necessary to create a valuable education experience. These results played perfectly in supporting my efforts to create a learner driven experience outside the classroom, however, I did not want learning to take place just anywhere. Brooklyn Heights was a key element in the project and I needed a model that could connect the learner to this important place.

Coinciding with Duke’s iPod project was the emergence of podcasting (MTV VJ Adam Curry, also known as the “podfather,”launched the first podcast, The Daily Source Code, in August 2004), which led professors to begin experimenting with the delivery of lectures as downloadable audio files. Even though I was not interested in podcast’s essence as episodic content, acquiring the audio files was simple and I appreciated how it was reconnecting users to the important element of audio, which could be instrumental in bringing the spirit of Whitman and his work to life.   As Gardener Campbell explains in his article There’s Something in the Air: Podcasting in Education, “There is magic in the human voice, the magic of shared awareness. Consciousness is most persuasively and intimately communicated via voice. The voice is literally inspired language, language full of breath, breath as language;” it “conveys our common humanity.” In addition, a subset of podcasts, the audio walking tour, began to emerge which were designed for location specific consumption. Based on the audio tours first seen in museums and galleries, the popularity of podcasting opened the door to scores of commercial, non-profit, and academia-based efforts. These audio tours provide important history and insights pertaining to locations, while giving users the opportunity to move at their own pace as they explored. One of the earliest experiments in education with audio tours was conceptualized by David Gilbert, a professor of communication at Marymount Manhattan College. Created with the help of his students, his “Art Mob” produced unofficial audio guides for artworks at the MoMa in Manhattan.  Described as an attempt to “hack the gallery experience” or “remix MoMa,” these audio tours included music and non-traditional approaches to famous works of art, which Gilbert used to engage his students and stop them from being “passive information consumers.” Using audio to reevaluate the known, to reconceptualize the user’s physical surroundings through active awareness, would be important in looking at Brooklyn Heights as a common ground with connections to the past.  Gilbert’s work also helped me to realize that mlearning methods could provide an educational experience without sacrificing the joy and pleasure that can accompany learning.

Another project that influenced the development of my ITP work was an audio tour through a little visited area of London called Wapping. Using personal reminisce, factual history of the area, and fictional episodes, the tour sought to “challenge the way in which the walker views their city/this city, rather than seeking simply to entertain or provide factual information” (Day 1).  The producers of the Wapping tour creatively portrayed place through their downloadable audio while also throwing a certain subversive element into the mix. In their writing on the project, they commented that their tour was a way to counteract the process of commodification that typically occurs at well-known locations through guided tours, a process that leads to a ‘staged authenticity’ (2). This use of the audio tour to challenge traditional views and voices reminded me of the spirit of the Marymount Manhattan College project; I was reminded of how easily intent could be embedded into and read from any academic/public production. While I admired that quality of these productions, I wanted to be cautious not to politicize my tour. Audio could create an opening for expression and communication, a connection fostered in breath and timbre that could have a profound impact on the learner. It could certainly be political and subversive, but I wanted to leave the meaning making in the hands of the learner as much as possible. I did not want to limit the possibilities of their experience or imagination.

Ultimately, downloadable audio tours held great promise for what I wished to accomplish with my ITP project.  Their ability to make the listener aware of their environment through active participation, their exploration and celebration of the human voice, and the connection that could be drawn between these elements seemed ideally suited to bring the words of Whitman to life.  And, because the learner determined the pace and level of participation, as well as the meaning, there would be a sense of ownership created through the learning process that would lead to a memorable and lasting experience. Finally, the audio tour provided an opportunity for me to be creative and grow as a scholar while exploring the uses of technology in the teaching of literature.  With a clear direction and methodology in place, I began to develop the audio tour components.


Walking with Whitman was developed in three major stages: the website production, the production of the audio tracks, and the production of the Travel Packet.

 Website Production
(Programs used for website Production: Adobe Creative Suite 3 & 4 (Photoshop and Dreamweaver)

Using the template that already existed for the Crossing Brooklyn Ferry Online Critical Edition website, I created a page to house the walking tour. The walking tour page would be linked to through the main menu and a visual icon on the Critical Edition’s homepage, which would integrate it into the larger site. This would continue to build the CBF critical edition and make a visible relationship between the other methods on the site and the walking tour, adding yet another valuable method to approach the works of Whitman. I then began development of several visual assets including a header featuring a young Whitman, which was thought to have been taken in New York between 1848–1854, and sub headers that utilized elements from nineteenth-century maps of the Brooklyn waterfront. The look and feel of these elements would also be incorporated into the travel packet for the tour to bring some overall continuity to the project. Finally, I composed the introduction paragraph for the tour site, which proved to be a bit challenging. I wanted it to be concise and informative, but keeping in mind my desire to leave the learning experience in the hands of the learner, I also did not want to guide too much. As a result, I minimized the text on the tour page, presenting only an overview of the project and basic instructions.  My hope was that by keeping an overall lightness to the content and layout that the user could concentrate on getting the assets needed to actually partake in the activity it supported.

Travel Packet
(Programs used for tour packet production: Adobe Creative Suite 3 & 4 (Photoshop and Acrobat)

Determining the overall design of the tour – its length, course, and the destinations that would be featured as points of interest – became crucial at this stage of the project. I knew that I needed to take into consideration the physical effort required for the walk and the mental fatigue that often occurs with any learning activity in order for this to be a positive and doable experience. These choices would also influence which and how many of Whitman’s works I would record and the travel packet content I would have to develop. Finally, I was concerned with the learner’s safety while listening to the audio tracks and wanted to make certain that the tour stops were places that would give learners a space to reflect and take in their surroundings without danger. To find a resolution to these practical matters, I relied on my own previous visits to Brooklyn Heights.

On my first trip to Brooklyn Heights in 2002, I had set out to visit the former site of the Rome Brothers Print shop where the first edition of Leaves of Grass was printed and the Eagle Warehouse where Whitman once worked as an editor for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from 1846-48. My modest goals were immediately frustrated as I discovered that the plaque which once marked the site of the print shop no longer existed and, even more surprising, that the cross streets where it once stood were also gone! This was a valuable lesson in the organic, changing nature of place and a reminder that a place’s history, the memory of people and structures, were easily swallowed and forgotten, paved over in time. What did it mean that this important place in American literary history was gone? What did Whitman’s Brooklyn look and sound like in comparison to this present version? Conveniently, not only was the approximate place were the print shop once stood the perfect site for reflection on these complex issues, but it was also situated directly outside of the High Street subway station, making it the obvious choice for the tour’s starting point. The location and its connection to Whitman’s poetry also made the selection of “Song of Myself,” one of Whitman’s most popular works and also the first in Leaves of Grass, an easy choice for the accompanying audio track on the first stop on the tour.

The second stop on the tour, the Plymouth Church, I discovered on a guiding walking tour I took with Karen Karbiener, a professor and Whitman scholar at NYU, several years after my first visit to Brooklyn Heights. I met Karen, a self-proclaimed “Whitmaniac”, at a Whitman birthday celebration that took place at the Whitman House in Camden, New Jersey. She would often lead her students on walking tours as a part of her curriculum and invited me to join her for a reading of “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” on the Brooklyn Bridge.  As part of the tour, we visited the Plymouth Church, which was known as the “Grand Central Depot” of the Underground Railroad, where both Whitman and Abraham Lincoln had attended services. Whitman’s connection to the Civil War, recorded in his poetry collection Drum Taps, and his connection to Lincoln, whom he eulogized in his famous poem “Oh Captain! My Captain!” made the church an important stop to reflect on the political and social history of Brooklyn and how they pervaded Whitman’s work.  The audio track for this stop of the tour was another excerpt from “Song of Myself” which depicts an interaction with a runaway slave. It is one of the only direct mentions of slavery Whitman ever makes in his writing, and it is non-committal in its position to the subject. Trying to understand Whitman’s stance on slavery from this work brings light to how complicated the issue was during his life and seemed a thought-provoking topic to contemplate in the presence of this historic church.

Deciding on the next stop of the tour was one of the more interesting decisions that I had to make during the project. With roughly a ten-minute walk between Plymouth Church and the Eagle Warehouse, which was the next physical location I knew held historic significance to Whitman, it seemed necessary to break up the distance to create a sense of even pacing between stops and give the learner ample opportunity to rest. The Brooklyn Promenade was the perfect mid-point, offering benches and spectacular views of Manhattan, yet there was no immediate visible link to Whitman. In trying to “fit” the stop in, I realized that my frustration was originating from my rigid understanding of ways in which we can be connected to place. This was a perfect opportunity to open the tour’s approach and let Whitman’s poetry guide the meaning making.  I tried to imagine what Whitman would see if he looked out from this vista across the East River toward the Manhattan and was reminded of a passage from the poem “Manahatta” where he describes the city skyline and its “high growths of iron, slender, strong, light, splendidly uprising toward clear skies.” In the same poem he offers a striking image as he admires the “the countless masts” that line Manhattan’s shores. Playing with these similarities and differences, the work becomes a powerful frame of reference for the learner as they juxtapose Whitman’s New York in the nineteenth-century and their own; in many ways, the learner’s distance from the subject being considered, layered with Whitman’s poetry, provokes a depth of thought that is achieved without having to be at a specific physical place.

With a quick downhill walk from the Promenade, the learner would next arrive at one of the few buildings still standing with personal relevance to Whitman. Although now incorporated into the structure of the more modern residential Eagle Warehouse, the old three-story pressroom where Whitman once worked as editor for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle still stands in a symbolic architectural layering of history. A plaque detailing Whitman’s history in the warehouse and honoring his contributions to American literature adorns the front of the brick edifice adjacent to the Warehouse’s impressive brink arch entrance. Up until this point, the tour’s planned audio only featured Whitman’s poetry, but for this stop it seemed necessary to acknowledge his substantial work as an editor and prose writer. Using the Brooklyn Daily Eagle’s online record of its early print runs, I isolated editorials created during Whitman’s time working there and was able to find “The Philosophy of Ferries.” The passage depicts a commuter scene at the nearby waterfront that is so detailed you can imagine Whitman looking out his window taking in the scene. For the learner, looking out at the same waterfront presents a dramatically different scene from the bustling hub of transportation that once existed at the Fulton Pier. Today, the scene is decidedly more serene, the pier filled with small pockets of visitors and the Brooklyn Bridge looming overhead acting as the main artery between Brooklyn and Manhattan. These moments that allow learners to layer Whitman’s experiences over their own are intriguing to me and I hoped that they would help build an appreciation for our place in the larger spectrum of human history.

Although it was not in my original plans, the Fulton Pier, with its incredible backdrop of the city and the east river flowing by, became one of the unexpected surprises of my first visit to Brooklyn Heights. After failing to find the Rome Brothers Print Shop earlier that day, I was pleased to find engraved on the entire length of the Pier’s railing a passage from “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry.”  Only a short distance from the Eagle Warehouse, the Fulton Ferry once loaded and unloaded passengers, including Whitman, who travelled between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Whitman found great pleasure in the passage and the people he met, an experience captured in the poem immortalized on the pier railing during a 1995 restoration project.  The poem’s importance to the Crossing Brooklyn Ferry Online Critical Edition, Brooklyn’s history, and Whitman made it an obvious choice for the centerpiece of the walking tour as well. As the longest work selected for the tour, the pier would be the perfect open and public place for the learner to linger undisturbed while listening to the recording surrounded by Whitman’s words. On the walking tour with Karen Karbiener, her students read this work at the first tower of the Brooklyn Bridge, and while this made sense in thinking about the modern passage over the river, I felt that the bridge and its heavy traffic was disruptive to the rather serene and contemplative essence of the poem.

The Fulton Pier is such a powerful symbolic location as a beginning and end of journeys that it became difficult to decide the appropriate path for the remainder of the tour. On the one hand, I was aware that there would be some who were sufficiently fatigued and those with time constraints who would be ready to conclude the tour at this point. I certainly wanted to leave this option open, and felt that the experience on the pier was a quality one to end on. However, I also wanted to provide the learner with an opportunity to conclude the trip without retracing their steps back to the subway; it seemed fitting to use the pier and “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” as a launch pad for a final activity, one that would be memorable for learners. A first option was to take the water taxi across the East River much like Whitman once did on the ferry. On its own, the passage across the river is an inspirational experience, but with “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” fresh in the learners mind, the connection to Whitman and the poem would be strong. The other alternative for travel to Manhattan from the pier, as mentioned earlier, was by crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. Although this course only approximates Whitman’s passage across the river, the Brooklyn Bridge offers spectacular vantage points and has a history of its own with vital importance to New York City. Here, once again, the learner is able to draw distinct comparisons between his/her life experiences and Whitman’s.  After considering each of these options, I ultimately decided that I would leave the decision in the hands of the learner and include all paths. Malcom Knowles felt that adults wanted to make decisions for themselves and that they had a “deep psychological need to be seen by others and treated by others as being capable of self-direction” (65).  I wanted the walking tour to encourage this self-direction and this decision making moment was one way that could empower the learner. Despite the tour diverging into different paths, I decided to choose one passage from Whitman that could act as the main audio track for both experiences. “Manhattan from the Bay,” written by Whitman later in his life, illustrates his continued love for Manhattan and Brooklyn and also notes the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. This was notable for several reasons: first, Whitman never walked across the bridge that eventually connected the two cities that he loved and envisioned as one, and secondly, it was the completion and popularity of the Brooklyn Bridge that effectively ended his beloved ferry service in 1924. I like how these radical changes to New York City’s landscape make us examine the ideas of “progress” connected to place and also how they make us reevaluate the changes that transpire during our own lives and their impact on future generations. Finally, for the Brooklyn Bridge course, I also offered several other audio tracks to accompany the learner as they moved towards Manhattan. “Human and Heroic New York” and “Omnibus Jaunts and Drivers” both focus on Whitman’s experiences in Manhattan acting as a transition to the conclusion of the tour

Having determined the tour’s course and the audio tracks, I began researching each stop so that I could provide basic information about the locations and their connection to Whitman. Even though the audio tracks were the central learning device of the tour, I wanted to make it possible for the learner to use only the packet as a guide through Brooklyn Heights. Finally, I created a map for the tour with each stop assigned a number and clearly marked with a Whitman icon. The user could then use these numbers to navigate the packet and find information about the respective location. I then used this map as a guide to create detailed text directions from one tour stop to another.

Audio Production
(Programs used for audio track production: GarageBand 1.1)

With the travel packet nearly complete, I began the process of recording the audio tracks for the tour. Having had some experience with recording in the past, I initially assumed that between my Power Mac G5, my Dell issue microphone, and GarageBand, I would have the equipment to produce a decent recording that I could output as MP3’s and then link for the user to download.  To simply the process, I knew that I wanted to provide recordings that had only one track, which would be dedicated to a vocal recording of the selected Whitman writings. Although many audio tours feature music and sound effects to enhance the listening experience, or are recordings of actual tours (sound seeing), I wanted to eliminate as much ambient noise as possible.  By presenting just vocals to the learner, I hoped that the sounds of Brooklyn Heights would be audible and mix with the recorded tracks, creating a unique aural exerience.

It was not until I began recording one of the passages that I realize what a difficult task I had undertaken.  Playing back this first recording and hearing my voice “naked” and unprocessed exposed every swallow, lip smack, imperfection, and mispronunciation. After about two hours, my voice raspy and tired, I felt fortunate that I was the only one involved in this aspect of the project. Finally completing the first track, which was one of the shortest of the group, I realized three things: One, whatever I had been doing up until now was not going to work, especially with more challenging and lengthy passages to come. Two, in recording someone else’s poetry precision was necessary. Although shifts in tone, pacing and emphasis were possible, anyone holding the text of the poem would be judging to my performance under a microscope; there was no room for missed words or improvisation, which forced me to practice and learn Whitman’s words well in order to avoid numerous retakes. The third thing I came to understand was that my microphone was horribly inadequate for the recording quality I desired and was the reason for many of the pops and hisses that were being picked up. I knew that if I wanted to finish this project I was going to have to upgrade my microphone. After a great deal of research, I finally found the Audio Technica AT2020 USB Cardoid condenser microphone with digital output, which met my price point and received high reviews. The plug and play microphone set up easily and sounded fantastic, yet, there were still pops and hisses evident in the recordings it produced. After more research, I discovered that I needed to purchase a pop filter to reduce the occurrence of plosives. Finally, I was able to concentrate on the actual recitation of Whitman’s works and not constantly fear having to start over because of the equipment; any retakes at this point would be a result of my own mistakes.

Over the next few months, I slowly worked through the poems on my list and even added additional tracks, which I went back and added as supplemental listening on the tour packet. I found great joy in recording the works, even though at times it was a frustrating process. The most difficult challenge was by far “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” which was around a 20-minute recording. I was forced to break the poem into sections when I realized I could not flawlessly deliver this length of a recording. This was the one work I had to record as multiple vocal tracks and then mixed together for the final product.  In total I recorded approximately 45 minutes of audio over 15 tracks, not all making the final project.


With the tour finally completed and made available online, I looked for an avenue to test. I began discussions with Matt Gold, professor at New York City College of Technology, about the possibility of working together to incorporate the Walking Tour into his project “Looking for Whitman.”  This multi-campus digital pedagogy exploration was run simultaneously across four campuses, each with a connection to Whitman. Each campus focused on their specific region and its relationship to Whitman, and then interacted through open-source social networking tools to share their findings and projects with one another.  In researching Whitman’s early career and the Brooklyn Heights area, Gold’s class seemed a perfect project to partner with for the testing of the Walking Tour. We scheduled the tour for October 20, 2009 and I requested his students print out and read the tour packet beforehand. Immediately, I started to realize that testing the audio tour as I had conceptualized it was going to be difficult. In my plan, I had imagined the Walking Tour as an individual experience, an intimate interaction with Whitman where there was flexibility of movement and decision-making. Yet here in a class situation, with a large group of people, the potential for spontaneity seemed drastically reduced. In addition, the idea of a group of people listening to audio tracks instead of communicating and interacting seemed counter productive in this setting. Even with these immediate concerns, I still knew I could benefit from running the walking tour and seeing how the tour stops worked and how the writings selected for each succeeded. I also needed to gauge the pacing and length of the tour and knew having a diverse crowd would let me gain valuable feedback for future users and versions of the tour.

I met Gold’s class outside the High street subway entrance at the start of the tour. With only 1-½ hours allotted for the tour, we decided that we would end at the Fulton Pier and that continuing on past that point was not feasible with the time constraints. We would visit all of the other tour stops, however, and read the corresponding Whitman passages and briefly discuss their significance. At this point, I had worked on the travel packet for so long that the knowledge was second hand and I felt comfortable speaking with authority on the different locations. The students were equipped with the tour packets so they could follow along and many brought cameras to document their trip. As part of their class requirements, they would later post their photographs and write about their experiences on their course blog. These posts would be incredibly important to assessing the successes and failures of the tour and would provide valuable feedback that would help continue shaping my project in the future.  I was very interested to discover whether or not my mission to make the study of literature a personally valuable and meaningful active exercise would be accomplished. I also wondered what insights the students would share and if they would find a connection to either Brooklyn Heights or Whitman through our trip.

It was not very long before I was reminded of the how quickly even the best laid plans tend to go astray. Standing outside of the second stop of the tour, the Plymouth Church, the students exhibited an exited interest at the location where Abraham Lincoln had once visited. In the travel packet I had included the phone number and contact person for guided tours and decided to place a spontaneous call to the Director of History Ministry Services, Lois Rosebrooks, to see if she could accommodate our group. In a fortuitous turn of events, within five minutes we were inside the church where Henry Ward Beecher once delivered his powerful anti-abolition services, and where Whitman and Lincoln attended services.  Lois was incredibly knowledgeable about the church’s history and Whitman’s connection to the area. She added a wonderful voice to the tour and patiently fielded many questions from the group. One of the most rewarding moments of the tour occurred when she informed one of the students that they were sitting in Abraham Lincoln’s seat. The stunned look of excitement and disbelief on the student’s face helped remind me how unscripted moments often provided the most lasting impressions. I noted how important it was to keep the tour from becoming a strict guideline and to be mindful about encouraging these types of deviations from the tour.

The experience of sitting on the pews and listening to Lois Rosebrooks speak had an impact on many of the students which they detailed in their writings, confirming the power of the event. Several communicated that they felt as if they had been transported back into the 19th century through the visit, a distinct feeling of being in the past. This profound reaction was exactly the kind of personal impact I was hoping the tour would create. Although reading the slavery passage from Whitman outside sparked the students’ interest, it was the historic interior space of the church that was really able to connect the students to the location. The eloquence and knowledge of Rosebrooks also communicated a more complete understanding of the importance of the stop, leaving the students with a new appreciation of and link to the past. This reminded me of the limitations of technology and the necessary inclusion of different voices and types of experiences to create a lasting impact on learners. Although our entrance into and experiences in the church were not planned, it turned out to be a considerably valuable and memorable experience.

Another interesting moment came as we moved from the Brooklyn Promenade to the Eagle Warehouse. I had forgotten that there were cobblestone streets outside of the warehouse, and when we arrived at the location the students marveled at the rough uneven cut of the stones. They walked over them inspecting their layout and experiencing what it was like to travel over this surface. Several students wrote about the experience in their reflections, the cobblestone street helping them to imagine Brooklyn in the past and what transportation and movement on streets like this would have been like.   These details can be easy to overlook and yet, they are so important to the moments of discovery that make exploration of place exciting and thought-provoking. Like the church, these visual cues with real ties to the past are especially effective at helping connect to a location’s history and those that once lived there. I had done the tour so many times that it was refreshing to see the students enjoy this experience with the same excitement that I had on my first visit there and have it carry over into their writing.

After the Eagle Warehouse, we walked towards the Fulton Pier where we intended to read “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” as a group and conclude our trip. As we neared the Pier, we met with the second unexpected moment of the tour. Before us, holding signs and cheering wildly, was a large group of people gathered in what looked like a political rally. A helicopter flew overhead as we moved closer and seconds later we were stopped by several men who informed us that there was a film shoot there today and the entire pier was closed! I was immediately frustrated by this development, lamenting the lost opportunity to read on the pier. However, as we read the poem with the roar of the crowd, the traffic on the Bridge, and helicopter in the background, all the sounds melded together in a unique cacophony and I couldn’t help but smile.  New York cannot be planned, and that was in large part its real beauty: the unscripted discovery, the moments between the tour stops, the unexpected unpredictable vibrant city reminding us to look again at this space we so easily take for granted.

Despite the change in the tour, the students were still able to find value in the experience, and this time Whitman’s words provided the inspiration. Reading “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” provoked many students to think about their modern transportation experiences in comparison to those of Whitman. One student commented on the similarities between the hurried rush of public transportation now and in the past. Another developed a new appreciation for our transit system in comparison to Whitman’s.  The observations helped the students to relate to the past in a personal way and showed evidence that my desire to create a meaningful personal experience was being realized. The tour deviation also provided another unforeseen result, which spoke to the tour’s impact on the personal lives of the learners. Interestingly, the inability to go to the pier that day inspired several students to return after the tour to complete the experience. One student returned the next day to photograph the pier and, closing his eyes, tried to imagine the location 150 years ago.  The student’s motivation to revisit the site and document it, and then engage the experience thoughtfully, was the kind of self-directed learning that I hoped to inspire.  Moreover, the student’s reflection helped me to understand the impact that the tour could have after the initial educational experience was over, an indication of the promise of the project to inspire future individual learning.

In reviewing the posts following the tour, I also found that many students posted reflections that commented on their overall impressions of the trip. These were helpful in judging the larger impact of the project. Several students expressed the enjoyment they experienced participating in a non-traditional learning activities. One posted their disbelief that they were able to learn something new while doing it for school, something that they never thought was possible.  Another called the tour “a welcome breath of fresh air” and stated, “You can learn just as much out of the classroom as in it, and this class was proof of that.”  I liked that the tour was able to help students reimagine educational possibilities and allowed them to expand their perception of where learning could take place.

Finally, I noticed that a majority of the students posted that they had a newly discovered appreciation for their City. They spoke of seeing their surroundings in a “new light,” a change in perception that fostered a shift in the way they thought about their environment. Other students felt that they had ignored or overlooked their surroundings and its history and that the tour gave them an opportunity to discover something valuable in their lives that had always been right before them. One profound reflection came from a student that felt the tour had helped them learn to “not take things for granted that are around you” and “to not be afraid to explore the past because it can reveal a lot about yourself and your surroundings.” I was particularly pleased in reading this response, as it was at the heart of what I wanted to accomplish with the tour. Taken together, these comments indicated great prospects for the tour; not only had the students felt a connection to Whitman, but they also were able to frame their insights in a way that would impact their lives both in education and beyond. In trying to make a personally valuable experience through technology, I felt that these reflections showed my ITP project’s promise and encouraged me to move forward with further testing and development.

Reflecting on the experience of testing this project made me aware of many aspects of the walking tour that needed to be changed as I moved forward. One result of interacting with Gold’s class was that I was able to see the usefulness of the class blog for reflection and in building community. The students’ posts on the tour allowed them to express their individual voices, to distinguish themselves from one another, yet they were also able to share commonalities of experience in this space. In looking over these posts, it was apparent how important a feedback mechanism would be for the future of the tour, especially if I wanted to have isolated individuals be able to share their experiences with others. A blog would allow these unrelated users to build a community much like Gold had done with his class website, giving them a platform to relate their experiences to others and dialogue about their findings. It would also provide an area to participate in a scholarly dialogue with others who share a common interest, opening a space for sharing suggestions for follow-up activities and teaching techniques, which could eventually build a shared database of useful resources for future learners and educators. Without the feedback mechanism, it would be extremely difficult to evaluate the project’s effectiveness moving forward.

I was also struck at how Gold’s students were able to convey their experiences through digital photography on the blog. This visual documentation of personal experience held importance for the learners and served as a visual cue for future reflection. There was also a sense of composition and framing in the student’s photos that suggested a command of the media and an investment in the outcome. With the increasing convergence of mobile devices, digital cameras and video have become integrated into phones and iPods and are widely available, so it was not surprising that Gold’s students would be experienced and skilled at photography. With this observation, it seemed that allowing expression through other media types, including video, on a social network and feedback site could expand the type of interaction possible between site users, allowing for diverse and potentially artistic comments and dialogues. For the future of the project, it also seemed like this convergence of mobile devices would make delivery of tour assets through iPods unnecessary. In fact, the possibilities of what could be delivered to a learner at remote locations would make downloading tour assets in advance and working through products like iTunes unnecessary. In addition, learners with location aware devices (most new smart phones) could have content delivery triggered as the reach certain destinations.

Finally, location aware mobile devices running on 3G and 4G networks have recently made “augmented reality” possible for the general public. Learners will soon be able access media pertinent to a location or have it delivered to them and then layer those images and videos of the actual physical environment using their mobile devices. Location aware devices will also change the nature of feedback and allow learners to leave their own responses and media at particular locations which future visitors could access there. In essence, learners would be able to leave their digital footprints at a location, a new matrix of digital information layered over our physical world that would make visible the intricate layering of history that the tour attempts to expose.

In the end, even though more testing needs to be done to determine the impact of the audio tracks in conjunction with the tour, and despite the need for changes in order to accommodate new technologies, my effort building this project has expanded my own understanding of Whitman, his poetry, New York City, and also the use of technology to convey those ideas. The process had made me acutely aware of the possibilities and limitations of using technology and had ultimately opened my eyes to ideas for future projects that will build and improve the Whitman walking tour. I look forward to this challenge and know that my experiences, regardless of their impact on any other person, has been personally valuable to this Whitmaniac.

Works Cited

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“Art Mob: MOMA Audio Guides” 10 March 2006.

Day, Katie & Jacqueline Tivers, et al. “Wapping: The ‘Stage’ for an Audio Tour.” Conference on Tourism Performance, Sheffield, 2005.

Bach, Ashley. “Podcasts a big hit at local colleges” The Seattle Times. 6 April 2006. Web. 3 December 2009.

Belanger, Yvonne. “Duke University iPod First Year Experience Final Evaluation Report”. Duke   Center for Instructional Technology.  June 2005. Web. 17 July 2009.

Bolter, Jay D. Writing Space. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

—-. “Topographic Writing: Hypertext and the Electronic Writing Space.” Hypermedia and Literary Studies. Eds. George Landow and Paul Delany. Cambridge: MIT Press,1990.

Campbell, Gardner. “There’s Something in the Air: Podcasting in Education,” EDUCAUSE Review, Vol. 40, No. 6 (November/December 2005): 32–47.

Chen, Brian X. “Aug. 13, 2004: ‘Podfather’ Adam Curry Launches Daily Source Code”. Wired  Magazine. 13 August 2009. Web. 12 December 2009.

Dewey, John. Experience & Education. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Folsom, Ed and Ken Price. “Walt Whitman.” The Walt Whitman Archive. 2005‐2009. 

Gold, Matt. “Looking for Whitman: About.” Looking for Whitman: The Poetry of Place in The      Life And Work of Walt Whitman. Web. November 2009.

Hammersley,Ben. “Audible revolution”. The Guardian. 2004. Web. 12 December 2009.  

Kahney, Leander. “Straight Dope on the IPod’s Birth”. Wired Magazine. 17 October 2006. Web.   12 December 2009.

Knowles, Malcolm, E.F. Holton and R. Swanson. The Adult Learner. Woburn, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1998.

Landow, George and Paul Delany, eds. “Hypertext, Hypermedia and Literary Studies: The State of the Art.” Hypermedia and Literary Studies. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990.

Landow, George. “The Rhetoric of Hypermedia: Some Rules for Authors.” Hypermedia and Literary Studies. Eds. George Landow and Paul Delany. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990.

Lee, Mark. “Downloadable MP3 Walking Tour.Yale University, 2004.

Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2001.

McGann, Jerome. Radiant textuality: literature after the World Wide Web. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001.

—. The Rossetti Archive. Ed. Jerome McGann. University of Virginia, 2000, 15 April 2005.

—. “Radiant Textuality” Ed. Jerome McGann. University of Virginia, 2000, 15 April 2005.

Menzies, David. “Duke Sees Growth in Classroom iPod Use” Duke University, 2005 December 5.

Muirhead, Brent. “Encouraging Interaction in Online Courses.” Instructional Technology & Distance Learning (June 2004).

Neuhauser Stephen. “Cells and Sites: How Historic Sites are Using Cell Phone Tours”. National Trust Historic Sites. 3 July 2008. Web. November 14 2009.

Newitz, Annalee. “Adam Curry Wants to Make You an iPod Radio Star.” Wired Magazine, Issue    13.03. March 2005.

Naismith, Laura, et al., Report 11: Literature Review in Mobile Technologies and Learning, Futurelab Series (Bristol, U.K.: Futurelab, 2005).

Rodaway, Paul. Sensuous Geographies: Body, Sense and Place. Routledge, New York: 1994.

Tuan, Yi-Fu. Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1977.

Uzzell, David. ‘The Hot Interpretation of War and Conflict’, in D Uzzell (ed.) Heritage Interpretation: Vol.1: The natural and Built Environment. Belhaven, London: 1989. pp. 33-47.

Van Buskirk, Eliot. “Introducing the world’s first MP3 player“. CNET. 21, January 2005. Web. 21 August 2009.

Wagner, Ellen D., “Enabling Mobile Learning,” EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 40, no.3, May/June 2005, pp. 40-53. Web. 12 December 2009.

Whitman, Walt. Walt Whitman Complete Poetry and Collected Prose. Library of America: New York, 1982.



ITP student Jeff Gutkin (Educational Psychology) reflects on his independent study project


Visit Wagnerpedia


This study explores the impact of a campus-wide wiki named Wagnerpedia on student learning and engagement. Wagnerpedia is a dynamic but static, public, campus-wide wiki workspace which offers community, students, faculty, alumni, and administration a space to create and access ongoing collaborative content. Wagnerpedia was built with the mediawiki source code and is housed on a server administered by the Wagner College Information Technology department. The developer of Wagnerpedia, Jeff Gutkin, is the Director of Academic Computing at Wagner College and a Doctoral Student at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Patricia Shoknecht is the Director of Information Technology at Wagner College and has given substantial support for this project.

There were several issues that created the need for this technological tool at Wagner. The broader problem was the need for faculty and students to maintain continuity in an online setting across semesters and students. This is an inherent problem for Wagner when working with community partners – how do we keep the continuity within our community relationships when new students are involved every semester. In solving this problem (which is a particularly important problem for Wagner College since we have an award-winning curriculum focused on community engagement), we realized that this technology could also help with study abroad students and programs and could even be applied to a different college initiative – building a college historical archive with the help of the alumni. Furthermore, the use of Wagnerpedia as a teaching tool was imagined as well. The narrower focus and development of Wagnerpedia; however, stemmed directly from course work in the Interactive Technology and Pedagogy (ITP) program at the Graduate Center, CUNY.

The concept of Wagnerpedia as a teaching tool was generated during the first semester’s course work which focused on ubiquitous computing and shared spaces. During this semester a historical view of technology was examined within a sociological framework. New media forms were examined and ideas for the development of new technologies were stimulated and discussed between students from diverse majors such as Theatre History, Ecology, Psychology and Education. The class focus was more on the theoretical aspects of computers and society than the technical aspects; therefore, did not place emphasis on complicated computing systems to convey pedagogical ideals. Conversely, the key question taken from this class would be “what is it I want to do in the classroom, and how can I do it better with technology”? This approach can be traced to Instructional Design and Participatory Design concepts. Rather than create a technological tool and then try to find a use for it, the approach is to find a need for the tool, how that tool can fit the situation it is needed for, and then how to design the tool for optimal use.

Wagnerpedia was presented as a project for the first of the two ITP courses and it was decided that it be used for the independent study as well after it was launched and it looked like there would be at least a modicum of success getting people to post. The implementation of Wagnerpedia took place between the first and second semester of course-work and was launched before the second semester. Wagnerpedia became public and was introduced to the Wagner Community during January 2008; the second semester. This study has been conducted during the second and third (final) semester of the ITP program and will be completed for the end of the Fall semester of 2008.

I used simple wiki technology and not complex software or hardware devices as a way to maintain the focus of the project on the pedagogical values and not technological ones. This also alleviated the need for extended amounts of time and money expenditures in software development. One reason for recent success of technology is its ability to be used portably. Computing has become ubiquitous because of technological advancements that overcome the restraints of needing a main-frame computing system to accomplish the same tasks (or less) as a portable lightweight device that can be carried in the pocket. What further aids the wide usage of technology is the Graphic User Interface (GUI). Even as the web delivers more complex media, what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) interfaces simplify the web authoring process by allowing non-programmers and technical experts to create content in a web 2.0 environment.

Because Wagnerpedia is socially constructed and follows very loose guidelines, it was unclear exactly what was going to develop. The following study explores how Wagnerpedia developed and was utilized from the theoretical perspective of Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura, 1986). More specifically, how creating content in a public forum created an interaction between a person and the environment, in this case the environment being a wiki. Bandura (1986) posits that human behavior changes as a result of that persons interaction with the environment, and in this case behavior can be writing, or learning. Therefore, we can ask, does publishing class work to a public wiki enhance learning?

Literature Review


A review of the literature in the psychinfo database revealed 13 citations from a keyword search for the word wiki, and 30 from the Eric database, when limiting them to peer-reviewed journals only. This is not a surprisingly low number considering the recentness of the Wiki as a technological teaching tool; though, most wikis are free to install, use and maintain. Wikipedia, a wiki known world wide, has set the industry standard for the wiki as an encyclopedia (Wikipedia, 2008). The fact that the legitimacy of Wikipedia data has been critiqued by higher education and scholars as lacking peer-review and adhering to a narrow point of view (NPOV) has dampened the wiki’s reputation among institutions of Higher Education. Within the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) literature the wiki is often grouped with the blog and the podcast, but the wiki has the most diverse uses of the three for all areas of a learning institution.

According to Engstrom and Jewett (2005) “Wikis are collaborative environments by design, and can serve a variety of purposes for collaborative online projects.” Some uses for the wiki are social networking, collaborative authorship, hyper linking media, disseminating information, peer-review, institutional archives, and assignment repository – to name a few. Nicol, Littlejohn, & Grierson, (2005) Studied the importance of organizing data within a wiki and found that having students organize data within a wiki also helped them to better conceptualize the knowledge as well improving domain knowledge and information literacy skills. In a review of distance education practices, Beldarrain (2006) also suggests that wikis support knowledge construction by offering learner control of content and organization. Hsu (2007) reviewed several technologies for online learning and found the wiki to be excellent tool to use to foster constructivist teaching and learning strategies.

Social Cognition

According to Bandura (1986), who proposed a social cognitive theory, “most psychological theories were cast long before the advent of enormous advances in the technology of communication. As a result, they give insufficient attention to the increasingly powerful role that the symbolic environment plays in present-day human lives. Indeed, in many aspects of living, televised vicarious influence has dethroned the primacy of direct experience. Whether it be thought patterns, values, attitudes or styles of behavior, life increasingly models the media.” When Bandura wrote this statement it was in reaction to television, or radio, and the symbolic representations that effect viewers as passive or active seekers of information. Bandura drew from Vygotsky (1962) the belief that people learn vicariously from “models” based on their authority, knowledge and similarities. Although many theories have begun to examine learners from a multi-media perspective in the area of education psychology they tend to be from a more natural cognitive perspective such as the multi-media learning theory of Mayer (2001). Social cognition takes into account a more contextualized account of learning (Yang, 2007).


Figure 1: Construct of Triadic Reciprocality

Bandura (1986) proposed that the person, their behavior, and the environment all interact in a triadic reciprocal fashion (figure 1). Behavior is defined as a persons outward action toward the environment, or the effect of their or others behavior on one’s cognition. The Environment is the social environment which one interacts with and it has an effect on behavior and cognition. Reciprocally, one has the ability to effect the environment with behaviors which are or are not spurred by cognitive determinism. Within the Person (cognition, affect and biological) area Zimmerman (1987) expanded on Bandura (1986).

Zimmerman proposed a feedback loop based on self-regulating factors such as self-efficacy and intrinsic motivation. The loop occurs with continued input from both the environment and behaviors. Within this social cognitive, self-regulation manifests itself in three phases, forethought, performance, and self-reflection. Forethought is used to plan one’s learning, and utilizes motivation, self-efficacy, and value. The performance phase is when these strategies are put into action and the learner self-monitors their progress and adjusts their approach. The third phase, self-reflection is the post judgment of one’s performance and their reaction to their success or failure.

Success or failure at this stage can lead to meta-cognitive decisions such as placing renewed effort in the next task, or avoidance of the task altogether. Emotions, defense mechanisms, and confidence are common examples of the self-reflection stage (Zimmerman), and each can work to effect the next forethought stage. Zimmerman and Tsikalas (2005) used a social cognitive perspective, to explore computer-based learning environments (CBLE’s). Specifically they investigated whether a CBLE could be used in the three stages of self-regulation. Quintana, Zhang, and Krajcik discuss a “process visualization” structure in the CBLE, Digital IdeaKeeper (as cited in Zimerman and Tsikalas 2005). This program aided in task analysis, planning, goal setting and motivational processes. In the performance stage, students generate questions and collaborate, adapt their approach as well as practice focusing their attention. In the self-reflection stage students can view their work, view others work, and make judgments on their progress. “According to the social cognitive cyclical phase model” (Cleary, Zimmerman, & Keating, in press) a program that can satisfy all three of these phases is more likely to produce positive learning.

A wide-scale wiki satisfies these goals. In the forethought stage of self-regulation, and specifically goal setting, the wiki can be used to outline a paper. By using “level 2 headings” each page can be partitioned into editable sections, each section editable on its own. In the performance stage, students can edit, view their pages as well as others and adapt their approach or collaborate while building their work. This is different than producing work in isolation or handing in finished product papers. The self-reflection stage comes with feedback and rewards in a wiki, based on page views and “talk” from outside viewers. This wiki for example has national exposure.

Social Contextualization in Design

Learning is done through experience (Dewey, 1939). Therefore, in order to make a technology rich learning environment more conducive to learning, within the design there needs to be aspects that are “situational” (Vygotsky, 1962) to the learner. It is the context or place in which the learning is occurring. Tuan (1977) described place as an organized world of meaning. The personal dimension emerges not a priori, but through peoples interaction with the environment. Tuan (1977) goes on to say that space must be static, that is, it must remain somewhat unchanged in order to become place. Wiki technology does this, but is dynamic at the same time. The content remains as does the look and feel, but the layers of a wiki go beyond the surface and are easily exposed by exploring the “history” behind each page.

Interactive design, which takes into account social, emotional and contextual” (Ciolfi and Bannon, 2005) aspects goes beyond the Human Computer Interaction (HCI) look and feel ideals. HCI uses technology, such as eye tracking, to design technology from a scientific point of view. For instance, if every time a screen loads a persons eye looks toward the upper left hand of the screen, then HCI investigators will validate putting pertinent content in the upper left hand corner of the screen based on the original finding. Therefore, HCI investigators have been thought to be too “cognitive” by contextualist designers of computing spaces. However, Ciolfi and Bannon (2005) explore factors in designing an interactive “place” and outlines the importance of creating a digital environment for both communication and collaboration. Ciolfi (2003) and Ciolfi and Bannon (2005) focus on computers and ubiquity, their idea of place builds on Tuan’s (1971), by adding the personal dimension. This dimension suggests building interfaces that focus on features that effect interactions. Within the wiki there are several problems that arose trying to accomplish this and as we will see, the wiki did not accomplish this task and therefore, lacks as a “place” for learning.

According to Bass (1999) teaching at the college level should be public, open to critical review and evaluation and accessible for exchange and use by “other members of the scholarly community” (Shulman, in Bass 1999). Bass discusses reinventing pedagogy and looks at using technology to critique teaching styles as well as effectiveness. To investigate this aspect of design there are certain questions within the faculty interviewing process that we asked and will discuss later. The wiki does; however, add a public light to the teachers strategies as well as the students.

This dualism allows for a “productive digression” (Ugoretz). Digression allows students to take responsibility and ownership of their work by creating their own content, albeit off topic, but stemming from discussion of the topic. By retaining a history of the page, one can return to the main idea or reclaim thoughts such as in asynchronous discussion boards. Although this study investigated pages that were outlined by the class assignments, leaving little room for digression or creativity, there are other posts that were created where this aspect of creation has been seen. Bass (2000) investigates the use of public technologies in the light of scholarship. This is evident in Wagnerpedia where a few of the student pages have become collaborative efforts between faculty and student. Since the pages created by students are public, the faculty member went back and edited some of the work in order to build a better resource. In turn, the students work is reflective of the pedagogical values and content covered in the class that semester.


There were several groups of people that have contributed to Wagnerpedia so far. Wagner College students engage in community oriented experiential learning though service and research. The introduction of Wagnerpedia allows them to create content online that is accessible to the Wagner community as well as the off-campus community they served during their experiential work. Since the goal of this project is to investigate technology and pedagogy, it is of primary interest to examine whether or not students learned more by using Wagnerpedia than they would have using traditional methods. Over the past two semesters a few faculty members have been giving writing assignments to their students as part of final class projects and instead of submitting hard (printed) copies of final papers, students posted to a class wiki page and then linked from that page to their solo work.

Wagner Alumni have contributed to Wagnerpedia. The most predominant alumni contributors are from the class of 1958. It is hard to imagine that this class would contribute more than, say, the class of 2007 who are much more technically savvy, but not only did they contribute pictures and memorabilia to the site, but they also posted scholarship information and recanted and shared parts of their personal life since graduating Wagner. One reason for this phenomenon is the fact that it is their 50th anniversary year and have been the focus of much attention. Wagnerpedia was also unveiled as part of the 125th anniversary of Wagner College and has served as a posting place for alumni officers, committee members and such.

Wagner faculty have contributed to Wagnerpedia as well. One psychology professor who had previously compiled the history of the Wagner Psychology department, and was a member of the 125th anniversary committee, used this opportunity to expand the history of the college to include all of the 125 years and created pages to represent each year. On the page for “1958” there was an overlap between a current faculty member posting and creating content and an alumni from 1958. This type of link is quite beneficial for sustaining ongoing bonds with alumni, a bond that can eventually pay off financially.

Fraternities and Sororities have contributed to Wagnerpedia and have included historical descriptions of the organizations as well as current pictures. This expanded the interconnectivity by linking a current student fraternity member, a faculty member, and an alumni from the same fraternity.

Administrators have used Wagnerpedia to collaborate on grant writing projects and conference submissions. The ability to track changes and add to a single document from several locations replaced in some circumstances the need to e-mail a single word document from person to person in order to make changes. Instead each person could access a single document. After the document is complete the page is printed and deleted and therefore information stays somewhat private.

Wagnerpedia was examined using quantitative and qualitative methods. A quantitative analysis of wiki usage was performed by examining the volume of edits and page views, as well as the amount of registered users. A qualitative questionnaire was distributed asking students to explain the impact that Wagnerpedia had on their learning and a faculty member who used Wagnerpedia in class projects was interviewed asking how Wagnerpedia changed their teaching style and use of technology in the classroom.


Since January of 2008 Wagnerpedia has been online to the public. There are 244 registered users. There have been 187,000 page views and 34,000 page edits. Wagnerpedia now contains 814 pages. The front page of Wagnerpedia has been viewed 21,974 times. The Current events page which has been active since November of 2008 is the 4th most visited page with 3,270 views. There have been 280 files uploaded, all of which are photographs.

It is unclear which numbers above have the most importance. There were 187,000 page views, many of them came from outside of the Wagner Community. This demonstrates the fact that Wagnerpedia was looked at. Because Wagnerpedia was presented at three different conferences for higher education, many of the page views could have been stimulated by this; however, very few if any of the page edits came from this source suggesting that there was little impact on creating collaborative authorship with the general viewer outside of the Wagner College community. There are several conclusions to draw form this set of numbers. One conclusion is that there was no direct benefit to be had from contributing. For instance, of the page edits and page creations, there were over 500 page deletions of pages that were posted by unregistered users for the purpose of “spamming”. These pages are posted every day are deleted at least one time daily.

The Wiki system can be programmed to block outside users from posting; thereby, alleviating the need to patrol the sight for unwanted posts from spammers, but that would block potential users from contributing. A greater point to be taken from these numbers are that if there is monetary, or personal gain in posting, people will post. Although there is a steady stream of spam coming onto the site, there is a surprisingly low level of vandalism. Very few pages that have existing content have had content altered, or language changed that was not a part of the intended use of the wiki.

Faculty Survey

An interview was conducted with a History Professor regarding the usage of Wagnerpedia in a freshman history class. The assignment the faculty member gave was to post a final paper and accompanying resources to Wagnerpedia. During preliminary discussion with this faculty member there was concern about uploading different file format types to the wiki. Since only digital images formatted with the Joint Photographic Experts Group (.JPG, or .JPEG) file extension can be uploaded to a wiki, it was decided to create a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) location where other types of files such as Adobe Portable Document Format (.PDF), Microsoft Power Point (PPT, PPTX) and Microsoft Word (.DOC, DOCX) files could be stored for contributors. These files are generally large in nature, and can contain potentially harmful content and therefore need to be reviewed for content and size before they can be uploaded. Once uploaded the contributor is given a hyper link that they can insert anywhere on the World Wide Web (WWW).

The interview protocol used was loosely guided and the faculty member was able to lead the questions. The interview led off with the following statement: “What I am most concerned with is the process that took place in the implementation of the wiki technology and how then, it affected the behaviors or cognition of the students. For example, did using the wiki help students learn content better? Or, what were some of the planning and thoughts that went into designing projects for your class to use on the wiki?” A few of the following questions were answered;

  1. When you first saw the wiki what ideas did you have? I created a site and the students created a site, but I first got interested in how student work had been used online. I worked with you with “Moodle” having students create 150 word papers and post them online… This gave me some ideas about using technology to teach. The Park Hill project seemed ideal because there is no reading to assign, no text book, so if each student could take one piece of the question and then pool the research it can help write grants or share information across groups. I also saw this as a good opportunity to save or use student presentations…it helped the students craft an argument into a presentation. Another professor’s class used Wikipedia to dispel beliefs or misunderstandings about a community in which they were working, and it inspired me to use technology to create change within the community.
  2. How did you envision your students work? The Park Hill project is being used as a broader project. It can be used for grants and to benefit the community – students’ complain that their papers get put into a draw after they are submitted and they feel that they should be used to a greater good…students can be engaged because they are creating a project.
  3. How did using the wiki change your approach to assessment? Many students put their names on the secondary pages to identify themselves. The secondary pages are pages that are accessed after clicking on a link from the primary page. In this case, the primary page is a group page which each member contributes to, but does not identify who contributed what part. Some students did a lot more work and not just with collaborative authorship, but within their own secondary pages. Next time I will find a way to have each student document which part they submitted.
  4. What might you do differently? I might have students practice on the technology before giving them a final project at the end of the semester. I would introduce technology earlier in the semester. I found that in one class I introduced the project late in the semester and they were very worried about having to master the technology and do the research for the final project.
  5. Does the design of the wiki help or inhibit what you want to accomplish with your teaching? Your own scholarship? I have also started to build my research pages on Wagnerpedia. I am introducing them to the community next semester and going to invite community members to share the resource and contribute as well.
  6. Did you notice better writing from your students? Students writing was very uneven. Students who wrote the high quality work should have their name on it. Better students should have their name on the work. Others are not going to be up to the task of writing high quality work.
  7. Were your students more engaged? I assigned the wiki project as reading for part of a students assignment. Since there is no textbook to use students can only experience Park Hill through interaction. This creates a resource that can engage them in the community. I assigned reading of the Wagnerpedia pages to one students as a model and a broader vision of the project for an independent study project.

The interview was recorded on a Sony MP3 player which records up to 2 Gigabytes of voice data in Moving Picture Expert Group, MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 (MP3) playable format. Total recording time for the interview was 45 minutes.

Student Surveys

A second form of data collection was developed to survey students that had taken at least one of the history classes that used Wagnerpedia. There were two separate student surveys administered. The surveys sought to capture data which would inform the study as to whether using a socially constructed wiki improved learning. In hindsight there are too many questions in the first survey and this is evident by the lack of responses. Those that did respond used shorter one word answers as they came to the later questions of the survey; thereby, limiting the qualitative value of the survey. Students were sent e-mails soliciting responses to the following questions (appendix B);

  1. When you first saw the wiki what ideas did you have? Did you like the idea or think it was just going to be more work?
  2. How did you envision your work in college being applied to the greater community?
  3. How did using the wiki change your approach to writing a paper for an assignment?
  4. What might you do differently next time?
  5. Did the design of the wiki help or inhibit what you wanted to accomplish with your paper?
  6. Did you notice your writing improve or change?
  7. Was more time spent on the technology than preparing the content for the project?
  8. Were you more or less interested in this project than others where you only handed in a paper?
  9. How might your work change your readers concepts about Staten Island history?
  10. Have you gone back to read your submissions at all? Did you read your classmates submissions?
  11. Did you know that researchers from around the country have been using your wiki to find out about Staten Island history?
  12. Would you watch your page to see what next years students might change?
  13. Would you offer them suggestions on content?
  14. Did the wiki help with your presentation?
  15. Any other comments?

It was determined from the small amount of responses that this survey asked too many questions. Two students responded to this e-mail and the responses are as follows;

In response to question 1; Both students liked the idea of using a wiki. One response was “I like the idea but it did turn out to be a lot more work.” One response to question 2; We used it to redefine the common stereotypes of the park hill community, it will help the perception of the Wagner students who read it since it is less negative and focuses on what is being done in the community…that in the long run helps the community. Two responses to question 6 were; “Yes, definitely”, and another response was, “Yes because I took a greater interest knowing it would be seen by many others.” According to these responses students found that they wrote their final papers with the fact that they were to be published in mind, which in turn, prompted them to put more effort into their writing. Also, the one student that discussed the Park Hill community was aware that there could be some impact on the community, or at least other peoples perception of that community. One key point is that students’ level of engagement was increased and that in turn aided learning. The full responses are attached (see appendix E).

Another shorter survey was created using “”, a web site established to provide a place to create, collect, and analyze survey data. An e-mail soliciting responses from students was sent with a hyperlink leading to a surveymonkey page. The following open-ended questions were asked (appendix C) and there were 12 responses to this survey;

  1. Did posting or reading Wagnerpedia posts help you learn the subject content better?
  2. Does posting online where everyone can see it change your approach to writing?
  3. Has posting on Wagnerpedia helped the way you write? Please explain.
  4. What did you like or dislike about posting on Wagnerpedia?

Although many of the responses were shorter and many were single word answers, the results seem fairly conclusive. For question 1, 10 out of 12 students thought they had learned the content better by using Wagnerpedia. One response was “Yes, because I felt like I had to master the information that I was posting to Wagnerpedia.” Question 2 brought a more mixed response and more qualitative data. Three respondents felt that increased care needed to be taken in order to be correct in the information they provided. Even when they realized that they were writing under the blanket of anonymity, they felt responsible for posting reliable data. It was also clear that some students did not have a full grasp as to the capabilities of the wiki, and had some issue with others editing their work. They answered, “I don’t like how people can change my writing because when I go to see if I posted something, I can’t remember what I wrote because it has been changed.” The wiki does allow people to change others work, but all edits are traceable through the history function. Nevertheless, only half of the respondents felt their approach to writing had changed.

The last question gathered some interesting data. Some comments were directed toward usability, plagiarism, sharing, and content. Because the use of Wagnerpedia in this study was part of an assignment, students were pressured to post original work on a subject, which in turn conflicted with the overall use of Wagnerpedia. Rather than trying to build one shared resource, the students’ concern was to post their own original work that would eventually be a part of a grade. Students noticed that others had copied from the textbook, used others work, or posted their responses first leaving less content for the others to cover. The comparison of Wagnerpedia to Wikipedia on several occasions demonstrated that students held Wikipedia as a model for their entries.

There were a total of 14 responses from students with both the e-mail and the surveys. This marks approximately 25-30 % of the students that used Wagnerpedia this past year. Since it is difficult in general to get survey responses from students at Wagner a percentage of this size is usually an acceptable number.


When Wagnerpedia was first launched the concern was how to get people to post on it. The first 10 or 20 pages were created by the developer and people were personally recruited to post. After a very short time posts started appearing on their own. Since its inception in January 2008, Wagnerpedia has since become a permanent part of the Wagner Community. Students, faculty, the president, administrators, alumni and some community members have contributed to this resource. It has been shown to be a very good use of technology for teaching purposes – it is easy to use and accessible, and it engages students. It has served its purpose as a project for the ITP program, but it has also opened the door for future development and study. During the ITP study of Wagnerpedia another faculty member was using Wagnerpedia to study collaborative authorship between two art history classes – freshman and upper classman. A pilot program for ePortfolios has been underway and there over 60 personal pages created and some of them have fairly well edited content.

A community engagement program has begun with help of some grant money. Wagnerpedia was given a laptop and digital projector so that students can visit community locations such as Richmondtown historical center, Project Hospitality and Park Hill to show residents our resource and train them how to access and edit it themselves. This phase of development has been a little slower to develop than locally edited pages, but can prove to be the most fruitful. The plan is to have student liaisons that have worked within specific communities and these liaisons would edit and oversee content editing, working closely with community members online. Two such training sessions are already scheduled for the Spring of 2009 semester.

Wagnerpedia is; however, having a difficult time creating its own atmosphere, or place. Wikis in general are “flat” and are not easily customized. Adding an image to a page, and performing tasks such as changing page background, adding diverse content and arranging page content in a non-linear fashion is very difficult. Wagnerpedia cannot be thought of as a social networking area, or a multi-media learning environment. Its text-based nature and white background makes it difficult for students to feel “at home” in. As a place for information seeking, Wagnerpedia cannot begin to compete with Wikipedia. There are so many more page views than there are page contributions and that leads to the conclusion that people are viewing pages and that pages such as current events are becoming some peoples “places to visit” on a regular basis. In fact, in the Summer of 2008 the admissions office asked us to take an orientation page that had been created off of Wagnerpedia because it was drawing more attention than the official admissions page. We left the page, but included a hyperlink to the official page.

Wagnerpedia will likely find trouble with plagiarism as some students will peruse Wagnerpedia to find content which they will inevitably copy. Although there is a possibility of the content being plagiarized, there are many areas on the web that contain content so students can always find content to plagiarize. However, using a public wiki to post papers can have opposite effects. A student might hand in a printed paper containing plagiarized content because they know only the professor will see it and if that professor known for not checking work closely, the forgery can go undetected. By placing work in the public eye everyone can see it and the chances of plagiarism being detected is greater. Some students expressed fear that their work would be copied by others. In order to combat this they only posted excerpts from the full paper.

Wagnerpedia will remain online indefinitely as a permanent resource of Wagner College. (Copies of the audio taped interview and results of the student surveys are available upon request.)


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Appendix B


Long Version Interview Questions

  1. When you first saw the wiki what ideas did you have? Did you like the idea or think it was just going to be more work?
  2. How did you envision your work in college being applied to the greater community?
  3. How did using the wiki change your approach to writing a paper for an assignment?
  4. What might you do differently next time?
  5. Did the design of the wiki help or inhibit what you wanted to accomplish with your paper?
  6. Did you notice your writing improve or change?
  7. Was more time spent on the technology than preparing the content for the project?
  8. Were you more or less interested in this project than others where you only handed in a paper?
  9. How might your work change your readers concepts about Staten Island history?
  10. Have you gone back to read your submissions at all? Did you read your classmates submissions?
  11. Did you know that researchers from around the country have been using your wiki to find out about Staten Island history?
  12. Would you watch your page to see what next years students might change?
  13. Would you offer them suggestions on content?
  14. Did the wiki help with your presentation?
  15. Any other comments?

Appendix C

Dear Student,

Thank you for taking this short survey. The results will provide your me with valuable information for improvements based on your responses. This is an Information Technology survey and will not be shared or seen by your teacher.

I appreciate your time and thank you.

Jeff Gutkin

Director, Academic Computing

  1. Did posting or reading Wagnerpedia posts help you learn the subject content better? [text box]
  2. Does posting online where everyone can see it change your approach to writing? [text box]
  3. Has posting on Wagnerpedia helped the way you write? Please explain. [text box]
  4. What did you like or dislike about posting on Wagnerpedia? [text box]