Academic Proposals, Presentations, Research, Technology

THATCamp returns to Texas!

Transport plane takes off on test flight, Cons...

An image suggested by the auto-recommend image feature on WordPress.com, which is coincidentally a mode of transportation that I will not be taking to Houston, TX, if I am selected to participate in THATCamp Texas in mid-April. Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

So, once again, this space finds itself neglected while all manner of other developments take place. However, for at least this evening, I’ve found some material that I wrote already that I thought I’d re-post here and kill the proverbial two birds with one stone.

Back in the summer of 2009 I attended my first THATCamp meeting, which was held in Austin, TX. This meeting was the first THATCamp that took place away from the George Mason University campus. It was a really great event and I got to connect and talk with a lot of smart, creative, and thoughtful people — in fact some of the connections I forged there have been important sounding boards and resource providers via my Twitter PLN in the intervening time. If you’re interested in any of that ancient history, I posted a wrap-up of the session back in 2009.

All that long-winded background serves as a segue to mention that THATCamp is returning to Texas in April 2011, and will be meeting in Houston in the middle of that month. I found out about this via the History Department at UT-Arlington, so I thought I’d go ahead and attempt to make a return trip given the relative proximity and the need to remember how relatively pleasant Fort Worth’s climate is, which a visit to Houston will always do.

Below, for your collective edification, (and this is where the borrowed content comes in), I’ve posted two of the responses I wrote in my application to the conference. I’m hoping to get good news come mid-March!

I work full-time as an upper school history teacher (teaching World History and U.S. History this year) at an independent school in Fort Worth, TX. Additionally, I’m in my penultimate semester of coursework as a PhD student in transatlantic history at the University of Texas at Arlington. In both my professional teaching capacity and in my work as a graduate student, I have a great interest in incorporating technology to help further research, organization, and analysis. For my own research, tools like Zotero and Filemaker Pro have been vital in helping me cull and synthesize my research, and I’ve sought to help students experience that same phenomenon in their own work. Moreover, I believe that the range of digital tools available (many great ones that are free) can help students engage in the critical intellectual activity of reorganizing information in meaningful ways. The other exciting thing about incorporating technology into the study of humanities is that I’m constantly discovering new tools and pushing myself to be a better student, teacher, and thinker.

I attended the Austin THATCamp meeting in August 2009, which I found really valuable for the networking and exchange of ideas that came out of that evening. I was excited to see that THATCamp is once again back in Texas and I find the unconference format really engaging and more profitable than the more traditional sit-and-get formats.

This year, my hope is to connect with other educators and discuss the challenges of getting students to engage in technology in a risk-taking and creative manner. I’ve noticed more and more over the past few years that there’s a large disconnect between the popular cultural discourse of “millenials” and their tech-savviness, and the reality of how many students are fairly tech-phobic when it comes to new programs, resources, or unfamiliar platforms. I’d like to discuss what pedagogical approaches, assignment structures, particular resources, or other strategies people have for getting students to become more willing to embrace risk and willingly challenge themselves to learn and master resources with which they are unfamiliar. Moreover, I think it’d be interesting, given the likely academia-heavy audience, to learn what colleges and universities expect of entering students in terms of tech-knowledge. Gaining a sense of these expectations I hope will allow the conversation to address the issue of how secondary school teachers (and secondary schools more generally) can help students become more confident and resourceful in navigating and employing the ever-changing landscape of technology.

On a final note, one of the things I liked most about the application/registration form is that it lacks the intimidating formality of many other conference and workshop proposals. While I understand that the decentralization of the un-conference format makes this much easier, I nevertheless think that making the barrier to participation less threatening can do nothing but encourage more people to attend, who will presumably share more ideas, thereby benefiting the conference as a whole.

Also, I really liked the snarky prompts. If more applications could have vaguely snarky prompts, the world would also be a better place.

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