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Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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C Varenhorst

What I learned at Camp

October 26, 2011

Dear Mom,

I had a great time at camp!

THATCampNE turned the traditional conference format on its head: instead of the expected pre-arranged program, sessions were determined on the fly. Attendees voted for sessions of interest, so that the topics covered were of most relevance to the greatest number of people.

Conference sessions became 'un-sessions' where, in lieu of a speaker presenting on his/her research, a series of questions or problems were posed... and the group collectively explored perpectives and solutions. Because the emphasis at THATCamp is on the potential contribution that each participant can make, there is an egalitarian flavor which encourages shared discovery rather than top-down knowledge transfer.

With Prof Elizabth Wood, and developer Ben Brophy, I co-facilitated an un-session centered around the use of digital timelines in history, both as a vehicle for presenting scholarship and research as well as a pedagogical tool for teaching and learning. In our un-session, entitled "Timelines as a Nexus for Pedagogy and Research", we wanted to initiate a conversation on how to network and connect with others doing similar research in other institutions. We also wanted to learn more about how timeline content could be used by other tools, or how one visualization tool could be used to display content from other institutions. Every participant in the un-session had experience either using, studying, creating, exploring or developing timelines and we wished to leverage that knowledge for the benefit of the group.

In addition to the topics mentioned above, we explored questions around issues related to publicizing student scholarship in publically viewable timelines. Is it important and/or necessary to separate student scholarship from that of professionals in the field? We considered the usefulness of viewers which would display various layers of scholarship on a timeline. We also discussed the challenge and opportunity to develop networks of timelines in areas where historical and topical materials overlap. The conversation also migrated to related areas, such as: do we need a set of standards for this type of representation? Initially Dublin Core seems to provide a worksable foundation, but many individuals suggested perhaps we are all a little 'standards bloated,' anyway. 

We shared explemary examples in the media:
American Popular Music, Arab Spring

as well as local initiatives:
Massachusetts Historical Society, Russian Revolution Timeline

and shared tools for creating timelines:
Timerime, Zotero, Simile Timeline, etc.

Then we changed into our bathing suits and went swimming.


Designed to spark innovative thinking and reflection about digital modalities used in scholarship and learning in the Humanities, THATCampNE is part of a nationwide collective of 'camps' that occur annually in various regions. To learn more, visit The Humanities and Technology Camp online.

- Molly Ruggles, OEIT

Office of Educational Innovation and Technology
Building NE48-308, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
Phone: (617) 252-1981; Fax: (617) 452-4044