One of the first steps in constructing a digital humanities project is to define your strategy and project scope. This week in our creating history and new media class we had a great discussion about a topic most of the class had not really considered, what I would call project management in the digital humanities. Our discussion centered on two books, Communicating Design: Developing Web Site Documentation for Design and Planning and The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web. Both books tell roughly the same sort of story, Communicating Design focusing more on working as part of a team and Elements focusing more on the conceptual layers involved in a digital project. Both proved to be invaluable assets to our conversation.
The books hit home two central points for digital humanists. First, although both books are effectively about making websites the first two thirds of each book has nothing to do with (what I sense most folks think web design is about) laying out content on pages. This brings us to the second crucial point in both the books. That part of the books that isn’t about laying out content is all about users, your hypothetical users; What do they need/want? Why would they come to you instead of some other project? And a slew of other fundamental questions.
The class assignment for this week dovetails quite nicely with this set of readings. Each group’s goal was to set out their projects strategy and scope, a document fundamentally grounded in the first two thirds of these books. I have posted our groups scope and timeline below. Jim Safley and I drafted it through a Google doc. I posted some language left over from a grant application I had worked on last semester and edited it down a bit to something I thought would better fit our time constraints (little) and our funding (none). Over the last week or two Jim and went back and forth editing the doc and the timeline to refnie our conception of the project.
Strategy and Scope: Playing History
A flurry of interest has arisen around the potential of digital games, simulations and interactives to promote humanities learning, spurred in part by a growing body of research on the value of educational games. Foundations and universities have invested millions of dollars into developing these games, yet many are built, tested, and promptly shelved, played by only a handful of students during the pilot testing phase.
There is no comprehensive directory to connect teachers with these resources. If high quality educational games, grounded in current academic knowledge and at the forefront of the digital technologies, are to reach teachers and their students, there is a clear need to build a collaborative directory for sharing information.
Playing History offers a chance for the humanities to take the lead in integrating educational games in the classroom. The project team will aggregate information on approximately 30 games that are currently available online. We will make these resources available to teachers and students through Omeka, a standards based, open-source web publishing platform.
The resulting website will allow teachers to search by time period and historical keywords, helping them to integrate the games into their lesson plans. Together, these efforts will lay the foundation for a communal directory, offering teachers a place to review games, attach lesson ideas, and eventually add additional games.
Through development of this collaborative directory the project will begin to shed light on the best approaches for developing future education web community projects as well as insight into the state of historical games and simulations available to educators.
It is unfortunate that so much money is invested toward developing educational games but they are largely unknown to the teachers who could put them directly into use. With a comparatively small investment in Playing History, we can create a single place for teachers, historians, and educational researchers to find, evaluate, and use the highest quality games.
Playing History Work Plan
2/09, Create “game” data schema (see Appendix)
3/02, Install and modify omeka, map schema to Dublin Core, create “game” item type
3/11, 10 game sample set added
3/23, Sitemap and wireframes
4/06, Design rationale
4/20, XHTML/CSS mockups
4/27, GuestLogin plugin and RateReview plugin
5/03, Additional 20 games added to repository
5/04, Final Project