Belmont_jonathan-thorndikexBy Jonathan Thorndike, Belmont University Honors Program Director and NAC&U Ambassador

Belmont University faculty, administrators, and research librarians recently came together for a mini-workshop and demonstration of innovative pedagogy session titled “The Scholarship of Digital Information” (SoDI). Sponsored by Belmont’s Teaching Center, the mini-workshop was inspired by the New American Colleges and Universities (NAC&U) Digital Scholarship Workshop held last fall at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.

When I knew that I was going to teach the French Revolution in my interdisciplinary Honors course, I thought that a workshop would be the best way to get suggestions from experienced colleagues about designing a new assignment using digitized maps, texts, and images. Working with Mike Pinter, director, and Jennifer Thomas, assistant director, of Belmont’s Teaching Center, we organized a workshop that would cull knowledge and experience and disseminate it widely.  The leaders of the Belmont workshop were trained at the NAC&U workshop and were eager to bring their experience back to Nashville.

More than 40 Belmont faculty and staff from a variety of disciplines including Journalism, English, History, Biology, Pharmacy, Entrepreneurship, Occupational Therapy, Christian Theology, Business Management, Accounting, Music Education, Foreign Language, and Nursing attended the Teaching Center workshop. Belmont’s Teaching Center workshop featured examples presented by faculty members Dr. Joel Overall (English), Dr. Sybril Brown (Journalism), Dr. Beth Ritter-Conn (Religion and Honors Program), and Zach Quint (Research Librarian). Overall, Ritter-Conn, and Brown all attended the NAC&U workshop.

“I represent the novice in this room,” said Dr. Beth-Ritter Conn, “but I can still offer some helpful suggestions and insights about how the new tools I saw demonstrated at the NAC&U workshop can be leveraged to improve my assignments.”

Workshop participants viewed how new technology, digital information, and new ways to teach are converging and creating new insight into old sources like Shakespeare’s plays. Examples included using a Tagul word cloud, Google Earth digital mapping of literature, Kahoot game-based quizzes, holograms, Google + communities, Udemy courses, Mashable, Minecraft, Tumblr, and many other technical upgrades to existing assignments.

Broadly speaking, the Scholarship of Digital Information (SoDI) allows students and scholars to interact in new ways while building community and sharing information both locally and globally. SoDI is a new frontier for training students for careers involving information in business, natural sciences, humanities, and computer science.  SoDI develops skills to advance twenty-first century careers in education, archival work, media studies, librarianship, journalism, publishing, and health record maintenance. Belmont students who are proficient in SoDI develop skills in digital curation, writing, content strategy, and collaboration. Surveys show that job growth in digital information will outpace industrial and service-sector jobs in the foreseeable future.  Giving faculty and students access to the latest tools for researching and managing digital information was the first priority for this Belmont Teaching Center Workshop.

Picture above right: Facilitators of the workshop (l-r) Dr. Joel Overall, Dr. Beth Ritter-Conn, Zachary Quint, Dr. Sybril Brown, and Dr. Jonathan Thorndike [Photo credit: Jennifer Thomas]

At left, participants in Belmont’s Scholarship of Digital Information workshop held last week. [Photo credit: Sybril Brown]