I’m pleased to announce the Mellon Scholars’ 2016-17 Team Portfolios! Click on the images below to visit the four team sites: 1. The Modernist Journals Project, 2. 19th Century Sunday School Books, 3. Antislavery Almanacs, and 4. The Founding Fathers Lending Library.
Team portfolios comprised the bulk of our assignments in IDS 180-181; students ranked their topical preference, and were placed in teams during the second week of class (September 2016). I was a little wary about a year-long team project– as were the students– but I couldn’t be prouder of the results.I began by introducing the project in the fall, showing how each of the parts fit into our course goals. Students conducted traditional research on their chosen dataset, resulting in an annotated bibliography and an argumentative essay. They also employed some research techniques that were a bit newer to them, developing an Omeka exhibit, cleaning their dataset with OpenRefine, analyzing and visualizing their data with a Voyant, Tableau, Palladio, Google MyMaps, Plotly, and RAWgraphs. They also learned how to build WordPress sites to host their portfolios.
The team projects were successful, in my mind, because of the time that we took to build team charters and discuss best practices in Project Management. I have both Lynn Siemens and Ethan Wattrall to thank for this: I was fortunate to take Lynn’s course in Project Management at DHSI, and Ethan’s discussions of DH Project Management in the CHI Fellowship translated perfectly to the classroom.Students co-wrote team charters, assigning team roles and developing communications plans. I also asked students to think about their team values, and I think this step was crucial in developing a positive, collaborative atmosphere. Students exhibited a great deal of trust in one another. We discussed the progress of the team projects regularly– it seemed important that I check in often, since so much of their grade depended on it!– and my class was shocked that the projects were going well. Their previous bad experiences in teams, they told me, were due to group members who would not contribute, or whose work was subpar. These students told me that they could trust each other, and they enjoyed the opportunity to encourage their teammates as they followed their interest. I was really moved by the relationships that developed amongst the teams. On our last day of class, I asked students to reflect on the year; as they discussed their teamwork, it was clear that they did not simply trust one another to perform— they also trusted one another to learn and to fail. One student said, “Christie* really wanted to learn how to work with Palladio, and so I said to her, ‘do it!’ Because I knew she would do a good job, and she was really excited about it.” (*not her real name) We paused to discuss this interaction. I asked, “But what if Christie had a really hard time learning Palladio? What if she did a really crap job with network analysis?” Christie– who, in fact, had done a fantastic job with Palladio, said– “I think it would’ve been OK, because I know my teammates wouldn’t blame me. We would’ve worked together and we would’ve fixed it. And even if it wasn’t perfect, that’d be OK.” The process of building a team– and the hard, hard work of maintaining a team– ended up modeling the process of long-term research in a way that I hadn’t initially intended. Because each step of the team-building process was deliberate and thoughtful, students came to see how each step of the research process must also be deliberate and thoughtful in their lives as scholars.