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Reflection: Erin Zavitz

While Bosque School teacher Dr. Erin Zavitz was unable to attend the institute in person, she still made the most of her involvement by attending follow-up workshops and viewing recorded presentations. Her experience proved the value of digital humanities tools not only at the university level, but also at the high school level.


First, I want to say it was an honor to be selected as a participant in the institute. Overall, the institute, both the in-person week-long session and semester asynchronous workshops, provided a valuable introduction to questions, tools, and theories in Digital Caribbean Studies. I’ve included with this reflection a few lesson plans that integrate elements of the institute. They represent an immediate application; however, one of the institute’s values is long term pedagogical shifts and the development of new digital humanities curriculum. I will continue to reflect on the lessons, return to the videos of workshops, and review fellow participants lesson plans to further refine my teaching. 

The in-person week-long institute had a fabulous program of events that balanced presentations, hands-on sessions, discussion, and work time. Unfortunately, I was unable to participate in-person in the week-long session because of personal circumstances. The institute facilitators provided virtual options, and I was able to join in discussions with fellow participants and watch several presentations in real time. The discussions were the most useful and provided a space to receive feedback on current teaching practices while also learning about new methods and assignments. For example, I had used StoryMaps JS and Timeline JS in both university and high school settings, but in conversation with others I realized tweaks I could make to my plans to scaffold the assignments and provide students more support. I also picked up other assignment ideas, like the playlist. I ended up using a playlist as an exam for my sophomore English students. They had to create a playlist for a main character in the novel we were reading and and write a short justification of the playlist. 

The semester long series of workshops continued our training and provided flexibility. As the only high school teacher, not all of the content was relevant. This was fine; the institute was mainly for university level teachers, staff, and students. While the workshop mode was asynchronous, it was hard to attend the live discussion meetings because of time zone differences and a less flexible teaching schedule. As the included lesson plans show, one of the most beneficial workshops was Paul Ortiz’s and Deborah Hendrix’s videos and discussion on oral history. I have experience with oral history but had never used it in the classroom. This was one area I particularly wanted to explore because of the institute. Their workshop helped to make my class project a success. 

Overall, this was a wonderful opportunity to review familiar DH tools and explore new ones and to reflect on my teaching practice. I look forward to continuing to implement the tools and theories from the institute in the years to come.

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