The Digital Silk Road and Other Initiatives Forge New Path for Digital Liberal Arts

Posted: November 10, 2016

As Guilford College enters the third year of Digital Directions for the Arts and Humanities, a $100,000 grant awarded in the fall of 2014 by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, faculty in the arts and humanities are envisioning a future course for the advancement of digital pedagogy and scholarship.

With the construction of the new Teaching, Learning, and Research Collaboratory in Hege Library now completed, several grant-funded pilot digital initiatives and faculty development opportunities are being supported within this new space. The Digital Silk Road is particularly noteworthy in both its creativity and emphases on critical aspects of collaboration and pedagogical process. A team taught project, The Digital Silk Road was developed by Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Coordinator of the International Studies Program Eric Mortensen and Assistant Professor of History Zhihong Chen. It consists of an interrelated pair of courses – the Fall 2016 course REL/HIST 250: The Digital Silk Road, and the J-Term 2017 Study Abroad course REL/HIST 250: Digitally Mapping China’s Silk Road.

The centerpiece of the Digital Silk Road course will be student-generated group research projects for the creation of interactive narrative digital maps. The collaborative student work will be presented on a new interactive website at the end of the Fall 2016 semester. “Thanks to the support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we now are far better able to translate dreams about final research products into course projects that both emphasize the processes of student learning and highlight the importance of collaboration,” cites Mortensen; adding, “Perhaps more important, though, has been the holistic re-envisioning of our course goals away from a more dry delivery and reception of information to a vibrant proactive engagement with learning.”

During the week of July 24-30, Mortensen led a Guilford team that was selected for participation in the Institute for Liberal Arts Digital Scholarship (ILiADS) at Hamilton College. The Guilford team spent a week in consultation with its team coach and ILiADS experts, alongside other institutional participant teams, for the development of an implementation plan for The Silk Road.

The collaborative team, in addition to Mortensen, consisted of students Rebecca Mellor and Elena Sippel, Director of Study Abroad Daniel Diaz, Instructional Technology Librarian Tierney Steelberg, and Digital Pedagogy and Scholarship Technologist Tamika Davis. The team’s involvement at the ILiADS Institute included technical training, project development and management guidance, and plenary sessions surrounding issues and methods in digital pedagogy.

In addition to supporting The Digital Silk Road to completion, Digital Directions for the Arts and Humanities also is supporting another digital initiative, Spanish Speakers of Greensboro, developed by Associate Professor of Foreign Languages Alfonso Abad-Mancheno, and the development of a digital literacies course by Tamika Davis. Professor of English Heather Hayton and Associate Professor and Chair of Art Kathryn Shields are continuing their work for the digital revival of The Guilford Review, a print journal focused on innovative pedagogy at Guilford that ceased publication in the late '80s. The re-imagined Review will be work of public, collaborative scholarship for the advancement of the digital liberal arts.

The new Collaboratory will host presentations led by faculty who are applying new approaches for enhancing the learning experience, and will sponsor faculty workshops centering on topics such as design thinking, critical making, digital storytelling, and digital asset and project management.

The past two years of the Mellon grant initiative have been an exciting time of exploration and creative imaging for the development of a vision for the digital liberal arts at Guilford College. As the College enters the third and last year of Digital Directions for the Arts and Humanities, energy is high for a coalescing vision. As President Jane Fernandes expressed, “The Mellon Foundation funding has served as the catalyst we envisioned, opening up opportunities to cultivate and model a vital approach to the digital liberal arts.”

Last Updated: November 10, 2016