Liberal Arts and the Digital Age

Being one of Dr. McClurken’s students I was inclined to read his article  “Waiting for Web 2.0″ about teaching history in the digital age.  His article brings up many different issues involved in using online material. Many of the issues are of access to these online archives and where they are coming from. Dr. McClurken breifly mentions the “digital divide” when it comes to scholarly work for undergraduate students. This is a hot button topic in the academic world and one I seem to face on a regular bases. Accessing digital material as an undergraduate student is difficult and we are severely limited with what we can and can not access. That is suffice to say that we do have greater access to material than generations past. However, as we move forward in this digital age it is important to keep access and give more of it to those will be going to college in the future.

Dr. McClurken additionally brings up the issues of archivist and their future roles in the archival world. He discusses how we must come to realize that there is a potential trend of archivist not having an active role in education. The threat is very real, but I see the potential, as Dr. McClurken pointed out, that archivist can actually have an even greater role than before in education partly because of the digital age. Archivist will not merely disappear because of the use of Web 2.0 tools, but their field will merely expand if not double, if done correctly. This observation and optimistic view is why it is important to embrace the digital world in liberal arts education. The traditional approach to the liberal arts is far from out dated, but does not mean the digital world is a corrupt place where we will lose the confidence we have in academics. Embrace the digital and we can continue to have importance in the new world.

Redrawing the discipline of history and its boundaries. As Dr. McClurken noted in his article, Sherman Dorn also discusses the importance of embracing the digital world in the discipline that is history to keep up with the changing times and keep an interest in the field of study. Dorn’s article, “Is (Digital) History More Than an Argument about the Past?” discusses why and how studying history and sharing it has and will change. It is vital to keep an interest in history to those outside of the field. As Dorn noted it is even more important to keep an interest for those at the elementary to high school level. The simplest way to do so is to embrace the digital as I have repeated several times over. Digital history projects can do so much more than just make an argument like a paper or book does. Instead digital history projects can put history and all it has to offer into the hand of its users. No longer are students simply reading an argument, but they are actually interacting with a piece of history. The digital age will allow us as students and scholars to invite those not generally interested in history to have a fun interactive experience in which they can learn and we can teach. Its kind of like giving your dog medicine by sticking it in between a piece of cheese.

Between these two articles we can see many issues with the digital world, but also many positives as well. It is important that we embrace the digital by bringing parts if not all the traditional approaches of a liberal arts education into Web 2.0. By doing so we are vastly expanding the potential of a greater education. Not by only learning the liberal arts, but that of computer science as well. We get the best of both worlds and we become better students and educators by doing so.

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