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Teaching Tuesdays: Effectively Incorporating Creative Digital Projects into Your Pedagogy

The P3 Collaboratory is pleased to continue “Teaching Tuesdays,” our ongoing series on pedagogy in higher ed and on the RU-N campus. Our thanks to Krista White, Digital Scholarship and Pedagogies Librarian at the John Cotton Dana Library, for this week’s entry.

The move to completely online instruction during the pandemic forced many of us to rely more heavily on technology for our teaching than we might have otherwise. Creating engaging assignments requires the incorporation of a variety of tools!

Digital Humanities includes digital pedagogy with creative, active learning digital projects as course assignments. Doing this in a way that does not overwhelm the students and effectively connects digital tools to learning goals and disciplinary knowledge is a skill that must be mastered. I’m still on a fairly steep learning curve myself, even though from 2016 to 2019, I ran courses in the Digital Scholarship through Modular Pedagogy (DSMP) series sponsored by the Rutgers-Newark Chancellor’s Seed Grant Program. One of the course series’ goals was to incorporate digital pedagogy into humanities and social science courses, and since then, we’ve been working to support faculty and graduate students to do exactly that.

Drawing from my experience running the DSMP project, and my observations both within those courses and here in the libraries, I’m eager to share a few tips about how to effectively incorporate creative digital projects into your pedagogy:

1. You are now teaching technology AND disciplinary content. Embrace it!

  • This inevitably means dropping some disciplinary content to make room to teach the technology and explain to the students HOW the technology is going to advance their learning in the course.

  • Leave time for inevitable technology problems, because they will happen. Whatever amount of time you expect an assignment to take the students, use the Scotty Principle and double it. That will provide you and the students the necessary breathing room to make mistakes (and fumble!) with the digital tools.

  • You don’t have to be an expert in the tool to teach it. You are a subject matter expert, not a technology expert. Be honest with the students about your level of expertise, and make learning the technology part of the course process – for both you and the them.

2. The technology is not a means to an end. It is an end in itself.

  • In using digital tools for course assignments, both instructors and students make the mistake of trying to rush through learning the digital tool so they can complete “the real assignment.” Choosing the right digital tool will give students unique insights into your lecture, reading and discussion material. Therefore, learning to use the tool is just as important to the learning process.

  • Make it clear to the students that learning the software program is part of the assignment and they should treat learning the digital tool the same way they would treat other course content. Get them used to the idea that the digital tool is one of their course “texts.”

3. To serve “technology as an end,” plan to scaffold both conceptual/disciplinary content in the course in tandem with technology content.

  • If you have an assignment you want students to complete with a digital tool, have them complete it in graded “drafts.” Those drafts should have them walking step-by-step, in small increments, through the use of the software as part of each draft. (Note: Breaking down complex tasks and assignments into their smaller component-based assignments is a good teaching practice across the board.)

  • Each draft should highlight the next level of software skills, simultaneously incorporating the next level of disciplinary content. By the time they are finished with all the drafts, they should have the skills with the tech AND course content to synthesize their drafts into the full, final assignment.

Resources and References:

Author Bio:

Krista White has been an educator at various colleges and universities for 34 years. She holds advanced degrees in art history, the anthropology of religion and library and information studies. Her current research focuses on incorporating information literacy standards into humanities and social sciences courses.


A snapshot of some upcoming SYNCHRONOUS campus workshops of interest:

A snapshot of some ASYNCHRONOUS campus resources of interests:

Brought to you by the P3 Collaboratory for Pedagogy, Professional Development, and Publicly-Engaged Scholarship at Rutgers University-Newark