One of my digital humanities projects this year

This month, we’ll be talking about our digital humanities projects for the year. I’m involved in all of the working groups at the Center for Second Language Studies (http://www.vanderbilt.edu/csls/digital_humanities.php) and have several ideas, but I’ll speak here about my work with GeoJSON. GeoJSON (http://geojson.org/) is a coding format for expressing geographical data. We’re using it to store points (latitude and longitude) of locations and represent them through Mapbox (https://www.mapbox.com/). You can set points, lines, and polygons, as well as include text boxes, links, and photographs. Here is a screen capture of a test map that I made recently:

 

geojson_sample

 

 

 

 

Part of my research involves migration and travel, so I will use GeoJSON to display movement along the most frequent air routes in the United States. On the test map above, you can see points corresponding to some of the busiest airports (such as Miami, Chicago, and New York). In the next stage of the project, I will add lines in different colors to mark the routes, similar to the graphics that one finds at the back of the in-flight magazines. Next, I will attach photos of the cities and links to their websites. Finally, I hope to add animated icons so as to illustrate even better the movement between airports.

Eventually, I would like to have an international version of this map. My project for this semester, though, is simply to finish the USA map and feel comfortable using GeoJSON. I will post more photos here as the project advances!

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Welcome to our blog!

My name is Steven Wenz, and I am a doctoral candidate in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. This is my fourth year at the Center for Second Language Studies (CSLS). My primary research interests are 19th-, 20th-, and 21st-century narrative in Argentina and Brazil, but I also publish on issues of translation, influence, and reception. I have taught a variety of beginning and intermediate courses at Vanderbilt, and this year I am teaching Spanish 201W, an intermediate writing course.

My main expectation for the classes that I teach is that they be dynamic. No academic enjoys sitting through a conference presentation delivered in a monotone, so it would be unreasonable to expect our undergraduate students to take interest in a lecture-dominated language classroom. My classes are task-based, and I introduce activities designed to improve different skills (reading, writing, speaking, listening) and that require students to circulate and interact with their classmates. Taking a communicative approach to language learning, I encourage students to share information that is relevant to them within real-life contexts. Of course, especially in beginning courses, scaffolding is fundamental to my class design, with simpler and more direct activities providing the foundation for more complex and open-ended tasks. Although textbook materials form the basis for student work, I try to promote intercultural competency and global awareness by using authentic materials from the cultures that we study.

Most of the courses that I have taught feature presentations through the program Google Earth, in which students display a country or city on the screen and speak spontaneously about its weather, geography, and culture. Students enjoy this project because it gives them the impression of visiting countries that we have read about in the textbook. Of course, I also use familiar resources such as websites, YouTube videos, and Twitter to expose students as often as possible to the communities that we are studying. I especially enjoy encouraging students to make comparisons between these communities and their own. For example, I have asked students in my Spanish classes to think about the similarities and differences between Centennial Park in Nashville, TN and the Parque Centenario in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Finally, I feel that our primary function as language teachers is as cultural and linguistic ambassadors. For many of our students, their experiences with us and our colleagues in courses will be their only exposure to the cultures that we teach, and if we can motivate them to learn more, or at least counteract some stereotypes that they may have, we will have helped to produce more tolerant, globally aware citizens.