The collaborative work of the Travelers’ Lab seeks not only to bring historians together with computer science and data visualization experts, but also seeks to extend these forms of collaborative research into the classroom. We also believe that allowing students to do actual research provides some of the best classroom experiences at the undergraduate level. In the future, we hope to include both new courses and pedagogical materials or resources that can be used for the teaching of other courses. We also hope that these materials will provide inspiration for other undergraduate assignments and research projects.
To date, there have been three courses specifically on the lines of the Travelers’ Lab. Starting in the fall of 2014, Professor Shaw taught a course looking at movement, travel, and communication in Europe titled, “The Acceleration of Europe: Mobility and Communication, 1000-1700.” The course introduced undergraduates to the methods and questions that the Travelers’ Lab focuses on and set the stage for a continuing interest in including undergraduates in the research and projects that we are working on today. In the Spring of 2015 Professor Torgerson taught “Re-imagining East and West: Constantinople” to explore the teaching of medieval history with a concentration on place, and deploying a project-based pedagogy. Then, in the fall of 2015 under the aegis of Wesleyan’s “Digital and Computational Knowledge” initiative, Professor Shaw taught a course in “Digital History.” Part of the goal of the course was to bring students together from computer science, statistics, history, and other disciplines to do the sort of work that can best be produced by a team with multiple skills. Some of those students have gone on to work with the QAC and with professor Shaw as research assistants.
Through interactions at the Wesleyan University GIS working group (hosted by Prof. Kim Diver), Shaw and Torgerson began to realize the possibilities, not only for more collaborative pedagogy and research projects, but for bringing the two “dimensions” of the academic vocation more in tune with each other. A c0nnection with Prof. Franklin-Lyons’ research on tracking the late medieval grain supply in the Western Mediterranean, and the possibilities opened up by Marlboro College’s highly collaborative pedagogical model brought the Traveler’s Lab into existence.