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Digital Tools in The Classroom: Omeka Workshop (Northeastern University)

Slides from a workshop on using Omeka in the college classroom. The workshop, held on November 17th, 2014 at Northeastern University, was run by Jim McGrath, Dave DeCamp, and Amanda Rust. The workshop was co-sponsored by the Digital Scholarship Group and the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks. For more information about the DSG, please visit For more information about the NULab, please visit

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Digital Tools in The Classroom: Omeka Workshop (Northeastern University)

  1. 1. Digital Tools in The Classroom Omeka Workshop November 17th, 2014 Northeastern University
  2. 2. Workshop Leaders Dave DeCamp (Doctoral Candidate, History) Jim McGrath (Doctoral Candidate, English) Amanda Rust (Research and Instruction Librarian, Snell Library)
  3. 3. Workshop Sponsors
  4. 4. Introductions Who are you? Why are you interested in using Omeka?
  5. 5. Workshop Objectives • Provide an introduction to Omeka • Highlight some of its plugins (exhibits) • Discuss local experiences with Omeka in the classroom • Brainstorm uses of Omeka in your own classrooms & collaborations
  6. 6. Omeka
  7. 7. Dan Cohen on Omeka Omeka introduced in February 2008 by the Center for History and New Media (GMU) “Projects such as the September 11 Digital Archive and associated work with institutions such as the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress made us realize how much work – and how much money – it takes for institutions (and individuals) to mount high-quality and flexible exhibits online, and to manage the underlying collections.” “Omeka aims to simplify this entire process, save valuable resources, and create a free and open platform that the museum and library community, and anyone else, can enrich by developing themes and plugins.”
  8. 8. What is Omeka? • “WordPress for museums” • web publishing platform for items, exhibits and collections • designed with scholars, librarians, educators and archivists in mind • aims to be easy to use & implement • emphasizes curation and metadata’s role in archiving and curation • ability to contextualize items & bring them in conversation with one another
  9. 9. Advantages of Omeka • Easy to create and update metadata using Dublin Core standards • Long-term aspirations: digital projects can have afterlives • Exhibit templates are useful in classrooms • Easy to geotag / use geotagging (creation of maps) • Flexible (can create new pages / code via “Simple Pages”) • Open Source • Lots of documentation of work (Omeka Forums) • Cheap (or free!)
  10. 10. Omeka and Metadata (Dublin Core) • set of metadata standards • rejects “siloed cultural memory” • enables “radically open cultural heritage data” • interdisciplinary work • collaborative in nature and scope
  11. 11. Omeka and Exhibits • Exhibit Plugin: design templates for students • Neatline Plugin: Geospatial / temporal maps • Simple Pages: HTML and PHP, embedded content
  12. 12. Projects that use Omeka (NULab) Our Marathon: The Boston Bombing Digital Archive The Early Caribbean Digital Archive • Projects independent of particular courses • Collaborative in nature: faculty, graduate students, undergraduates, librarians, archivists, volunteers • Collaborations with instructors on student projects and assignments
  13. 13. Our Marathon
  14. 14. Classroom Collaboration • Advanced Writing in the Social Sciences in Fall 2013 (Victoria Papa) • Creation of Student Exhibits (Exhibit Plugin) • Project Co-Directors (grad students) consulted • Three class visits: introduction of project and scope, “technical day” examining Omeka, follow-up meeting • Additional consultation via e-mail • Exhibits presented at Forum (Boylston St.)
  15. 15. Sample Classroom Exhibit
  16. 16. Sample Classroom Exhibit
  17. 17. Sample Classroom Exhibit
  18. 18. Other Classroom Uses of Omeka at NU Gabriel Feldstein (undergrad, NU): Early Caribbean Digital Archive
  19. 19. Curating the Legacy of Mayor James Curley (Wentworth)
  20. 20. Curating the Legacy of Mayor James Curley • Profs. Christopher Gleason and Jody Gordon (Wentworth) • Multi-semester project: spread across multiple classes • Omeka (and Neatline) used to create exhibits • Omeka / Neatline consultant (Jim) • Students examine / build on previous semesters • Additional projects: blog posts, physical posters • Posters to be displayed at City Hall (2015)
  21. 21. Lessons from Classroom Collaboration • Value of occasions for student work that circulates beyond the classroom • Exhibits as way of documenting what was learned about technology AND content of course • Challenges of collaborative writing and design • “Failure” should be discussed / accepted • Setting clear goals for semester AND goals tied to momentum of larger project important • Discuss how you’re using tools and WHY you’re using Omeka with your students
  22. 22. Lessons from Classroom Collaboration • What are students getting out of this work? • What are you getting out of this work? • What are your collaborators getting out of this work? • What happens to this work after the course? • What is the scope of the project / assignment? • Is Omeka the digital tool you need for this course?
  23. 23. The Mechanics of Omeka • Omeka and • Uploading Items • Exhibit Builder Plugin • Neatline
  24. 24. Questions for Classroom Use • How much can you do on your own? • How much time have you spent with Omeka (Sandbox)? • What work needs to happen before the class starts? • What are your short and long-term goals w/ Omeka? • Who might be useful collaborators on campus? • Who will have access to the site? • Who is doing the work? (you, undergrads, grad students, librarians, IT, etc.)
  25. 25. Questions to Answer • Anyone already working with Omeka at your school? • Library / EdTech Resources (like the DSG)? • Metadata specialists? • Do you need server access? How will you get it? • Do you want this hosted by your institution? • Questions related to intellectual property • Long-term preservation options (if relevant)
  26. 26. • No server or FTP required (hosted by Omeka) • Basic (free) plan includes 500MB of storage, 1 site, 5 themes, and 13 plugins—including Exhibit Builder, CSV import, and Simple Pages
  27. 27. • LAMP server required, FTP required, Hosted by you or institution • Customize themes and plugins by editing server files • Unlimited number of plugins and themes (download to server)
  28. 28. Uploading Items / Adding Metadata
  29. 29. Uploading Items / Adding Metadata • Items are your basic unit in Omeka (.net or .org) • Enter Descriptive Metadata (Dublin Core and Item Type) • Specify “Item Type” • Can Create New Item Types • Upload Files (i.e. PDF, JPG, PNG, HTML) • Enter Tags • Geolocate Item on Map • Organize Items into Collections, and use for Exhibits • Can be made public or private
  30. 30. Talking about Metadata with Students • Important component of Omeka and its mission! • Metadata as “love letter to the future” • Metadata’s uses in surveillance / war • Metadata’s role in students’ daily lives • Metadata’s relationship to your particular class • Stylistic conventions: decision or discussion • Metadata can be more than just “data entry”
  31. 31. Items and Exhibits • Where will the items come from for this project? • Established collections? Research? Field work? • Will students be uploading items? Creating exhibits? Both? • Copyright issues / intellectual property / citation • Best practices for file sizes / item types • Will items and exhibits be made public in the short or long term? • Why aren’t items and exhibits being made public?
  32. 32. Exhibits
  33. 33. Exhibits • Available to .org and .net, requires Exhibit Builder plugin • Requires either Item entry or a selection of Items already on the site • Enter Information about the Exhibit (title, slug, credits, description, tags, themes) • Add Pages • Customize Page Layout, Add Content “Blocks” • Insert Items and Text • Multiple Blocks Per Page
  34. 34. Exhibits
  35. 35. Sample Exhibit Identities: Understanding Islam in a Cross-Cultural Context
  36. 36. Neatline
  37. 37. Advantages of Neatline • Narratives that attend to space and temporality • Demonstrate value of geotagged metadata • Dynamic and interactive • Ability to georectify maps (historical projects) • Ability to “map” images • Documentation online
  38. 38. Uses of Neatline Nate Rehm-Daly (Undergrad): Our Marathon
  39. 39. Uses of Neatline Jeddah: Gateway to the Hajj (University of Virginia)
  40. 40. Exhibits in the Classroom • Discuss role of items before role of exhibits • Discuss specific roles of students in creating exhibits • Templates can help students struggling with tech • Spend time experimenting with layout templates, Neatline mechanics, etc. • Exhibits don’t have to entirely depend on items in Omeka (embedded maps, Simple Pages, editorial text)
  41. 41. Lesson Plans with Omeka • How much of a role will Omeka play in a particular class? • How does the use of Omeka help you achieve your course learning goals? • How might assignments that are not tech-heavy / explicitly using Omeka benefit later work withOmeka? • Is this an “Omeka” unit, or a unit about a particular topic? • How much time will you spend introducing Omeka? • How are you grading work done in Omeka? • How might an assignment using Omeka lead to a larger research project / future collaborations?
  42. 42. Discussion Questions Hopefully we've given you background on what Omeka does and how it’s been used in the classroom. To open up the discussion portion, please turn to your neighbor and take 10 minutes to design an assignment. We'll come back together as a group and discuss how long this assignment might take, and what sort of scaffolding would be required.
  43. 43. Discussion Questions What is your biggest concern with developing an Omeka assignment or using Omeka in the classroom? What area of inquiry possible via Omeka assignments is most pertinent to your class and/or discipline? Historiography? Online communication? Writing and composition? Visual design? Archival research? Metadata and systems literacy? Others?
  44. 44. Discussion Questions What sort of collaboration with other departments, if any, do you need for your Omeka assignment? Do you need input from archivists on which items to digitize? Do you need input from librarians on metadata and/or provenance research? Do you need input from designers on the look and feel of the site? Do you need server space or other IT support?
  45. 45. Discussion Questions What is your biggest concern with developing an Omeka assignment or using Omeka in the classroom? What area of inquiry possible via Omeka assignments is most pertinent to your class and/or discipline? Historiography? Online communication? Writing and composition? Visual design? Archival research? Metadata and systems literacy? Others?
  46. 46. Thanks! • Slides will be e-mailed to you • Brief suggested reading list too • Look for a questionnaire via e-mail soon! • Local / digital Omeka working group?