Teaching Graduate Students to Code

Sunday, January 4, 2015
2nd Floor Promenade (New York Hilton)
Lincoln Mullen, George Mason University
The place of writing computer code among practitioners of digital history and more broadly within the historical profession is much debated. Some regard learning how to code an undue burden within an already packed graduate curriculum; others point out that graduate students who learn how to write code for themselves gain access to new research methods only available via programming; still others regard it as a valuable skill for graduate students contemplating an alt-ac career.

This poster will present the results of a graduate class "Clio 3: Computer Programming for Historians" that I will be teaching at George Mason University in fall 2014. (A syllabus is available here: <http://lincolnmullen.com/files/clio3.syllabus.hist698.2014f.pdf>.) This class is an elective taken by graduate students who wish to extend their traditional historical skills by learning computer programming. The course teaches students how to analyze historical data quantitatively and geographically, as well as how to structure the data from their research. The course also teaches students a variety of techniques for creating databases and web applications that present research in a variety of forms.

The poster will feature several sections:

1. a brief review of the existing place of computer programming in the graduate curriculum at George Mason and in the profession as a whole;

2. descriptions of the main techniques taught in the course, explained as historical methodologies; and

3. visual representations and accompanying written interpretations of selected student projects created in this course.

The primary focus of the poster will be on the outcomes of students' work. But the poster will also reflect on why graduate students signed up for the course, and whether the course met their expectations. The poster will be prepared in collaboration with those students. While the topic of computer coding is sometimes regarded as arcane, this poster will demonstrate one model for how computer programming can fit into the graduate curriculum as an elective, as well as show how students are putting that newly gained expertise to work in historical research.

See more of: Poster Session #2
See more of: AHA Sessions