HIST 390 Syllabus (PDF)

HIST 390-001: The Digital Past

Fall 2013
Mon & Wed 12:00pm-1:15pm
Robinson Hall B201
George Mason University

Dr. Amanda French
Research Hall 474
Office hours: T Th 12pm-1:30pm and by appointment

Learning Goals

This course satisfies the University’s information technology requirement, which has the following five goals:

  1. Students will be able to use technology to locate, access, evaluate, and use information, and appropriately cite resources from digital/electronic media.
  2. Students will understand the core IT concepts in a range of current and emerging technologies and learn to apply appropriate technologies to a range of tasks.
  3. Students will understand many of the key ethical, legal and social issues related to information technology and how to interpret and comply with ethical principles, laws, regulations, and institutional policies.
  4. Students will demonstrate the ability to communicate, create, and collaborate effectively using state-of-the-art information technologies in multiple modalities.
  5. Students will understand the essential issues related to information security, how to take precautions and use techniques and tools to defend against computer crimes.

Unlike some other courses designed to satisfy the IT requirement, this course teaches the fundamentals of information technology within the context of a history course rather than as a set of abstract principles or discrete skills tied to particular software packages. The course is structured around four units that map to the first four of these IT requirements; the fifth, issues related to information security, is dealt with in the “Core IT concepts” unit.


Shared Links-10% of course grade

Over the course of the semester, you will submit at least 10 links to the course’s Diigo group at that will help you and your fellow students with that week’s topic. Links have no due date, and you can submit as many links as you like, but you can only get credit for one link per week. Links may be submitted any time between Monday, Sep    tember 2 and Wednesday, Dec    ember 4. Add a descriptive and/or evaluative comment to the link you submit in order to receive credit for it.

Exam 1 (short answer, Core Concepts)-15% of course grade

Wednesday, 9/11/13
In-class exam on Unit 1, Core Concepts of Information Technology. The exam will take the form of 50 short-answer questions.

Exam 2 (short answer, Research Skills)-20% of course grade

Wednesday, 10/16/13
In-class exam on Unit 2, Research Skills in the Digital Age. The exam will take the form of 50 short-answer questions.

Presentation (in-class presentation, Social Issues)-25% of course grade

A ten-minute in-class presentation submitted to the course website that tells the story of a particular aspect of Internet history through the lens of a particular little-known person whose contribution to a particular technology, technology feature, or website is important for understanding a particular ethical, legal, or social issue. This presentation must be accompanied by a Zotero collection in our Zotero group bibliography at that lists sources and media credits.

Final Project (digital history project, Creation and Communication)-30% of course grade

The final project is to create and publish to our course website a multimedia blog post that tells the story of a particular aspect of Internet history through the lens of a particular little-known person whose contribution to a particular technology, technology feature, or website is important for understanding a particular ethical, legal, or social issue. The blog post must contain at least 1000 words of original writing (or audio narration from a script), and the post must include at least two original multimedia items in at least two of the following six types: a timeline, a map, a chart or graph, a word cloud, an audio recording, or a video recording multimedia items (which need not be original) in at least two of the following seven types: an image, a timeline, a map, a chart or graph, a word cloud, an audio recording, or a video recording. The post must also link all its sources to their origins, and must also link to a Zotero collection in our group bibliography at Above all, the post must be interesting and scholarly. The final project is due at 1pm on Monday, December 16.

Important Dates

  • Mon, Aug 26 — first day of class
  • Tue, Sep 3 — last day to drop class with no penalty
  • Wed, Sep 11 — Exam #1
  • Wed, Sep 18 — last day to drop class with 33% tuition penalty
  • Fri, Sep 27 — final drop deadline with 67% tuition penalty
  • Mon, Oct 14 — no class due to Columbus Day
  • Wed, Oct 16 — Exam #2
  • Mon, Oct 21-Wed, Nov 20 — Presentations
  • Wed, Dec 4 — last day of class
  • Mon, Dec 16 — Final Project due at 1pm

Course Schedule

Unit 1 — Core Concepts of Information Technology

MON 26-Aug    Introduction and diagnostic survey

WED 28-Aug    Computer Basics, Files and File Management, and Keyboard Shortcuts

WED 4-Sep    The Underpinnings of the Internet and the Web, HTML, and CSS

MON 9-Sep    Data, databases, and content management systems

WED 11-Sep    EXAM 1

Unit 2 — Research Skills in the Digital Age

MON 16-Sep    Zotero

WED 18-Sep    Google

MON 23-Sep    Wikipedia

WED 25-Sep    Books

MON 30-Sep    Magazine and Newspaper Articles

WED 2-Oct    Scholarly Journals and Databases

MON 7-Oct    Archives / prep for Exam 2

WED 9-Oct    Preparing for research – Presentation and Final Project

WED 16-Oct    EXAM 2

Unit 3 — Social Issues and Information Technology

MON 21-Oct    Student Presentations

WED 23-Oct    Student Presentations

MON 28-Oct    Student Presentations

WED 30-Oct    Student Presentations

MON 4-Nov    Student Presentations

WED 6-Nov    Student Presentations

MON 11-Nov    Student Presentations

WED 13-Nov    Student Presentations

MON 18-Nov    Student Presentations

WED 20-Nov    Student Presentations

MON 25-Nov    Student Presentations

Unit 3 — Creating and Communicating with Technology


MON 2-Dec    Working session, Final Project

WED 4-Dec    Working session, Final Project, course wrap-up



You are expected to attend every class, but I will not be taking attendance. If you miss an ordinary class, you do not need to notify me or explain your absence to me. There are only three occasions when you must notify me 24 hours in advance or provide a written excuse of your absence: the date of the first exam, the date of the second exam, and the date of your presentation. See Medical and Other Excuses for more.

Any student who requires special arrangements in order to meet course requirements should contact me to make necessary accommodations (before September 4, please). Students should present appropriate verification from the Office of Disability Services, 703-993-2474. All academic accommodations must be arranged through that office.

Medical and Other Excuses
Every semester someone is forced to miss either an examination or the due date for an assignment either as the result of an illness or a family emergency. If you find yourself in this situation, fairness to all students in the class requires the proper documentation, without which your excuses will not be accepted. If you need to know more about this process consult me as soon as the emergency is taken care of.

Plagiarism and Cheating
Don’t. Plagiarism and cheating are much easier in the digital age, but finding cheaters is even more easy, especially when you know computers and the Internet as well as I do. Please read the George Mason University Honor Code if you have any questions about what is expected of you in this regard. Penalties for academic dishonesty are severe. In short, you are at extreme risk for failing the course from just a single act of plagiarism or cheating.

If you are enrolled in this class, you must as a part of the course work join certain Internet services (e.g., Diigo, Zotero, Slideshare) and publish certain work to the open web on our course website. If you wish, however, you may have your work removed from the course website after the class is over. To have your work removed, email me when the class is over.

In general, the best way to get hold of me is by email at; I will usually respond within two business days. Please be aware that I don’t usually check email in the evening or on weekends. I will usually contact you by email, and I too will not expect a response sooner than two business days.

Enrollment Status
Students are responsible for verifying their enrollment status in this course. Any change in that status is the responsibility of the student and must be made by the dates listed in the Schedule of Classes. After the last day to drop a course, withdrawal from the course must be approved by the Dean and will be approved only for nonacademic reasons. Undergraduate students may choose to exercise a selective withdrawal. See the Schedule of Classes for selective withdrawal procedures.

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  1. Pingback: Spring 2014: The Digital Past | Dr Stephen Robertson

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