Using digital to answer the question: why does Normandale’s changing student body matter?

How will digital media and/or digital tools be important to teaching my target audience one of the essential lessons I’ll be focusing on in my project? What, specifically, about the digital environment will influence what you do and why?

There are a variety of digital history projects that focus on the ethnic and racial diversity of Minnesota. For example, a History Harvest projects focuses on a African American community called Rondo that was displaced during a highway construction http://omeka.macalester.edu/rondo/. Similarly, an the Minnesota Immigration History Research Center is generating video interviews of immigrants, which are then published to the web. These projects are robustly resourced, and well-supported by their colleges. I look to these projects as examples for focusing on local history.

Right now I’m imagining a lesson that captures a bit of history of Normandale Community College, which was founded in 1968. Coincidentally, Minnesota started to experience major inflows of immigrants in 1975 with the arrival of Hmong and the Koren people and the arrival of Somali peoples in 1991. Rather than duplicating other efforts to capture these people’s stories, I think it would be useful to work on how these immigrant populations changed our college.

There are a couple of clear challenges in this: one, many records at my college will be held only in paper forms. The easiest digital records will be recent, and may not reflect the types of questions my students want to ask of the past. Perhaps most importantly, I think we need to address why it matters that the school has evolved from an almost entirely white institution to an institution that serves 40% students of color? We may need to use local newspapers that have been digitized and I suspect I’ll spend as much time teaching on the tools of the project as I do on the argumentation necessary to present the past. My hope, however, is that by focusing tightly on a single subject, say the role of college to first-generation college students, we will avoid the scope-creep that can lead to great research that is unevenly presented.

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