I was delighted to learn that Caleb McDaniel, Assistant Professor of History at Rice University in Houston, has incorporated Johnny Appleseed and the American Orchard into his Legendary Americans course. Dr. McDaniel is a leader in bringing Digital Humanities methods into both his research and teaching. In his Legendary Americans course McDaniel employs blogging as both a living syllabus and a platform for student writing. Students enrolled in this writing intensive freshman seminar are also reading Francois Furstenberg’s In the Name of the Father, Washington’s Legacy, Slavery, and the Making of a Nation, James Crisp’s Sleuthing the Alamo: Davy Crockett’s Last Stand and Other Mysteries of the Texas Revolution, and Scott Reynolds Nelson’s Steel Drivin’ Man: John Henry, the Untold Story of an American Legend, and readings on Sacajawea, Harriet Tubman, and others. McDaniel uses blogging as a way to guide students through progressively longer and more formal writing exercises.
McDaniel uses public digital platforms in his own research as well, keeping an open-access wiki of his research in progress. He recently published The Problem of Democracy in the Age of Slavery: Garrisonian Abolitionists and Transatlantic Reform with LSU Press (May 2013), and has begun a new project on emancipation in Texas and the Southwest. McDaniel is a rising star among a new generation of historians who are revolutionizing both teaching and research methods in the profession by embracing the vast potential of the digital world. Check out his Rice University page for informative links to his research and teaching and his “hacks” which provide many valuable tips for increasing academic productivity in a paperless environment.