What is Omeka Gym?
This site is not an Omeka tutorial. It is, rather, an Omeka gym: a collection of resources for scholars who want to build a digital collection with Omeka or teach with Omeka. It has exercises, sample data sets, and lesson plans.
Who Built Omeka Gym?
My name is Alexandra Bolintineanu. I am a Postdoctoral Fellow in Medieval Data Curation at the University of Toronto, cross-appointed to the Centre for Medieval Studies and the University of Toronto Library. I study medieval wonders through digital media, and digital media through medieval wonders. My research interests include medieval wonders, maps, monsters, and imaginary geographies, as well as usability and digital pedagogy.
My thanks go to the one and only Justin Schell, who liked the idea of Omeka Gym and helped me develop the ideas behind it.
Omeka Gym: Origins
It is a truth universally acknowledged that every superhero in possession of awesome powers must be in want of an origin narrative.
This is Omeka Gym's.
A Word Is Born
Omeka Gym was the outcome of several Omeka research and pedagogy projects.
In May 2014, I ran A Word Is Born, a digital project about the Dictionary of Old English. A Word Is Born included a workshop on Omeka and digital collections for the Centre for Medieval Studies. The workshop invited participants to use materials from a live digital exhibit, the Dictionary of Old English’s A Word Is Born outreach site, and develop a Dictionary of Old English-based instructional materials collection. Omeka proved a very stimulating medium for collaborative pedagogy with digital collections.
Chaucer in Italy
Six months later, in September 2014, I assisted Professor William Robins to develop a learning module for Chaucer in Italy, an advanced undergraduate seminar course. Chaucer in Italy, taught by William Robins, studies Geoffrey Chaucer’s encounter with the literature and culture of medieval Italy. The digital learning module, built around Omeka and Neatline, invited students to represent course thematics through digital mapping and visualizations.
Omeka Gym abstracts the teaching materials created for these initiatives and builds on them. Other writers and teachers have ably explored Omeka’s instructional uses, creating both practical tutorials and pedagogical reflections. Building on their work, Omeka Gym provides not only tutorials but an infrastructure for hands-on learning.
Using a small digital collection based on a medieval manuscript (depictions of angels in British Library MS Add. 42555), Omeka Gym presents a set of “recipes,” tutorials, sample data, and structured, scaffolded exercises and assignments tailored specifically to the creation of arguments about literary narratives. By October 2015, instructors will be able to freely download and customize all these recipes, tutorials, exercises, and datasets. Omeka Gym is thus one half of a blended learning course, supporting both teaching and learning with Omeka, especially within literature classrooms.