Student Edition

My post about my Children’s Lit students reads like a bit of a brag (it really is a great class!).  My students are very much on my mind, so if I am going to crow about one class, I might as well crow about the other.

My Digital Humanities for Critical Literary Studies students don’t have a final exam (Let me digress — I would love to hear from anyone who has devised a meaningful exam for a DH course.  The pen-to-paper-with-timer-going format doesn’t seem to fit the project-based learning we’ve been doing all semester.  That said, I will be teaching a second year DH class next year, and my course would be alone of its kind in the department if it doesn’t have a final exam).

Map of the locations in Dracula

Map of the locations in Dracula

My DH students have been building an online edition of Dracula, encoded in TEI (I should warn that it looks a bit wonky any browser other than Firefox), and are almost done.  While I did grade the students on the scholarly content of the edition and the wellformedness of their code, each student’s encoding rationale, in which s/he had to explain what s/he had set out to encode, which tags s/he had used and why, and how s/he had problemsolved when Oxygen kicked back, will make up the majority of their final grade. The rationales are in, waiting to be graded. I want the students to be fearless encoders who are undaunted by the TEI guidelines. We’ve taken the last paragraph of David Birnbaum’s What is XML and Why should Humanities Scholars Care? as the touchstone for the course:

It isn’t necessary to memorize—or even understand—all of the details of this introduction on first reading. You probably understood some parts very well, while others may have seemed complex or confusing. That’s not a problem; you’ve been exposed to the terms, which will sound familiar and make more sense when you hear them again in context, and you can return to this introduction at any time to as you gain more hands-on experience working with XML yourself.

We’ve replaced “this introduction” in the first sentence with “Google fusion tables,” “Voyant,” “HTML,” “CSS,” and “the TEI guidelines” this semester.  The goal wasn’t conformance — what I hope to see in their rationales is fearlessness and a willingness to troubleshoot using more that one strategy.

We’ve used John Walsh’s Boilerplate XSLTs and CSS to publish an online version of the class’ edition.  Thoughtful descriptive markup is a virtue in its own right, but I though the students might like to have a version of their code that was intelligible to folks who aren’t used to reading XML.  That said, next year I think I will have each student publish their encoding rationale. The edition’s summative rationale only covers a few of the chapters.Gush_05prospectTermaine_08letter

The students have submitted their final bug reports (most of which have to do with my attempts to extend Boilerplate to accommodate their custom encoding).  A few more edits, and I will be able reload the edition, and bring the course to a close.