This week we wrapped up the scanning for the digital workshop. Overall the exercise was a great success. Our fears that the scanning was going to be too dreadful an assignment because of its mechanical nature were abated by the total time it took students to complete it. My team took an average of 30 minutes each to complete the assignment.
Teams worked in pairs. We planned it this way so that they could help each other if anything arose before they had recourse to me or Chris. In the end we were right. Although I was available in case they needed any help, they completed the assignment without it. Another added benefit they reported was that keeping each other company made the time go faster and the boredom factor was significantly reduced.
On Monday we met to wrap things up. This was our first opportunity to have a class discussion about the larger picture, and it was where I had a chance to introduce them to the idea (and blog) for Project Tango.
First order of business was to go over and consolidate the files. The files were very good, and the students had followed the naming instructions so well that consolidating them just amounted to dropping the files on a folder (named TIF after the file types) and correcting their orientation. Next week when they begin the OCR process, they will only have to drag and drop these files into the OCR software.
Next, we talked about the larger context of books and essays online. I started them off with Google Scholar and from them pointed to some JStor pdf image/texts. I showed them the advantages of having the capacity to search for quotes or keywords, and we talked about questions of accessibility. From there, it was an easy jump to issues of copyright. I explained to them where we are now in terms of copyright after the advent of the internet and we talked about the Google Books controversy.
From there, we moved on to talk about Project Tango and about the role of students in creating a viable alternative to the proprietary hurdles that come with the Google territory. It became clear right away that students would like to see this sort of workshop count as an extra-credit —pretty much in the same way that a Phys-lab adds an extra credit to your transcript. At this stage the Tango team is in discussions to see how best to push this agenda with the deanery. The goal would be twofold: a) To provide that extra-credit for students, and b) To advertise the class as having a digital component in the course offering directory. Classes in the humanities with a digital lab could have some postfix such as –d, and once students become savvy to the advantages of having the skill-set that the labs can provide, this would be a further incentive to sign up for these classes.
We wrapped up discussion with a preview of next week’s OCR session. I basically insisted on the idea that OCR should be tied to proofing and how the quality of our work in the next two weeks will determine the quality of the digital editions we are making.
Since at this stage the goal of this blog is to provide documentation for our pedagogical/publishing experiment, I took the opportunity at the end of discussion to invite students to comment on the blog entries and materials. Right now we are discussing how to encourage them to do it more often by making it part of their grade for the workshop. I have no doubt that soon enough we will start hearing their voices, critical and otherwise. Stay tuned.