Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Faculty Development Instructor Tries to Gain Points, and Fails

During a break today, one of the faculty development instructors decided to chat me up, and suggested that I must find Project Gutenberg really useful for teaching Shakespeare.

No, I said, explaining that the copyright free texts used in such editions are often 19th century Bowdlerized editions, and so not useful.  And a good modern edition has notes.  But if I want an earlier edition, I use EEBO.  Which she'd never heard of.  (No reason why she should, except that if you're going to try to make points with your cool technology stuffs, at least think first!)

Then I showed her EEBO.  And I showed her how some texts have a transcription, some digital images, and some both.  And then I had to explain how about transcriptions a bit.

And I explained that while EEBO is great, for some things it's more useful to bring in a facscimile text (assuming one has one, and I have a number of Shakespeare facsimiles) because having a printed text is easier for looking at in class.

And she asked if I could get Beowulf on EEBO.  So I explained that EEBO only does printed texts, but that she could look at the MS of Beowulf at the British Library site, and showed her that.

I get that she was trying to show how neato it would be if only we Shakespeare people would use technology! in our teaching, but I'm so tired of academic who haven't given a single thought to basic print technology, or manuscript technology (and both of those could be plural) and why it just might be useful to think at least a little about both of those.


I trust that these faculty development folks are basically good teachers, but I want to say: if you're going to talk at us for 20 minutes, take the time to think through the lecture so that those 20 minutes aren't just rambling around.


  1. Ye gads... I mean, I can appreciate the effort to try to relate to someone's line of work, but there are some times when people do that and I want to just say, "Please stop talking, like, ten seconds ago."

    Like today - I met with my friend's daughter (and his wife and three other children) for the one and only free tutoring meeting I said I'd be willing to do. The wife grilled me about really silly Shakespeare questions that showed she wasn't actually interested in anything Shakespearean (did Shakespeare really smoke pot? What was his 'real' religion? I bet he was gay. My response to all: Who cares?) but just wanted to seem like she had something to say. Hey, at least she didn't bring up the authorship question.

    Anyway. I like manuscripts/books an awful lot better. I just got the new shiny Norton Shakespeare, and it has a bunch of digital zing-zangs that come with it. I looked at that for about 10 minutes and thought, "Yeah, I'll never use any of this," then went back to the book to look at it some more.

  2. I'm glad you got to show her something useful and also to show why digital isn't everything. Bonus points for keeping your temper :)!

  3. I use a lot of digital materials BUT I have to do a lot of work to select good digital sources, design good strategies for teaching with them and I also have to work hard, in and out of the classroom, to get the students to comfortably work with the technology.

    It's funny, though, that in my experience the classicists, medievalists and early modernists are generally much more tech-savvy in their teaching and research than many colleagues who focus on modern eras and materials. They often don't have to use the digital resources or sometimes can't (US copyright law, I'm looking at you!).

  4. What Janice said. We get that digitization is a boon to us. And oddly, my Digital Humanities colleague is always sniffy about projects that "just" digitize sources. But they are such gifts for teaching!