public domain

I was offered the course I am teaching while I was on vacation in October. The bookstore needed a book order about a week later. In no way was I ready for that, so I figured since everything we would be reading was in the public domain, I would cull the texts from on-line sources. I have most of them in other books, but it’s an unwieldy stack of books. In prior years I would have made a course pack. Now, the class Blackboard website (provided by the university, and a way to link all of a student’s university life together in one place) serves as a disseminating place for such pieces.

So, along with everything else, I’m scouring the Internet for the best public domain versions of my texts. The texts themselves are all in the public domain, but some of the editions and/or translations are not. The TEAMS editions clearly state that they are available for individual–but not class–use. Fair enough. So I’ve been linking Project Gutenberg and some other Public Domain sites I’ve found. This means many of the editions my students are using are late 19th century. It’s an odd lens through which they are looking. The texts themselves are much older than that, but we are counting on 19th century scholarship to open them up for us. I’m not sure what that says. Obviously, I have more recent editions, and for some of them some of the students do, too (Shakespeare, Chaucer), but we’re doing this with the public domain.

20120122-063809.jpgOn the advantage side, students are saving money on buying texts. And it’s an experiment in using e-texts and e-readers of all sorts (the dedicated e-readers plus iPads, smartphones, laptops). I’m okay with that. I hope the phone is out to read and not to text, but this is the world in which we live. (Back in 2007, I read a whole lot of Qualifying Exam material on my Palm Treo while nursing/holding an infant. That was a whole lot easier than trying to manage a big, clumsy book. For this class, I’ve been using my iPad alongside my physical texts as I re-read the pieces, and I like highlighting and note-making and having that list of my annotations pop up for me to quickly browse.) I will probably have students write something at the end about this aspect of the class. I’ll also have to think about whether to allow them to use their electronics on the mid-term and final or make it closed book which I almost never do in a lit class.

So there it is. We’ll see what happens.

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3 Responses to public domain

  1. A home-schooled student, who had finished about one semester in college before she dropped out a year or two ago, made a remark on Facebook to the effect that she couldn’t understand why ANYBODY would give an open-book exam. I offered to give her some reasons, but she wasn’t interested. What would you say to someone like her?

    I usually teach Religions of the World, but have also taught humanities (101) and developmental writing classes. If a student has learned enough to know where, for instance, to find the Buddhist eight-fold path, that’s fine with me and she doesn’t have to have memorized all eight ways.

    • bookgirl says:

      For me, it’s pretty much as you say. If they can find the information as quickly as they need to for the exam, they know it fairly well. In a sentence, I’m more interested in the critical thinking, understanding, and analysis than I am in them trying to remember which long list of characters belongs in which story.

      My Quals were not open book, and that was tough going, but I had a chance to look my answers over and make any additions or corrections before the oral exam–and I’d been studying those texts for years.

  2. Terri says:

    I had a PALM Treo for a couple of years, but I never tried to read anything on it like you did! Good idea though, I remember trying to hold or nurse little ones and hold a book…now I read most of my books on my iPad, and could also read them on my iPhone…

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