Introductory Markup Experiments

This week in my HUMN 100 course we began the TEI module, which will see students tagging individual anecdotes in "Tarlton's Jests" and compiling them into a digital edition. We've been wrestling with some computer problems this term that have made the round-table collaborative nature of last fall's course a bit harder to sustain. Several students have had to work on the lab PCs around the edge of the room, which means their backs are to me, and they're not connecting with one another, either.

Because I see the collaborative digital edition as requiring a high degree of editorial communication among classmates, I wanted to try to reboot and reframe the way that we're working together. So I decided to start the TEI module by going really old school, and have the students think about person and place names, societal roles and words that might need defining, by using paper and highlighters.

Students in HUMN 100 working through their texts
Students in HUMN 100

I took their transcribed and cleaned texts and cut them into strips of papers (each jest runs from 4-25 lines of text), then brought out the pens: blue for place, pink for person, orange for role, and yellow for a word they though might need defining (mumbudget springs to mind ...)

At first the students seemed a bit confused (why is her Majesty a person and not a role? is a road a place?) - which was reminiscent of last year's experiences with word choice - soon they got the hang of asking one another for advice about whether "people" should be marked as people ...

imageAs they finished each of the jests (and there were more than 50) they placed them in three columns at the head of the table: one each for Court Jests, City Jests, and Country Jests.

imageAt the end of 50 minutes they had done a pretty fair first pass at color-coding the jests. I gathered them back together and sorted them by student. Today in class, having instructed them all to download oXygen onto their laptops (except those for whom I had to scrounge laptops that would allow them to install software) they began to transfer their color coding into <persName>, <placeName>, <roleName>, and <note>. Next week, once we're back from fall break, we're going to start adding <trait> and <state> markup, as well as adding and standardizing attributes across their work so that their edition is coherent. I've also decided to have them write a <gloss> summary of each jest to offer readers a bit of an interpretive synopsis to bridge some of the confusion the students felt when they began to do the transcription back in August.

It may not be the most elegant approach to teaching TEI, but it helped get over some of those unexpected technological challenges, and the students got to have fun and be a bit silly. And no injuries were sustained as highlighters were requested and went soaring across the table (phew!)

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