I am so bad at creating things. Beyond my love for writing, I hate having to create anything. I am the epitome of a Pinterest fail. So, with that in mind, it’s probably pretty obvious that this assignment has been the most difficult for me this semester. When considering the purpose of Digital Humanities and what type of DH project I would create if I were given a grant, I kept thinking about what would be useful for me as a teacher and for my students. As I’ve alluded to in other posts throughout the semester, I do not have a traditional pedagogy for literacy skills in my English 12 classes. I do not teach whole-class novels and I do not teach the classics. Instead, I teach reading skills and students apply them and are assessed on them by reading books independently at a pace that’s appropriate for them individually and of books of interest to them. These books are mainly Young Adult and I use book talks as a way to generate excitement for titles and my extensive knowledge of the Young Adult genre to match books to students. Having seniors, I’ve often wondered about how students will select their own books next year in “the real world” without my book talks and guidance. I’ve created such independent readers and thinkers, but how easily will they be able to identify what interests them in the vast seas of a bookstore or a library? These questions are the driving force for my Digital Humanities project.
This project is inspired by Goodreads.com and LibraryThing.com. These are both great resources in my classroom, but each of them fall short in some aspects. My project would create a new website using these two as a model, but with more tools for educators and students, particularly and the middle and secondary levels. My project will allow for the digitization of Young Adult literature to be read in eBook format from devices like iPads, laptops, and smartphones for easy access for students, especially those in schools where funding for media centers and librarians have been slashed. Many YA books currently exist in digital format and those would simply be added to the digital library, but many more do not and would need to be added. It also would integrate social media allowing for students to connect to other students in their class, their school, across the country, and around the world to make book recommendations and share opinions of what they’re currently reading. Students can create and manage virtual bookshelves in ways that make sense for them to organize what they’ve read and what they’d like to read. Librarything.com does a great job of intuitively learning what a user’s preferences are by the books added to and organized on the virtual shelves. This is done through keywords and tagging. This same system would be utilized in my website, but the keywords and tags would be user created as well as created through Ngrams of the text. For example, Ngrams can be used to find out how many times the word love is used in a book and then the tag of “love” can be applied to that book. For students looking for romance books, searching for the word “love” would reveal the tag. The tags cluster based on amount of times it appears, similar to a Wordle, so students can make their searches more or less specific. Ideally, these measures would help enable more independence in seeking reading material.
Further, this website would allow students to create a blog or wiki like structure to discuss and review books in more detail than the simple book recommendation link would allow. This would promote literacy skills and could be used by educators as a means to assess reading and writing skills as well as promote collaborative thinking and prepare them for working with a popular aspect of technology.
Right now, I could see NCTE and the American Library Association utilizing and collaboratively managing the data. Digital librarians through ALA and/or NCTE could be hired to digitize the books and begin creating the tags. I think it would be important for teacher input, too, as educators like Kylene Beers and Robert Probst have found the “6 Signposts of Literature,” or 6 guiding occurrences in YA literature that connect to certain literary techniques. These tags might be useful to add also so that students can begin understanding important literary characteristics of the books they’re selecting.
I’m stumped about database. I keep adding features in my mind to this site that I think would be useful, so all of the truly technical stuff I’m unsure of. Any advice or direction about database would be much appreciated! Given the size of the digital library I’d like to curate, I think the database would need to be rather large and allow for metadata about the books within.
I’m additionally stumped on budget. I have no idea how much something like this would cost to start, but I think given all of the people needed to start the project, it would be pretty costly. How are all of you determining your budgets?
Any feedback on this project is welcomed! Like I said, I’m so not a creative individual so this has really thrown me for a loop! I can’t wait to hear what you’re all working on!