Grading with my iPad

A friend recently emailed me to ask how I feel about using my iPad to grade student papers. One of the main reasons why I bought an iPad when it came out was to help with this task; since I ride the bus and light rail to work most days, I wanted an easy way to take my grading and reading with me, without having to lug a huge stack of papers around. My friend’s email gives me a good excuse to briefly summarize the steps I take to use my iPad for grading, and to share some of my reflections on how it’s worked out so far.

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The Case of John L. Brown

Last Friday, I was very fortunate to be a presenter at the annual conference of the Carolina Lowcountry and the Atlantic World program at the College of Charleston. This year’s topic, “Civil War–Global Conflict,” attracted a great slate of fascinating papers.

Best of all, the conference organizers asked for presenters to pre-circulate drafts of any length, so the sessions were devoted mostly to discussion. I’m posting the paper that I circulated for the conference in Rice’s digital repository (here’s how and why), and I would welcome any feedback about the paper if you have a chance to read it. Click below for a full abstract.

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Transnational History and the Civil War Era

On Monday, October 18, I was very honored to participate in a roundtable at the University of Houston on “New Directions in the Study of the Civil War Era,” sponsored by the Center for Public History and the Department of History at UH and organized by Eric Walther. The other members of the panel were John Barr (a newly minted UH history Ph.D who has written a great dissertation about anti-Lincoln sentiment in American history), Vernon Burton, Gerald Horne, James Oakes, and Frank Wetta.

Each presenter only had about 5-7 minutes to make some comments before the floor was opened for questions and discussion. And that discussion generated a lot of interesting points that I’m still thinking about and processing a week and a half later. But for now, I thought I would belatedly share my very brief prepared comments.

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Teaching with Blogs

Tomorrow at noon, I am going to be speaking about blogging and teaching at a “brown bag” workshop at the Digital Media Center at Rice. This post contains a rough outline of what I plan to say, as well as links to resources that I will mention at the workshop.

My comments will fall into three categories:

  1. I’ll survey how I’ve actually used blogs in my past courses, to give a sense of the variety of possible formats available with a fairly low amount of technical know-how.
  2. I’ll share some general lessons and tips I think I’ve learned from these experiences.
  3. I’ll briefly talk about the technical side of setting up blogs and maintaining them over the course of a semester, focusing particularly on how to use the WordPress MU installation, Blogs @ Rice University.

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Post the Fourth, In Which I Digitally Archive Some Articles

Several months ago, I learned about Rice University’s Digital Scholarship Archive, an institutional repository where faculty members can store and share published and unpublished work online. Many universities now have such repositories, including the University of Michigan, Johns Hopkins, and others. But as Shane Landrum (@cliotropic) recently suggested, I’m not sure history faculty are widely aware of these repositories. I know that without a tip from the great Lisa Spiro (@lisaspiro), I might not have learned of Rice’s DSA at all. But I’m glad I did, and here’s why and how I’ve posted some of my published work to the repository.

For me the advantages of putting my work online in this way are clear. One benefit is curatorial. By putting my work here I can be sure that professional librarians will regularly back up my files, as well as convert documents to newer file formats when old ones become obsolescent. Without any maintenance from me, I will know that my online scholarly works will have permanent URLs, ensuring that anyone wishing to use them can rely on a working link.

But the greatest benefit here is that I can provide more open access to many of my publications, which otherwise would hide in subscription-only databases like JSTOR and Project Muse. I can also provide copies of unpublished work like conference papers. Indeed, once deposited on the repository, such papers no longer become “unpublished” work. And this means that the work and research put into conference papers can be shared widely. I can solicit feedback and critiques of the works long after a conference has closed while simultaneously ensuring that my authorship is documented and in the public record.

That’s why I’ve decided to make use of the DSA. And here’s how I did it.

The process of putting my conference papers online was straightforward enough once I received an account on the repository. (To read these instructions, Rice faculty will need to log in.) I didn’t need to ask anyone’s permission to publish those. But in order to find out which published journal articles I have the right to put online, I had to do a very modest amount of additional investigation.

First, I browsed over to SHERPA/RoMEO. This is basically an online database of publishers’ policies concerning reproduction and copyright; it’s as easy as typing in a journal’s name to find out where its publisher stands on the digital archiving of articles. You can use SHERPA’s “color coded” key to get a quick sense of what rights a particular publisher gives to an author, but it’s best to closely read the restrictions each journal places on archiving or, better yet, to click through any link that is provided to the press’s own policy page. Some publishers allow the archiving of an author’s pre-print or post-print version of an article (i.e., a Microsoft Word or PDF version of the submitted manuscript), while others allow the archiving of an actual PDF file of the published article, with the copy-editing and formatting done by the press. And various journals attach restrictions to these permissions.

For example, by searching for the Journal of the Early Republic on RoMEO, I learned that I could put the Publisher’s Version/PDF of an article in Rice’s DSA, so long as I waited until 12 months after the article appeared and so long as I honored the Press’s request to credit them for the original publication. By clicking through the link provided to the University of Pennsylvania Press’s own page on its archive policies, I also found a set copyright notice that I was required to attach to the archived work. (Click here to see an image of what this actually looked like on RoMEO.)

I also learned that another article I published in American Quarterly could probably be put up, but that I should contact the publisher to check. I sent an email and heard back the next day that I could post it, along with a credit. I think it’s also a good idea (and a courtesy) to confirm RoMEO’s results by emailing even those publishers who don’t require an email, so I also wrote the JER to make sure I was reading the policy correctly. I easily found the relevant email addresses on both journals’ homepages, and it was also reassuring that the JER’s homepage contained a link to the same Press policies on “Self-Archiving and Digital Repositories” linked to by RoMEO.

In short, faculty interested in using Rice’s repository should not regard difficulty of use as a barrier; the couple of questions I had were quickly answered by librarians and/or RoMEO and my publishers. One additional thing I learned is that to make these links available to people off campus, the “https” in the URL needs to be changed to “http.” But now, with just a little bit of work, I have two of my published articles, my dissertation (which I have the copyright to), and most of my conference papers available on the DSA. Click on the link below to see the list:

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