Some tips on getting answers to email

Email is the bane of academic life. All of us hate it; most of us are very bad at answering it. If you edit a journal, it is even worse, since you need people to answer their email in a timely fashion.

At the Centre for the Study of Scholarly Communication Journal Incubator, getting people to answer email is what we do. Here are some tips we’ve found useful.

Lyrics for annotation

These are lyrics for the annotation exercises.

Phonetic spelling exercise

This exercise is an experiment in “phonetic” spelling, that is to say the use of orthography to capture sound.

In doing this, we are trying to get a sense for how people in previous eras might have used one spelling system to transcribe another language—e.g. use French spelling to write Middle English, or adapt Latin letters to spell Germanic languages.

This is not an exercise in the use of modern Phonetic Alphabets (e.g. IPA). If you know phonetic transcription, try to ignore that knowledge here. Read the rest of this entry »

More on KISS and Tell Grading

I’ve now implemented my ideas about a modified version of Specifications-based grading and Standards-Based grading, as I discussed in an earlier blog posting.

I also have a much better understanding of the economics of it. This blog posting is a note about how it works.

A reminder of the problem

First a reminder of the basic issue: I believe that students tend to seize up from traditional grading mechanisms that rate them from Excellent to Poor. At the University of Lethbridge, this method causes students to become intellectually defensive and conservative to an extend I consider an academic offence: they are so scared of bad grades that they would rather do what they think you want than what they think is interesting, correct, or advances knowledge—an approach that I find difficult to distinguish from plagiarism in terms of its effect on the advancement of knowledge.

There is at least some research that shows that students do better work when they are graded pass/ Read the rest of this entry »

Harpers on the wonders of the telegraph and typewriter… and the rightful place of philologists.

From the conclusion of a great article in Harper’s on the Telegraph :

The immense extension of the general telegraphic system, and its common use for business and social correspondence and the dissemination of public intelligence, are far more important to the community than any of these incidental applications of the system. The telegraph system is extending much more rapidly than the railroad system, and is probably exerting even a greater influence upon the mental development of the people than the railroad is exerting in respect to the material and physical prosperity of the country. It has penetrated almost every mind with a new sense of the vastnessof distance and the value of time. It is commonly said that it has annihilated time and space—and this is true in a sense; but in a deeper sense it has magnified both, for it has been the means of expanding vastly the inadequate conceptions which we form of space and distance, and of giving a significance to the idea Read the rest of this entry »

Emailing previous semester classes

In a previous post, I discussed how to customise your class space and class mailing lists at the U of L. Something I didn’t mention there is that you can email previous semester classes as well, if you know how the mailing list aliases work.

Every current semester class can be emailed by the instructor and his/her delegates at an address in the following format:, where SUBJ is the four letter subject code for the class (e.g. in most of my cases, engl for English), NNNN is the four digit number (e.g. 3450 in the case of Old English), and S is the section letter (usually a, but could be n for evening classes, or a latter between a and n for additional sections). So in semesters when I am teaching Old English, for example, I can email the class using the address engl3450auleth. Read the rest of this entry »

English 3450a: Old English (Spring 2015)

Note: This was published to the wrong URL. See for the updated syllabus.

If there’s such a thing as “computing for humanists” is there also such a thing as “humanities for computer scientists?” On implementing interdisciplinarity in the Digital Humanities

This is a just a brief initial thought piece on a question I’ve been asking colleagues about, from whom I’ve not heard the answer I want.

The Digital Humanities is an interdisciplinary field that involves the intersection of computation and the humanities. That means, amongst other things, that neither computation nor humanities is primary to the discipline but both must be present in some way or another. In this way, the Digital Humanities is different from, say, the “History of Science” (History is primary) or “Cognitive approaches to cultural understanding” (Cognitive science is primary).

In actual practice, for most of its life as DH and in its earlier form, Humanities Computing, DH has been mostly the domain of humanists. The people have been located in Humanities departments and the projects have in many ways been developments from and extensions of humanities research. So while Digital Humanities, in terms of content, is more “digit Read the rest of this entry »

A “Thought Piece” on Digital Space as Simulation and the Loss of the Original

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A “Thought-Piece” on Digital Space as Simulation and the Loss of the Original: Final Paper for Dr. O’Donnell’s English 4400: Digital Humanities, Fall 2014

          In beginning to think about how I could integrate theory into my final project, I recalled Kim Brown, the DH Maker-Bus, and how she spoke about how her workshops with children have prompted kids to ask “big questions”. It occurred to me that the way in which humanists approach their own work is often very dependent on the ways humanity and culture are defined. It also occurred to me that now, more than ever, humanity and technology are converging. In this paper I want to explore the ways technology and the digital are seen as “copies” of an “original”. Drawing on theories post-humanism and post-modernism I will discuss technology and the internet as simulation. This paper will examine technophobia in the humanities and look to Jean Baudrillard’s theories of simulacra, si Read the rest of this entry »

Some quick notes on citation practice for undergraduates

Students seem always to get very nervous about citation… and, interestingly, perhaps through that nervousness, end up doing it in ways that professional scholars don’t.

Here are some tips that pros use for citation that undergraduates tend not to know:

Plagiarism is not a property crime.

Many students treat citations as, in essence, payment for ideas. Read the rest of this entry »

English 3401: What I did/did not know about medieval English culture (revised assignment)


Read J. A. Burrow, Medieval writers and their work: Middle English literature and its background 1100-1500 and write a brief essay discussing some aspect of high Medieval English life, art, or culture that intrigues you. This might involve

About posters

I increasingly use posters in my classes as a way of encouraging collaboration and the development of a research community.

Although posters have long been used in the Natural Sciences, some Social Sciences, and the Digital Humanities, they are only beginning to appear in more traditional humanities disciplines.

This post provides some resources for discovering how to design posters and explains my general policies.

How to make posters

Although students make posters throughout Grade School, Middle School, and High School, research posters of the kind used at University are slightly different in format and design. Read the rest of this entry »

About blogs

In many of my courses you will be expected to maintain a blog. Postings will be required from you most weeks. And every so often you may be asked to review and/or comment on your blog postings and those of your class mates.

The following are some general notes on how I use blogs in my classes and what you will be expected to do. These notes are to be read on conjunction with the class syllabus, which may include additional instructions, rules, expectations, or limitations.

Grading methods

I use several different types of grading in my courses. This post explains what they are and how they work.

A+ through F (Grade Point)

This is the traditional grading system used at North American Universities. I use this system primarily for grading summative exercises (i.e. Read the rest of this entry »

Current academic policies

The following are my current academic policies. This site also contains older versions of these and other academic policies. Only the policies listed on this page are current, however.

This page and the pages it links to are considered a part of your syllabus. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!

Current Policies


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