December 16, 2013

Google Sites, Diigo, and the Storybook Archive

I just finished one of my very favorite tasks that happens at the end of each semester: I added the links of the Storybooks from this semester to the LONG lists of links for my Myth-Folklore Storybook archive and my Indian Epics archive. Then, I also updated the randomizing widget which shows some great Storybooks at random for each class separately (you see that widget at the top of each list) and which can also show Storybooks at random which you can see from both classes, as on the homepage of my wiki. All told, the process takes several hours, but it is a pure pleasure from start to finish.

This screenshot below shows a Storybook newly added from the Fall semester of Myth-Folklore:

And this screenshot happens to show a Storybook from Indian Epics year before last:

Given that I have now made Diigo a regular part of my content management process, I have also bookmarked all the Storybooks in Diigo and plan to start using tags there to sort and label them by both content and style. That is my next big project in fact! Diigo does handily let me know that I have over 500 Storybooks bookmarked there. That's a really good feeling; almost all the students do leave their projects online for future students to consult, and I am so grateful to them for sharing their work after the class is over.

It's an especially good feeling having all these Storybooks in the archive since it was about three years ago that my school's IT department deleted, without warning, almost all the Storybook websites that my students had built at (the IT-provided web hosting I relied on, woe is me). At that time, I had over 1000 Storybooks in the archive, seven years' worth of student work - all thrown into the digital trash can by my school just a few days before the start of the school year. That was the worst day ever in my career as an online instructor!

Slowly but surely, though, the archive has recovered, and I have more confidence in Google Sites than I ever will in a service provided by my school, based on that terrible experience of losing my archive without warning. I know that Google Sites is not forever, but when the time comes to migrate and/or rebuild my archive, I am ready to do that again, hopeful that Google will give me more warning than my school did. More importantly, I am confident that there is ALWAYS wonderful work that my students are creating, if I can just find a way to capture and preserve that somehow. It's the single best thing I know of for inspiring future students to aim just as high, or higher! Unlike Rebecca Schuman (see her delightfully provocative article in Slate: The End of the College Essay), I love reading my students' writing, and the Storybook archive is a source of nothing but pride and joy for me, year after year after year.

Postscriptum: I just sat here for a few minutes, banging away on the widget and watching the brand-new Storybooks from this semester pop up at random together with Storybooks from last year and the year before (it's a javascript widget built with Time moves on - and yes, this Fall semester is now really over and receding into the past . . . but with a wonderful new semester to come, and I'm already excited about what new Storybooks will take shape then!

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