Sunday, May 17, 2015

Indian Epics: books books and more books

So, I really had not planned on getting this amazing grant from Univ. of Oklahoma Libraries to support OER development for my Indian Epics class, and I am still just trying to figure out the best strategies to use! And what a great dilemma that is to have!!! I've got a core of public domain content since that was all I expected to have... but now I've got a chance to go beyond that public domain content to do even more. In this blog post I'll try to summarize where I'm at with that right now and where I'm headed. Plus, since rethinking the content for that class (creating something like the "UnTextbook" in my Myth-Folklore class) is my "subjective" for #Rhizo15, I'm sharing this post with the rhizo world.


The obvious first choice was the complete set of Amar Chitra Katha comic books, and that is moving full speed ahead. I had already bought a complete set of those comic books for myself in April, and it was that event which actually set in motion the process of getting the grant. I had craved those comic books for years and years, and when the price plunged ($399 for all 300+ comic books, and free shipping from Mumbai... usual price was over $1000), I grabbed a set just for myself. Then, the wonderful Stacy Zemke, OER goddess in our Library, suggested that we could maybe get the Library to buy a set... and that evolved into me applying for the OER grant. My comic books (not shown: the hardback-bound Mahabharata and Bhagavatam which are on a separate shelf).

Meanwhile, the Library's set of comic books will reach Norman this week (it left Mumbai on May 13), and I am happily creating reading guides for the comic books, both to help my students choose the ones they want to read (I am so curious which ones will be most popular!) and also to create OER materials (CC-licensed, etc.). The comic books are not OER, but the reading guides I am writing definitely are! I've been sharing them with the ACK Twitter account and I am hoping to make some real contacts at ACK as this project evolves.


So, that's $400 for the comic books in the Library, and that leaves $2100 in the grant... which sounds to me like so much money!!! I'd like to get a copy of the 5-hour Mahabharata by Peter Brook for students to watch; let's say that will be around $100 (yes, it's crazy: the 5-hour DVD version is really hard to find and really expensive if/when you did find it). The Library is investigating whether we can get streaming privileges for either the 3-hour or 5-hour version... and I'd be willing to pony up $500 for that (although I am guessing Parabola Media will demand more than that, in which case I am not interested).


After Peter Brook's film, then there is $2000 or maybe $1600 still left. What to do with that...? What I am thinking is that I would like to buy and equip 4 Kindles for Library reserve checkout, loading them up with Kindle books so that the students' Kindle Library would match up with my extensive Kindle collection of India-related books, and that way they could then choose what they might want to read. Since I try to design reading selections that take 1-2 hours to read and write up, then the Library Reserve option could work perfectly for this, and I am guessing 4 Kindles would be plenty for a class that usually has 30 students and even 40-45 students (since I'd like to start shifting enrollment so that I get equal numbers in India and Myth-Folklore).

I'm just speculating in the dark now since I really don't know how Kindles work in our Library, although I will not be the first person to have done something like this (for example, I found this Kindle-textbook initiative at the Library website).

But just to get the discussion going, I'm guessing the Library would ask me to buy the Kindles; let's say those run $120. So, 4 of those Kindles is appx. $500. That leaves me $1100 or $1500 to spend on books! Right now my wish list would look something like what you see below: about $250 total.

SO THAT WOULD WORK: I could load up separate copies on four Kindles of all the books here! I also need to check and see if maybe we have some of these books in hard copy in the Library already. So, there could be hard copies on reserve also.


appx. $20 - Audible only:
William Buck. Ramayana. ($15)
Devdutt Pattanaik. Seven Secrets of Shiva. ($4)

appx. $80 - Kindle + Audible 
(I see there are big discounts for Whispersync combos!)
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Palace of Illusions. ($12 + $5 audio)
John Jackson. Brahma Dreaming. ($6 + $3 audio)
Devdutt Pattanaik. Jaya: Mahabharata. ($10 + $6 audio)
Indra Parthasarathy. Krishna Krishna. ($3 + $5 audio)
Bulbul Sharma. Ramayana. ($8 + $17 audio)

appx. $150 - Kindle:
Ashok Banker. Ramayana. ($10)
Krishna Dharma. Mahabharata. ($8)
Krishna Dharma. Ramayana. ($8)
Maggi Lidchi Grassi. The Great Golden Sacrifice. ($25)
Anil Menon. Breaking the Bow. ($4)
Ramesh Menon. Mahabharata. ($7)
Ramesh Menon. Ramayana. ($10)
Ramesh Menon. Blue God. ($4)
R. K. Narayan. Mahabharata. ($10)
R. K. Narayan. Ramayana. ($11)
Patrick Olivelle. Panchatantra. ($6)
Devdutt Pattanaik. Pashu. ($5)
Devdutt Pattanaik. Book of Ram. ($10)
Carole Satyamurti. Mahabharata. ($20)
Ashwin Sanghi. Krishna Key / Rozabal Line ($9)


Looking at that list, WOW, I am so excited: I would love (love love LOVE) for students to be choosing things to read from those books, with me writing up reading guides to help them find what they are looking for... and of course that is on top of the COMIC BOOKS... and it is also on top of the PUBLIC DOMAIN materials I already found (see my Ramayana: Public Domain Edition for a taste of that).

I have lots of questions about just how this works practically speaking with the Kindles, and one of my most important questions is whether the Kindles can be linked to a Twitter account so that students can TWEET THEIR HIGHLIGHTS. Fingers crossed.

Anyway, I'm hoping that I can start coordinating with Stacy and all the great people in the Library to see how this will work. One of the things I like about this Kindle strategy is that, for the most part, these books are not really expensive, so if someone decides they really like a book, buying a Kindle copy for themselves is not a big deal, esp. since there are no textbooks at all required for the course. And a Kindle book you can read on basically ANY mobile device OR on a desktop. I use the Kindle desktop cloud reader a lot!

So, a gorgeous book like Divakaruni's Palace of Illusions is one that would work for four weeks' worth of reading in the class... and if a student didn't want the hassle of going to the Library Reserve room, well, it's just $12 for the Kindle book, or they could get a used paperback for just $5, and that would take them through four weeks of the class. But they can also just read it on reserve in the Library, no problem. (Almost all of my students live in Norman or nearby.)


So where's the OER in all of this? The idea is that I will be writing up the Reading Guides to go with all these materials, helping the students to find the materials that interest them. And seriously, just getting right books in the hands of the right students is a huge challenge, but a fun one. This is all new to most of the students, so I can't just say "choose" without helping them to see what's there!

The Guides also will build up a body of open reference material for the class (and for anybody!) to supplement the abundant materials at Wikipedia. For a sense of how that works, see the Guides to the comic books that I have written so far: Amar Chitra Katha Comic Book Guides.  Some of them are incredibly rich sources for stories that are not easily found elsewhere, like Ancestors of Rama: A Noble Inheritance (a retelling of portions of Kalidasa's Raghuvamsha), or Vishvamitra: The King Who Became an Ascetic, just to take two examples.

I'm publishing the ACK Comic Book Guides there at a blog, and I'll have the Book Reading Guides at a separate blog (my old guides for Buck and Narayan are there already), and the posts at both of those blogs are CC-licensed, which is one of the terms (a good one!) of the Library's OER grant.

Okay, I am clearly getting too excited now. I need to go make dinner, calm down...... and then get all excited again this evening when I do some more work on the guides! Whoo-hoo!!!!!!

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