Using new-ish technology to do old things – the reading pack

Despite my interest in using new technology and media in class (such as my youtube project ) I’ve decided over the last week or so to produce an old fashioned hot-bound printed out reading pack for my anthropology class next year, to be published by our reprographics unit and sold at cost. There are a couple of reasons why I’m doing this, but the chief one is that some students complained about the lack of a textbook, which given the scope of the course (including biological, cultural, archaeological and linguistic anthropology) was fairly inevitable. Also some readings towards the end of the course are mandatory and I gave out the photocopies last year, so this is just a step up from that. As my reading list mainly consisted of chapters from seperate books, and as under the CLA I’m allowed to photocopy a chapter per book a reading pack seems a viable and legal option.

Also producing something like this gives me a chance to introduce each reading, include a few questions and so on. By producing the document myself (repro say I can send them the digital file for printing) I have the option to produce a large print version, for example, if needed.

I thought I’d put this blog post together to see how new (and newish) technology (scanners, OCR, editing software etc. ) can help me carry out this task compared with the tippex, sellotape and letroset of old!

Before starting the laborious process of scanning the documents I wanted to see which file format to use. Our scanner defaults to pdf but my gut feeling is that this isn’t best, certainly for editing! A quick look around and .tiff looks pretty good and gives me the option of OCR within MS Office, which is very handy.

I’ll be updating this post as i go along, as I expect to be working on this for a few weeks and I don’t really want lots of posts on the topic.

*** update ***

after a couple of hours of fiddling about I’ve got it sussed and I’m very happy with the product so far. I’m not sure if i’m doing things in the most efficient way, but there’s always a tension between doing things in a way that works and spending the time to find a better way!

so at the moment i’m scanning in the documents as tiffs (will go to compressed tiffs from now as the file sizes are getting huge) and opening them with MS Office Document Imaging (from office tools) and running the OCR to auto rotate and straighten. Then I save and upload into OneNote which then enables me to cut and paste into Word. Once in word I can crop each image (which is great as it gets rid of the huge black lines and bits of other pages and my hand that otherwise show up).

I can now edit the word document to produce my reading pack, voila! File size looks like it might be an issue though as I’m at 100MB for 50 odd pages, but compressing the .tiffs should help with that.

Doing all this has made me reflect on OER though. Old fashioned copyright gets a hard time, but it’s within a perfectly legal framework (the CLA) that I’m essentially repurposing copyright material into a new format. I’m actively encouraging students to seek out the originals, so don’t weep for the publishers just yet, but it does raise some questions:

  • What is the copyright status of the reading pack itself? Obviously I’m charging students for the cost of producing it (about 7 quid by the looks of things), but what if i wanted to make a profit? (i don’t, just hypothetical!)
  • What happens if i make the reading pack available as a pdf in my VLE? To the public?
  • Is scanning and cropping the images materially different to photocopying? If I start to add commentary or correct american spellings how will that affect the copyright status?



About digitalscholar

I am a sociologist with an interest in new technology. Previously I’ve worked on a number of projects at Lancaster University and the Open University looking at the use of new technologies and social media by researchers. I was also a social sciences teaching fellow at the foundation centre at Durham University teaching sociology and anthropology. I am now a senior lecturer at the University of West London's Institute for Teaching, Innovation and Learning where I oversee the foundation provision and support retention. I'm sure I'll still be interested in, and occasionally blog about, tech related things. I use this blog to post thoughts about using new technologies in my professional academic life and wider thoughts and links relating to technology more generally.
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