I found Frankenbook last year following a Google search for an open access edition of Frankenstein for my freshman writing course at the University of Dayton. Discovering the scholarly research attached to the offering made my decision to use Frankenbook easy. Now my students could benefit from the availability of the novel plus STEAM-based annotations and essays designed to stimulate and appeal to a range of interests. The PubPub team addressed my sole area of concern, student privacy, by creating a private class channel for my students to use.
Over the next two semesters, I familiarized students in four different writing courses with the concept of open source materials and introduced them to our Frankenbook class channel on PubPub. While some students experienced a few hiccups in the initial orientation period of the first semester, these were either the result of student error when registering for PubPub access, or due to technical issues that were readily resolved by the PubPub team. Student success in navigating and interacting with the site also increased over the two semesters in relation to my ability to more precisely offer navigational guidance and tailored assignments to directly referencing specific annotations and essays.
In terms of feedback, students appreciated the availability of the electronic version and the accompanying research, along with the fact that it is free. No matter where students found themselves, they could retrieve Frankenbook using their computer or their phone, and this flexibility was well-noted. Likewise, students emphatically embraced the savings represented by not requiring the purchase of a text.
In a composition class, it can be difficult to inspire frequent writing, and students were positively motivated to generate annotations after reading intriguing posts from academics, knowing that peers might review and comment on their thoughts. Furthermore, they enjoyed interacting with each other by reading and responding to classmate’s posts, and due to the site’s unlimited space for writing, skills developed correspondingly.
The only drawbacks students mentioned were from those who preferred reading in print, and those who had already read Frankenstein in high school wished for a different book. I addressed the former in the second semester by offering the MIT published and printed version (including the scholarly annotations and essays) for students to purchase as a companion to the digitalized source. No one ended up purchasing it. The other issue, related to the potential for repeating a book that students may have already read, is less easily addressed, as Frankenbook is the only source of its kind at this point.
The increased facility, engagement, and development students experienced in my courses are testaments to the value of creating and making available these types of open access annotated resources, now more than ever.