It’s the last day of classes at the DHO/NINES Summer Workshop, and things are beginning to wind down. I assisted Laura Mandell in leading the XSLT class, in which we threw out a dizzying amount of material and hoped to help some projects get their XML transformations in order.
Teaching an XSLT class was a new experience for me. I’m very comfortable in front of the art history classroom, armed with my slides and my various teaching points. XSLT required a completely different set of skills, not least of them the ability to troubleshoot the various approaches each student took to transform the same material. Instead of lecturing about the proper way to do things, Laura and I devoted most of our time to teaching the students how to identify where the process had gone wrong. We won’t be able to sit with them and guide them through future project-specific stylesheets, but we can demonstrate our own tried and true methods for pinpointing issues. In the end, the students walked away with a set of templates to adapt to their own work, and, hopefully, a better way to manipulate their XML.
Many of us have learned XSLT in spurts, solving the problems as they arose. I’m heartened to be a part of a workshop that gives digital humanists a better overview of their tools, and saves them a lot of solitary frustration. They’ll still need a manual, but perhaps it will be slightly more comprehensible when they do!