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This post was originally published on July 23, 2012.

 

Have you ever longed for a place on the Web where ideas for new basic writing course materials would be easily and readily available? Happily, such a virtual site now exists. Professor Elizabeth Baldridge, a basic writing teacher/scholar at Illinois Central College, has created CBW Resource Share, a new Web page with links to downloadable basic writing assignments, activities, and other resources.

 

For years, teacher and scholars of basic writing have generously shared resources for assignments, course activities, and other pedagogical materials. Yet the circumstances for sharing presume privileges of time, financial resources, and institutional support. What happens, for instance, if we are hired at the last minute to teach a course at places, times, and days where colleagues may be few and far between, or if our modest paychecks make conference attendance prohibitively expensive? The virtual archive was created to ameliorate this sense of isolation, as well as to provide a central location for sharing our work in a do-it-yourself (DIY) space for professional development.

 

The Wiktionary (Wikipedia dictionary) defines DIY as follows: “To perform oneself a task usually relegated to an expert.” At the same time, a DIY ethos, with deep roots in punk rock culture, encourages a leveling of hierarchies so that we can create opportunities to become experts ourselves, as a discussion on the CBW listserv in 2011 made clear. Examples of DIY projects include self-producing and distributing ’zines and albums, knitting and repurposing used clothing, starting bicycle repair cooperatives and homegrown vegetable gardens, and, as Jason Dockter suggests, open access scholarship.

 

Professor Baldridge describes the CBW Resource Share as “the currently under-construction home of the CBW resource share site that will someday, with your contributions and participation, be amazing.” In other words, as part of the DIY ethic, the success of the archive becomes part of a collective activity, an ongoing process in which any of us may take part in building a stronger community for basic writing. Connecting to this virtual community affords us both the pleasure and responsibility of asking yet another question as we peruse our teaching artifacts: Who else might benefit from these materials? How can I reach out to colleagues from other communities?

 

We may wonder how we may begin to make these judgments, or perhaps more significantly, why we might wish to ask ourselves such questions. We may feel too overwhelmed with the task at hand or we may question our own levels of expertise. Yet an unfortunate aspect of teaching basic writing for many of us is that we, along with our students, may often be made to feel that we are not experts at all. People outside the field have increasingly come to define who we are supposed to be, what we are supposed to do, and how we are supposed to do it. To question those definitions may invite immediate calamity—yet our questioning can also allow us to shape the future.

 

As the virtual archive grows, we can strengthen the web of connectivity for ourselves as a field and contribute to the promise of great teaching for all of our students. The promise of creating a better world remains a significant tenet for DIY and allows us to imagine a brighter future for the multiple and intersected worlds of basic writing. We owe ourselves this much—and we owe our students even more. Raising the bar for our field has the deep potential to enrich our students’ educations and to enrich ourselves as teachers/scholars, as we continue to learn from our students and strive toward positive and sustainable educational change.

 

[Image source: Scott Lewis, DIY-renovators | Flickr - Photo Sharing! ]

profile-image-display.jspa?imageID=2353&size=1000Today’s guest blogger is Kim Haimes-Korn (see end of post for bio).

 

With all of my multimodal teaching, I do admit that I still hold on to the idea of paper assessment for multimodal projects.  Part of this is due to the fear that when it comes time for grading I will not be able to access students’ work on their blogs. The other is the affirming experience (for students and teachers) of collecting tangible evidence that they have completed their work.  I have come to feel comfort in the ritual of collecting student folders at the end of the term and looking them in the eye and asking, “Is everything here... to the best of your knowledge?  They answer with an accomplished, “yes.” I even ritualistically break out my rolling suitcase for the occasion to drag them all home.

 

In one of my earlier blog posts I discussed the use of academic blogs, and I have come to use them in almost all of my classes.  Students’ shape multimodal compositions for multiple audiences and purposes and include deep links, detailed context and connections that don’t often come across on the printed page.  In the past I had students print out screen captures of their home page and media content and make document copies of their blog posts.   Lately students vocally resist printing (many of them don’t even own printers anymore).   I have plenty of theories regarding their resistance to printing but I realized that in their world, as digital natives, this is the norm and that they were perfectly comfortable with electronic submission and online evaluation.   I am listening . . . and examined my own resistance to this shift (as a digital immigrant) and decided to try to restructure my evaluation models to be more multimodal.  

 

I still believe that it is important for students to be held accountable in a physical world for some things.  This also keeps the agency where it belongs – with the students—to check, articulate and organize their work over a semester.  I use a couple of tools and assignments that help me maintain this agency and provide structure and overview when reviewing multimodal student work. 

 

1. Revising the blogs

Near the end of the semester, I ask students to return to the work they have completed over the term.  This assignment asks students to move from a series of isolated blog posts to a larger collection with patterns and connections.  It helps them understand the blurred line between classroom and public spaces for writing and teaches them deep revising practices beyond textual editing.  I ask them to

  • return their posts and revise them for engaging writing, audience awareness embedded links, proper citation and a rhetorical awareness of their digital identity
  • go back and examine and craft the online identity for their blog and incorporate ideas and images from their work in the class
  • revise their About page they created in the beginning of the term and re-see their purposes and authorial personae through the eyes of their purposes and journey through the course. 

When students composed their original posts, their classmates were their primary audience.  This revision should take into account the shift towards a more public audience in which the blog stands on its own in a digital space.  This includes reshaping titles, adding captions to images, embedding links, and perhaps defining terms that are specific to the classroom discourse community.  See my assignment,  Revising Your Blog Guidelines (Kim Haimes-Korn) for guidelines and criteria.

 

2. Reflective Narrative

I modified a reflective narrative assignment to act as both a final reflection on their work for the class and as a final post in their course blogs. Students read back through their posts from the semester and create a closure (or continuation) piece for their blogs for a public audience. I ask them to closely examine the subject matter and the connections they made in the class and explore how they are reading across the texts in their blog and connecting the concepts of the class in their writing and thinking.    I instruct them to draw upon and quote from their own writings and ideas and write a detailed account of the ways they have explored their ideas in the class through textual referencing. In this post, they must intentionally cross link to their earlier blog posts.   They can think of this reflection as an overview of what is included in their blogand write it as an extended introduction to the entries that follow or as a closure post in which they look back on what they have done. 

 

3. Annotated Bibliography and Abstract

This part of the assignment is very helpful when evaluating student work on their blogs.  Since I encourage students to give their blog posts engaging titles, this list identifies the assignment number, title and give a short abstract/summary of the work.  Not only does it help me in grading but it teaches them the form of the Annotated Bibliography and online citation practices and prepares them to create short abstracts of their work for metadata and other academic purposes.

 

4. Statement of Self-Evaluation This statement should NOT appear on students’ blogs. I am the only audience – teacher as evaluator – for this writing.  Students write an evaluation of their work and performance and in the class. They create a detailed portrait of themselves as  working writers and evaluate their progress with justification from their writings (by citing particular movements in their texts, style, etc.).   Students also need to complete the student evaluation (SE) portions of the rubric for a "Portfolio Evaluation" Sheet by returning to the criteria introduced in the class.. These holistic marks should be reflected in this Statement of Self Evaluation.

 

5. Rubric of Blog Contents and Description

When students complete the course, they must go through the checksheet on Rubric for Multimodal Assessment (Kim Haimes-Korn) and confirm submission on all of their blog posts and assignments. I also include evaluation criteria to help them define what constitutes strong work in this digital environment.

 

 

Reflections on the Activities:

Although I don’t collect all of their work, I ask students to complete the rubric checksheet, print the reflective narrative, Annotated Bibliography and Abstracts, and their Statement of Self-Evaluation.  I refer to their online documents and respond, in writing (either on the text or through electronic commentary for online submission) to the documents and fill out the teacher evaluation portion of the rubric while holistically marking it for assignment criteria to justify the grade. This gives students a way to remain accountable for their work and  teachers  a space to interact with their

multimodal projects.

 

We are still in the process of understanding what it means to teach in multimodal classrooms.  As teachers, we need to consider the ways this changes our pedagogical approaches and student-teacher relationships.  It is important that we consider new approaches to assessment and evaluation that honor this shift and allow us to expand our definitions and practices. . . and to leave the rolling suitcases at home.

 

Guest blogger Kim Haimes-Korn is a Professor in the Digital Writing and Media Arts (DWMA) Department at Kennesaw State University. Kim’s teaching philosophy encourages dynamic learning, critical digital literacies and focuses on students’ powers to create their own knowledge through language and various “acts of composition.” She likes to have fun every day, return to nature when things get too crazy and think deeply about way too many things.  She loves teaching. It has helped her understand the value of amazing relationships and boundless creativity.  You can reach Kim at khaimesk@kennesaw.edu or visit her website Acts of Compositio