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! ]