sharing teaching resources

Five years ago when a few savvy instructors rushed to integrate the Web into their teaching and put their syllabi online the idea exchange so crucial to academia was alive and well in the teaching realm of our work. A few years later, witness how various password-protected courseware adopted by so many campuses is making it increasingly impossible to see othersí teaching materials. Sure, some people may not want to share their syllabi, but I suspect many wouldnít mind. Regardless, the increasing proliferation of these services makes the teaching side of our work less and less visible to a wider audience.

The basic idea behind open source is very simple: When programmers can read, redistribute, and modify the source code for a piece of software, the software evolves. People improve it, people adapt it, people fix bugs. And this can happen at a speed that, if one is used to the slow pace of conventional software development, seems astonishing.

In terms of web resources, what do those who teach courses in English need that a committed group of bloggers might create? I’m not talking about software, mind you, but I’m agreeing with the assumption that the open source philosophy can be successfully applied to all kinds of projects. We’re all going to be coming up with course materials anyway. Why not collaborate or at least share?

Jack Lynch, who doesn’t have a blog but should, has an impressive Guide to Grammar and Style that might prove useful as well as an unfinished Glossary of Literary and Rhetorical Terms. I have a brief guide to the mechanics of quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing in MLA style. Of course, materials like these are widely available in print, but when so many of us are creating websites for our courses, it is more than a little convenient to be able to link directly directly to information that students will find helpful.

Would it make sense to create a group blog devoted to teaching English language and literature, one where ideas could be exchanged, resources shared, pointers to already existing sites posted, websites collaboratively created?

Consider these questions:

  • What have you created that you’d like to share with others?
  • What have you found on the web that has been most useful in your teaching?
  • What have you not found that you wish were out there? What’s on your wish list?

Can we work to make these things available without taking an inordinate amount of time out of our already busy schedules?

Update 1: And if you think this is a good idea, please mention this post in your blog to increase the chances that potentially interested parties, who may or may not read my blog, find out about it.

Update 2: Okay, possibilities for format include a database (like DISC: A Disability Studies Academic Community, using MySQL) a blog (like the many group authored blogs out there using MovableType), a Wiki (like the Wikipedia), or some combination of such things.

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26 thoughts on “sharing teaching resources

  1. Quite honestly, I don’t think it would take a lot of work. You’ve already done a great job of bringing together some useful materials. In fact, I’ll likely refer my students to your handout on quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing in MLA style.
    We all have things on the web (well, I have a few things and they haven’t been updated in a while) that might be useful. A central clearinghouse blog might be a good way of keeping the material somewhat organized….

  2. I’m absolutely all for this. I’ve got my little cache of bookmarks (Jack Lynch prime among them), but am always surprised by the resources others manage to uncover out there. And I’m always plagued by the sense of reinventing the wheel every time I do something new. A group blog would be ideal, I think, for gathering extant resources and brainstorming new ones…

  3. Even beyond just sharing material or links to material, though, I’m imagining a forum in which people might *improve* upon the things they find. So someone might tweak my MLA handout, though I should make it available in something other than PDF for that to be likely to work. Or, should Lynch be open to it, we might collaboratively finish his Glossary of Literary and Rhetorical Terms.
    Use of Creative Commons licenses would probably be a good idea: http://creativecommons.org/

  4. Online Teaching Guides

    As George, Chuck, and I were discussing developing George’s idea for sharing teaching resources, Chuck passed along this handy link: a Guide to Literary and Critical Theory. In the overall conversation, we were brainstorming methods for developing on o…

  5. Sharing Teaching Resources

    In a recent entry, George proposes developing a collaboratively-authored blog for sharing resources for teaching English language and literature. George suggests that such a blog could function by the same logic as “open source” programming:I’m not tal…

  6. Sounds like a great idea! I find that as I’m prepping for class, I come up with so many ideas that I can’t incorporate but would love to post somewhere to share with others…kind of a “I can’t use this but perhaps you can revise it for your own purposes” bulletin board. It would help me, too, when I’m feeling blocked and can’t come up with a creative plan of my own. I’m especially interested in the idea of using open source philosophy to improve upon our ideas collectively, rather than each of us working alone to find new teaching techniques. I wonder if it would be a useful blog for students to read (and perhaps participate in?) too–could demystify the “teacher” role that we play and yet also emphasize that we practice what we preach in terms of peer review and constant revision of our own work.
    I’ll post about your idea and refer readers here…I would love to see this idea take shape!

  7. This is a great idea, and I would be enthused about participating, although I think the difficulty will come in unexpected ways. For instance, I’d love simply to use the MLA handout, but our library keeps the MLA books in a different place, so I’d need a separate version for my students.
    Obviously, that’s a trivial instance (although not so trivial since I don’t have the ability to edit pdf readily), but repeat an arbitrary number of times and it could quickly become onerous.

  8. I’m with Matt, I think, on the blogs-and-wikis question. With one exception — and I’m not sure how significant this is for conceiving of the project. While I like the *idea* of the wiki, I really hate them in the execution. (See Liz’s post on the subject on Many to Many, most of which I’d second — http://www.corante.com/many/20030401.shtml#31542 — as well as her followup at mamamusings — http://mamamusings.net/archives/2003/08/24/why_i_still_hate_wikis.php).
    While a blog is less editable, of course, it’s both organized and aesthetically appealing. Is there some way to combine the two that would allow for the group-writing aspects of the wiki with the organizational strategies of the blog?

  9. I don’t have any experience with wikis, but I’m willing to learn. I do think that it’s important for this type of resource to be pretty well organized and accessible, something that blogs clearly allow, especially utilizing MT’s search and category capabilities (Andrew Cline’s Rhetorica might be a good reference point for how soemthing like this kind of blog could be organized).
    I’d imagine that some combination would be possible, but I’ll leave that to the more technologically savvy folks out there…

  10. Sharing Resources

    George Williams has floated a very interesting idea regarding the use of social software (blogs, wikis, what-have-you) to share teaching resources for English language and literature. If you’re in those fields go check it out and join the discussion.

  11. And to mix it up a bit, we could always draw some community management ideas from message boards, which allow for anyone with an account to start a thread, with a level of moderators to help keep things on topic and clean, and the ‘wizard’ types to manage the overall site.
    I know wikis are sorta like that, but I have to admit that letting anyone with an accout go in and alter the primary document makes my OCD kick into high gear.
    I think that if we start collecting examples of what will appear on the site/blog/wiki/whatever, then it will be easier for us to decide on the data and community management software to use and/or develop.

  12. Slashcode is probably something else to throw into the mix, at least just to look at. Editorial control is going to be a biggie here, at least with anything other than a wiki: one way to approach it might be a rotating and ever-expanding team of editors (or moderators; call them whatever you like) who would receive and vet incoming submissions, any one of whom had the power to publish–i.e., the Slashdot model.

  13. Regarding an MLA handout and a mechanism for tweaking it… I released my own online MLA bibliography entry tool to “Common Text,” a website with a similar mission.
    http://commontext.org/node/view/46
    Is there something about my document, or about the CommonText website, that works against the kind of peer interaction George is advocating here? Just wondering.

  14. Blogging and Peer Review

    Brian Weatherson comments on Brian Leiter’s recent posts on whether or not academics should receive scholarly credit for writing in their blogs. Both Weatherson and Leiter agree that blogs can count as service, an opinion I certainly share. In fact,…

  15. I think this is a great idea, George, and I would be willing to help out. From the responses so far, it’s clear that people are cognizant of the many options and the potential pitfalls of different approaches.
    As for blog or wiki or whatever, I’d leave that to you all who know this stuff better. But we need not get bogged down in too much worrying about that to get something going. What about just saying for right now that we’ll use a blog, since that’s the method all parties seem familiar with? We can add a wiki later if it makes sense (and it may–like I said, I don’t know).
    Then the thing to decide is what to start collaborating on or submitting. I certainly have various exercises and assignments I have developed that I could post, but do we want to start with a limited field? (Like writing guides, in-class exercises, etc.) Just throwing the question out there….
    Jazzed about the idea, though, and willing to help out, if I can, regardless.

  16. Sharing Teaching Resources

    I’ve been following with great interest a conversation developing over at George’s place on the possibility of creating an open-source collection of resources for teaching literature. It now appears that the first iteration of such a project will be a …

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