Baker is an ideal site for the development of new media and digital humanities projects because we implemented an AQIP (Academic Quality Improvement Program—a method of accreditation through North Central that requires constant improvement and assessment) program for our composition classes. Part of this program requires us to seek out methods to incorporate technology in and for writing across our campuses. To do this, we not only hold training at the campus level as described above, but hold a once-a-year conference where all composition faculty members meet and share best practices—both for writing and new media use. This has done much of the work in creating a culture of sharing amongst our faculty as they have begun to teach the new curriculum implemented nearly two years ago. We help them create a support network of similar instructors at similar institutions, and have them share some of their best technology practices across campuses. We cannot force instructors to spend money to go to local or national conferences, but can pay them to come to one day of similar value.
This conference also encourages instructors to try new things in hopes of getting to present about them at the next yearly conference. In this way we also develop a participatory cultural convergence of our own: we take things we learn outside of our school, bring them into our classrooms, make them our own, and then share them amongst ourselves.
Although what I refer to here as “Maker” logic is in all reality a framework constructed to explain the ways that open enrollment institutions may begin to use new media and participatory culture more effectively, I believe the spirit of the current technological do-it-yourself movement both online and in real life is one that we would be wise to adopt. Open enrollment institutions are often filled with people whom the academy sees as “regular folk”--adjuncts, non-traditional students, minority populations, etc.—that don’t make up a large percentage of academia. However, just like the regular everyday people who create amazing technological feats for Maker Faires, I believe that open enrollment instructors and students can do the same through convergence media in their classes. I believe convergence media and do-it-yourselfism are ideal matches for the needs of open enrollment students and faculty alike.
I have gotten the sense, from time to time, that the larger world of computers and composition, new media, and digital humanities scholars don’t always believe that instructors at community colleges and open enrollment institutions can “do” new media or the digital humanities on their own. Yes, these instructors are more likely to be adjuncts and more likely to be “freeway flyers,” working at many different schools, and they may be less likely to have PhDs, but this does not particularly mean that they are less likely to want to teach using technology, employ the digital humanities, or have students do new media projects.
One of the questions prompted by this issue of Computers and Composition Online is what the traditional university can do for the community college or private open enrollment institution in terms of helping them with new media instruction. I’m loathe to say “Nothing” since I am well aware that my own presence at my current institution is one of the reasons that we have support to design and create new media assignments. However, I am also well aware that many of my instructors would not welcome intrusion by University “people” seeking to teach them how to do their classes better.
This is not to say that there is not an answer as to how University academics can “help” though. One of the natural fallouts of the current academic job market is that more people with PhDs and good experience in teaching with technology will end up working for community colleges and a wide variety of private open enrollment institutions. We’re also happy to welcome PhD students who are seeking additional experience during their degrees into our teaching ranks. Additionally, although discounts for adjuncts to major conferences are already usually available, these should be the norm in order to make it less costly for instructors that want to learn and whose institutions don’t offer them training to learn the current best practices for new media teaching. The schools I am most familiar with (the one I worked at as well as those in the surrounding area) do a good job of offering funding to adjuncts wanting to attend and present at big conferences, but we could all do a better job of finding out what really great stuff our adjuncts are doing and encouraging them to apply to present about it.
But perhaps most importantly, we should not assume what is not happening in other schools just because we cannot see it or just because those teachers aren’t busy publishing about it or presenting about it. Those of us who find ourselves working in a community college or open enrollment school can do new media work, even if it means finding ways of using new media logic without the full Adobe Creative Suite.
William Gibson wrote “‘the street finds uses for things” (as cited in Gellatly, O’Rourke, Strapagiel, & Vandezande, 2010, “The Street Finds Uses for Things,” para. 2). As James Arlen, a Maker notes, “whatever the original purpose was….whatever the marketer intended, might not be the way that it turned out. And that’s where we are. So that was 20 years ago,’ he says, ‘What’s going to happen in another 20 years?’” (Gellatly, O’Rourke, Strapagiel, & Vandezande, 2010, “The Street Finds Uses for Things,” para. 2). The street makes uses for things, and teachers make uses of classes and schools. A teacher who wants to use new media in her classroom can and should find a way—no matter where or what that school is. If a conservative private business college can be a place where students play with cameras, build websites, and swede videos, what could your school be?