Rams Write was founded by project co-directors Kristen Abbott Bennett (Assistant Professor, English Department) and Hedda Monaghan (Student Success and Assessment Librarian, Henry Whittemore Library). Our collaboration started during the Fall 2018 Faculty Orientation. Monaghan’s interests in developing projects that allow students to create impactful projects they can be proud of, and Bennett’s background in developing digital humanities pedagogies for projects including The Folger Shakespeare Library’s Digital Anthology of Early Modern English Drama, the University of Victoria's Map of Early Modern London, and The Kit Marlowe Project were clearly a great fit. We were both interested in developing opportunities for students to achieve digital literacies. Although our students may be digital natives, few have had the opportunity to think critically and metacognitively about how they acquire, digest, and use information they acquire online.
To date, student-scholarship in the digital humanities has thrived primarily in specialist discourses where instructors position students to conduct research and become “knowledge-makers.” But we believe that student-driven research-based learning and knowledge-making can and should happen at every level of the university curriculum.
Upon arrival at Framingham State University in Fall 2018, Bennett had drafted “maker-pedagogy” into her ENGL 100, “Introduction to Writing,” and ENGL 101, “Expository Writing” courses. The goal was to help students resolve problems they have in their writing by repositioning them as experts. To reach this goal, students would work collaboratively in groups to conduct research on their assigned topic, before creating a web exhibit offering problem/solution scenarios. Bennett had initially planned to create a WordPress site where the students’ audience would be their peers in both classes and, moving forward, subsequent writing classes. Monaghan suggested that the LibGuide platform would be a superior venue because librarians could offer robust support and there would be a clear way for the guide to be maintained after students were done; Bennett enthusiastically agreed. Additionally, working in the LibGuide platform underscored our research agenda by having added benefit of helping students familiarize themselves with library resources. The English Department’s Library Liaison Sandra Rothenberg helped get the proverbial ball rolling by researching (librarian-created) grammar-based LibGuides at outside institutions and generated a list of resources students could use as starting points.
Each exhibit has been created by students enrolled in Bennett’s First-Year Writing courses. Together, Bennett and Monaghan led workshops where students collaboratively learned how to use the LibGuide Editor to design and create their exhibits. Students created these exhibits for an audience of their peers. Each illustrates writing issues and offers links to resources that students have found most helpful. Each class peer-reviewed one another’s exhibits, helping to revise for clarity. Students who have signed waivers are credited by name on each exhibit. Moving forward, future students will be responsible for augmenting and updating existing exhibits, as well as creating new features.
In Spring 2019, we developed pedagogy that further strengthens the relationship between course objectives and research-based learning, taking advantage of library resources. Simultaneously, we discovered many areas of opportunity to better scaffold our pedagogy to ensure consistency. The first step was to ask returning students who had worked on the guide in Bennett's Fall Intro to Writing course to create a "How to" guide for working on the site; this guide became a critical resource even as students were building it during class. At this point in time, our "how to" guide offers a starting point for developing more detailed style guides for writing across the disciplines, as well as providing information about the "hows" and "whys" that drive accessible web design. Moving forward, we continue to emphasize accessibility, both in design and theory. Our goal is to solidify best practices as we bring additional faculty from the English Department on-board to have their expository writing, business writing, technical writing, writing for social media, and writing about science classes contribute. Another long-term goal (for now!) is to offer an “Instructor Resources” tab that offers lesson plans and in-class activities that others may use in their classes.
Patricia Lynne, Professor of English, Writing Placement Coordinator
Colleen Coyne, Assistant Professor of English, Internship Coordinator
Ally Chisholm, CASA Academic Success Coordinator
The English Department’s First-Year Writing Committee at Framingham State University coined the phrase “Rams Write” to use as a hashtag for their participation in the October 2018 National Day of Writing event; we are using the name here with their permission.
-- Kristen Abbott Bennett and Hedda Monaghan, Project Founders and Co-Directors