Making Public Contributions to Knowledge

Openly exchanging teaching resources is how I learned to teach. I owe a debt of gratitude to colleagues who shared generously: they emailed me their syllabi, explained what a “fishbowl” or “Think-Pair-Share” is, and introduced me to Reacting to the Past. Now after a decade of teaching as an adjunct, I’m certain that one of the best ways to give back to the profession is to share a public contribution to knowledge about teaching.

This is a lesson for our students as well. Ample research shows that students write better when they know they are writing for a large public—whether that’s a publication on a class blog visible only to peers or a professional peer-reviewed journal (see Prof. Danica Savonick’s “Write Out Loud“), a paper delivered at a student or professional conference, a presentation at a local club or community group, a poster at a university symposium, or in any other venue beyond the classroom (see Laken Brooks’ IHE piece on service learning). Writing for an authentic audience increases student engagement in a real-world process where conventions and rules must be adhered to and deadlines must be met.

At Transformative Learning in the Humanities, we’re excited to be co-sponsoring over 70 active, participatory learning events at CUNY this Spring semester and one thing every event organizer will be producing is one public contribution to knowledge. I cannot wait to see what teaching materials, works of art, podcast episodes, sample assignments, and alternative assessments they share with the CUNY community. So many of us could use some inspiration right now.

Where to get started

In addition to creating the teaching materials or other public contributions themselves, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with Open Educational Resources (OER) and Creative Commons licenses. You might browse some of CUNY’s OER, the collections in CUNY Academic Works, and register for OpenEd CUNY using your CUNY email address. You could also reach out to your local CUNY librarian.

We’ve created a TLH Group on OpenEd CUNY where we will share our faculty members’ public contributions to knowledge. You are welcome to join the group to contribute OER directly or, if you are not able to register because you don’t have a CUNY email address, you are welcome to share your contribution with us via email and we’ll post it for you. Over TLH’s three-year grant period, this group will become a growing repository for sample lesson plans, assignments, syllabi, and other OER materials that TLH faculty and students want to share with others.

Types of contributions

You might write a short, 500-word blog post about teaching (see TLH Faculty Director Shelly Eversley’s recent blog post) or about a reflection on the TLH event you organized (see “Open TLH Event Recap” as an example). Make sure at the bottom of your post that you include the Creative Commons license (e.g., scroll to the bottom of our “Teaching Resources” page).

You could stage a socially-distanced public performance, share a sample assignment on OpenEd CUNY, create a group on HASTAC, write an op-ed, collaboratively curate a CUNY Manifold edition, upload a teaching demo or webinar to YouTube, build a public website (or give a community website a makeover), record a podcast, collaborate with colleagues to develop a team-curated Twitter account, make a Zine, develop an app to catalogue Zines…and if that’s not enough, here is a list of inspiring projects from 2019-2020.

The world is your oyster but you also want to make sure your contribution is manageable, so if you haven’t yet begun to take on a larger digital project, then share a PDF of a detailed lesson plan, assignment, or alternative assessment method or write a blog post with some valuable teaching tips. In the pandemic, time is pressurized in strange and unpredictable ways, so the most direct and practical contributions may very well mean the most to those teaching and learning right now.

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