Amy Minervini

Welcome, readers! Thank you for sharing in our composition chorus!

I initiated this OER project to empower my English workshop students to become open education authors and to leverage high quality written, audio/visual, and H5P resources to help not only themselves but their friends, peers, and future composition students who might access this textbook.

I have authored and co-edited/co-authored numerous OER texts, but there is no greater feeling than to pass on my knowledge to the next generation of scholars, innovators, and problem-solvers. As an ambassador for open learning, I wanted to share my capabilities and know-how (limited as it is) with my students in guiding them to create a text via the Pressbooks platform.

Neither I nor they had ever embarked on a student-authored textbook or engaged in a writing project utilizing a large group of disparate authors. So initially, the project bore some anxiety and trepidation with the unknowns and logical concerns. But soon enough, these first-year composition students moved from strangers to peers to collaborators. This meant executing strategic planning to address the following student questions:

  • How will two classes work on this text at the same time?
  • Do I have the time or the expertise to be an author on this textbook?
  • How will the work be divided?
  • What if someone doesn’t do their part?
  • Where will I find the resources to put into the book?
  • How will I understand the technical aspects of the Pressbooks platform?
  • How do I create activities or find suitable media to include?
  • How can we ensure this is a project I’ll be proud to put my name on?

Some of these questions were answered through my careful preparation and a weekly scaffolding of responsibilities; by offering choice to learners or peer pairs for the sections they wanted to work on; and by carving out class time for practicing tutorials and adding to the textbook with materials. Some questions and concerns were negotiated through trial and error. And still others were worked through by prioritizing community building and a culture of we’ll-figure-it-out-together.

Over the course of the Fall 2023 semester, students got a crash course in licensing rules for text, images, and multimedia, and we even harnessed artificial intelligence tools for some art and design elements. Students were given free rein to modify, shift, and play with information in a dynamic way with the understanding that content can continually be improved upon and added to.

For the first round of this text, one section of English 103, which is a co-curricular course to English 101 (Writing and Rhetoric), worked on the narrative essay resources while the other section worked on the argument essay materials. Future English 103 courses will work on the other two major modes missing in this initial foray: the informative and analytical essay sections. A further iteration could also include a Tech Writing component for students who are enrolled in workshop courses that focus on writing for industry.

Thank you to Lewis-Clark State College adminstrators for prioritizing OER, its accessibility, and its cost-savings to students. Thank you also to Jonathan Lashley, Academic Technology Program Manager for the Idaho State Board of Education, for creating our textbook space, helping students gain access, and handling general troubleshooting. Special recognition goes to my colleague Ryan Randall, Instructional Designer at Idaho State University, for sharing his inventive and user-friendly Pressbooks onboarding tutorial with my classes.

This project truly served as a cross-campus and statewide collaboration with my foremost gratitude and appreciation to my English 103 students who blew me away with their tenacity, creativity, and contributions to the open landscape with a music-inspired composition guide for other learners. You all rock!

If you do not hear music in your words, you have put too much thought into your writing and not enough heart. ~

Terry Brooks, New York Times bestselling fantasy author


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Music in Your Words Copyright © 2023 by Amy Minervini is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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