For my 2011-12 learning improvement project at Howard Community College, I wanted to go textless in my creative writing class. I knew that I could post materials for theory, genres and writing elements in our online supplemental classroom. But what should I do about providing my students with the necessary models of creative writing?
I could (and did) link to appropriate websites, but this presented difficulties. First, I taught in a traditional classroom where only the instructor’s station was connected to the Internet. To read as a class, we would need a projection screen. Second, some of the linked works were as remote to my students as those in the text had been. I needed something current and local.
Little Patuxent Review provided an affordable and interesting solution. The publishers of LPR offered a student rate, and the Chair of the English and World Languages Division subsidized that with student fees. My students would have access to all that a text could offer at no cost beyond registration.
But would they enjoy this experience? Certainly, the journal was personal. In November, poets from the 2011 Maryland Writers’ Association anthology Life in Me Like Grass On Fire had read to an HCC audience that included my class. LPR Co-publisher Mike Clark and Editor Laura Shovan were among the presenters. Later in the semester, Co-publisher Tim Singleton gave a talk on the short, sweet topics of Twitter and haiku. How often do students get to meet those so closely involved with the publications that they read?
Anecdotally, I knew that my students enjoyed my experiment; I hoped that an end-of-semester survey would validate this. I had planned for students to complete surveys in the last week of class, but things got busy and only 10 of 19 participated. Statistically, the number may be too small for accuracy. Nevertheless, all 10 revealed that they had “very much” appreciated the absence of a book cost. When asked how much they missed a formal text, seven had circled “not at all.” All 10 indicated that creative writing concepts were well presented; most indicated that LPR provided “excellent” examples of creative works that had inspired their own growth as writers.
For my part, I remained enthusiastic about this project throughout the fall semester and am happily repeating it this spring, determined to collect more complete data and confident that the data will be equally positive.