Chapter 2: Top Tech and Non-Tech Tools
Running large-scale -- and even small-scale -- community writing programs means keeping track of many moving parts. Each program is different, but in the sections below we offer advice and ready-made tools for planning such work.
- Think logistically. While inspiring others to write more and with increased confidence is probably at the heart of most writing projects, it doesn't happen without lots of prep. Be prepared to consider the physical (seating, nourishment, lighting, noise level), emotional (feeling welcome and excited), and financial (free or paid registration) needs of your participants and volunteers. Although each program is different, all require record keeping and collaborative sites for planning. We suggest using applications like Wikispaces (sign in to access the GRTC 2015 wiki) that minimize hierarchies and allow multiple audiences to be involved.
- Find partners. Look for people on and off campus to help. For our camps, we partnered with Art and Women’s Studies departments, got sponsorship from campus bookstores, and solicited donations from local restaurants and office supply stores. The forms below may help you approach potential partners.
- Find volunteers. Getting buy-in for a new writing program can be tricky. There are a number of ways to drum up business for your project including a convenience sample of writers drawn from your university or other groups you belong to, partnering with local schools or community centers, or teaming with another existing project. Also, look in unexpected places for community volunteers. For example, at one version of Girlhood Remixed we had a 14-year-old volunteer who donated her time in exchange for a letter for her school to demonstrate community service. The girls at the camp looked up to the high schooler and she learned right along with them.
- Become a bean counter. Community writing programs usually require resources, and you'll want to work with your community partners and academic department to figure out the best way to be diligent and transparent about tracking costs. Below are budget request memos for two versions of the camp: one overnight residential camp and one day camp.
- Watch the clock. Start planning early. We began planning and lining up sponsors in the fall for camps held in the summer. Spring is the time to tackle details like curriculum and registration, but “big picture” thinking about your event really can’t start soon enough.
- Plan to feed folks. Writing is hungry work. Besides purchasing food, you might also seek out donations from your community using the forms we provided earlier. In residential settings like a girls' technology camp, three meals a day are required, but even in shorter programs snacks are sometimes a great investment and good incentive (in the form of breaks and rewards) for struggling writers. Below you will find a:
- Get a roof over their heads. Residential writing programs and camps face the added perk -- and challenge -- of keeping participants together for several hours or days. If you are housing your project at your university, summers are often a good time to get a deal on student housing sitting empty between semesters. Below you will find a:
- Figure out how to get them here, there, and everywhere. Depending on what population you are working with, providing transportation to and from your program might be vital. Many universities have vans and shuttles that may be contracted for such purposes. You also may wish to contract a driver to take participants on a field trip, such as a trip we took to a local children’s museum during the first iteration of the camp.
- Protect yourself and your participants. Hosting a residential writing camp forced all of us to get friendly with our university counsel’s office. No matter where you hold your program, know the rules and find out about insurance coverage for you, your staff, and the writers in attendance. Liability forms are often found in registration packets and many spaces -- like universities -- have blanket policies to cover programs they sponsor.
- Get it signed on the dotted line. Most community writing projects involve lots of writing up front in the form of permission slips, medical releases, photo releases, and other documents. Below are templates from our camps that might be useful starting points for your project.
- Keep your campers/writers informed. In the weeks proceeding your camp or project, expect to field lots of questions from participants and participants’ parents. During each iteration of the camp we developed new documentation to send campers, so check out our collection of documents below to help you start brainstorming.
- Consider a range of technologies. Those of us charged with teaching writing and multimodal composition at the university level generally have access to lots of spendy software. Though relying on these familiar for-pay tools might be more comfortable, consider integrating freeware for your camp or program. It not only allows participants to transfer skills learned at camp to home settings, but it also models for them ways to “make due” with a variety of freeware products.
- Get to know the tools of the trade. Not all community writing projects require computers but many do. Digital tools are particularly useful for those interested in multimodal composition. Many universities and public schools offer access to computer labs or laptops, but software is also a consideration. When working with younger students in a public school or library setting, consideration must be given to firewalls that might impede access to much of the freeware now vital to 21st century literacy skills. Check out some of the tools (many of them free) and how-to guides we found useful: