I currently serve as one of the e-editor’s for the Literacy Research Association (LRA). This is the second time I have served the organization in this capacity.
A little over a decade ago I was the e-editor with several of my colleagues. We recognized that the website contained no value for members or individuals outside of our community. As a result, we set forth a plan to have the e-editors assume more powers in adding content to the website and leverage the power of social media.
We worked on this plan for almost two years before leadership changed and priorities changed.
In the intervening years, I watched as the website became read-only and received little to no traffic.
As a result, I routinely would search for the website and send out a sick burn message as I watched the website fall further and further into obsolescence as they dropped off the first page of Google Search results.
In this post, and upcoming posts I’ll share more insight into the planning, development, and challenges/opportunities as we rebuild the website. The reason for these posts is to provide more transparency in the work, and document/archive the processes for others to understand, critique, or follow.
As indicated earlier, I started working on this initiative 10 years prior, and many/most of the individuals working with me have left the organization. In the year since I started working on this with colleagues, leadership changed as well as people and priorities. I’m also a believer in the bus factor in working on projects and want to make sure information and capabilities are shared with others.
The website and blog
A company was hired to revamp the website and clean up the branding and SEO. We asked that they use WordPress so members of the organization could easily edit, revise, and modify content on the site. More importantly, we wanted a blogging feed to regularly add new content to the site. The website’s blog feed, if updated regularly, forces search engines to re-index the site. As new content comes up on the site, we share it out through social media and bring eyeballs back to the site. As a result, our value and usefulness for users go up…and our search engine ranking goes up.
The mission and purpose
Over the past ten years, the organization has gone through a number of changes and unrest in the climate and tenor of our connections. There is much more to be said about this but this post is not for those conversations. As we developed the website, it was important for this space to be inclusive, transparent, and representative of the diversity of the organization and its members.
We wanted to create a space for students, educators, and researchers to share their narratives to create an inclusive and equitable teaching, learning, and working environment for all. We saw the website as a space to rethink research dissemination and outreach that impacts research and practice.
We identified four pillars that would serve as guides for content published on the website:
- Education: We believe in the ability to teach across multiple modalities with versatile pedagogical skillsets.
- Research: We believe in the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.
- Equity: We believe in fairness across identity and recognize the historical and contemporary marginalization and erasure of some over others.
- Solidarity: We believe in unity and community support when working towards common interests.
Ultimately, we wanted the blog feed and website to provide educators, researchers, and related stakeholders with the tools, resources, and community they need so that they can connect research to practice in literacy learning experiences.
Talk like normal people
Most importantly, we wanted this space to be inclusive and try to democratize the research and ideas by the membership. In online spaces, we’re increasingly seeing questions about whether academics should engage publically. This source would unite scholars as they speak openly and in a manner that is inviting and not distancing.
Content on the website should focus on making a specific area of expertise more accessible and understandable to a wider audience. We will frame the rigor, responsibility, and rectitude of research while identifying opportunities for scholars to speak in a manner that is approachable and accessible. We must make intellectual work accessible, and accessible work intellectual. Approachable in this sense means content that is easy to engage, understand, and know. Accessible in this sense means that you can actually read it. Approachable means that you can use it. Accessible means that you can get it.
The full planning proposal is available here. I have shared it with commenting privileges…so feel free to give feedback. We’re listening. 🙂
There is much more that needs to be said about this project. This post is just an initial overview of our work, goals, and purpose. As things change, I wanted to make sure these ideas were out there online for critique, review, and to promote transparency. I am inspired by the ten simple rules for the innovative dissemination of research.
This work is the product of dozens of individuals. I’m just the one with the receipts saved in Google Drive and taking the time/gumption to share a blog post about this work. I usually do not like to name people in posts unless I have their specific permission to do so, but I want to make sure they receive credit for their work. If I left someone off the list…or if you’d rather not be a part of this…please email me. 😉
- Richard Beach
- Erica Boling
- Delicia Tiera Greene
- Mellissa Gyimah-Concepcion
- Amy Hutchison
- Gwendolyn Thompson McMillon
- Greg McVerry
- Mike Manderino
- Raúl Alberto Mora
- Elizabeth Stevens