Tag Archives: public

More WordPress Tips

Hello Emerson! I am excited to be writing my first blog as the newest member of ITG. Last month I attended NERCOMP’s conference on WordPress. Panelists, including ITG’s own Monty Kaplan, shared their college’s WordPress initiatives.

Although there was a lot of tech jargon, there were also great examples of effective pedagogy using WordPress. Here are a few key points that resonated with me from Baynard Bailey’s presentation, “WordPress in Teaching and Learning”:

  • Blogs are a great way to support active learning. In addition to discovering how a widely-used blogging platform works, students are also reflecting on their individual learning process and making the content their own.
  • Grading blogs can be an easy way to get students motivated and engaged—just be sure that you are clear about your expectations. If this is a direction you’d like to go in, you may want to check out Mark Sample’s ProfHacker post, “A Rubric for Evaluating Student Blogs.”
  • Vary posts and comments. In addition to encouraging students to comment on each others’ posts, choose a few posts each week that you will comment on. This shows students that you are engaged and interested in what they have to say.
  • Consider alternating when students submit their posts so that not everyone is posting at once. If you have a large course or are covering a lot of content, this allows you and your students more time to read posts and write more meaningful comments.
  • If it makes sense for your class content, have students write for a broader audience. Students tend to get excited and more aware of their writing when they know the outside world is reading it. It also builds awareness around how to write for different audiences and how to establish an online presence. See Educause‘s “7 Things You Should Know about WordPress.”
  • WordPress is an extremely powerful tool. Don’t feel limited to a generic blog. There are a variety of genres to choose from  – travel blogs, personal blogs, review blog, news blogs, etc. WordPress can also be a great tool for digital portfolios, collective research logs, or a basic Web site.

For more tips on Word Press in Teaching and Learning, check out Baynard Bailey’s “10 Tips to Make the Most Out of Your Blog.”

If you are interested in learning more about WordPress at Emerson, check out our Blogging page, or schedule a consultation with ITG.

References
Baynard Bailey, “10 Tips to Make the Most Out of Your Blog.”
Educause, “7 Things You Should Know about WordPress.”
Mark Sample,
“A Rubric for Evaluating Student Blogs.”

Emerson on WordPress, Part 2

3 problems, one solution.

 

Elizabeth Parfitt wanted to get first year writing students to be engaged, motivated and to feel like their classroom work was important and relevant.

The WERS News team wanted a professional looking website – but WERS is run entirely by students who have limited time, resources, and web development experience.

Tim Riley wanted an easier way to manage his files and collect assignments.

Surprisingly, all 3 problems were addressed by using the same tool.

 

Part 2: WordPress and Web Design

Background:

WERS News logo

WERS News is an AP award winning radio news organization that is entirely student run. Their audience, however, is not limited to fellow students: their largest listener demographic is middle-aged Boston area listeners not affiliated with the Emerson community.

They needed a website that reflected their stature as a serious public radio news outlet. They had the content: their existing site had ~1000 posts, but it was cobbled together on an outdated and user-unfriendly platform. Webmaster Melyssa Cantor‘s goal was for the new site to be clean, simple, and user friendly. It should be a place where listeners could find everything they might need: audio and written reporting on current news stories, breaking news and photos via Twitter and Flickr, and archived audio of award winning programs.

The problem: they were students with many deadlines, a busy news organization to run, and not all of them had extensive web design experience.

Implementation:

The students decided that none of the free themes fit their needs, so they ended up buying a theme, and then customizing it further. In order to get the radio content online, they found a widget that converted the audio to mp3s, and then posted the mp3s in a text box. They used other widgets to pull in images from their flickr account and tweets from their twitter stream.

screenshot of WERS News blog

Every day there are 2 web writers who each write at least 3 stories per shift. The stories are published as ‘pending review’, and Editor in Chief Kyna Doles edits them before final publication. The writers and editors communicate frequently through email, as they are not often in the same space at the same time. WordPress saves each revision, so that writers can see what edits have been made. All of the web writers have editing permission, so that everyone can fix any errors they notice.

Findings

screenshot of WERSNews blog's sidebar

“A lot of what we had to do was testing things and trying them out. I’m not a designer, so I was nervous, but this was surprisingly easy! Every time we thought ‘it would be so great if WordPress did this’, we found a plugin or widget that did it.” – Kyna Doles

Emerson on WordPress, Part 1

3 problems, one solution.

 

Elizabeth Parfitt wanted to get first year writing students to be engaged, motivated and to feel like their classroom work was important and relevant.

The WERS News team wanted a professional looking website – but WERS is run entirely by students who have limited time, resources, and web development experience.

Tim Riley wanted an easier way to manage his files and collect assignments.

Surprisingly, all 3 problems were addressed by using the same tool.

Part 1: WordPress and Research Writing

Background:

Elizabeth Parfitt teaches WR121: a research writing class required for freshmen. Required courses can be difficult to teach, as keeping students engaged can be challenging. In order to increase student motivation, Beth wanted the work her students were doing in the classroom to be connected to the world outside of the classroom.

Beth designed her section to focus on Boston and the Creative Process. There are several components to the syllabus:

  • Students work in groups to research, write, and design Public Service Announcements for ONEin3 Boston, an organization that “connects Boston’s young adults with resources related to home buying, business development, professional networking, and civic engagement.” In order to facilitate communication with ONEin3 as well as with the filmmakers who will film the PSAs, Beth wanted to find a way to keep the work in a central place that is accessible to those outside Emerson.
  • Students do independent study research that relates to the city of Boston.
  • Students also study blogs as a genre of writing: their purpose, best practices of blog writing, and how bloggers convey a persona and voice.

Implementation:

screenshot of Research Boston blog

Beth has a group blog that all students can post to (She teaches two sections of this class, and both sections share the group space.) This blog is the hub of class activity, and is used for course management. Students post their ONEin3 PSA work to this class blog for peer review. Classmates comment on the blog post, and Beth comments there as well. Students know that Beth will be looking at the feedback they give to their peers, and they do write quite a bit! When it is time to revise, both student and professor feedback is located in one convenient place.

Students also have individual blogs, where they document their progress on individual research projects. Links to the individual blogs for both sections are located in the sidebar of the group blog. Students are writing for an audience outside of walls of classroom here as well: this is a chance for them to share their solo work with a community of writers.

On the first day of the semester, Beth establishes that public peer review and collaboration will be a foundation of the class. Students who would rather not participate are free to join one of the 44 other sections of the course. As far as privacy goes, Beth never releases grades through WordPress, but she does publicly comment on student work. However, the blogs are set up so that students need to approve comments before they appear. If there is a comment they don’t want the world to see, they can choose not to approve it – the comment will still be visible to them.

Findings:

  • “Students who don’t like to talk in class love to talk on the blog – all of a sudden they have a voice!”
  • If students “write for their mom” instead of for an academic audience, it can result in better writing. It may be less formal, but it is more succinct and focused.
  • Students should write their posts and comments in Word first, and then paste them into the comment box.
  • The public nature of the blogs made the work feel relevant and important. Students could send the send their blog link to family, friends, and anyone else they would like to show.
  • Students were more interested in designing and personalizing their blogs than Beth had anticipated. Some of the blogs became quite customized and professional looking.
  • The blogs have worked wonderfully to develop student voice. Some blogs become fan favorites and racked up lots of visits. On the midterm evaluation, students indicated that they wanted to do even more reading of each other’s work.
  • There was a learning curve in the first couple of weeks for students and professor both. (Beth hadn’t used WordPress before this semester). Once everyone started using it, they picked it up relatively quickly.

screenshot of student blog
screenshot of student blog