Tag Archives: writing

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.”

Collaborative Writing

Demotivational poster: Collaborate. Because sometimes your best option is to say "It's All Her Fault".

Collaborate / Mark / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Via ProfHacker, an interesting study titled Sharing and Collaborating With Google Docs: Influence of Psychological Ownership, Responsibility, and Student’s Attitudes on Outcome Quality (PDF).

Their summary states:

“Participants in all groups believed that collaboration improved the document quality. However, evaluation of the real contribution of collaboration was asymmetrical – students felt that while they did not exacerbate the document they read or edited, others worsened their own document by reading, suggesting or editing it. We therefore suggest that collaborative learning may be improved by encouraging collaboration mainly through suggesting and receiving improvements and less by editing each others’ writing.”

61% of Emerson students report having used Google Docs in the classroom, and 20% report using wikis. Does this finding change your view of how they should be used? Take our new poll and tell us how you feel your best writing happens!

Emerson on WordPress, Part 3

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 3: WordPress and Course Management

Background:

Tim Riley teaches two very different classes, and was searching for a course management platform that would be simple and user friendly, yet flexible enough allow for customization.

Implementation:

screenshot of jr103 blog
Digital Journalism (JR103) is an introductory undergraduate course. The course goal is to teach students to report and present news on the web using audio, video, and images. Tim uses this course blog as a central place to gather resources that will aid students.
The sidebar has an extensive array of links: the syllabus, outside resources, class style sheet, course procedures, term sheet (glossary), tips and tricks for using equipment, WordPress help, Journalism Department’s Twitter and Delicious feeds, and links to upcoming workshops.

Tim is the only one who posts to this class blog. He uses posts to answer questions, update assignment details, and post questions that will guide review for quizzes and tests.
The students also create group blogs that showcase their reporting work throughout the semester.

screenshot of JR608 blog

Interactive News (JR608) is a graduate course. This is a smaller and more intense class that is focused on writing specifically for the web. This blog is also used as a hub: Tim posts links to readings and resources. However, this blog has a stronger student presence: each student has their own blog, and their blogs are linked in the sidebar of the course blog. These student blogs host focused assignments that require students to select threes stories per week, focus on the nature of the content, and then write and rewrite their headlines (as well as including illuminating images and links).

These student blogs are not visible to the public, and Tim prints out their entries and hands them a paper copy with line-by-line corrections.

Findings:

“I had been working with Movable Type [another blogging platform] last year, and was really happy to take the leap to WordPress. It’s much more enjoyable, intuitive, and easy to figure out.” -Tim Riley

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