Using WordPress for blogging purposes in courses

Once I create the new WP site with a title that connects to the course in question, I start creating pages as categories for the kinds of comments that students might post. In my case, frequently teaching literature, I create most of the pages under the names of particular authors. The works of these authors in our course then make up the list of options from which students will choose as the subjects for their essays. So they can use their blog postings to begin developing ideas about that particular author, see what other students have to say about the same author, and on occasion even get feedback on that author that will help them see new ideas.

I advise students to compose their blog postings in a word-processing program first, before they go into WP. Then they go to the URL in question, choose an author page, and find the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of that page. Here’s an example:  http://gothicmode.wordpress.com/hardy/

Above that box on this page, you can see other postings. I’ve enabled the “Leave a Reply” function for this page as an example, but normally I disable that feature once the course has concluded, to “freeze” the comments that are there.

You can set up the “Reply” function so that you need to approve every posting before it goes live. That gives you a chance to head off any problems (although you need to explain the delay factor to students who will otherwise assume they messed up because they don’t see their posting right away). I do this as a way to check off who has posted and who hasn’t (since the blog postings count for some small amount in the overall grading scheme). Here’s also a quick-&-dirty rubric that I use for my own comments.

http://webh.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/sample_blog_rubric.pdf

In many cases, I don’t provide the rubric-based feedback to students about their blog postings until the end of the term, figuring that people should be able to tell (from the rubric plus other students’ postings) what’s a good posting and what isn’t.

Once I have a couple of such blogs in place from previous courses, I can also use them in new courses, whether as examples of blog entries, as ideas for new student essays, or as research material. Since the past blogs have clearly become part of the course content for new courses, the whole audience dynamic also changes, with blog postings now becoming a more public and permanent document rather than something that I will read and that’s an end to it.

Follow this link for a complete list of all the course-based blogs that my students have created over the past few years.

Related point: student posts to such a course blog generate random tapestry icons, since WP wants to display some image to associate with a posting. One alternative that is not terribly difficult: if students all create their own WordPress accounts and then go to Settings and then to General, there’s a place for them to upload a picture to be used as their blog image. This picture then would get associated with any blog posting that they did within the course blog as long as they used the same email address that they’d used in creating their individual WP accounts. If some students had trouble doing this or simply didn’t want their photo on the site, they’d still be able to post along with everyone else, just with the aforementioned random tapestry icon.

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