My English 110 class’ course blog is now one week old, and I’m totally pleased with it. I tried BuddyPress for a week before the quarter started, and I ended up kicking it to the curb in favor of The P2 Theme for WordPress by Automattic. BuddyPress had lots of cool gee-whiz and had really great functionality, but it was not intuitive for users. P2, by contrast, bills itself as having “Twitter-like real-time functionality”–and very importantly for the English 110 curriculum, it also has the capability for “real” blog posts that are longer than 140 characters. First, I’ll show you P2’s own excellent propaganda video, then I’ll talk about reasons I like this platform for my class:
Reasons I like P2:
–Real-time updates make it an appropriate backchannel for in-class and out-of-class conversation. When a user logs in, the interface also flashes any new posts in yellow so that users can easily identify the new content. I have made clear to my students that posting course-relevant material to the blog is a good way to boost their Participation grade and enrich our classroom community.
–If students can manage to click the “Log in” link and enter their username and password, they can start posting right away from the mainframe rather than going to a confusing Dashboard scheme. Notice the quick links above the posting window for inserting multimedia. If they click the “Blog Post” button above the posting window, they get a bigger text box in which to craft their post. That is *way better* than teaching them a full blog interface–if they really want to learn, they can use the WordPress Dashboard, but they don’t have to.
–Auto-conversion of links into links, Youtube video links into embeds, image links into images, etc. So if students can cut and paste, they can add multimedia to this blog.
–I was able to pre-set their usernames and passwords as their OSU lastnames.# and a pre-set single password. Compared to signing all of my students up for Google Accounts, helping students who already had Gmail accounts hook their Gmail to the Google Accounts, and so on, the pre-set username and password system made for a much faster Blog Project introduction on the second day of class.
Now if the students only had avatars and would post more on the blog. I’m going to work on that today, asking them to post their sample primary/exhibit sources on the blog and/or ask their classmates for help in choosing sources for their Analytical Research Project.