[ cross-posted to Teaching United States History 2/11/13 ]
It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I really like WordPress. I use it for my own ePortfolio, for a variety of blogging endeavors both personal and professional, and as a research log for ongoing manuscript and article projects. People on my campus have heard me evangelize about it to no end, but apparently they’re not quite tired of me yet. There’s a cohort of us in the department who teach the majors methods course, and we’ve adopted WordPress as the default course journal/eportfolio platform, which means we’ve all needed basic facility with WP, at least enough to turn around and teach it to our students. I’ve been simply asserting that knowing WordPress is a useful skill for history majors; I think the case probably still needs to be made to the satisfaction of some of our more computer-phobic majors (and yes, they exist, even among the so-called “digital natives”). I’d love to hear, in the comments, what you feel you’ve learned from using WordPress, or from blogging in general (either reading or writing or both), or what the value might be of humanities majors knowing a bit about how to present a polished-looking internet presence*. All of the above seem rather self-evident, especially with our campus’s emerging emphasis on integrative learning and information literacy, but not everyone yet sees the light and I’m kind of stunned by how few students have tried WordPress on their own: almost none, actually.
Anyway, within the last couple of weeks I’ve had the chance to run two workshops, each one designed to get a full class of students signed on and familiar with the rudiments of setting up their own WordPress.com site for class use. By the second one, I had created a sample WordPress.com site and populated it with a couple of basic posts, a few pages, a header photo, and a list of basic tasks for the workshop. I thought I’d link to it here, in case it proves helpful for anyone else or as a model for how to run a similar workshop for beginners.
We occupied a computer cluster classroom so everyone had their own PC but this could also be done in a regular classroom if everyone has a laptop. The key to making this work is keeping 2 tabs open: one that has the “front end” blog URL, and the other that has the dashboard, and toggling back and forth, refreshing with each new change to see how changes to the dashboard are reflected on the site itself.
I walked the students through the following steps (more or less):
1. Open a WordPress account (choose username, password). Choose Basic = $0
2. Create a blog by choosing a URL â€“ it will be http:// [yoursomething] .wordpress.com. Clarify this is not the same thing as the TITLE of the blog, which you can set later and change at will.
3. Confirm & activate the blog by going to the email you used to open your WP account and click to activate.
4. You now have a basic bare blog at your selected URL. Keep it open in one tab while you work in the Dashboard in another tab.
5. Begin with some customizations in the Dashboard tab (check results by updating/saving in Dashboard and then refreshing the blogâ€™s tab):
change the blog title and tagline (Settings â€“> General)
decide on your public v. private settings, and add your prof as a follower or viewer (Settings â€“> Reading)
add an image to your profile and decide how your name will show up on the blog (Users â€“> My Profile)
decide on a theme (Appearance â€“> Theme)
add some widgets to your new theme, if it has a sidebar enabled (Appearance â€“> Widgets)
If time (we didn’t, but this might be a Part II class)
6. Learn about Posts: edit the default post and/or make a new one including: a hyperlink, an image, and an embedded video
Try setting a post to auto-publish at a later date/time
Add categories or tags to a post
Under All Posts â€“> Quick Edit, enable or disable comments on a post
7. Learn about Media: upload a file to the media library and link to it from elsewhere on the blog (like in a sidebar, post or page)
8. Learn about Pages: edit your â€œAbout pageâ€ and create a new page
*Update: Just when I was looking for something tidy and all-in-one-place that makes such a case, lo! Elijah Meeks to the rescue: go here for his fabulous talk “Digital Literacy and Digital Citizenship”