WordPress Project

As discussed in class, this is the last project we will be doing before the final. Sorry it took a bit longer to post. If you want to take a few extra days and submit by Wed, Nov 27 that is fine. However, don’t forget that your final (the lesson plan on Wikispaces) will be due the week after Thanksgiving.

Overview

This is a bit different from the other projects you’ve done so far. My hope is that you not only become familiar with a web 2.0 tool (blogging in this case), but also begin to build a digital presence in order to better connect with your future students. While some aspects of this project are a bit contrived as you are not currently in a teaching position, what you develop here should be usable down the road.

Although it may be the most obvious, Facebook should not be your go to profile. Also, given the overly social and often inappropriate nature of Facebook think carefully about what you post on any personal Facebook page you have. That said, teachers have successfully used Facebook to share class information and inform students and parents. However, I think this is a slippery slope. Students will likely want to friend teachers and they will use their personal accounts for this giving teachers access to students’ personal lives. Because of the potential to mix personal and professional relationships, any use of Facebook should be carefully considered. I recall reading about one teacher who lost her job because of Facebook posts. I suspect we will see school districts developing policies related to the use of social media by teachers.

The catch is that if you do not have a personal account on Facebook, you should probably set up a teacher (or personal) page that identifies you and tells people where they should look to follow you. At the very least, this helps prevent impersonation. In the event someone does try to post a fake page (this happened at my school) you have recourse with Facebook when you can show them the real you. If you have a personal account already then this is probably not necessary but make it clear to students that they should not try to friend you. Do you really want to give students access to everything you do and say when you are not a work and your guard is down?

A better place to set up a professional profile is Google+ (perhaps using your work email address to create a separate account from any personal Google account you may have) and start to follow some of the mover and shakers in your field. Students can also follow your Google+ without requesting permission or giving you access to their private posts. Followers see only what you post as public unless you bring them into one of your “circles”. Just like with Facebook, it would be unwise to add students to your inner circles. Best to keep it professional and public so anyone can follow. Another professional network worth joining is http://www.linkedin.com/.

Step 1 – set up a blog

Why? Mainly because your students live online. They have Facebook pages, are on Google+, tweet, hang out in forums, develop communities, game, and communicate via text, instant messaging and a host of other digital tools. In order to be a 21st century teacher you have to BE where your students are. For some background on this read Banning Student Containers by Alan November (part of your final reading discussion). We can no longer assume that we have the attention of our students just because they are in our classroom. They are growing up in a digital, connected and global world and they do not leave it just because they are confined in schools. In fact, students will only disengage more if we try to unplug them. We are immigrants to their digital Rome and as they say, when in Rome…

I prefer WordPress and it what we will use for this project. WordPress is probably the biggest and most developed blogging site. Google’s Blogger is probably right up there as well. When you are out in the working world you can, of course, use any tool you wish. For future reference, here is some more information on blogging and sites – http://savedelete.com/best-blog-sites-for-free-blogging.html

It’s probably worth mentioning that many school districts now have Content Management Systems that host their web presence as well as provide other tools like digital lockers, teacher pages, etc. In my experience, these catch-all tools don’t do anything well. They are cumbersome to manage and use. That said, you may be stuck using their tools. Maybe they will improve over time, but if you find them limiting you can always link out to something you like better (unless your school specifically prohibits that in which case you should probably ask why). SharpSchool was a tool I had to use last year and despite their marketing their site was horrible to use. Teacher pages were difficult to create and edit and publishing was cumbersome and often didn’t work.

Short version: set up a WordPress account. Here is a site I used with a 7th grade programming class you can use to give you some ideas. It’s by no means perfect but it was part of an actual class.

Step 2 – build your blog (you can do more than the minimum)

  1. Start by creating an about page where you provide some information about who you are, what and where you teach (fake it), your background, interests and anything else you feel like sharing. Also include at least a couple paragraphs outlining your educational philosophy. If you haven’t done this already in another class you likely will so now is your chance to get a head start. If you have written one before, consider how you might change it based on what you have learned in this class.
  2. Set up at least three other pages with resources or links to sites and tools you expect your students to use, assignments, class policies and expectations, future events, how to volunteer, a syllabus, anything you think will be useful.
  3. Add at least three posts on your home page. One could be a welcome post and the others information on an assignment, upcoming event, etc. Obviously this is not connected to a real class so you are faking it a bit. The idea is to get a sense of how you would use your site. Once you are teaching you should plan to add new posts at least once a week and even occasionally during breaks in order to keep your site relevant and interesting to students and parents.
  4. In one of your above posts, include an embedded video (you can put this on a page instead if you prefer – just embed video somewhere).
  5. Create one gallery of images (at least 3 images) on one of your above posts or pages.
  6. Get at least one classmate to follow” your blog and also follow someone else. WordPress allows for email subscriptions as well as following from your WordPress account. You can see these options on the site I linked above. WordPress calls all these sidebar tools “widgets”. This is mainly to get you used to do this if you are not already. Again, once teaching you will want your students and parents to follow your blog.
  7. Add at least 5 widgets you think will be useful to your student and parent followers and choose a theme you like (something clean and uncluttered is best). Pick a free one unless you really want to pay.

Doing the above will give you a good sense of what can be done with WordPress. It’s probably a bit outdated now, but I created a short tutorial on WordPress that you might find helpful – http://the21stcenturyteacher.wordpress.com/wordpress-tutorial/. There are tons of other tutorials out there as well including lots of video ones if you prefer.

Step 3 – post the link to your blog here by 11/24 (or 11/27 if you want extra time)

Rubric

  1. About page including useful information about you and/or your class and your educational philosophy – 20 points
  2. At least 3 additional pages – 20 points
  3. Home page has at least 3 posts – 20 points
  4. An embedded video is included somewhere – 10 points
  5. A gallery of images is included somewhere – 10 points
  6. You have a nice theme and at least 5 widgets to help your users – 10 points
  7. You are following someone and have one follower – 10 points (I really have no way of knowing this unless you add the follow button so honor system here)
Advertisements