Teaching Technologies and WordPress

I’ve spent the last few days focusing on online resources for teaching ENGL 101. My course this semester uses Colorado State’s Writing Studio for their course management site and although I like many of the features of this website (including their fantastic guides) I feel like I could be doing more with technology to make my class accessible, engaging, and multimodal. Some of my colleagues use WordPress as their course website and because I have years of experience with WordPress, I figured I might give it a try.

I chose the ever so corny URL http://englishoneohone.wordpress.com. I know it’s goofy, but so am I, and I feel like that’s a vital part of keeping open lines of communication with your students. I set up the basics: menus with my assignment descriptions (still in progress), my contact info, links to other websites with resources they need, etc. I always feel somewhat limited in what I can do with a wordpress.com blog due to the javascript restrictions, however, in this process I discovered a few key tools that WordPress offers that might be useful to other teacher/bloggers out there.

1. Milestone

Available in the widgets menu, this tool allows you to display a countdown to an important date or deadline (mine is the due date of their first assignment) in the side column of your blog. This can offer a little visual reminder of how much time they have to work on their papers before the due date without me verbally nagging them every day.

2. Box

I explored Box because it too has been added as a standard WordPress widget. Because I know that WordPress is selective in which widgets they add, I decided to check this service out. Much to my delight, I found that Box offers many of the features we’re used to with Dropbox, but with 5 GB of free storage and tons of apps to make the service more usable. These apps include not only the standard Windows/Mac/Android/iOS applications, but also multiple apps to allow you to annotate PDFs, apps that allow you to print directly from Box, and above all, InstallFree Nexus. This app works in the Box platform and allows any user with a web browser to utilize the full capabilities of Microsoft Word . . . for free! This is a game changer for teachers who often run into the issue of students not owning a copy of Word and therefore finding it hard to get to a computer lab to write. Now they can read our comments and even compose directly from this web-based app! Above all, WordPress had the insight to add it as a widget where students can directly access files or click on the Box link to upload their assignments to a class folder.

3. Scribd

Scribd is a fantastic service that allows you upload files and then integrate them into your website or blog. If you click on my CV link, you will find that Scribd is hosting my CV and allowing this aesthetically pleasing alternative to download links right on WordPress. After you upload a file, you simply choose how you want to embed it, in this case you select “WordPress” and they provide you with a WordPress-ready code. Voila!

4. Google Calendar

I’ve long been a fan of Google Calendar (and all Google services) but only recently tried implementing it into a blog. This is another simple process in which you locate the embed link on your Google Calendar page, copy and paste it into the page you choose, and WordPress does the rest for you. I plan to keep a Google Calendar updated with all of the assignment deadlines for my upcoming ENGL 101 course.

These are just the few that excited me. If you have others, please share in the comments section!

One comment on “Teaching Technologies and WordPress

  1. arianemetz says:

    Courtney! Fabulous course management site! The countdown is SUCH a great idea. I am definitely going to steal it from you. I think I also want to integrate Scribd into my personal website as well as my course sites (would be great for my syllabus, I think). I have come to the same conclusion as you: out-of-the-box course management systems leave something (often a lot) to be desired. I got the idea to make my wordpress from Jen O’Brien, but it is still a work in progress. Thank you for sharing your wonderful ideas!!!

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