What is Qwriting?

What is Qwriting?

Qwriting is a website creation platform that uses WordPress as its underlying framework.  All of its architecture and content are housed at OCT, the IT department at Queens College.

It was created for and is available to all members of the Queens College community to explore and use as they see fit (within reason, of course, and within the dictates of CUNY policies).  Qwriting  encompasses the tools for creating and publishing many different kinds of websites (often in the form of “blogs”) for a variety of purposes including course-related sites that get students to write frequently and comment on each other’s written thoughts, departmental websites, personal journals for students and faculty, research sharing and collaboration… the list goes on and on.   Qwriting also provides the infrastructure to house all the sites created in it in one virtual “community” of sites.

The sites created on Qwriting can be public, entirely private, open only to specific members, or various hybrids of those three.  See below for some ideas for using Qwriting and some examples of publicly available sites.

What is WordPress?

WordPress (WP), Qwriting’s framework, is a content management system which was originally conceived as a blogging platform.  You can read up on its history, and keep up to date on the latest developments at the main WordPress website, wordpress.org.

The philosophy behind WordPress is “open source” — which has resulted in a situation where the core of the WP framework has evolved to accommodate a great deal of customization by the public.  There are 2 main areas of customization in which the public has contributed and continues to contribute to the project:

  1. Themes — Themes are the templates for a WordPress website, governing everything from the look and the feel of  the site, to the flexibility of the site with respect to customization and what features are possible to add to it.  
  2. Plugins — Plugins usually provide discrete functionality to a site or set of sites.  Examples of such functionality include allowing site users to:  incorporate Google Forms, aggregate RSS feeds into their blogs, integrate different kinds of calendars into their sites, and use drag and drop interfaces for building web pages.

The upshot of all this customization and the philosophy behind it is that anyone using WordPress can take advantage of others’ work to improve and extend the capabilities of the platform.

Okay, hold on, now what is a blog?

As the name suggests (blog is short for weblog), a blog is a website in the form of an electronic, public journal.  The ease with which they are created and maintained has led to a proliferation of Internet blogs on nearly every subject.  A common feature of blogs is their public interactivity: many bloggers encourage readers to comment on — that is, to post public responses to — their entries.

From Blogger’s Tour Page:  “A blog is a personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. A political soapbox. A breaking-news outlet. A collection of links. Your own private thoughts.  Memos to the World.”

The key things to remember are:

  1. A blog is a web site with certain expectations about how it will be used and the conceits to make that use easy.
  2. WordPress was originally created as a platform for creating blogs, however, 
  3. WordPress has evolved into a fully featured content management system which allows all sorts of websites to be built from it.
  4. Qwriting, as a multi-site installation of WordPress, allows all members of Queens College — students to staff to faculty — to create blogs and other kinds of sites to support their work at the College.

How do I get started with Qwriting?

  1. Well, first you need to have a Queens College email.  
  2. Then you need to become a member of Qwriting by following these directions.  It should take you anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes.

We highly recommend when you first sign up with Qwriting, that you “create a site” at the same time.  You can create as many sites as you need with the tool, but it helps to start with something to look at and work on.

Your best resources for help with Qwriting are the Qwriting Help Site and WordPress Support.  You can also contact the Queens College Center for Teaching and Learning if you have specific questions for us.

What are some great ways to use Qwriting?

Individual Work:

  • self-exploration
  • collecting data
  • sharing thoughts on readings and the arts
  • publishing one’s innermost feelings
  • practicing writing — both casual and formal
  • exploring the boundaries between the public and the private self

Group Work:

  • collaborating on or organizing research
  • discussing coursework
  • engaging the public at large from within a course or about a research project
  • gathering many views of a single subject
  • broadcasting the work of a center or a lab
  • as a class or affinity group, working with and responding to contemporary events
  • promoting action around an event or set of events (like Occupy Wall Street or Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath)

As a Way to Display Public Information on:

  • departmental sites
  • project sites
  • portfolio sites
  • travelogue sites
  • etc.

These are just some of the many possibilities.  Let your imagination and your needs guide you.  And, please, don’t hesitate to consult with us if you need help realizing your ideas.

Examples of Public Qwriting Sites

As promised, here are three examples of public sites that use Qwriting.

QCVoices.  On QC Voices, a group of Queens College students are regularly writing about their lives, their interests, their community, and their experience as students and members of the campus community.  New bloggers are selected every year.

QCUrban.  QCUrban is the official website for Queen’s College’s Urban Studies department.  Where QCVoices is a more traditional “blog” site, QCUrban displays “longer lasting”  information in a way that is informative and easy to access while foregrounding the community orientation and related efforts of the faculty and students in the program(s).  In short, its main function is as an accessible repository of departmental information that serves a diverse audience.

Neurologues.  Although some course sites remain private to the course participants, the idea behind Neurologues is to encourage students in a QC English course to reimagine the architecture of the standard essay as a non-linear web-based statement and source of knowledge.

Key Links

Teaching Tip Poll: What is Qwriting?

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Technology in the curriculum: The role of student perceptions

Presenters Eva Fernández (Center for Teaching and Learning) and Michelle Fraboni (Elementary and Early Childhood Education) examined ways to incorporate technology into a course to enhance learning outcomes using information about student perceptions of the variable value of different technologies as learning tools.

You can view the recorded presentation here: http://queenscollege.adobeconnect.com/p9ant6uxeyu/

Download a pdf copy of the presentation: CTL_TechTalk_2013-04-09

These links are posted in the slides:

Microsoft’s Digital Literacy curriculum

Information Literacy (AAC&U)

Digital Literacy (ALA Digital Literacy Task force)

Additional resources mentioned in during the session:

ResearchGate, a social networking tool for scientists. (thanks, Nathalia!)

 

A Quiz about the Syllabus?

“Is the final cumulative?” “How much do the quizzes count?” “When are your office hours?” “Where can I buy the textbook?” “What is next week’s reading assignment?” You have heard questions like these from your students, in person or by email, and may have found yourself answering, “It’s on the syllabus”, wondering why your students don’t check the syllabus first.  We suggest you try a quiz on the syllabus, maybe even requiring your students to take it as many times as is needed for them to get a perfect score.  Technology is perfect for assignments like this.  Below, we describe how to create and administer a quiz on the syllabus using Blackboard, but the overall idea can be implemented using other online technologies (some alternatives are described here).

Our inspiration for this tip is a Chronicle article about technologies to help faculty avoid having students constantly emailing with requests for help, in particular, a comment by proftowanda (in reply to jabberwocky12):

Start every course with a quiz on the syllabus — easily set up online, repeatable until students score 100 percent — and you will see extraordinary decline in the amount of emails.  (I mapped it.)  The LMS “FAQ” forum also is fine, as is instituting the 24- to 48-hour wait for replies — but both of those also will work better when students have actually read the syllabus for the quiz to see that most of their questions already have been anticipated and answered.

So, how can you set up and administer a quiz about your syllabus?

Here we go, in two easy steps. (Before you stop reading… we promise, it’s easy, and easier if you read these instructions with Blackboard open in a window next to this one.)

Step One: create the quiz. To do so, find the Control Panel in the Course Management lower section of the sidebar. Open up the Tools area, then the Test, surveys and pools tab. (Follow the screen captures below, left to right.)

controlpanel-3 arrow-2quizaboutsyllabus_tests-3
click-build-test-3 arrow-2namequiz-3
test-canvas-3

Include questions on any and all content covered in your syllabus, especially the content you get frequent questions about. You could try multiple choice style questions (great for handling issues like “How much is the final paper worth?”), true/false questions (excellent for addressing uncertainties about whether you give extra credit or whether the final is cumulative), or any other type of question you like. This might even be an opportunity for you to ask your students to write to you about what they expect to learn in your class.

Step Two: once you have created your test, you need to deploy it. Go to your Course Menu (in the upper section of the sidebar), click +, then click Create content area, where you will be prompted to name your test: “What’s on the syllabus?” for example.

quizaboutsyllabus_coursemenu2 arrow-2createcontentarea quizaboutsyllabus_addcontentarea

Click Submit, then click on the “What’s on the syllabus?” tab you have just created in your Course Menu. Opening the Create Assessment tab followed by clicking on Test will let you select the test file you created earlier and stored in your Course Files.

createquiz-3 arrow-2quiz_you_built

In essence, you have now just ported your test from your Course Files to your course proper. Here, you can work on your test’s settings, like choosing how many times students can take it. Consider forcing them to repeat the test until they get it right, or use error rates to identify aspects of your syllabus that your students are unclear about, and which you might want to discuss further in class. You can also define the period in which they can take the test. Earlier in the semester is best, but you may design a mid- or late-semester refresher.

Voilà, you’re done! Anticipate a decrease in the number of emails with questions that your syllabus already answers: less hair pulling for you, more time for interesting questions from them.

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