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.

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What is Netiquette and why should I teach it?

We expect our students to use appropriate language when participating in an in-class discussion or talking to us during office hours, when answering written questions on an exam or writing up a term paper. We know that our students don’t talk to their professors the same way they talk to their close friends, and we acknowledge that one of the great challenges in higher education is bringing students up to speed with the discourse conventions for our particular disciplines: teaching students to speak and write as scientists or sociologists or literary critics.

But we have all experienced how the anonymity of cyberspace sometimes makes people forget expectations for communication. (The Internet is kind of a weird place.) And, despite many college students’ familiarity with social media, they need to be reminded of the differences between casual social interactions and academic communications, be these in the form of emails, blog posts, or discussion forum posts. In fact, the best way to instigate the kind of communication you want to see in your students is to offer clear expectations. Just like you might provide a style sheet when assigning a paper for a class, consider offering your students guidelines for online communication, and model your expectations with them in all your communications with your class.

Guidelines for online behavior vary quite a bit depending on the context, but all Netiquette recommendations have a few basics in common:

  • Typing in all caps is the equivalent of shouting, so don’t do it.
  • Proofread your writing before sending or posting.
  • Respect other peoples’ privacy, time, and bandwidth.
  • “Lurk before you leap”: if you’re new to a blog or a forum, don’t post right away; look around a bit to understand the protocol.

If you don’t want to compose your own guidelines, you could ask your students to visit The Core Rules of Netiquette and take a netiquette quiz. Here are some additional resources that address issues of Netiquette:

Netiquette and Online Behavior (Loyola University Chicago Online)
Behaveyourself.com: Online Manners Matter
Beyond Emily: Post-ing Etiquette
Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship