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

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Why should you try Dropbox?

We begin this post with three possible nightmare scenarios:

1. You’ve just arrived at a conference and realize that you’ve left your laptop or flash drive at home along with your presentation files.

2. Your laptop is damaged or—worse still—stolen.

3. You delete a substantial section of a manuscript, and plan to paste it elsewhere in the document in a moment. The phone rings, you are momentarily distracted, and by the time you get back to your document you have forgotten about the temporarily deleted section. You save and close your manuscript. Your deleted section is gone, perhaps forever.

Dropbox and other similar cloud-based file storage solutions (like Google Drive or Box) can help avert the likely damages from those three scenarios. Dropbox is an online file syncing service which you can use to store files and access them from any computer with an Internet connection. Here’s the Dropbox antidote to those three nightmare scenarios:

1. If you sync your documents with Dropbox, all you need is an Internet connection to access your files. You upload files to your online account from your laptop at home, then later on download them to a classroom PC, to a laptop at a conference podium, or to wherever. You can also install Dropbox software on your various computers (iMac at home, PC at the office), and drag files to and from the desktop folder. And as if that weren’t enough, you can install Dropbox software on mobile devices (Android or iOS), so you can have access to your files anywhere, any time.

2. Documents in your Dropbox folder are automatically synced as you work on them, as long as you’re working with an Internet connection. So if you break or lose your hard drive, your hard work is online, without your having to think to back it up.

3. Dropbox keeps archival copies of your documents, so if you need to retrieve an earlier version of a document (e.g., the document with the section you inadvertently deleted), it will be there. (Login to Dropbox.com, find the file you’re looking to recover in its earlier form, right click, and select “Previous versions”.)

Dropbox is also a great collaborative tool. From your online account, invite one or more email contacts to share specific files or folders with them.

To get started, go to Dropbox.com to sign up. Then download and install the Dropbox application. A folder will be created on your drive to which you can drag files.

You can watch a video introduction to Dropbox at Ed Tech Moments.

Some additional advice:

If you’re going to be using Dropbox to store documents that need to be secure, you will want to read the available documentation carefully to determine whether the Dropbox security protocols (which include a new two-step verification option) are sufficient for your needs.

Also bear in mind that files shared with you by someone else will eat up space in your account. An overstuffed Dropbox will interfere with the syncing process, so move the files from the Dropbox folder to another location on your hard drive. Sharers should make sure they place copies in the Dropbox and keep the originals in another location.

We concentrated on Dropbox in this post, but maybe you have a better tool for avoiding those nightmare scenarios. If so, tell us in the comments.

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