Blog Theme #1: Reflection

As your formally elected Minor in Writing Blog Committee, we cordially invite all cohort members to participate in our monthly “themed” blogging. We feel that themed posts will both promote inter-cohort communication and collaboration, as well as provide a multitude of perspectives on a single, focused topic. Think of these prompts as “guidelines” to use in order to freely express your thoughts and opinions about the subjects at hand.

For April’s theme, we’d like you to reflect on you writing experiences this semester. What was your favorite thing you wrote? Did you write anything outside of your coursework that was meaningful to you? What lies ahead for the rest of your semester? Remember to use the appropriate tags and categories: Monthly Theme, April, Reflection.

Mulan - Reflection
Get it? Reflection? We’re very funny people.

We look forward to your contributions.

Your Blog Overlords

Julia Adams
Zach Bucholtz
Josh Kim
Alex Olkowski

Some additional thoughts on web platforms from UM ISS

I checked in with the media specialists at UM Instructional Support Services with some questions about the web software we tried out last week.  Here are some thoughts from Lauren Atkins that offer some food for thought, esp. about Wix and Circle Pad (though I want to gather some more info about the latter).  FWIW!

Hi Naomi,
These are all good questions.  It’s very important for the students to consider features, flexibility, reliability and security…and longevity, and to consider how creative they can be even within confines.

It’s not necessarily a “pro” version of WordPress that is needed to HTML so much as a feature upgrade that the student would have to pay for (there’s no “license” so to speak for it at all).  This also means that students can’t embed just anything into their posts on as well—they can include videos only from a handful of sites (YouTube, Vimeo) and only slideshows from Slideshare and one other service.  Wordpress does that to protect themselves from infected content from dubious sources.  Weebly does the same.

Wix, I would advise students use with caution.  While it is the “flashiest” (literally) of all the options, it’s also the most nitpicky and unstable.  There is also no way to export out and move or keep the site they create.  A lot of students like it because it’s very customizable and “looks” better but there’s a lot of sacrifice of function that may affect them later on.

Circlepad, I don’t have any experience with, though an initial look at their site didn’t make me excited about it.  If a student is familiar with it and wants to use it and feels it works well for them, I think that’s fine, so long as it satisfies a certain level of reliability and longevity.

As for Dreamweaver, that is arguably the most difficult option of all because the student is responsible for all of the creation of their site, and I generally only suggest it for students who have used it before or who have a solid grasp of basic web programming (even using the visual editor can get frustrating without some basic knowledge).  Support in using it can often be gotten from the Tech Deck in the library.  In most cases, they can easily post sites they create in Dreamweaver in the public folder of their IFS space and run it from there.

I’ve had students complain about some of the constraints of Google Sites before.  Those who have some skill at HTML can actually edit their Google Site’s code and gain more flexibility that way.  Another tactic is to sort of play around with the page structure, columns, etc, in Google to reproduce what you’re looking for.  I do suggest encouraging it for several practical reasons: 1) the upcoming switch to Google Apps for Education might make it more secure and attractive, 2) It is one of the best services for not only keeping track of site changes (thanks to the revision history) but it’s also possible to export the content out in a fairly easy manner using another of Google’s tools, 3) there is ample technical support for it on campus because of its wide use and 4)it easily integrates with all of Google’s other tools, for students who want to incorporate documents, presentations, slideshows, images, videos, maps, etc.

In fact, as far as general features + reliability and longevity, we do really recommend WordPress and Sites and working with students to find ways to enable the type of functionality they’re looking for as best as possible.

Robert has put together a brief overview of a few of these tools on our wiki <> , including storage limitations and an “ease of use” rating.

I hope that helps.  If students have very specific questions on any of the platforms, just let me know.  If you’d like us to stop by for a brief in-class Q&A or workshop while they’re getting set up, we can do that as well.

Lauren Atkins
Instructional Technology Consultant
LSA Instructional Support Services
G333 Mason Hall
Instruction Group:

How to add a new WordPress blog post

Hi All,

Here is a link to a short video taking you through the steps of signing in to your new Minor in Writing blog account and creating your first blog post.

One key point is to assign your blog post the appropriate categories and tags.  Please use the “2011 Fall Cohort” category for all of your posts to the blog, as well as any other categories and tags that will help your readers sort your posts and find them easily.

How to add a new WP blog post (video)

Please note that if the video window appears too large to view in its entirety, after clicking on the large arrow to ‘play,’ you’ll need to scroll to the lower right of the window to find the icon for viewing in full-screen.  Move your cursor over the bottom right corner to make the icon appear (it looks like a small screen or two rectangles).  Click on the icon to size the video to your computer screen.  Press ‘Esc’ to exit full screen mode and return to the blog.

Enjoy, and happy blogging!


Welcome to the Minor in Writing!

Dear Minor in Writing Students,

Welcome to Sweetland’s Minor in Writing.  We are delighted that you will be taking part in this exciting new program.  WRITING 220, the gateway course, will prepare you for your journey through the Minor.  In addition, a member of our faculty will serve as your advisor from this fall until you complete the Minor by taking WRITING 400 and submitting your capstone electronic portfolio.

As you know, the Minor in Writing is designed to help you develop your ability to write effectively across disciplines, respond to a variety of writing situations, reflect on your writing practices, and build a rhetorically savvy electronic portfolio demonstrating your skills as a writer.  You will begin building your portfolio in WRITING 220.  Throughout the Minor in Writing you will save writing artifacts in an online archive from which you will choose the work to include in your electronic portfolio.  You will find information about the portfolio and archive on the Nuts & Bolts page of this blog.

To help you achieve your goals and assure your progress through the portfolio building process, you will meet at least once each semester with your advisor to plan, assess your progress, and get answers to any questions you may have.  You will be able to make an appointment with your advisor through the Sweetland Center for Writing online appointment scheduling page for undergraduate advising.  You will also have the benefit of continuing contact with a cohort of other students in the Minor through a regular group meeting each semester and a shared Minor in Writing blog.

We look forward to working with you!