On Wednesday, April 24th, I attended a workshop hosted by the Graduate Student Teaching Association (GSTA) on how to use WordPress in the classroom. The purpose of this event was to provide attendees an opportunity to hear how WordPress can be a useful tool to engage students in experiential learning and a way to keep your syllabus “alive” and accessible longer than it might be on Blackboard. The event began with brief introductions and everyone was invited to join the virtual community “Using WordPress in the Classroom” which involved setting up a CUNY Commons Account. Once we were all set up here, three graduate students (who were familiar with WordPress) led an interactive discussion on how to set up a WordPress website. Though there was a PowerPoint, most of the presentation involved projecting the website onto a screen and following the ‘experts’ as they navigated the website. Attendees were encouraged to set up practice websites to ‘play around’ with the features of the website and get a hands-on understanding of how to set up a website and how to manage its features. Each of the options provided (such as accessibility and privacy) were discussed in terms of their benefits/consequences. Throughout the workshop, questions were posted in the “Comments” section of the community, and were addressed either collectively or in the form of a “Reply.” At the end of the workshop, a short presentation on the benefits of using WordPress in place of Blackboard was emphasized; some of the benefits included: (1) both the student and the professors having access to the WordPress website even after a course is ‘closed’ on Blackboard, (2) can be shared so other professors can access – and also anyone else using Google!- and (3) because it allows students to develop a professional skill (website building).
I chose to attend this workshop because the readings on blogging and technology tools have piqued my interest, but I am not particularly tech-savvy so I wanted to learn about some of the options that have been successful for other graduate student teachers. I have had a little experience with WordPress before, but it was in the form of a static website and I thought it would be better to create a dynamic website for a class, so that posts and student work could be “live.” I was surprised to learn about so many different ways to use WordPress – some used it for a Blackboard alternative and others used it as so much more! I definitely learned a lot more about what the website could do and I could see how I might be able to integrate it as a way for student to interact with course material outside of the classroom in a more casual, informal language so that they can make sense of it in terms of their world. I suggest that other instructors check out WordPress to see if they feel comfortable with integrating it into their classes! It is a pretty easy to learn program, that involves a little ‘test and go’ but is overall user-friendly and ends up looking very professional in a short amount of time! It’s even a good way for people to have ‘live resumes’ and personal blogs, if anyone is interested in using WordPress outside of the classroom.
Resources for more information on using WordPress:
- The PowerPoint on WordPress: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxtoR2jbrN39dUtXZ0hmWlZEODA/view
- A Prezi presentation on why you should integrate blogging into the classroom:
- The Using WordPress in the Classroom Group on CUNY Commons (this was the website created specifically for this event, which includes the two resources above and some more! I think that you should be able to request invitation even though the event is over by creating a CUNY Commons account and then selecting “Request Membership”): https://commons.gc.cuny.edu/groups/using-wordpress/