ENGL 3177/5177: Weblogs and Wikis

Course Statement v. 3.0 Spring 2011
 (image: http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5010/5263430495_0c79fcc747.jpg)
Snoopy at the MIA at flickr.

M C Morgan
HS 314 | 755 2814
mmorgan@bemidjistate.edu mmorgan@bemidjistate.edu
Office hours: On my office door and by appointment

Course addresses

Prerequisite: Completion of ENGL 1150 and 2152 (aka the old ENGL 1101/1102) or permission of instructor.
Note: This course does not fulfill the Language Competency for Masters of Arts.

  • Blogging, Jill Walker Rettberg. UK: polity, 2008. Amazon, $16.15
  • The Complete Guide to Wikis T. Brian Chatfield Amazon, or Kindle version. $11.23

Others of interest
  • Blood, Rebecca, The Weblog Handbook. [np]: Perseus, 2001.
  • Mader, Stuart. Wikipatterns. Wiley, 2008.
  • Rosenberg, Scott. Say Everything. New York: Crown Publishers, 2009.
  • Sagola, Dom. 140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form. New Jersey: Wiley, 2009. http://140characters.com
  • Bruns, Axel. Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond. New York: Peter Lang, 2008.
  • Cummings, Robert E, and Matt Barton, eds. Wiki Writing: Collaborative Learning in the College Classroom. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan Press, 2008.
  • Morgan's Links on Pinboard for ENGL 3177

Other readings, animations, videos, mashups provided by the instructor and participants
See also WikiReadingsForCourse | BlogReadingsForCourse


This course in weblogs, wikis, and social media at large, gives you the opportunity to explore and consider as a producer - not just a consumer - new genres and modes of writing and composing, new means of consideration, analysis, and expression. I'm trying not to be vague and over-general in describing the course this way. The thing is, the range of what it means to read and write has shifted significantly in the past 10 years, so much so that we have to use new terms to describe it. Here's one of my early attempts:
Social media (weblogs, wikis, microblogging, social bookmarking, image sharing, tagging ...) challenge, if not undercut, our understanding of how information, writing, composing, and power play out. Social media have created an alternative grounding and understanding of communication, one based on produsage (Bruns) rather than production and consumption. New practices of creation and invention, new means of production, new kinds of products, and new channels of distribution all feed back to influence what gets written and how and when, and what we value, and how we value it. This means that engaging in social media means learning the subtleties not of a new genre or form or kind of writing but the ways and means of a new system - from invention to production to distribution - and a new way of valuing production and content.

Social media (weblogs, wikis, and their variants) also make possible - perhaps necessary - a new way of teaching and learning.

How the Course Proceeds

Much of what we'll be doing in this course is practice. That means, doing things, practicing. It's not a course where you will be expected to read selected materials and then feed back your understanding of what you read. Instead, it's a course where you will be placed in a working situation each week, with some materials to read, look at, listen to, play with, and some activities to perform that draw on those materials, as well as other material on the web - materials you look for or encounter. You are expected to select from the materials and activities to ... well, to learn something. To learn. In the company of others in the course. But also on your own.

Sounds pretty baldfaced when stated that way, but stay with me for a while.

You'll be running your own weblog as a place to collect materials and links, to post your productions, to comment on the work of others, and to keep chronological track of your work in the course. For you, your weblog is a place for you to work - a workspace or lab or studio - and a place to keep record of the work you've done: What you have looked at, what you thought about it, what you created in response. For others in the class and elsewhere, your weblog is where they will come to view, link to, and comment on your work. Other tools in your kit will be a wiki for hypertextual and topical work, a social bookmarking site for sharing and tracking sources, and twitter for microblogging. We'll all use these.

Optionally, you might wish to use flickr or picassa for sharing your images, YouTube, Vimeo or another video site to share video; SlideShare if you work in slides, prezi for presentations, a cartoon site if you work in graphic essays, and so on. You don't have to publish to all these media. But materials for this course will come from many of these sites, and you are welcome to produce in these media - as well as writing.

We'll take the first couple of weeks to become familiar with some tools we'll all use in common: a weblog, wiki, twitter, a social bookmarking site. From there, add your own to the mix as your interests move you.

The Pattern

Each week (Sunday evening or Monday morning) I'll post a topic to focus on, a set of materials to work with, and a set of activities to engage in using the materials and any other materials you find. You're not expected to read, view, or play with everything I post, and you don't have to engage in every activity: Pick and choose according to your own interests.

What do you do? Well, to keep yourself organized and to get the most out of the materials and the course, I'm recommending that you use this pattern of work (which I've repurposed from Steven Downes).

Aggregate - Read, view, play with, and read anything else that comes in. Get the materials in order. Find places for them on your weblog or wiki, bookmark them, or place them on your desktop.

Remix/Annotate - Collect what you've looked at, then do something to the materials. Comment on readings or videos, tweet about them, post to them to your bookmarking site, and annotate and tag them. Discuss them on your blog, post a video comment that allows others to comment in return, or post a slide show or presentation on prezi. Find other remixes and comment on those.

Repurpose - Do something with the materials you read and created. Use them as raw materials for your own work. Build on them, rework them, work them into your own framework, you're own view ... Create a video, blog post, comic, twitter stream, collage, web page, research project, survey ... whatever. Make the materials you have aggregated and remixed the center of your creation, "the bricks and mortar you ... use to compose your own thoughts and understanding of the material" (Downes).

Feed forward - Make your work public. This should happen automatically. If you have your blog set for an RSS feed, you're sharing.

Reflect - Occasionally, we'll stop looking outward so you can look at what you've done and consider what that doing means, for you, for now. This might be an essay, video, audio, mashup ... For reflection, you repurpose your own work. you do something with the materials you have created.

You don't need to make every one of these moves every week, but it serves learning best to start with aggregate and move towards repurpose, feeding forward all the time. And if you really engage the course, you'll probably find yourself doing some of these activities on the fly - when the opportunity strikes - and others after sitting down and taking some time. You might, for instance, tweet (annotate) while watching The Daily Show if something that comes up that has to do with the course. Good. Even better, locate and tweet a link to that episode, and tag it so you can find it later, and so others can include it in their work. You might find yourself blending some of the activities, aggregating and remixing stuff by collecting links to them and annotations on your wiki or your blog. You'll likely find that repurposing may take not the most time but might be the most deliberate, sit-down-and-get-it-done kind of time you spend.

Tags and Feeds

Sharing - placing your work in the public churn - is a central part of this course. It's the social part of social media.

Those materials you want to share with others in the course, you'll tag using en3177 or #en3177, and a link to them will be added to our course weblog - The Daybook - so that others will be able to find them. Those sources you find particularly useful and want to follow more closely, you should subscribe to using RSS.

Experiment and Suffice

Not everything you produce for this course has to be finished or polished. You have room in the course to experiment with tools, to watch what others do, try things out for yourself, and if something doesn't work, move on and maybe try again later. I'm encouraging you to try things, especially if you're new to them, even if you haven't done it before: Make a PPT deck, shoot and upload a video, try a new mode or genre of writing as a remix or repurposing of the ideas we're investigating in this course. Watch what others are doing and try it yourself.

If something does work ... well, the course keeps moving forward, so you may have to set the project aside for a while in an imperfect, unfinished state, and return to it later in the course to develop it further. You'll have time to consider all this as we move thorough the course.

Course Guidelines and Expectations

We'll use the first weeks of the class
These early class sessions will be a little loose; you may already be familiar with some of these things, but attendance is required. We'll talk. I may need to present, and I will demonstrate a couple of times, but demonstrations will be more Q and A than lecture. I'll even invite you to back channel the demo, if you wish.

It's best to be prepared for each class so you can make the most of the time and so we can move ahead at a good pace. You really need to attend because we'll be addressing stuff that might not be addressed online - and others in the class will need your expertise. (I'm speaking from recent experience here. I recently took two courses that proceeded this way, and I can assure you it takes time to prepare for class meetings, but being prepared makes all the difference.)

You'll be expected to set up your blog, your twitter account, your social bookmarking account, and to get used to using our wiki outside of class. We'll look at the options in class, but you'll need to get signed up for sites and learn how to use them on your own time. This doesn't mean you have to do it alone. Arrange to meet with others and help each other out.

By the same token, you'll be expected to find out about those things you're unfamiliar with - terms, concepts, sites, tools ... - on your own. Rather than explain what hash tags are, I will expect you to find out on your own and post links and and annotations to what you find to your blog or your social bookmarking site. Rather than walking you through how to use markdown to edit wiki pages, I'll point you to the GettingStarted pages and a book chapter, and you can set up your local wiki page on your own. We'll talk about how to use the wiki to manage your learning, but you'll be expected to make the first step. Again, we'll spend the first few weeks of meeting in class to get used to doing these sorts of things, to get a sense of where to ask questions and how to get answers.

After we're set up, we'll meet less often, but we'll meet regularly - perhaps once every two weeks. Plan to be here when we do meet; I want everyone to have the opportunity to talk with each other about what they are working on and what they have found.

Expect to work outside of class the usual 2 hours for each course hour - that's 6 hours a week, minimum, when we meet twice a week, and 9 hours a week when we don't. That's the amount of time I'm expecting you to put in.

End of Semester Reflection/Consideration

A week or two before the end of the semester, we'll turn reflective again. And as a final activity, you'll create a largish or extended, engaging, digital composition that addresses what you learned and what that learning means - to you, for now. What form and media this composition takes will be up to you. You might cast it as

For the final, you'll informally present your reflection project to the class to great acclaim and applause. There will be food.

Evaluation and Grading

You are here to learn what you can all you can about writing and publishing with weblogs, wikis, and other social media: how to do it technically and socially, some of its history, where these activities fit in the current culture, where these productions fit in the current culture, and what these things mean in the current culture.

Much of what you learn will be explicit and declarative - you will be able to articulate what you know. Some of what you learn will be procedural and implicit - you will be able to do something without necessarily being able to explain how or why. Much of what you learn will be strategic - given a problem, you will be able to address it using the social tools at hand - and not necessarily in the way they were designed to be used.

You're going to be living - well, at least learning - in a social networking environment, using those tools, those procedures, in that culture for the next 15 weeks. Think immersion.

It's my job to make sure you have access to the stuff to learn from, and then evaluate what you learned at the end of the course. It's your job to access the stuff, learn it, and work with it. That's the social contract built into the course. You might also have some specific things you want to learn in the realm of weblogs and wikis and social network produsage. Good. Here's your opportunity. Use it. The design of this course makes that possible. Here's how I'm planning to evaluate what you do.

Attendance: Drop a half grade for every course session missed after two free misses. Miss six classes (3 weeks of class) and you can't pass.

In this course, you submit work by tagging it with en3177, which shares it with the class through an RSS feed. I'll review your process and materials for the following:

demonstrate technical proficiency by
demonstrate knowledge (both declarative and procedural) by
demonstrate responsibility and academic integrity by
That's the stuff I'll look at. Here are the criteria I'll use for final evaluation:
In short, the more challenging the tasks you tend to set for yourself, and the more sophisticated the work you take on, the higher the final grade. These features and criteria emphasize exploring, experimenting, developing self-reliance, as well as traditional academic qualities of complexity, insight, tenacity, and risk.

General considerations

Please be considerate of others in class. When you're here, you're on task.

Grad Student Requirements

Talk to me about setting up a grad project to pursue through the course. Your activities will include an annotated bibliography of reading and materials based on materials for the course and your own reading. The reading can be web-based or print. Grad students will take on more activities, and the work will be of grad-level quality.

Meeting Out of Class

When we aren't meeting formally as a class, we will be pretty tightly connected through twitter, the course weblog, the wiki, and social bookmarking. But I'd encourage you to meet f2f informally for this class to
I'll keep regular office hours to look at what we're doing online. Don't be a stranger.

Responsibility for Words

Everything you do on the wiki, and everything you tag with EN3177 or #EN3177 will be accessible to the world.

Here's how my colleague at USF, Joe Moxley, puts it
The goal of public writing is to prepare you for contemporary literacies (archiving and collaborating online) and engage you in the generative power of daily writing. Before putting any public writing on the web, think before you publish. Don’t publish anything that might embarrass you tomorrow, next week, or in 20 years.

Use professional, gracious ways to address materials. Most of what you're writing is about sources and what you're doing. I'm not asking you to create confessional, personal work (although you might if you wish) but to use your work - writing, tagging, blogging, wiki writing, designing, cartooning, whatever... to learn with.

At the end of the course, you can delete your wiki and blog pages.

There's an old saw on the internet:
You own your own words.

Your work for this class - on the blog, on the wiki, in twitter - will be published and accessible to the world as soon as you place it on line: That's the moment you hit Publish or Save. In any university course, you are legally and ethically responsible for your own words (slanderous and libelous writing, writing in violation of copyright, and plagiarism are not protected by academic freedom). In the same way, you are legally responsible for what you write in this course. Publish something slanderous, or plagiarize someone - republish their words or images without giving them credit or, in some cases, getting permission - and you could get an email from a lawyer.

You do not have carte blanche to publish whatever you wish. The law is changing, but if you have doubts on whether what you are publishing is legal, don't publish it. I will post links to more specific legal information as I find them.
- Electronic Frontier Foundation
- Chilling Effects Clearinghouse
- Standford Center for Internet and Society (And their front page is a blog.)
- Free Speech - Virtually: Legal Constraints on Web Journals, Washington Post, Dec 19, 2002.
- [BSU Computing Policies ]

If I change anything on this syllabus I'll let you know.

Privacy and Sharing
This wiki is a fishbowl wiki. It can be read and searched by anyone, but it is editable only by those with a password. This means that your work in this class is visible to the world. At the end of the course you may remove or revise material you created on this wiki. I will remind you of this clean up at the end of the semester.

Alternative Formats
This syllabus is available in alternate formats. Talk to me, or contact Kathi Hagen in the Office for Students with Disabilities at 755-3883. Contact the Office for Students with Disabilities if you need accommodations in the class.

See also
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