ENGL 3177/5177: Weblogs and Wikis

Course Statement and Guide

v. 5.1 Spring 2016
 (image: https://farm1.staticflickr.com/738/22949006989_c02a39b938.jpg)
Vancouver, BC
This is the fifth major design of this course over the ten years+ we've offered it at BSU. For this version, I'm indebted to the designer-faculty of DS106 at University of Mary Washington: Jim Groom, Alan Levine, et al; as well as designer-faculty of cMOOCs. I've borrowed heavily from DS106 for the ideas of bootcamp, the weekly routine of the course, the heuristic for writing a weekly summary, and some general recommendations on materials and practices. From Stephen Downes I have borrowed the root of the working method. Thanks all.

Course addresses

Other texts of interest

M C Morgan
HS 314 | 755 2814
Office hours: T and R 1:15, in HS 109. Available by Skype Weds 11:00 - 2:00. Other times by appointment.

Completion of ENGL 1150 and ENGL 2152 or permission of instructor.

BS English students
Assessment alert. See BOTAssessmentForWeblogsAndWikis

Texts and Materials


Course websites


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 practices in learning, things like new genres and modes of writing and composing, new ways of working with new content.

The subject of the class is blogging and writing on wikis. That's what we're studying - writing about, talking about, researching - to become more informed about what they are and how they work in society. Along the way, we'll be using research and response methods that are developing more and more in the collective use of weblogs. New practices in research, curation, annotation, response.

Topics and Readings

We'll start with some general questions and considerations, and see where that takes us.

The sense of weblogs, wikis, Twitter, FB and other social media presented in general is painfully anemic, and often just wrong (Txting, FB, and Twitter has not created a crisis in grammar or spelling among children. Wikipedia can be just as trustworthy as The Encyclopedia Brittanica... ) So to start, we'll look at what more there is to see and say about social media. We'll consider how blogs are actually being used now, consider what else is possible, consider what is myth and what might be substantive. We'll look at various angles such as the use of social media in learning, marketing, politics, social interaction, revolution, resistance, and identity creation. We'll consider implications of literacy, copyright and the law more broadly, the relations with mainstream media. In the end, we're asking the question, How might we change our ways of thinking and doing in order to make the best use of social media?

We'll be putting together set of curated readings as the course progresses. I'll be adding to this with online materials: readings, videos, audio files, visits to weblogs. You'll also be adding to the materials we look at and consider.

For our work with wikis, I'll curate a set of readings from Leuf and Cunningham, The Wiki Way; Choate, Professional Wikis; Mader, Wikipatterns; as well as online materials: readings, videos, audio files, visits to wikis.

You will also be asked to locate and work with supplemental material from the web and elsewhere.


Through your engagement in this course, you have the opportunity to become more literate (produce and consume) in digital communication techniques. Here are the specific objectives the course is designed for. YMMV. Which is to say, this course gives you the opportunity to

In short, this course gives you the opportunity to become well-informed, socially-minded, with the habit to take a critical perspective - about blogs and wikis and social media, and to do so by using blogs and wikis. To become adept at reading and producing social media, curation, analysis and consideration of what people are doing, and what else they can do.

How the Course Proceeds: Practices in the Digital Humanities

We meet face to face once a week, but the course proceeds by daily contact and practice. Expect to set time aside every day to dedicate to the course, by all means, stay caught up.

Most of what we'll be doing in this course is practice - the kinds of searching, reading, collecting, annotating, remixing, repurposing, responding practices that make use of the affordances of networked digital technologies and that have become mainstream in digital humanities.

Practice means doing things, generating content, trying things out to see what happens, considering what happened and trying it again. Each week , I'll put you in a working situation, with some materials to read, others to look at, listen to, play with, and some activities to practice that draw on those materials, as well as other material on the web. You are expected to use those materials and engage the activities to learn what you can learn by practice. I'll provide some direct instruction when it's appropriate. But often, I'll ask you to explore the territory at least initially on your own - Well, not completely on your own but in the company of others in the class.

This means that you might not understand something before you start an activity. But you'll need to start anyway. You will only begin to understand by engaging the problem.

Your Weblog as a Workspace and a Node in the Course Community

This course gives you the opportunity to develop the habit of composing for public consumption on the public platform of the weblog.

You'll be running your own weblog as a place to work: a space to collect materials and links, to post your notes, drafts and productions, to comment on the ongoing work of others, and to keep chronological track of your work in the course. For you, this weblog is 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.

This makes your weblog for this course a public space, a changing and evolving space, one that writers and readers adapt to the social purposes, and a space that is one node in the network of this course community. I will ask you to tailor your weblog for this course and for the kind of work we're doing. I will shape the course activities to suit weblog work and publication - things like including images, collecting a blog roll, using tags and categories, and above all links links and more links.

For others in the class and elsewhere, this weblog is where they will come to view, link to, and comment on your work in progress. Other tools in your kit will be this course wiki for hypertext work, and Twitter for microblogging. We'll all use these.

So, you can use your existing blog if you wish, but I'll ask you to tailor it for the course, and to post materials for this course to it. If you want to keep your existing blog for another purpose, then set up a new one specifically for this course.

Optionally, you might wish to use Flickr or Picassa for sharing 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 few weeks to get set up and become familiar with some tools we'll all use in common: your weblog, the wiki for this class, Twitter, and RSS feeds. This might be intensive (It's bootcamp, not a walk in the woods) but you'll have plenty to guide you:
Expect to do most of this bootcamp work outside of class time. You can work with others in the class, of course, a practice I would recommend. But you'll need to complete all the tasks I assign during this time to demonstrate that you're ready to proceed in the course. Read that again, with feeling. You're not ready to continue the course until you've completed bootcamp.

Update for spring 2016: WP has recently updated its web interface and has released a desktop application. (links). This means that The Missing Manual, 2nd ed is not up to date. The principles and functions that we're working with - templates, profiles, blogrolls, categories, tags - are pretty much the same has they have been, but the procedures for using them have changed. If you run into a problem, use the WP Support site at https://en.support.wordpress.com - and search for support.

The Weekly Routine

Once we're out of bootcamp, we'll follow a weekly routine. (Again, I'm indebted to ds106 for this design.)

The Project

Starting about Week 7 - 8 or 9, I'll ask you to design and pursue your own project, one that continues our study of weblogs, wikis, or another social media phenomenon as suggested by the materials we've been working with. The project gives you a chance to take the last half of the course in a direction of your own design. I'll give you more information on this when we come nearer time.

During the project, you'll be following the same weekly routine we will have established during the first part of the course: daily work, regular commenting, weekly summaries.

Participation and Presence

Your success in this class, in learning, in learning in this class, depends on your regular participation and presence using your collective blogs, the wiki, and Twitter. By regular I mean, daily, even more than once a day. The way we're working during this course, learning accumulates day-by-day, activity by activity.

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.

You may need to adapt your working habits. Rather than putting in a burst of activity one day week, you'll need to take time every day to get things done - posting a draft or initial responses to activities, commenting on the work of others, having a look at what others are doing to get a sense of what you are doing, narrating your own course experience - using your blog and Twitter. Your blog and Twitter are how you support your learning, and how you support each other as a learning community.

Developing and supporting a community like this is work, especially as we have to bootstrap what we're doing by learning to use the social media tools to support the community.

Criteria for Engagement: substantive, detailed, thorough, thoughtful

Your work with materials for this course should be substantive, detailed, thorough, and thoughtful. Blogging is a good forum for fulfilling these criteria. Blogging tends to have an attitude, and it tends to be informal, accumulative, with any single post being partial, incomplete, and tentative. But blogging - good blogging - is also substantive, detailed, thorough, thoughtful. Snarky, informal, partial and incomplete - but still substantive.

Your weekly reflections on your own work should also be substantive, detailed, thorough, thoughtful - and reflective.

Your comments on the work of others should be ... you guessed it: substantive, detailed, thorough, thoughtful - and supportive. If you are substantive, detailed, thorough, thoughtful, you will find that you will be supportive. You won't need to say "Good job!" if you compose a thoughtful response to someone's position on a reading.

Meeting these criteria might feel awkward at first - especially if you're used to working by formula or working fast and off-the-cuff. To be substantive, detailed, thorough, and thoughtful, you may have to read materials through a few times, re-think what someone is saying. You may make some initial false starts as you locate a position to speak from and something to say. And your won't know where you're going until you get into the field. It's bootstrapping again. But get started and you'll find that you'll develop ways of being substantive, detailed, thorough, thoughtful. Suggestion: linking and citing examples will help.

Weekly Summary Posts

Here's a heuristic (Just google it) I've adapted from ds106 to guide composing your weekly summaries:

As always, you may be initially puzzled by the questions Use them as generative questions rather than trying to address them as exam questions. Use them as a way of thinking about what you worked on.

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 need to tag using #en3177. Use it when you tweet. Place the tag in your blog posts. A Google search on #en3177 should find what you post. Try it. You should see materials that were created for the course in prior years. Those sources you find particularly useful and want to follow more closely, you should subscribe to using RSS. [Try googling #bemidjistate or #en4709 to see.]


Bootstrapping means engaging in an activity before you completely understand the activity. Like map-making, you don't know what the terrain looks like until you get into the field start to make the map. Now and then - more at the beginning of course - you won't understand how to do something, or what to think about something, or how to think about something before you need to start an activity. But start anyway. You will only begin to understand by engaging the problem and engaging with the community.

Experiment and Suffice

You'll be creating a lot of stuff for this course, mainly writing - some short form (tweets, notes), some long form (weblog posts, wiki entries), some of your own, and some in commenting on the work and materials of others. But you can, and are encouraged to, use other media at any stage of your work. An image (collected from Flickr, or one you take or create) that illustrates a concept or comments on an idea. A visual map or diagram to illustrate how something works or how ideas work together. A video diary. A collage … Most of us will work primarly with writing because we are all more textually literate than visually literate [insert link to evidence here], but other modes are welcome and encouraged.

Not everything you produce for this course has to be finished or polished. You have room in the course to experiment with tools, to see what others do, to 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.

Work outside of class

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 (Google, asking around) and post links and annotations to what you find to your blog. Again, we'll spend the first few weeks in bootcamp 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 use our weekly meetings to see where we are, what we have found, compare notes.... Plan to be here; I want everyone to have the opportunity to talk with each other about what they are working on and what they have found.

End of Semester Reflection/Consideration

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

I am reconsidering how to handle the final. In the past, students have informally presented their projects to the class to great acclaim and applause. We'll talk about this.

Late Policy

Your work for the week (weekly summaries and any projects assigned) must be posted to your blog on time or you will receive 0 points for the week. Read that again. Nil points. That will hurt your final grade. Post regularly. Post early. Post often.

You will be expected to be posting your work and comments on the work of others regularly during the week.

Things come up, systems go down. I'll know when a system goes down. But if there is a serious situation that will prevent you from posting your weekly summary, let me know in advance. Please don't just disappear for a week. Keep me informed so I can accommodate the situation.

Attendance and Presence

Attendance is voluntary. If you're here, you'll probably gain something. If you're here and active, you'll definitely gan something. You'll be able to ask questions and get answers right then and there. You'll be able to talk about an assignment. If you miss the face to face class, you miss whatever we did in class that session. Much of what we're doing will be facilitated online, so it's possible to take part in the class without attending face to face.

When you attend, put the phones on silent, stay part of the whole class discussion, and use your computer to focus on what we're doing in class,

Presence - posting regularly, daily, visiting others's weblogs and commenting, tweeting with the #en3177 hashtag - is the online equivalent of attendance. Maintaining a presence signals that you are engaging in the class. If your presence falls too low, I may ask you to drop the course.

Evaluation and Grading

I'll evaluate your work by how well it meets the Criteria for Engagement above, and by your weekly summaries. Your summary must link to your productions or I won't find them and you won't receive credit for them. If they are not linked when I review your work, I won't return to review them later.

Here are the criteria I'll use for a final evaluation of your work:

In short, the more challenging the tasks you set for yourself, and the more sophisticated the work you take on, the higher your final grade. These features and criteria emphasize exploring, experimenting, developing self-reliance, as well as traditional academic qualities of complexity, insight, tenacity, and risk.

Grading Percentages

Yes: That's 105% percent.

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.

Responsibility for Words

Your work for this class - on the blog, on the wiki, in twitter, everything you tag #en3177 - 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 or Send. 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.

In short: Address your materials professionally and graciously. (The most scathing critiques can be are decorous.). Produce materials (and you will be producing a lot) that others will find useful.

The Wiki: 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.

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

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

Alternative Formats
This syllabus is available in other formats. Talk to me, or contact 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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