To the whiteboard!

I am lucky to work with some pretty amazing people. I am also lucky that these same people are tolerant of my “what would happen if we did this?” or “how hard would it be to make this happen?” way of thinking about how technology can be used for teaching.

Can I Haz a question?

I don’t do code, much to the relief of the people who do do code, but I greatly admire those who can take an idea and make it a reality.

The blogging tool I am using this semester in HISP 205 was born, much like its predecessors, on a whiteboard. I knew we would be using WordPress MU again as our blogging tool, but I also knew that our previous iteration of the “blog central” with a series of connected student blogs needed some tweaking.

I have come to respect the power of the existing plugins and widgets that the WordPress community has created and made available to others. I also believe in the brilliance of my colleague Justin to make those plugins bend to his will.

So this is the “concept map” I drew on the whiteboard for how I wanted the blog to work in December:

HISP205template
And this is what it looks like in real life:

Click on the image to make larger

Click on the image to make larger

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Click here to see the site in action.

Some new additions for 2010:

–Gravatars: a visual way to link an identity of a writer visual to a post or a comment. We used gravatar.com and asked the students to set this up for themselves. here is an image that shows a blog entry with comments and each comment accompanied by the commenter’s gravatar.

Click on  the image to see a larger version

Click on the image to see a larger version

Some new ways to create connections:

The front page (el blog central) is an aggregator…it pulls in the posts from the students’ blogs. The first 100 words appear along with their gravatar. This makes trolling the blogs (both for the student as well as the teacher) much easier.

Image sidebar: each time a someone posts an image to his or her blog, the image is added to a sidebar slideshow as well, with a link back to the blog where it lives.

YouTube playlist and Sidebar: Getting YouTube to play nicely was a chore, but once set up, when students post videos to their posts using the You Tube embed code, it automatically adds the video to a playlist and to a sidebar on the blog. The sidebar also has a link to the post where the video was uploaded.

Site wide tag clouds: yet another way to check in and see what people are writing about, or if anything is writing about the same stuff you are writing about.

In addition to my class, we now have a Russian class, a French class, a languages across the curriculum section of a Latin American history course, and several non-language classes (both in the College as well as the Conservatory of Music) using this tool. To see them all, please click here and click on the ‘blogs’ link (below the cockatiel!)

Barbara has been working for a small liberal arts college in the cornfields of Ohio for about 15 years. In addition to teaching Spanish she runs a somewhat unconventional language center. Prior to this adventure in higher ed she taught high school Spanish and loved it. She wishes she had more time in her life to play with her dogs, write, read, swim, do yoga things and watch the Red Sox. Preferably not all at once, although that could be interesting. To see her online portfolio please click here!

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