Announcing drop-in studio hour

Starting this week, the Domain team will be hosting a studio drop-in hour for students working on web projects.

When: Fridays, 10-11am (immediately after our class)


Where: Callaway N203 (immediately next door to our classroom)

The idea for this hour is not so much that you come in and ask questions instead of going to the Writing Center, but that you can stop in, use the computers in the room to work individually or collaboratively with your group, and there will be someone staffing that hour who can help out with questions as they come up.

At least one of the people staffing that hour will be me on most weeks.

Which means I’ll need to adjust my scheduled office hours. I think going forward, I’ll have office hours on Wednesdays instead of Fridays, but I’m not 100% certain of that time yet.

“If you’re interested in the model of education, you don’t start from a production line mentality”

I mentioned in class today RSA Animate, which is produced by The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce is an “enlightenment organisation committed to finding innovative and creative practical solutions to today’s social challenges [by …] empowering people to be active participants in creating a better world.” Since 1754, RSA has sponsored various sorts of events intended to further this goal, including public lectures, talks, debates, and screenings. The organization developed the idea of an animation series in order to allow these events to reach a much broader audience. A team of fellows at RSA selects lectures, edits down the audio to about 10 minutes, and then sends them to an animator named Andrew Park at Cognitive Media to be turned into animated video.

Here are two of my favorites from RSA Animates:

In “Changing Education Paradigms,” Sir Ken Robinson critiques our educational system for being “modelled on the interests of industrialism and [designed] in the image
of it.” He calls, instead, for an educational system that strives to help students achieve an aesthetic experience, where their “senses are operating at their peak, [they’re] present in the current moment, [they’re] resonating with the excitement of this thing that [they’re] experiencing, [they’re] fully alive.” Such a system, he argues, will value divergent thinking and collaboration.

Dan Pink, in “Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us,” argues that the traditional model of incentivizing work (reward desired behavior and you get more of it) only works when that work is strictly mechanical; as long as tasks require even rudimentary cognitive skills, that reward system not only fails to incentivize work but actually leads to poorer performance. Pink proposes instead that, once employees are paid enough to meet their basic needs, there are 3 factors that lead to better performance as well as personal satisfaction: autonomy, mastery, and performance.

Pages and/vs. Blog Posts

In this class, I make a clear distinction between blog posts and pages: all of your major, formal projects will go onto your sites as pages. The Sunday Funnies assignments and all of the other shorter, low-stakes, reflective writing that you do will go onto your sites as blog posts. Pages can be edited just as posts can be, but in general they are meant to serve as static, completed, more or less self-contained pieces of writing. Blogs are meant to go up onto the posts page in descending chronological order, so built into the function of a blog is that you write something and publish it, then if you have more to say on the subject or want to revise what you wrote in a major way, you do so by just writing a new blog post rather than going back to the original and restructuring it.

Here’s another clear distinction between posts and pages: posts syndicate but pages do not (because syndication is predicated on the idea of a frequently updating and changing posts page–static pages don’t need to syndicate because, well, they are more or less static). We are relying on syndication to the course site as the means of collecting all of the work that you do on your sites into a central location, but if your major projects go onto pages and pages don’t syndicate then how will they be included? When you complete one of the major assignments, you will write a blog post, linking to the landing page for the assignment. I’ll generally ask you to write something reflective about the work that you’ve done in those blog posts. Sometimes I might ask that you provide a summary or abstract of the argument, perhaps framing the post as an announcement meant to entice readers to check out what you’ve done akin to a teaser in journalism.

One last point: for the purposes of this class, at least, all blog posts and all pages should be multimodal and should include multiple media. You should not publish a page or a post that is composed entirely of text.


(image credit: “231 by Flickr user Jay Peg)

Week 3

3 1/26 Persepolis 33-102 (“The Letter” through “The Key”)
1/28 Persepolis 103-134 (“The Wine” through “Kim Wilde”)
1/30 Writer/Designer chapter 2
2/1 Due: Sunday Funnies 3

I hope you’ve all had a great weekend. The coming week will be our first “normal” one, since we had no Monday classes in the first two. We’ll spend some significant time discussing chunks of Persepolis this week and get into what will be our fairly regular rhythm: Mondays and Wednesdays focused on reading, analysis, discussion and Fridays focused on your own writings.

On Friday, we will actually spend some time discussing the first two chapters of Writer/Designer. Cheryl Ball, one of the authors of that book, will be on campus next week on Thursday and Friday (2/5 & 2/6) leading discussion and workshops for faculty and grad students around designing and assessing multimodal assignments. She’ll also give a public lecture on Thursday evening, starting at 6:00pm in the Jones Room on the 3rd floor of the library, entitled “The Asymptotic Relationship Between Digital Humanities and Computers and Writing.” I’ll offer extra credit to anyone who attends the lecture and then writes a paragraph or two on your blog about the event–summarize what she spoke about, what you learned, anything you found interesting about the talk. Ball is a very dynamic and fun speaker, and that title is meant to be at least a little bit puzzling and provocative, so you should consider attending if you can.

(Speaking of looking ahead and extra credit. You might want to mark your calendars now for another event: British Poet Laureate Carol Anne Duffy will be giving a reading in Glenn Auditorium at Emory on February 21 at 4:00pm. I’ll offer extra credit if you attend and reflect upon her reading too.)

I’ve been really enjoying your triptychs this week! We’ll talk briefly about them in class tomorrow, so please take a few moments to scroll through your classmates’ photographic comics–and leave comments in response. I believe almost everybody’s eng101 subdomains are now linked from the Student Work page and are syndicating. The syndication plugin checks for updates about every hour, so if you post something on your subdomain and it’s not showing up after a couple of hours or so, let me know, please. If you’re running into troubles with creating those posts or with configuring your sites, besides just finding time to work on it, then let me know.

By the way, if you’ve been just pasting URLs into your blog posts so far, then it’s time now to start learning how to create links instead. It’s not terribly complicated, but using links is a fundamental web literacy that you need to know how to do. (I’m not going to force you to learn the manual HTML for using links in comments, even though it wouldn’t be a bad idea for you to do so. I am going to require that you use links instead of URLs in your posts and pages.)

Note that for your next Sunday Funnies assignment, you might need to plan ahead a bit because you’ll be turning one set of class notes into a set of drawings or visualizations. These do not need to be polished or elaborate, but you’ll need to make sure to take good notes in one class (besides mine) this week and if you’re going to hand draw your visualizations (which is perfectly fine), you’ll need to build in enough time to go scan your drawings to insert into a post.

(image credit:”3 Mosaic” by Flickr user Leo Reynolds)


One thing I want you to do:

  • I talked in class today about this system where my post will be “pinged” when you link to it. In order for that to work, you need to turn notifications on in the settings of your dashboard (at least for your subdomain). Go to Settings > Discussion and the first check box, which is probably unchecked, says “Attempt to notify any blogs linked to from the article.” Check that box, then save your settings.

And a couple of things I want to explain to you, just so you know.

  • I changed up the format of Student Posts. The widget this theme uses to generate that grid wasn’t pulling featured images the way I want it to and it is not really designed to handle multiple authors. I might come back to it later and hack the theme’s code to get it to add in a user field, but for right now I don’t think it’s worth that time and it’s too confusing to have the grid showing all your work without names attached to them. So, for now, student posts show up in a category page–which makes things easier on you because now you just need to make sure that every one of your posts includes an image someplace, without necessarily needing that image to be a featured image.
  • I’ve added a tag cloud to the sidebar on some of the pages on my site. Tags in the cloud are bigger if they’ve been applied to more posts, so the size of a tag gives you a sense of how frequently it’s been used. When your posts are syndicated, any categories or tags that you apply to your posts are (supposed to be) turned into tags on my site. If you add tags to your posts, then, they’ll show up in the tag cloud and readers can use those to sort. So if you add the tag “A Softer World” to your posts someone can click on the tag to see all the syndicated posts with that in common (capitalization doesn’t matter, but spacing does, so “ASofterWorld” will show up as a separate tag). How many posts will include fart jokes by the end of the semester? Do we even want to know?


(image credit: “Housekeeping” by Flickr user Fabian Mohr.)

Sunday Funnies 3: Visual Note Taking

Due: 2/1

Create a set of visual notes for one session of a class that you are currently enrolled in.

I’m a big fan of the work of Giulia Forsyth. She works in a teaching and learning center, where she helps professors and instructors be more innovative in their teaching practices, and she also works as a visual note-taker and facilitator, which means that she is sometimes employed to go to presentations and meetings and to doodle notes for the meeting.

Check out this four minute video where she gives a quick summary of how she began to take her doodling seriously and where it has led her:

On her Visual Practice page, Forsyth has lots of videos and images explaining how she approaches the task of producing drawings that help her and others to not just grab the information that’s been presented in a class or discussion, but to grapple with the material and better understand it. You can also see numerous examples on her Flickr page, especially her Visual Practice album.

For your Sunday Funnies assignment this week, I want you to create a set of visual notes for one day in one class (other than ENG101) that you are currently enrolled in. You do not need to take your visual notes in real time; in fact, I recommend that you don’t. I recommend that you go to your classes and take notes in whatever manner you normally do, then after class go through your notes and recreate them as visual notes.

You do not need to draw your notes in a digital environment, either, though you are certainly free to do so. If you prefer to doodle with pen, pencil, or marker on paper then do that and once you’re done with your drawing, just scan the pages as JPG files so you can upload them to your site. If you have an iPad or other tablet or would like to draw on your laptop or desktop, then you might try apps like Inkflow or Adobe’s Sketchbook or search for other free/cheap drawing applications. I am completely tool agnostic on this assignment, so make your drawings in whatever manner make sense to you.

Your visual notes do not need to be polished or beautiful or anywhere near as intricate as Forsyth’s. Do try to take this assignment as an opportunity to really engage differently with your material–don’t just make a series of doodles that follow the outline of the lecture or discussion in your notes but try to really translate the concepts and information into a new, visual set of notes.

Once you’ve got your notes, load them onto your course site as a post in your Sunday Funnies category. Make one of your notes pages a featured image.

As you upload your visual notes, take a few moments to reflect on the process and then write a paragraph or two about what you learned during the process of creating your visual notes. Did it help you to understand the course content any differently or better to create notes visually rather than just as text? Did you discover anything new about yourself or the way you think in the process? Did you find it enjoyable or find some aspect of it particularly interesting? Someplace in your reflective text, create a link back to this blog post assignment.

(image credit: “Domain of One’s Own” by Flickr user Giulia Forsyth)

What’s the difference between URLs and links?

URLs are for computers. They are specific addresses that tell the web browser where to go to fetch data and show it to you in one form or another. The URL for the FAQ page on this site is The URL for the oldest post on the course blog is With a little awareness of the syntax, you can decode that information. If you wanted to read the page or post that I just referenced, you could copy that code and paste it into your browser to get there.

Sometimes people just paste URLs into emails or pages that they’re writing, and some applications will convert those URLs into links so that you at least don’t have to go to the trouble of copying and pasting the code as separate steps to get to the pages referenced. For example, one way to show you Gavin Aung Than’s comic adaptation of a quote by Jim Henson would be to just do this: However, most of the time readers will find URLs confusing and uninviting, and it’s difficult for you to effectively contextualize that information smoothly.

Links are for humans. Links use HTML code to turn URLs into something that is readable and clear for humans. One way to create a link is manually by inserting some HTML code around text, making that text into a link, so

Check out Gavin Aung Than’s <a href=””>brilliant comic adaptation</a> of a quote by Jim Henson.

looks like this in your browser

Check out Gavin Aung Than’s brilliant comic adaptation of a quote by Jim Henson.

Most of the time, though, you don’t need insert links manually. When you’re in your WordPress post editor, you can create a link by highlighting the text or image that you want to become a link and selecting the button that looks like the links of a chain, then pasting the URL into the dialog box. (The general rule of thumb, by the way, is that when you are linking to another page or post on your own site, you should have your link open in the same tab but when you are linking to something outside of your own site, have the link open in a new tab.)

This distinction between URLs and links is important for our class because our learning objectives state that over the course of the semester, you will “demonstrate understanding of audience” and learn to “use and adapt generic conventions, including organization, development, and style” and using links instead of URLs is an important first step in understanding the reading needs of your audience and is an important stylistic and generic convention of writing for the web.

This distinction is also important because using links opens up a whole range of more interesting options for you that are unavailable when you merely drop URLs into your work. Jokes can be goofy commentaries or can offer useful insight on the topic at hand.

Looking ahead to week 2

I hope you had a happy Martin Luther King, Jr holiday!

Remember that your first short assignment is due by Tuesday. Once you’ve created your badge, upload it to your blog.

Come to class on Wednesday having read Persepolis pages 3-32 (“The Veil” through “Persepolis”) and bring your book with you.

On Friday, you’ll need to come to class having read the first chapter of Writer/Designer. We’ll spend the class session going over plans for your web sites and will discuss the reading.

When I was showing you the course site on the first day, I explained briefly the relationship between my primary domain and this subdomain that I’ve created for this course and I mentioned that you’d be creating your own subdomains too. The time for that is this week.

By Friday, I want you to create a course subdomain (you can call it what you like, but is a sensible choice) and install WordPress again, this time into the subdomain. [N.B. The second time you install WordPress in Installatron, the location field will autofill directory as “blog.” Make sure to delete that line. If you leave “blog” there, then your site address will be instead of]

Repeat the process of configuring your WordPress on the subdomain, just like you did on the primary domain. Give your subdomain a title that is not “My blog.” Create a static front page and designate a posts page.

Create a menu on your subdomain and add a link in the menu back to your primary domain. Create a page on your primary domain called “Courses” and add a link to your subdomain for my class, either on the page itself, as a menu subpage, or both.

Most of the work that I explicitly assign you over the rest of the semester, starting on Friday, will go on your subdomain.

By Sunday, you’ll post your second Sunday Funnies assignment, as a blog post on your subdomain. Note that I’m switching around the order I was planning to do Sunday Funnies #2 and #3. Look for a blog post with the assignment to go up very soon.

(image credit: “Obscurae Gallery’s 2nd Annual Art Lottery” by Flickr user hrckyowian.)