WordPress for student run class sites

Originally posted NOVEMBER 2, 2010

I’ve been using WordPress Multi-site for my class website for a few years. Last year I began experimenting with the plugin BuddyPress for student blogs, groups, forum posts, and communication. Students really enjoyed having their own website to customize and the facebook like abilities of updating their status, friending classmates, and “liking” other’s updates. It was easy for me to setup forum discussions as part of assignments and to track group progress via their group blogs.

Most students quickly figured out how to navigate the site and all of it’s features. Some were confused, but were able to get help from myself or other students.

This year I’m going to focus on student created content on the class website. The goals are to:

  1. Increase student participation and buy-in on the class website.
  2. Improve their internet related skills (I’ve been surprised how lacking this is for some students).
  3. Encourage students to continue their science work outside of class (I rarely give homework.
  4. Integrate the class website in a way that is useful and is not a replacement of what can be done in the classroom.

I’ve started out by giving some students the job of “web jockey”.  They write down the science questions asked at the beginning of each class and the answer.  These questions are written as new posts on the main class website in a category called “Science Questions”.  WordPress 3 custom menus let me create a menu item for just that category for easy listing.  This will eventually create a large repository of questions that students wanted to know more about.  Students can continue the discussions in the comments section on each post (though no one has done this, nor have I encouraged it, yet).

My other effort has been a “Creative Works” site.  this is separate from the main class website and requires an account to view so that student privacy respected.  In Biology students have posted creative short stories and summaries of science current events.  My hope for the short stories is for students to easily share their more artistic side in science class.  The current events follow in the same thinking of science questions.  Students can choose their articles from teacher approved websites.  This will result in a collection of news articles that students have found interesting or relevant to others their age.  This repository could then serve as a starting point for research projects.