We are using City Tech’s OpenLab (built on the blogging software WordPress) for our course site, and here you can find everything you need this semester. However, this is not just a place where you will come to find information and read what I have already written. Instead, you are expected to consistently and actively participate in creating content on our blog such as posting reflections on the course texts, discussing ideas with me and your classmates, reading and commenting on what others have posted, and linking to interesting/relevant material you have found through everyday experience as well as outside research.
Below you can find detail guidelines for the “OpenLab composing” (blogging) for the course, which is a significant portion (30%) of your overall course grade:
Blog Quantity & Deadlines
There may be multiple blog posts/comments due every week and these assignments ensure that you will be actively engaging with the materials and the ideas presented in the course on a regular basis. All blogs are due by the night before the class on the due date in order to give both me and your classmates adequate time to read/comment on your writing (we will use this writing as part of our in-class discussions and workshops). Late blogs will receive no credit.
Unless otherwise noted, all blog posts should be a minimum of 500 words (though I encourage you to write longer ones), though comments can (and should!) be shorter because often you are just dropping a quick response to someone else.
You are expected to read all blog posts/comments on our site (including those made by me and by your classmates) before class begins. This is a necessary/required component of your coming prepared to class ready to discuss the day’s texts. Anything written in a blog or comment is fair game for class discussion, quizzes (which could be unannounced), essays, and exams.
Blog Formality & Mechanics
Blogging has a particular form and “genre‚” conventions/characteristics (just like any other mode of writing), and we will discuss this style more as the semester progresses.
For now, keep in mind that your entries are “informal” writing assignments (you can–and should!–use “I”) and you do not need to be revise them as meticulously as your formal essays. However, you should of course still proofread them for coherence/meaning as well as obvious spelling/grammar mistakes.
Your blogs are meant to prepare you for our in-class discussions and your formal assignments, but they are also a place for you to reflect on your everyday experiences, current news/events, and personal thoughts/emotions that are related to our course content and to your progress as writers this semester. You are not restricted to just blogging when you are assigned to do so … you should blog about things you are interested in and you feel would be of interest to others in the class.
Additionally, if you want to strengthen your writing skills or increase your English language proficiency, you’re in luck! Simply writing in such detail will aid you tremendously in reaching these goals. I encourage you to blog often!
Sometimes you are blogging an individual reflection or reading response (almost like a journal), sometimes you are posting a writing assignment (such as a research proposal), and other times you will be asked to participate in an on-going conversation with others in the class (a prompt will either be provided by me or another student). You may be expected to start off a discussion on our blog, and then others will be expected to respond to you by “commenting” on your post.
The material you post on our course blog will become part of our class meetings: I will discuss excerpts from student blogs (both to facilitate writing workshops and to use as a jumping-off point for the day’s reading/discussion). In addition, everyone in the course will be reading your writing, so you should spend as much effort as possible composing your writing there.
Please note that our blog is public, so anything you post (whether a post or comment) is visible to anyone on the web. Think about the type of content you would feel comfortable with your parents, employers, other professors, and friends seeing as representative of your work, and then post accordingly.
I will be reading/assessing your blogs regularly, and you will receive a grade (& sometimes a brief comment) for each blog, after they are due. Please see this grading rubric for more detail about how your OpenLab compositions will be assessed.
Periodically, I will designate certain blogs, which are particularly strong/successfully in various aspects, as “Featured Posts” (you can view all of these “Featured Posts” from the course site main menu under the header). It is a big honor to have your writing chosen for a Featured Post (though you shouldn’t feel badly if yours isn’t chosen … everyone can’t be featured!), and you can use these excellent blogs as models for your own work.
Our in-class blog workshops (mentioned above) along with your grades will provide you with a good sense of where your writing stands, but I am always more than happy to discuss your writing in more detail with you. Please feel free to come see me at any point during the semester to get more detailed individualized feed back on your OpenLab Composing, and to discuss strategies for improvement.
Simply skimming a reading and jotting down a few words about it does not mean that you have satisfactorily fulfilled a blog post. Similarly, only using spelling/grammar check on your computer does not count as revision/proofreading. You will be graded on the quality of your engagement with the material and the effectiveness of your presentation of your ideas. Missing blogs and incredibly short, general, and/or sloppy blogs will be given no credit and will negatively affect your overall course grade.
Please be aware that all blogs are time-stamped automatically and late blogs will receive no credit.
Make sure to title each blog with a concise, relevant title that clearly reflects the content you post. The blogs automatically provide your name and the date/time you post, so there is no need to put that in the subject line. A reader should be able to quickly glance at your blog title and feel satisfied about what it contains (much like the tile of an essay or a book chapter).
Unless otherwise noted or provided with a specific prompt, your assigned blogs are a response to the course texts (remember, a “text” can be a chapter from a textbook, a newspaper article, a novel, a website, an advertisement, a draft of your own/a classmate’s writing, a TV show, etc.), and you may approach them in the following ways:
Find a quote, passage, or idea from one of the texts (or multiple texts) that particularly grabs your attention, sounds provocative, raises questions, or confuses you (however, you should make sure to try to grapple with the issues, not just state, “I don’t know what this means!”). Provide the excerpt (properly cited, with quotation marks and page number in parentheses) and then build your blog around this material.
If we have a number of readings for the day, you don’t need to blog on each one individually (no need to create four separate blogs!) or to simply list a few lines about each one in isolation. Instead you might try to synthesize the readings, or to focus on only one or two of them, making thematic connections among various texts.
Additionally, you can relate the texts to an outside source (another work of literature, a film, an image, a newspaper article). In this case, you should link to the material if possible (using the “link” button in the post editor … if you are unsure what an editing button does, just hover your cursor over it and then it will provide text that explain the function, and make sure to provide citation for it. Also, clearly explain how/why it is related to/significant for an understanding of the assigned material. This outside information is acceptable (and often even encouraged), but you should always make sure to ground your responses in the texts that we are reading (provide quotations and analysis of them), and to cite this outside information.
However, please don’t become dependent on secondary sources to understand the texts we are reading … unless specifically stated otherwise, I am interested primarily in your close reading of the texts. I want to see you work through the material, not simply report back what someone else has already written. When we get to the research component of our course, things will change, but we’ll discuss that change when it comes.
Finally, even though we meet for class frequently, you may not always get to discuss everything you want, or perhaps you have a new thought on something when we are not together. Therefore, you can continue this line of inquiry in your blog. Don’t merely repeat what has already been discussed … make sure to flesh the ideas out in some way and build on them. Feel free to ask questions that you think should be taken up during the next class meeting.
And of course, you should post whenever you want – if you see a relevant on the subway – snap a photo of it, post, and blog! If you saw a TV show that made you think about some of the concepts/themes we’ve been discussing in the course, blog away! If you believe something in another one of your classes at City Tech relates in some way (even tangentially) to what we have been discussing and you want to share with us, blog blog blog