WordPress & Blogging in Urban Design at Newcastle University


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The majority of this presentation was created by Georgia Giannopoulou the DPD for the MA in Urban Design @ Newcastle University. Amended and with contributions from Ashley Wright, Development Officer @ Newcastle University.
Presented at a lunchtime seminar @ Teesside University on Monday 25.06.12.to demonstarte one of the ways that WordPress has been used in a learning and teaching context..

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WordPress & Blogging in Urban Design at Newcastle University

  1. 1. Blogging in Urban Design Education: Using the WordPress platform Ashley Wright – Development Officer, Quality in Learning and Teaching, Newcastle University In conjunction with Georgia Giannopoulou , DPD MA Urban Design, Newcastle University http://nclurbandesign.o rg
  2. 2. Overview Why we did it? What we did? How we did it? How it evolved? What are the challenges? What did we gain? What did the students gain? What we learnt? What next?
  3. 3. Why we did it  To capture the experience of a 1-year cohort (MA in Urban Design)  Mentoring through alumni  To promote reflection in learning and foster community  To promote the course and the University  To promote personal attributes and employability e.g autonomy, reflexivity, cultural competence in higher education students
  4. 4. What we did  Minimum contribution requirements – BRIEF was key
  5. 5. What we did  A Blog as a virtual “live” student designed handbook  Incorporated in existing modules and marked (15% Sem 1, 10% Sem 2)  Instigated and facilitated by us but not led…  Control gradually passed to students  Moved from WordPress.com (2010/11) to WP.org (hosted) in 2011/12  Started in 2011, repeated in 2012, 2013…..
  6. 6. How we did it: the technology AY10-11  Considered using a Wiki but decided on a blog (suited subject)  Unsure of scope so used WP with a view to possibly hosting and free (ish)  Bought domain name through WP provider  Students register with WP and given role of Editor  Demo to students, explain blogging concept and implications  Supported student cohort via email, f2f, ReCap tutorials (NU screen capture) & WP help/community
  7. 7. How we did it: the technology AY11 - 12  Wished to incorporate other social software feeds in the Blog  Moved to Wordpress .org  Hosted with a 3rd party web provider  Assistance of an external web company – READYSALTED  Created new entry page design  Added plugins to the install  Feeds from social media, contact form  Different method of registering students  Minimal support
  8. 8. How we did it : The students’ tasks  Register with WordPress  Create a Profile : their public image  Decide on pages and categories  Decide on links  Familiarise with how to post and comment  Experiment with writing styles  Manage the pages in appearance and content (active surveillance)  Iterative process on what works and what doesn’t  Reflect on what they did and what it was like for them
  9. 9. How it evolved  Funding from STLC to improve design…  READYSALTED - External design Co. > 2011  Added new functionalities: Flickr, Twitter, Q&A box, Entry Page etc.  Link to last year’s Blog  Not starting completely from blank slate  More ownership to students  More focus on cultures
  10. 10. What are the challenges  Scalability  Institutional guidelines on use of social media – updated June 2012  WordPress – risks of the unknown, open source forever?  Motivation for posting in amongst course requirements  Representation of Newcastle University from such an open platform…  Democratic procedures and management  A personalised look  Marketing and students
  11. 11. What did WE gain  Links to increased applications and quality of applicants…  A more engaged, more inclusive and more collaborative cohort  Publicity!  New experience and reflection…  Feedback
  12. 12. What did the students gain  More social interaction and community of practice –see quotes  Cultural exposure and competence  Digital literacy  Reflective learning and peer learning  Sense of pride and ownership leading to….  …higher motivation and better performance  Increased personal autonomy through invitation to create and own  Sense of belonging to a larger community of Urban Designers  Some fun in the course!
  13. 13. What did the students gain: quotes (June 2012)  “I think that the blog posting has been quite a joyful exercise. In my view it helps to practice observation and critical thinking. Posting our thoughts on a blog helps us to keep in rhythm and motion with growing amount of information” (mature student from Poland)  “I quite enjoy the fact that some students did pingback comments with links to other blogs and websites on the internet. It helped create a network of knowledge/information on a specific topic so that people can have a deeper look at the issues though various perspectives” (student from Taiwan)  “I think the most beneficial point I get is that I foster myself to be critical to learn and assess the knowledge as a perspective of urban designer and understand the planning and design theories by looking into the practice and relate it to how it has been influenced by theories and theorists” (student from China)  “One aspect of the blog which has continued to be of benefit is how it continues to teach me about my classmates. Though we come from various cultures and backgrounds, the blog has acted as a common ground area for discussion. This process I feel has worked to create a group which is interconnected and “real with one another” (student from the US)
  14. 14. What we learnt  Ingesting and presenting other Web apps is more fiddly and requires more support  A fine balance between guidance/facilitation and firm hand…or…lack of  That it worked in many more ways than we had hoped  That a clear but open brief works best  That we need to incorporate a system to ensure frequent and regular posts  There are costs associated…if you amend template and host externally
  15. 15. What next  We will do it again! Year 3…  It is enjoyable and stimulating to work this way  Curious to see where it takes us year by year
  16. 16. Blogging in Urban Design Education: Using the Wordpress Platform ashley.wright@ncl.ac.uk Newcastle University Any questions?