How to Have a Nearly Synchronous Discussion With Your WP Blog

I have discovered some neat ways to use a blog in a classroom and I thought I would share them with you here. Using a few plugins you can facilitate a pretty engaging online conversation with your students while still maintaining a reasonable level of security. I use this technique to discuss literature that I assign to students, but I could be applied to any topic.

Step 1: Technical Preparation

You will need to have a computer for every student as well as one for yourself, you can either use a 1 to 1 laptop set up or a traditional computer lab.

You will need to have a WordPress self-hosted blog set up (I suppose you could use WordPress.com or another blogging platform, but my experience is with WP). Once your blog is up and running install the following plugins (for instructions on installing plugins click here).

  • Admin Management Xtended – this plugin allows you to quickly edit, approve, delete or reply to comments in-line without a page refresh which is essential for moving quickly.
  • WP Comment Remix – this plugin adds some useful functionality to comments including a quote button and a link to all comments that you haven’t yet replied to.
  • ReloadEvery Plugin for Firefox – this plugin for Firefox will make a page reload at a certain interval that you set.

The following plugins are nice but not essential.

  • Minimum Comment Length – this plugin does what it says, allowing you to set a minimum character length for comments.
  • GD Star Rating – a pretty comprehensive set of rating tools. Lets users give star or thumb ratings to nearly every aspect of the blog including posts and comments. Great for enhancing interactivity.

Step 2: Content Preparation

Assign a reading to your students in advance. It can be anything and in an format. Be sure to tell your students that they will be expected to answer questions on the reading in the future. Next before you begin the activity write at least three new posts containing questions about the reading. The more open ended you leave the questions, the more discussion you will generate.

Step 3: Running the Conversation

Open the comments administration page of your blog, you should see a vertical list of all of your comments here. Right click on the page and set the ReloadEvery time (see video). I like to set it at 1 minute because I am kind of a slow typist and if the page reloads while you are responding to a comment you will lose it, but if you are a faster typist set it at 30 seconds.

Now simply moderate and respond to the comments as they come in.

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