blogging

DrupalEd and DrupalBlog Downloads and Demos

The DrupalEd and DrupalBlog distributions previously mentioned on cyberdash are now ready for download. Each is tar gzipped and contains a copy of the Configuration Guide as a pdf and text file.

Get the DrupalEd distribution. Visit the demo site (feel free to use the admin username and password listed in the installation section of the guide). Get the DrupalEd Configuration Guide pdf.

Get the DrupalBlog distribution. Visit the demo site (feel free to use the admin username and password listed in the installation section of the guide). Get the DrupalBlog Configuration Guide pdf.

"Push-Button Publishing for the People": The Blogosphere and the Public Sphere

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Clancy has posted a paper on Habermas and blogging.

DrupalEd and DrupalBlog: Preconfigured Drupal Distributions

One of the biggest complaints about Drupal is that it's difficult to configure. I'll agree. As I've said in this discussion thread on drupal.org, most Drupal users know "that the reason that Drupal is difficult to customize is that it's like a block of clay--has to be molded for the particular site configuration." And I firmly believe, despite some of the comments in the same thread, that this is the number one obstacle stopping many people from adopting it.

Well, I'll admit. I can't imagine how difficult it would be to take the Linux kernel, assemble the necessary packages, and configure everything. That's what Linux distributions are for.

So in the interest of making Drupal easier for newbies, I've assembled two Drupal distributions:

  • DrupalEd is intended for the writing classroom. I say that not because it can't be used for other classes, but writing teachers are generally more interested, I believe, in discourse and community interaction more so than content delivery. And in this area Drupal excels. Looking for testing and grading modules? They won't be here. It's simply the configuration that Terra and I have been using for a few semesters now.
  • DrupalBlog is setup as in individual blogsite, much like what Terra, Clancy and I use. By modifying a couple of permission settings, it can easily be configured to allow for multiple authors like Kairosnews.

Bibliography

Alexander, Jonathan. (2002). Digital spins: The pedagogy and politics of student-centered e-zines. Computers and Composition, 19, 387-410.

Anson, Chris & Beach, Richard. (1995). Journals in the classroom: writing to learn. Norwood: Christopher-Gordon Publishers.

Ballenger, Bruce. (2004). The curious researcher: A guide to writing research papers. (4th ed.). New York: Pearson Longman.

Writing for the Future

In "Digital spins: The pedagogy and politics of student-centered e-zines," Jason Alexander's introduction talks about how "staged" audience is in first year composition. Alexander points out that even just sharing papers among students on the Internet is not enough, and goes on to problematize posting to the web, suggesting that students realize that their only real audience is fellow students and the teacher. However, we would say that by using weblogs in our classrooms, we've turned ownership over to students and given them a real audience. In life outside of the classroom, much like on the Internet, writers will not always know who their audiences are when they write. A report, memo, letter, or fax might cross the desks of numerous people that the writer has never met during the course of a workday. Risk is part of writing, and our students experience that risk within a very supportive community of writers. When we first began teaching with blogs, Charlie recalls being apprehensive himself about putting course syllabi, feedback on drafts, and other teacherly responses up on the web for everyone to see, even though he had been posting to an academic blog for almost six months. But we both feel now, that the shared meaning we and our students have gained from blogging our courses makes it all worthwhile. Imagine. Classes within and among institutions could interact through the use of weblogs as more institutions integrate student blogging into the curriculum, such as the University of South Florida's First-Year-Writing Program's Writing Blogs site.

Weblogs as Social, Public Writing Spaces

As writing teachers, we typically feel it our duty to protect our students, to create safe writing spaces where students can enjoy greater risk-taking. Traditional print journal writing, used as a private writing space, typically embodies this notion. It is no wonder that teachers fear having students post personal reflections, drafts, reading responses, and other writing assignments and exercises to the public Internet, preferring instead the locked doors of a Blackboard or WebCT site. For example, Charles Moran's "experience with Web publishing has made [him] consider a rather frightening possibility: that computer technologies, as we are presently using them, move all of us in our first-year writing courses toward the production and publication of 'documents' that will live in the public sphere, and away from more or less private writing that will help us compose our lives" (Moran 40).

Moving journal writing to the Web using weblogs where Internet surfers can read and link to student writing potentially opens our students' texts to the unknown outside of the classroom, but our experience with student blogging has shown that "less private writing" may equally help writers to compose their lives, albeit in a social, more public way. And even though this speculation about the positive aspects of public writing may disrupt established thoughts on what should be public and private, it is not out of line with collaborative process views. Lisa Ede and Andrea Lunsford (1990) note that the solitary writer image permeates "the theory and practice of teaching writing" (6). Composition has traditionally privileged dialectic and Platonic perspectives on invention in writing (LeFevre, 1987, 49-50). The scholarship often depicts the writer, working alone, drawing on deeply divined personal truths or engaging in inner dialogue as the means of creating knowledge. While composition theory and practice now recognizes the importance of collaboration and social interaction more than it did twenty or even ten years ago, we still suspect that our field's expressivist heritage may lead many writing teachers to put the private unnecessarily in front of the public, partially because writing teachers are themselves more comfortable with the private. As a consequence, many writing assignments include opportunities for deep, personal reflective writing that is not possible within the public eye. But what is the tradeoff for that kind of writing opportunity for students? Isn't it possible that the paradoxical situation of creating a risk-free space in which to enable risk-taking has led compositionists to forget a primary purpose of privacy, which is to provide a comfortable writing space, comfort which can also come from community?