The New York Times Well Blog: An Exemplar for Nursing Narratives

A recent post by Danielle Ofri on the New York Times‘ Well Blog is a great example of the kind of clinical narrative I hope my nursing students will be able to write–some day, if not by the end of this semester. I’m setting the bar high for my students: Ofri is a physician and a terrific writer–she edits the Bellevue Literary Review–and the Well Blog is probably one of the best known blogs with a health care focus.

What I like about her writing in this post and many others that she’s written is that she skillfully interweaves a short narrative about a clinical experience and uses it to illuminate a an important health care issue that’s recently been in the news. This particular post is newsworthy because of the recent uproar over the measles outbreak and the question of whether vaccinations should be mandatory.

Social Book Project

I came across this today: the Social Book Project by the Institute for the Future of the Book.  It looks intriguing for those interested in a CommentPress-like “social reading” annotation platform without the hassle of self-hosting. It looks very easy to set up!  It won’t work, however, for .pdfs (since we were discussing this issue in reference to Jack’s project): the platform requires the uploading of a plain vanilla text in the epub format.

Sound Annotations?

Hello Fellow Web Writers:

My project is a FITT 2014 effort to hybridize POLSC 110, “American Politics: A Historical Introduction.”  This is presently a large lecture course that is supposed to have students engage with primary documents as they explore the historical development of American political institutions.  In addition to being a themed survey course, we have a heavy writing requirement, and are supposed to help students fulfill a civic engagement requirement.

My co-instructor and I have been working with ways to get students more engaged with founding documents like the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, or speech transcripts.  These are short, but students often don’t read them as carefully as we’d like.

In discussion sections, we have an ongoing problem with student participation.

In doing research for another class I’ll teach next spring, I came across a site for a course taught by my colleague, Els De Grauuw, at Baruch College.  Here, she has posted an interview question, and students have interviewed people they know and posted those interviews on the course site using  SoundCloud.

I think I could adapt this recording tool for my course by posting a focused question based on the sorts of reading questions that I would normally have the students write about.  Perhaps in this alternative format, where students might have a chance to prepare their thoughts in advance of recording, they might be more comfortable with oral response.  The traditional discussion format can be intimidating to shyer, first year students who may feel uncomfortable interjecting in a more spontaneous setting where they are surrounded by others.

Here is the link for SoundCloud



Using Turnitin PeerMark

I’ve enjoyed today’s new posts and thought that since I won’t be there this afternoon I would post about my current idea (subject to change). I want to encourage nursing students to engage in the process of revision. One thing I want to try is guiding pairs or small groups to give each other feedback on drafts-in-progress. I thought of using Turnitin’s PeerMark feature because I use Turnitin for every assignment. Plagiarism is a huge problem among nursing students (perhaps all students) and so since they will be required to have a Turnitin account I thought this might be worth a try.

The plusses: you can insert your own questions, you can keep students anonymous from one another, you can have students paired by your choice or randomly. The drawbacks: there are no video or audio abilities, and I’m worried that standard questions will elicit unenthusiastic responses from students. I’d like to hear if any of you have used this. Thanks.

Here’s a little video overview.


You can get a feel for using CommentPress here.  It’s a site I imported from, so it looks terrible and doesn’t really make sense.  But I’ve created a fresh post with a poem to “mark up.”  If there’s time and interest, we can work on this together today.

about my project

Julie Van Peteghem’s (Hunter, Italian) Digital Boccaccio is what mainly inspired my geoffreychaucerpedia project.  Which is fitting, as Chaucer was inspired by Boccaccio’s Decameron in the first place!  (Jeff’s site too, but, as it turns, out, I’m really modeling my site on Julie’s.)  Julie’s site is beautiful, logical, and useful: that’s exactly what I want.  With Gina’s help, I’m working with WordPress to organize the site; will be adding content in the coming weeks, including images.  The idea is that students will be able to think through this complex text by adding their own (multi-media) content as we go along.

WordPress for a course website & blog

For my fall course on The German Short Story & Novella, I want to create a website that will basically replace Blackboard as the course management system. At this point I think the key pieces will be: (1) a discussion board where students ask and answer comprehension and other questions about the readings as we go; and (2) a course blog where students post their reflections on our readings and discussions, and then comment on each other’s posts. My goals are to make reading social, and then to practice writing that is frequent, improvisational, public, and dialogic. Both goals are in support of our in-class discussions as well as the term paper — and the support is crucial because these students are still learning how to think, speak, and write about literature in German. I think Jeff’s course blogs like the ones he’s linked here will serve as good models (with an additional section for a discussion board). I want to use WordPress for now, because it’s the platform many of my students have chosen for their individual blog assignments in the past (here’s an outstanding one for anyone who reads German). They’ve told me that Blackboard’s Discussion Board doesn’t support rich dialogue, so I’m hoping that feature will work better on this platform.

The Incredible Potential of Google Docs and WordPress: Now Commonly Used But Un-Maximized Tools!

I decided not to venture out too far from the ground Jeff has covered in past sessions – I’m looking for platforms and tools that can facilitate collaborative writing toward a product for a particular assignment, and find Google Docs (which I used this past semester, though not to its fullest) and WordPress to be useful for my assignment – so I mined Jeff’s “Links” section for guides and models using both of these. 

Under the “Blogging and Annotation” heading on the links page, you’ll see an open source draft of the soon-to-be-published academic book Web Writing that uses CommentPress, a WordPress plugin, to facilitate an open peer review process from any reader (even me!). The book is written by academics who use web writing in their courses, and the chapter “Collaborative Writing, Peer Review, and Publishing in the Cloud” by Jack Dougherty (a professor of education at Trinity College) is a fantastic model of constructive group feedback to a writer’s work and a very helpful how-to guide in using both Google Docs and WordPress in the classroom to facilitate learning together.

Dougherty not only embeds visual and video examples of features, but he provides contexts and rationales for the pedagogical use of these features by explaining how and why he used them for particular assignments. I wonder if this kind of mult-imodal text interactivity would be appropriate for student work (I’m thinking definitely!). Exploring the multi-modality of traditional text-based essays is certainly more possible if final pieces are submitted via WordPress. 

We can see these assignments in more detail on his extraordinary blog which he uses as a central hub for his course (a separate one for each course). From this page, you can navigate to view assignments and student work, which consists of shorter form blog entries as well as larger research projects that have actually been published. You can also see Jack’s own site, which serves as a platform for his scholarship and links to other courses he has taught (and created separate hubs for on WordPress). To me, this is a really powerful hacking of the traditionally closed systems of both scholarship and teaching: not only can you see how students have been able to “write on” each others’ work, and how Dougherty himself allows you to do the same with his own scholarship (a wonderful example of practicing what you preach and of opening up the process of academic publishing to include a potentially wider variety of voices), but you can share your work with anyone. The simple fact that I am able to view Dougherty’s work and to take from him what I find to be useful is astounding to me. 

The potential value of these tools/platforms to help my students to create work together for an audience that is not just me is enormous; the downside, which Jeff has mentioned previously, is the number of hours it would require to initially set up a course hub like Jack has done. Once the front end work is done, however, it seems like communication between student and teacher and between students and each other is made easier. My FITT project is a collaborative rhetorical (or possibly discourse) analysis of an object – in the past, this has been an individually composed text-based essay of an advertisement. With the possibility of having multi-modal products submitted via WordPress, perhaps the object of analysis could shift. I’m interested in asking students to analyze the rhetoric of a web site’s design (interactivity, user accessibility, etc) or, alternatively, the development of a news story across media (how do different programs shape this supposedly fact-based story?). This final option seems particularly ripe for the kind of collaborative web writing seen in Dougherty’s work. Thoughts? – an online annotation tool

One of my goals this summer was to find a tool for collaborative annotation of pdfs. Annotating plain text is easy; there are a lot of tools for it, starting with Google Drive. But pdfs are more complicated.

This one,, looks promising. It doesn’t seem to do all the very many things I would like it to do, but it does seem to do quite a bit:

  • Pdfs, images, and screenshots of webpages can be annotated
  • Documents can be shared individually or in group folders
  • Annotations can be shared and replied to
  • Annotations can be tagged

It’s hardly perfect. The biggest qualm I have about adopting it is that it’s a freemium service, and free accounts limit the number of documents that can be uploaded (though not how many annotations can be made).

I also would love if collaborator annotations would be hidden until a student added his/her own, so they wouldn’t be influenced at first, nor would feel some pressure to find a blank spot to annotate once the “good” spots were already taken. I have a feeling, though, that I’ll never find that feature, except on hard copies.

I would also love if students could color code their annotations. While It’s possible to change the background and font colors of annotations, the colors are only seen when someone opens up a note, not when someone looks at the page.