When planning her first year writing seminar, Classical Civilization 121, Writing on the Wall (FA16), Professor Artemis Leontis decided that a course blog was the perfect tool to accomplish several of the course learning objectives. These objectives focused on curating material objects, both in physical as well as online environments, making rhetorical decisions, and composing in a variety of modalities.

The initial set of assignments involved:

  • developing their own street art signature.
  • working with a visiting graffiti artist to develop an understanding of the physical process of creating street art.
  • observing local graffiti and producing an annotated bibliography that described techniques, styles and issues unique to graffiti, including trespassing, vandalism, and copyright.

Each component of this initial foundational work included an essay component and enabled practice creating proper online citations, analyzing one’s path of inquiry, writing as performance, and developing a relationship with the audience.

The final project of the term involved digitally curating a collection of five to ten graffiti pieces with a theme and embedding them in a text that explained the student’s methods and choices in the composition process. As a part of this work, students selected and grouped objects, identified and evaluated resources, and organized, formatted, and revised the presentation in order to critically engage with the curatorial decisions.

Professor Leontis partnered with Instructional Support Services (ISS) throughout the process, starting with requesting the creation of a WordPress site and brainstorming about possible teaching strategies and how they would impact the design and structure of the site. She settled on a format where students submitted their work via a blog post rather than authoring their own pages or sites. This structure enabled students to interact with one another, commenting and creating tags to identify links and themes among the posts. She created a homepage that summarized the full range of learning activities that had occurred over the course as a way to provide context for the student contributions or posts. Members of ISS also made class visits to show students how-to basics and answer questions. Additionally, faculty from Sweetland Writing Center were a source of information and mentoring as Professor Leontis worked through the process of structuring the assignments and making pedagogical decisions.

In retrospect, Professor Leontis remarked that a key lesson learned was to allow ample time to set the site up, since the process involves working with multiple groups in LSA to get the site created and get up to speed on the basic activities involved in maintaining the site. Although the project was time-consuming, she considers it a success and has gone on to use WordPress sites in other ways in her courses.