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Slide Notes

We are the English Majors' Weblog, a collective of five interns and one supervising instructor attempting to make clear what it means to be an English major in the new jagged, and changing academic and career landscape: http://english.blog.wku.edu

Blogging Collectively: the EMW@WKU

Published on Nov 18, 2015

Presentation Spring Blog Festival 2014


Blogging c0llectively

Western Kentucky University's English Majors' Weblog
We are the English Majors' Weblog, a collective of five interns and one supervising instructor attempting to make clear what it means to be an English major in the new jagged, and changing academic and career landscape: http://english.blog.wku.edu

"small pieces loosely joined"

(a la David Weinberger)
The English Majors' Weblog started as a project to encourage my university (Western Kentucky University) to develop a WordPress blog server on campus for anyone who needed the platform to create academic resources for our community.

Encouraged by this initial effort I was able to convince my department head to create an internship to expand the work of the blog beyond what my limited time could manage.

After two years I convinced my new department head to help create a collective internship with five undergraduates in major specializations ranging from creative writing to professional writing to secondary teaching. This is the first semester of collective blogging.

Our efforts can be described in much the same way that David Weinberger did in his book Small Pieces Loosely Joined--a Protean attempt to bring meaning to the complex identity creation that is at the core of becoming an English major. We have tried to do that by mashing up, remixing, and connecting numerous free (if not entirely open) tools. The slides that follow try to describe them.
Photo by DonkeyHotey

Weblog hub

Our first tool is our beehive hub, a WordPress site served by our university: http://english.blog.wku.edu

This is identity central and it is served on a daily basis with news, information, and connections by our interns. What is most important about the connections is that they are evolving and being tested with tools like Google Analytics to see who is using what and when and how long.

It is a powerful place to practice craft, to exercise one's voice, and to become deliberate about what it means to be 'English-y'.

G+ Community

The Google + community is a private one where we can speak, write, and ask questions about the problems of connecting our majors together. It is also the place where we store and storify our institutional memory.

We are taking notes as we go about what works, what we need help with, and what is succeeding. We use it to encourage ourselves as writers, editors, social network managers, wordpress geeks, and google analytics wranglers.

We really are making it up as we go within the constraints of our mission and of the tools that we are accessing. Google + is helping us to establish ourselves as the beating heart of the blog.

It is also part of what we hope will grow into a vibrant and empathic crew who all know the score and who know that creating this community is at the core of that 'score'.

Google Hoa

Hangouts on Air are part of our weekly prep meeting on Monday evenings.

1. Job roles are parsed. Everyone has a role as content provider and writer, but we also wear at least one other hat-marketer, editor, community manager, webmaster, analytics analyst.

2. We divvy up posts for the week and talk long terms news and posts.

3. We share screens, goof around with google tools, create common docs as well as share screens, bookmarks and tools.

4. And we record it all for absent members and for 'posterity'.


Lino is just a place to post story ideas and to claim work. It is where the editor lives during the week. It is where others from outside the immediate community can suggest story ideas.

The workflow model is based on aJapanese productivity tool: the kanban.

Our digital corkboard is divided up into three columns:


We put sticky notes in the 'Ready' column that indicate a potential post. If someone wants to claim the story they put their initials on it and move it over to the "Doing" column. At any point others may add info to the sticky note or even ask to collaborate with the original author. One recent use was to develop a series of interview questions in a series we are doing on all the advisors in the department.

When the work is posted then the sticky pad moves to the 'Done' column. If anything gets to crowded we have an overflow corkboard. You can peel off the done sticky pads but the site remembers what has been done and archives it. Nothing is lost in this slow motion cascade of activity.

Lino is free, but I purchased the pro version for just a few bucks a month and it is well worth it.


One of our goals is to provide timely and newsworthy posts (Facebook and blog), tweets, instagrams, and newsletters to our majors, pre, current and post.

We trumpeted Cornel West's recent lecture and then followed up with a retelling afterward. We push writing workshops, classes, publishing opportunities, readings, and all matters timely for English majors.


We are working toward each interns not only working on one-off posts, but also on longer term, weekly or bi-weekly columns that highlight important identity markers for majors in general and personally important ones for the interns as well.

One of our goals is for all interns to begin using their own blogs and to develop the skills and motivations to pursue those blogs after their internships are over.
One of our goals is to get interns to promote their own work and the work of the blog in public ways.
One of our goals is to help our interns develop digital rhetorical skills along with the ability to manage their own WordPress blog.

Our overall goal is to get our interns to extend themselves, reach beyond their grasps, and to then to use those skills and attitudes and mindsets in the world.

handy as a pocket on a shirt

The internship is as handy as a pocket on a shirt. It serves our university community at the same time that it serves the needs of each intern. That's the plan anyway. Harold Jarche divides the work of learning and research into three words: Seek, sense, share.

The English Majors' Weblog makes that abstraction into a concrete whole every day. The deliberate practice of 'seek-sense-share' applies the powerful skills that all English majors have acquired in their discipline in an overt and regular way. That is the genius of a collective weblog. The practice never stops and is always useful work worth doing.
Photo by KOMUnews

where we will go?

At the end of our semester together, the collective blog will take stock of what has been done, what has been left undone, and. most important. what is left to be done.

1. Create a style manual for the blog for future internship collectives.

2. Create an informal consultancy of current and former interns who can show others how to use the same of similar 'tools loosely joined'.

3. Create marketing plans for specific segments and plans for expanding into areas that serve the development needs of the department.

4. Create workshops or MOOCs for others who want to create their own collectives.

5. Create ebooks and other 'texts' to reflect on what they have done and where other might go in the future using plug-ins like Anthologize.

Photo by Photolifer


There is quite a bit of undergraduate expertise waiting to be tapped, plus there is a real need for increasing technical writing capacity with blogs and social media and web composition generally.

MOOCs are a perfect platform for developing all of these skills. And MOOCs don't have to be truly massive in order to be MOOCish. They only have to be massively open.

All of the digital spaces for creating a MOOC are present under the current blog configuration (G+ account, twitter, central blog, Facebook, instagram). The interns will apply those for others in what will probably be a day long 'flash MOOC' in mid-May.
Photo by mathplourde


I would like for our interns to create their own consultancy. I realize that this might be a bit pie in the sky, but it is where I really want to see any professional writing project go.

A consultancy might be a powerful way to connect undergrads as they move through their English major identity journey. Former interns, grads, grad students, and interested parties might serve each other as they move into other jobs and they might create a valuable pool of talent to share within and without the university community.
Photo by marsmet553

and beyond

Where will we go with this collective? We will connect in ways that we can only hint at right now. Our audience is, potentially, a larger one than we envisioned when we first started the internship several years ago. At first we wanted to work with the current majors in our department. Now we know we have a mission to serve alums, major wannabees, pre-majors (middle and secondary learners), minors, graduate students, and the ever widening ripple of stakeholders who represent the rather large galaxy of folk known as English majors especially alums and 'interested parties'.

I am working with Alan Levine, Karen Fasimpaur, and Christina Cantrill to adapt and adopt ds106's daily assignment/make page for a planned theme that I want to include in our Majors' website to help solve the larger problem of community building.

Untitled Slide

The Interns

Andria Nealis
Ashley Dyer
Kerr Beebe,
Kayleigh Brasher,
Tiffany Hughes,

Weblog Supervisor:

Terry Elliott

Overall English Internships Supervisor:

Dr. Angela L Jones

English Department Head:

Dr. Rob Hale

the interns

The Interns Andria Nealis , Ashley Dyer , Kerr Beebe, , Kayleigh Brasher, , Tiffany Hughes,
What an enduring crew including previous interns Seanna Wilhelm, Rachel Hoge, Joel Brinkerhoff, and office intern/jill of all trades, Ann Reagan.
Photo by nanocoder

the department

Special thanks to Dr Angela Jones for being the spark that brought the internship project to life in our department and to Dr. Rob Hale who had the vision to see how the collective internship might make a difference.

the university

None of this would have been achievable without the resources of the university, its blog servers, its IT resources, its intern services as well as its institutional imperative to advance knowledge and skills. Thanks to WKU.