A whirlwind first week…

Whew. We’ve now met three times (a regular weeks’ worth) and covered a remarkable amount of material and concepts. I’m writing now in hopes of alleviating some fears and clarifying some things, especially because classes like today’s can feel so hectic. This post is a recap of many things you already know, but I still recommend you read it over as a reminder.

In no particular order, then:

Finding and using the schedule

I hope you’ll use the main schedule as the place to alleviate any fears about what is expected of you. That’s where I always list as clearly as possible exactly what we’re going to do each day and exactly what’s due.

You might want to consider bookmarking that page (https://rhet351stedman.wordpress.com/schedule/) so it’s easy to find, without needing to get to it through Moodle, which adds four or five extra clicks.

Talking to me

I haven’t mentioned office hours much in class, but they’re exactly what they sound like: hours that I’m in my office. Which means you can drop by without an appointment to talk about anything at all or show me anything you’re working on.

If you can’t remember when my office hours are, they’re on the sidebar of this site and taped to my door (Scarborough 117). And you can always ask me to meet at another time!

If face-to-face talking doesn’t work with your schedule, I check email all the time. And as you know, I’m on Twitter a lot, so I can always answer questions there, too.

Online identity stuff

We rushed through the conversation about online identity today, but here’s the core take-away I want you to hold onto: how we shape the spaces where we communicate online will affect how our messages seem to our audiences. Another way to say that: our decisions about how we design our online writing are just as rhetorical as our word choices. It’s all part of the art of effective communication.

That means thinking strategically/rhetorically about the these things:

  • Twitter icons
  • Language about ourselves under our Twitter icons
  • Twitter backgrounds and cover images
  • WordPress themes
  • WordPress “about pages.” (If you’re not sure if you have an about page, go to your blog page and see if there’s an about link on your main menu. What does it say? Does it present you the way you want to be presented?)
  • WordPress titles and taglines. (Many WordPress sites will have a built-in tagline like “The best WordPress site ever.” Does yours have one? If so, do you like it? Change it from your Dashboard under Appearance > Customize > Site Title.)

“What should I have done with Twitter so far?”

Regarding Twitter, at this point (after class on Monday, August 26), you must:

  1. Have a Twitter account
  2. Have a Tweetdeck account (which we’ll use in class in future weeks)
  3. Have tweeted a question or comment about the syllabus using the hashtag #rhet351

If you haven’t done those yet, please do so. But today, we also talked about some recommendations:

  1. Adjust your Twitter image, “about me” text, background image, and cover image to fit your preferred online identity
  2. Follow all of the authors whose work we’ll read in class this semester, found on the first page of the pdf version of the syllabus.
  3. Follow any other Twitter accounts that publish on topics that seem relevant to the course topic or interesting to you. (Hint: to find accounts that tweet things related to class, try looking at who the @rhet351 account follows. Any of those accounts will lead you in the right direction.)

“How should I prepare for the first big essay assignment?”

Great question.

  1. Look for an article on Twitter that seems persuasive in some way. Remember, it can be about any topic at all, as long as you find it on Twitter.
  2. Save the link to any tweet that you think you might use, perhaps by emailing it to yourself, saving it in a document, or something else. (To make sure I don’t lose anything, I use Google Drive, Dropbox, Diigo, and Evernote. They’re all good at helping me stay organized with my professional and personal lives.)
  3. Familiarize yourself with the assignment sheet itself, which is a post in this blog (below). So if you’re looking for the assignment sheet later, you can scroll down until you find it, or you can look at the “Categories of Post” section in the sidebar and click the “Major Assignments” category to head straight to it.
  4. Be ready to discuss an article in class on Friday, with a printout of it in hand.

This is all a lot, I know, but I have high hopes that you can do it. If you push through these first couple of weeks with me, things will feel much more manageable in the coming weeks.



Technology Requirements for Early Assignments


This post is to give you details about some of the homework due in our first couple of weeks. Before our second class meeting, for example, you’ll need to have a Twitter account, and before our first day in the computer lab (Starr 108C on Monday, August 26), you’ll need to have a Tweetdeck account and start a blog.

Online Identity

Before I get to the details, let me mention one thing that you’ll hear me say a lot in class: you will never be required to identify your real self online for this class. In fact, some students make a fake Gmail account at the beginning of class, use it to sign up for services with fake names throughout the semester, and then trash it all when the semester is over. This kind of fakery is absolutely okay with me. If that feels like a lot of trouble, though, it’s also okay if you use your real name. Just be smart; your future friends and enemies will surely Google you in the future when you least expect it.

Okay, on to the three things you need to do (in addition to the readings listed on the schedule):

1. Create a Twitter Account

It’s easy at twitter.com. We’ll mostly use Twitter to read what others are saying, but occasionally we’ll play with it in class, as we try to decide what we think about its strengths and weaknesses as a communication tool in real time. As I said above, if you don’t want your real Twitter followers to see the weird stuff you talk about in class, feel free to make a new account with any fake name you choose. As you know, people often have more than one account to manage the different sorts of things they talk about with different audiences.

For instance, I have a real Twitter account that I use for my personal and professional life (@kstedman), but I also have one that I only use for my RHET 351 classes (@rhet351).

Whenever I want to share something with you on Twitter, I’ll include the hashtag #rhet351, and you should feel free to use it as well. Any tweets with that hashtag will appear in the sidebar of this blog.

(Optional: if you’re unfamiliar with Twitter, you might want to read a good introduction to the service, like this one.)

2. Create a Tweetdeck Account

To do so, head to tweetdeck.com. Tweetdeck is one of many ways to read your Twitter feed. I’m going to require that we use it in class, as I think it’s one of the easiest ways to follow multiple tweet streams at the same time. (Don’t worry, I’ll explain all this later.) For now, just having an account when you step through the door on August 26 will save us considerable time in class.

Be sure that you create a Twitter account first, before you create a Tweetdeck account.

3. Create a Blog at WordPress.com

(It’s important that you go to wordpress.com, not wordpress.org.) Your blog will be your main way to share information with me (and each other!) throughout the semester. You’ll use it to write short responses to readings, longer essays, and to share links to work you’ve done elsewhere.

And because this course page is hosted at WordPress.com, you’ll also be able to comment on any page here once you’ve created a WordPress account. Feel free to post questions or comments at the bottom of any post I make.

As with much of the work you’ll do in this class, your blog will be public to the entire world. Keep this in mind when you choose the title of your blog and the url where people will find it. It’s up to you if you want to give it a fun name or a boring name, and it’s up to you if you want to explain to the public that your blog is for a class or not.

For instance, you might make a blog called Thelma’s Thoughtful Thoughts, found at http://thelmasthoughts.wordpress.com (whether or not your name is actually Thelma). Or you might make a blog called RHET 351 is a Class My College Requires Me to Take, found at http://rhet351sux.wordpress.com.

My main concern is that your blog exists before we meet in the computer lab on August 26. In class, I’ll ask you to log in and fiddle with a couple of things, but until then it’s fine if all you’ve done at WordPress is create a blog. (Of course, if you’re bored and want to play around by adding widgets and customizing the look and writing an “About” page, please go ahead!)

Okay, this is enough for now. As always, let me know if you have any questions or problems. I’d always like to be in the loop. My email address and everyone else’s is in Moodle, or you can just send a tweet to @kstedman.