Interactivity is one of the best features of “modern” websites. WordPress not only provides options for visitors to your website to leave COMMENTS, it also supports a web technology called “trackbacks” which shows when other people have linked to your blog and are referencing it in their own posts. This feature can increase your awareness of “who is writing about your ideas” and provide links so you can follow up with those posts on other websites. Support for trackbacks is yet another reason to consider using WordPress for your classroom blog, professional portfolio, or other website.
In July 2012 pre-service education students enrolled in “Technology for Teaching and Learning” at Kansas State University, taught by Cyndi Danner-Kuhn, were required to create WordPress blogs as part of their day 1 assignments. The course website informs students:
The Purchase of your web space replaces the purchase of a book.
Just a few years ago, students were using iWeb software from Apple (now discontinued) and creating websites on university-hosted servers. As a technology integration specialist for K-12 teachers, Cyndi recognized the value and importance of students creating THEIR OWN websites which they can maintain and update (if desired) after they complete their student teaching semester, graduate with their degree, and secure employment as classroom teachers. Because of its power, feature set, and flexibility to meet a variety of website needs, WordPress was the platform Cyndi selected for all her students. They are each REQUIRED to create a WordPress site for their course and share a wide variety of content to it as they complete assignments.
I learned about Cyndi’s students using WordPress this summer thanks to the “trackback” feature on my own blog. When you log into your WordPress dashboard, one of the screen options available is “Incoming Links.” These are links other people have created on other websites which reference specific pages or posts on your WordPress website.
Trackbacks are similar in function to “pingbacks,” although they use different protocols or technologies to work. The WordPress Codex has a thorough article explaining both trackbacks and pingbacks.
This summer on day 2 of Cyndi Danner-Kuhn’s “Technology for Teaching and Learning” course, students were required to write a reflection on content they found on my own weblog. In the screenshot below, you can see three different trackbacks which show up as “Comments” on my WordPress blog. Since WordPress supports moderated comments, I was able to “approve” these trackbacks before they showed up on my website for public visitors to see. This is beneficial, since spam bloggers sometimes link to posts to try and boost their search engine ranking, and you don’t want to permit spam (as comments or trackback links) on your website.
Thanks to WordPress’ support of trackbacks, I was able to read the comments written by students in Cyndi’s class and respond to some of their questions with comments on their blogs. An example is shown in the screenshot below.
If you use WordPress, it’s a good idea to turn on trackbacks and pingbacks. You’ll find those options after logging into your dashboard and selecting SETTINGS – DISCUSSION.
With these features enabled, you will have more opportunities to interact with other people reading and writing about your ideas on your WordPress site!