wecf13 composing in Markdown

Assignment Overview

In this assignment, students will learn the stripped-down, easy to learn writing language, Markdown, which, depending on the app you use, allows for easy conversion into a variety of file formats, including .html, .pdf, .doc, .odt, and others. If you’ve ever tried to copy and paste a PDF into a Word doc, you know the problems of trying to move between file formats. Markdown helps solve this problem by separating the content from the formatting. Like all languages, Markdown has it’s own syntax and symbols used to convey meaning (just as a . contains the meaning, “stop thought here.”)

We’re using Markdown for three main reasons: first, it is an open source programming language developed, in part, by the late Aaron Swartz; second, it has a robust community of programmers who support it; and third, this is a writing class, so why not learn a new way to write that takes us out of the constraints of Word. You’ll come to find it quite liberating. The spaces in which you compose Markdown are also part of the distraction free writing environment movement.

Many of the apps for Markdown have a split screen. On the left is where you compose in Markdown. On the right is what the content will look like when displayed in the various formats:

Markdown Split ScreenAssignment Specifics

Starting with work for Week 4, students will compose all writings for the course using the Markdown. This includes at the least the following:

  • blog posts
  • Twitter study web page
  • Learning Record associated texts
  • narrative for rough and final Pecha Kucha
  • the text that is created for the community you study

We will be using the free online, open source, cross-platform Markdown editor, StackEdit. StackEdit allows for direct upload to WordPress.com blogs, GoogleDrive, and Dropbox. We’ll be using each of these spaces.

All Markdown editors, however, are limited by the formats they export to and the sites with which they sync. For example, StackEdit only exports to Markdown and HTML formats, but it syncs with WordPress, GoogleDrive, and Dropbox. MultiMarkdown Composer, which is one of the more robust (paid) apps, doesn’t sync with WordPress, GoogleDrive, and Dropbox, but it will export in .html, .rtf, .pdf, .doc, .odt, .epub, and others. For our purposes we will not need to export in these formats. However, to really see the power of the Markdown language I encourage you to try a desktop version of an app that will allow for many export file formats. You can see a list of 78 Markdown editors. For Mac users I recommended Mou (free) and MultiMarkdown Composer (paid). For Windows users, I recommend MarkdownPad (free with a paid upgrade to Pro version).

Writing Markdown and Using StackEdit

Like learning any language, building confidence with Markdown will take some time—not as long as English or HTML and not as short as Pig Latin. Adam Pritchard has created an extremely helpful Markdown Cheatsheet, which I strongly suggest you have open in another tab when composing in StackEdit. Over time, you’ll find you won’t need it as much.

Here is a video that describes how to compose with Markdown and sync StackEdit with WordPress and GoogleDrive:

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