Blogging in the ESL/EFL classroom Inés Cristina Poblet

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1 1 Blogging in the ESL/EFL classroom Inés Cristina Poblet Introduction In this chapter, I will explore the various uses of Web logs more popularly known as BLOGS as a tool for complimenting the EFL/ESL learning experience. The use of BLOGS with language students learning English holds several beneficial characteristics. First it offers a new and creative means of expression as compared more traditional pen and paper type activities. Secondly, it enables the student to break free from the traditional role of a passive learner and into one which encourages autonomy and investment in the learning process. An additional positive aspect of using BLOGS includes an increase in student motivation in selecting topics of high interest to students. These and other reasons have helped me to formulate the following synthesis on this type of technology and its uses in the reading and writing skills ESL/EFL classroom. The teaching unit will demonstrate ways in which BLOGS can be incorporated in practical and effective ways to not only supplement but inspire students in their learning. Overview of Technology Web logs or BLOGS are a type of technology that allows for journalistic styles of writing to be published on the internet. It is defined as a form of personal expression that is characterized by a list of dated news items, listed in reverse chronological order, authored by one or more individuals (Good, 2003, n.p.). The overall tone and style of writing tends to be informal. Some important features that are part of BLOGS include: Automatic date-stamping for each post, an archive of past posts by date or theme, a way for readers to comment on each post, and an area especially for links to favorite sites. In order to be able to set up a BLOG a hosting platform such as is needed (as displayed below). Other hosting platforms that are available online include: and Students are asked to set up accounts on the same hosting platform created by the instructor. They are invited by to participate in the BLOG as a class.

2 2 The most salient feature of BLOGS is its availability and accessibility to anyone with access to the internet and internet address. Students on a BLOG list will receive an invitation to create a BLOGGER account with a password and username. After completing this step, the student has the BLOG accessible to them. Accessibility is also beneficial to the administrator of the class BLOG in managing the correspondence to help start the BLOG. The administrator can update, correct, delete or add on to student comments or even to their own posted comments. The technology includes the use of what is known as an RSS or feed reader which is a type of information source that keeps the administrator up to date on new student postings and any new information on the BLOG. This feature is especially helpful in monitoring a number of different sites that the administrator may be running (for instance, in several different courses in which BLOGS are being used. Updating the BLOG page is thus an easy task. The instructor is able to fully coordinate and guide the students in their postings. This feature makes BLOGS particularly appropriate for the beginning and intermediate level of proficiency where students will require more language support than the advanced ESL/EFL student. Another useful feature is the marked date that is posted on every comment, this helps to keep track of the most current information or interaction on the BLOG. There are a number of possible ways to display, organize and use BLOGS in the ESL/EFL classroom. More specifically, there are three types of BLOGS they are: the tutor BLOG, the learner BLOG, and the class BLOG (Campbell, n.d.). The first offers daily reading practice for the students since the administrator can select links or articles to inspire students to further research class related topics. It is also possible to post riddles, questions or topic starters on which the students can comment or respond to on a consistent basis. In addition to this, the page can also serve to remind students of syllabus related issues and homework assignments. The key point in using a tutor BLOG is to encourage learners to go further. Essentially, it is a resource for which the learner can organize independent study. The second type, the learner BLOG, is actually run by the learners themselves or by small collaborative groups of learners (Campbell, p. 2). The use of this type of BLOG may also entail the learner(s) to create or construct their own BLOG for their small group. This gives the learner practice with several useful skills such as: writing practice, a sense of ownership, experiences with practical, legal and ethical issues that are a part of creating a hypertext document (Campbell, p. 3). The class BLOG is the third type used in the language learning setting. It involves the entire language class working together for the same learning purpose or goal. Class BLOGS have been used in a variety of different teaching situations and contexts for example conversation courses, intermediate and advanced proficiency levels, international pen pal type situations, and reading and writing courses to name a few.

3 3 As the features of this technological medium indicate, maintaining a BLOG is a relatively practical way of engaging in computer mediated communication in the ESL/EFL classroom. Aside from an internet connection, address, and access to a computer there are no additional or costly requirements necessary to create and maintain a class BLOG. Teaching Unit Title: Blogging to Learn Aim: To bring students to develop fluency and competency in English through a low pressured and highly motivating journaling project. Level: Intermediate Reading and Writing Course, College Level ESL/EFL Rationale: Using Blogs has proven to be an effective motivator of participation and risk-taking in student journaling and free writing. The use of Blogs in the following activities will allow for a comfortable and safe environment for students to experiment with new vocabulary, expressions and grammar within the constructs of the classroom syllabus. Activity 1: Warming up to the News Sequence: Day 1 (60 minutes) Aim: To introduce students to the stylistics of the News genre. Language: Vocabulary connected with News related media: pen name, topic, title, introduction, topic sentence, fact, opinion, style, intended audience or reader, etc. Material: Newspaper article sample and News habits worksheet. Preparation: Students will use the sample news piece as a model for future research. Supply each group with a sample article. Procedure: In pairs, students will begin by brainstorming, listing vocabulary and concepts related to the News genre. This can include news from a variety of media sources including: TV, newspapers, internet-based news. Guide each pair through the major components of a basic newspaper article: pen name, topic, title, introduction, topic sentence, fact, opinion, style, intended audience or reader etc. Follow-up/variations: Having written a list with some of the main vocabulary and concepts introduced in News texts, the students will choose three of the words they wrote down and give a brief definition of what it is and why it is an important part of the genre piece (this may be done in the same pairs as before). Activity 2: How to BLOG Sequence: Day 2 (60 minutes) Aim: Set up a class BLOG and invite students via to set up their account. Language: Key vocabulary that will be important to know in setting up a BLOG account: Weblog (BLOG)- to Blog, a/the Blog, Blogging, Internet cite, Web address, Link, Post, Account, Chat, Display name, Username, Password. Material: Introduction to BLOGGING handout (see Appendix A)

4 4 Preparation: At the intermediate level, it will be necessary to prepare a simplified version of these instructions including a list of frequently used vocabulary that will make the steps easier to understand and follow: Use the following handout as a sample and review it together as a class Procedure: Begin by asking the students what they already know about BLOGS. Use the handout to introduce vocabulary and instructions. The students will have some time assigned to create and account and sign on to the class BLOG during class time. Follow-up/variations: The students can also be given the Handout on Blogging (Appendix A) as a homework assignment rather than an in-class activity. Activity 3: Exploring the NEWS online Sequence: Day 3 (60 minutes) Aim: To continue the theme of the News genre and familiarize students with available online sources for research on News type media. Language: Broadcasting company names that are well known in the U.S. and beyond such as CNN, BBC and NPR. Material: Guided worksheet for online research and investigation, computer lab and internet access for each individual student. Preparation: Preview the websites of the previously listed newsgroups so as to offer some helpful suggestions on articles and topics to the students during the activity. Procedure: The students will be given an opportunity to experiment with the different Newsgroup websites available online. After this the students will be given the Guided Research Worksheet (Appendix B) to guide them in the rest of the activity for the day. Follow-up/variations: Students turn in their Guided Research Worksheet with their responses and findings for the instructor to check for comprehension and trouble spots at the end of class. Also, as the instructor, I will respond individually to each of the postings on the class BLOG with suggestions and comments. References: Campbell, A.P. (2003, February). Web logs for use with ESL classes. The InternetTESL Journal, 9(2). Weblogs.html Duber, J. (2002, September). Mad blogs and englishmen. TESL-EJ, Vol. 6. No. 2. from ebn the Educational Blogger Network. (2003, February 5). Bay Area Writing Project News. From Hiler, J. (2002, July 22). The microcontent news blogging software roundup: Part one of the weblog industry report. Microcontent News. From

5 5 Appendix A Key vocabulary you need to know to BLOG: Weblog (BLOG)- to Blog, a/the Blog, Blogging, Internet cite, Web address, Link, Post, Account, Chat, Display name, Username, Password. Instructions: 1. You will receive an from me. The is an invitation to the class Blog I have created. 2. Go to the website that is written on the or just type in on the internet manually. 3. Find Create an Account and follow the directions given (create username, password) 4. Keep a record of your username and password in case you forget it.

6 6 Appendix B Guided Research Worksheet Visit one of the following news websites: Choose an article that interests you and find out the following information: What Newsgroup publication was this article published in? Who wrote the article? When was the article written? What is the topic or issue of the article? Does the article express opinions or/and facts? Support your answer with examples from the text. Reflect on the content and message of the article in a journal entry and post it on our class BLOG. As a homework assignment read someone else s posting on our class BLOG and respond to the author with some positive feedback or questions.

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