Saturday, July 09, 2005

Uses for blogs

The value of blogs lies in being

  • a diary/journal record
  • able to link to other sites on the internet
  • able to read and reflect on what others have written
  • an easy way in to having your own website

Obviously, the way that you use a blog is tailored to the needs and interests of your learners. Bearing this in mind, here are a few of the ways we have seen blogs in use.

  • Students put up lyrics of songs/poems they like and explain why
  • Students write about things that are important to them eg. sports, their family
  • Mystery guest - students have to guess who the mystery guest is online
  • Students review a language learning website
  • To support collaborative activity ie. share the workload and put your work on blog so all can see

You're only limited by your imagination...

Looking back (Term 2, 2005)

Luckily, this term was much, much better than last term. Not only did I have a wonderful class full of motivated learners but I managed to stay with them all term so we were able to gather a bit of momentum.

The students were very studious and hardworking but thankfully they were ready to try new things and were generally quite enthusiastic about using blogs. Of course some of them used them to a greater extent than others. I had 2 students who would produce work in the class lab time only to not publish it or delete it later (!!!) so this unfortunately left them with blank blogs at the end of the term. Fortunately most students were actually quite proud of what they had written and often went back to edit out any errors or mistakes that they had made.

But I’m getting ahead of myself ……so back to the beginning. Setting up the blog itself didn’t present any problems for those who followed the worksheet. I made this very explicit at the beginning and it was good to see the students helping each other out. One thing that I hadn’t thought of in this day and age of so much technology was that one of the students didn’t have an email account and to use blogger one must have an email address (note to self: make sure students have email account before starting class).

Unfortunately I was all excited about moving the blogs onto the next step only to find that the internet was down (arrrgghh!). The students, however, were keen to keep blogging so pleaded to stay and see if the system can back up. Alas no such luck so it was back to the classroom. The good thing about this was that it showed me that the students were keen to try blogging and that it was not only fun for me but also for them. They got quite a buzz out of seeing their own work available on the net.

The next lesson was much better and we worked on making comments and editing our previous blogs. This fitted in as great revision for question forms. I gave students a question word and they had to write an question that they wanted to know the answer to ie; if they got the word what then “What is your name?” was not an appropriate question as the posting would tell you that information. I posted a question on the blog that pertained to a reading that we had done the day before in class about learning vocabulary and all students had to answer it before posting their own questions.

With these tools under their belt they were given free rein as to what they wanted to post on their blogs. Interestingly most students choose to write about what they had done during the holidays, weekend, etc. One student commented that even though she was good friends with one of her classmates she had learnt a lot more about her through reading her blog.

I guess the most positive thing for me to come out of this blogging experience this term is that ALL of the students who created a blog said that they planned to continue blogging next term.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Karen's Reflections (Term 2 2005)

This term I have felt more satisfied with my students blogs. There has been more involvement with the whole concept of blogging, driven especially by three students who have put up photos and audio files on to their blogs. Admire Sabrina's photos and paintings and enjoy Shawn's and Cathy's taste in music.
These captured the interest of the rest of the class. The amount of writing that students has done has also been more than last term. This may well reflect a more mature attitude in general towards their learning. A number of students have written on their own topics, although they still say they like me to set a topic.

As well, my focus on communication has paid off. Students have commented freely on each other's work (time given for this in the lab helps!) Posting questions on the class blog and teaching them how to comment has been of value.

The class blog I largely used to give them writing tasks as homework each weekend (our lab time was on Friday morning each week). Each task I modelled on my own blog. I also posted sample sentences/paragraphs using the vocab list for that week. It was nice having the opportunity to revisit words in this way, and I worked hard at giving students useful chunks of vocab - this related to what we were doing in class with more of a lexical focus.

For me, one of the things I have enjoyed this term is the students actually teaching me to do things on the blog. Also the comments they have made and the authentic interaction created in this way. Their evident enthusiasm for blogging - and their request for 'more time please in the lab' has been encouraging. They seem (in questionnaire and interview) quite convinced that blogging has helped their language learning.