Friday, September 4, 2009

Blogging with language students

Believe it or not, the most important word in this post title is the preposition. I say that because it is very common to see educators blogging at students, at other educators or about students. But the beauty of such a tool is actually to be able to blog with your students.

The first choice you have to make when blogging with students is what kind of blogging you will have:
- A teacher's blog in which students participate in the comment area
- A class blog in which all students are added as authors
- A class portal (using tools like 21classes, pageflakes or netvibes) with students' individual blogs

There aren't better or worse options, all of them work and the examples used to illustrate my suggestions come from the three kinds of blogging:

1. Working with students' writing
The characteristic of being able to receive comments and to edit posts makes a blog the perfect environment for process writing.

1.1 Peer Feedback
You could have class blog and have students post their initial drafts there. You and other students could give feedback and students can then edit their writing in the blog. check these examples of a students giving (previously instructed) peer feedback on content and organization:
- South Africa (esp. Tahís' comment)
- Australia (esp. Luciana's comment)

1.2 World Feedback
The usual route of a student's writing is this: Student gives it to teacher, teacher corrects it and gives it back to student, student sees the grade and rarely cares about mistakes, student puts writing in a drawer (hopefully) or throws it away (most probably).

However, by allowing learners' to realize that in a blog they are writing to a global audience and that anybody can find, read and react to their writings, they can develop a better sense of authorship and readership. Writing to one person only (the teacher) is a very artificial task, whereas writing to a real audience, who is more interested in the content rather than the form (the world), is more authentic.

By networking with other language educators, you could have language students and teachers from different countries read your students' writings and give them meaningful feedback.
Check out the following examples. Students get really excited when they see real people from different countries are reading their writings:
- Chocolate com Pimenta
- Malhação
- The Simpsons
- Kennan and Kell - notice how, in this last example, students from different classes (one from Casa Thomas Jefferson south branch and the other from CTJ north branch) get into real information exchange to whether the actor from the show has really died or not.

1.3 Teasers
You could brainstorm for ideas or simply generate expectations in students about he writing they will have to do. I have used this to introduce a writing about their favorite TV show and about their dream vacation destination.

2. Intercultural Projects
Again by networking with (language) educators from different countries, you could have joint projects with a class of English students in a different country. Here are two ideas:

2.1 What makes your country unique
You could ask your students to answer the question "What makes Brazil (or their country) a unique country" using a word, phrase, sentence, paragraph, picture(s), video(s), etc. and then have them post their finding in the class blog or their own blogs.

Last semester I did this with my students and I had Sophie, a teacher in Australia, do the same with her ESL students. We compiled students answers in an animoto video and here are the results:

- What makes Australia a unique coutry video and word map using wordle

2.2 Questions about your country
You could also have students come up with questions about the other students' coutry(ies). Send them the questions and they can publish their answers, which could also generate more discussions. Here are some of the posts with what my students answered about Brazil and here the one in which EFL students in Australia answered to my students' questions.

You can also vary the way the questinos are answered. For example, in this blog post you can see in a video the answers my students in Brazil gave questions asked by Russian college students.

3. Grammar

3.1 Modal Vebs of Speculation in the past
I searched for images on the web, put them together in a slide.com slide and asked students to write sentences in this blog post about what might/could/may/must/can't have happened to the people in the pictures.

3.2 Second Conditional
I embedded this "If I had a million dollars" video in the blog post and students had to write in the comments what they would do if they had a million dollars.

To get away from the cliche, next time I work with second conditionals, I'll definitely use this other video - if my nose was running money (check it out - it's really funny).

Final Considerations
Only two of them:
- two groups that I recommend if you want to to start networking with other language educators are Learning With Computers and Webheads In Action. Join them!

- All digital activites I propose to students are optional. However, as an incentive, I have been doing something Carla Arena suggested: the HALL OF DIGITAL EXCELLENCE. It's a grid with students' names and the online tasks on the wall and, for each task accomplished, they get a tick in the chart. At the end of the semester the most digitally excellent student gets a prize. It's interesting to see how this HALL works on their egos...

I hope you find some of these suggestions useful!

Ronaldo Lima Jr
more EdTech tips on my blog ihopeitworks

14 comments:

Ronaldo Lima, Jr. said...

All feedback is more than welcome!

Ronaldo

Teacher Andre Netto said...

Great report, Ronaldo.
You've just given us some great tips to start blogging with our groups.
I particularly like the online writing tips, because students will be able to interact with people all over the world.
That's cool!
Great job! Congratulations!

Andre

GilMattos said...

Great ideas Ronaldo. I have been trying to find ways to motivate my students more so they can actually see how much they can improve as they get really engaged in the use of technology to enhance their learning. We could try to have some of our groups interacting.
Thanks for sharing.

Ronaldo Lima, Jr. said...

Hi André and Gil,
I'm glad you liked the tips!
Well, I'll start blogging with my advanced students this semester real soon and we will interact with some students in Argentina.
If you would like to join with your students, just let me know, ok?

Ronaldo

Beyza said...

Hi Ronaldo,

Thank you for this informative and detailed blog post on blogging with sts. I am going to have a class consisting of young adults. I don't know their level yet but I am sure it will be fun to collaborate with you and your sts.

Best,

Ronaldo Lima, Jr. said...

Hi Beyza,

I'm glad you enjoyed this post and it would be great to interact with your students. When your classes begin we can set something up with our students, just let me know, ok?

Ronaldo

Cleide Nascimento said...

OMG!!!! This post is super mega power blaster useful. I´ll definitely benefit from using it. Thanks.

Cleide Nascimento said...

OMG!!!! This post is super mega power blaster useful. I´ll definitely benefit from using it. Thanks.

Ronaldo Lima, Jr. said...

Wow, thanks for the comment, Cleide.

I'm really glad you found it useful!

Ronaldo

Cleide Nascimento said...

I loved this post!!!!! Valuable, precious, super!!!!!Thanks for sharing it.

Cleide Nascimento said...

I loved this post!!!!! Valuable, precious, super!!!!!Thanks for sharing it.

Dennis said...

Oí, Ronaldo.

This was a dynamite post: "Blogging with Language Students" was chock full of insights and ideas from beginning to end.

I particularly liked the point you made at the beginning: "Believe it or not, the most important word in this post title is the preposition. I say that because it is very common to see educators blogging at students, at other educators or about students. But the beauty of such a tool is actually to be able to blog with your students." Yes, with is a critically important word: blogs are easily forgettable if the only person who contributes is the teacher, but they become lively and engaging if students and others (including other teachers) add their thoughts.

I also liked your comments on the three types of class blogs. In my experience, the first type is the easiest to set up and maintain because in this type, the teacher can more directly facilitate. The other two are really good and useful options as well, however.

Your points about working with students' writing are also useful and idea-generating. Reacting to others' work is very useful—both for those who post observations and those whose work is being commented on. Feedback from other geographic locations (for example, from Beyza in Turkey, in this post, and comments from a variety of different countries in the blog posts you linked to) are particularly interesting and motivating, I think.

The teasers were especially good. One prolem that everyone has, in making a blog post, is deciding what to write about. Your prompts give a number of ideas for how to get students started in making posts or adding comments.

I also liked the fact that you mentioned giving blog posts a content focus, such as a particular grammar point. There's such a big difference between presenting rules and exercises and in using grammatical items in a personally meaningful context. The picture exercise was wonderful as a way of enabling students to use past modals.

In addition, I was glad you posted the "promos" for Learning with Computers and Webheads in Action. I agree 100% that these communities are both excellent ways of networking with other educators who are interesting in computer-mediated teaching and learning. They're also a marvelous source of ideas and of help when problems arise.

Finally, I liked the idea of having a "Hall of Digital Excellence." Having a tic or a star after one's name definitely has an effect on one's ego, and as such, it's almost always a good motivator.

Kudos, Ronaldo! Parabéns!

Abraços do Phoenix—

Dennis

Ronaldo Lima, Jr. said...

Hey Dennis!

Thanks a lot for the detailed and thorough comment. It means a lot comeing from you.
=)
Thanks for the kind words, I'm glad I'm able to contribute with other educators even still having very little online experience.

Abraços from Brasília!

Ronaldo

Cleide Nascimento said...

rsrsrs...little online experience?!.... make me laugh Ronaldo rsrsrrs