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The EFL Tutor Blog

Blogging for students, a year on
A year ago I presented my my first blog for students, The FCE Blog, at Teacher's Day in front of 50 of my co-workers at the BAC, the theatre of the language school I work at.

A translation of this presentation into Spanish was published in an interview at Educ.ar, the Argentine Ministry of Education blog, which opened the door for me to meet the Spanish speaking edubloggosphere. A most rewarding learning experience. It was viewed over 2,500 times at Slideshare and favourited by 20. For all of you wondering whatever I said there, here is the English version of the interview.






I must say I love my first blog. I have used its name/logo as my avatar. Sometimes -not too often- I miss the days when I had no idea there was a network of edubloggers around. I made me focus more on my ideas. Definitely what I produced before September 2006 was purely original content. Somehow ignorance helped me to write unhindered from thoughts such as, hasn't anyone done this before? Shouldn't I build upon what others are doing? Once you are connected, I believe you assume the responsibility of not reinventing the wheel. I did check there was no like of it around the web. There was not.

Some achievements

In April 2007, the blog got a mention as an example of the ELT Tutor blog in the book How to Teach English with Technology published by Longman. The students' reaction to this was 'We are making history'. I think the blog showed there are simply no more walls in our classroom.

Personally, I am so glad Stephen Downes has included The FCE Blog in his Edu-RSS feed list of edubloggers.

More Questions
All in all, a successful presentation. As I have been asked to present again, I am reviewing it. Some core ideas I still find relevant; but others have changed under the light of the knowledge gained in the last six months.

I do not have answers yet. I get stuck and need help. I am posting the questions and hope you make me think. (Contributions will be properly acknowledged and linktributed in a future post).

Can we still use the concept of "digital natives versus digital immigrants" to explain the divide between teachers and students?
Students use msn, fotologs (highly popular in Argentina) and text incessantly. When I speak of blogs, wikis, del.icio.us or Flickr, I am speaking a new language to them. I am not trying to integrate the same technology they master to my lessons. I am introducing new tools which are far more social than a private mail, chat or text message. Learning and sharing with the whole world has, so far, been pretty innovative to them. They do not adopt blogs and wikis at the touch of a button. You can expect a series of adoption resistance moves before the whole class gets engaged.

How can student blogs be best moderated?
Reading class blogs, mostly ELT, it is hard to find lots of blogs flooded with student comments. Moderation and word verification seem to be rather off-putting. Moderation in itself is a top-down activity, which somehow makes the course blog a teacher-centred place in the end.

In order to engage students in writing their reflections, is it better to blog in class or at home? Do students reflect more in blog posts of their own or in comments?
This question is connected to the idea of assigning posts or comments as homework. When I think about my own learning as a blogger, I can connect anywhere, but I still find my home the best place for writing reflections. I can come up with an idea for a class anywhere; however, I would not have developed a whole blogging project on a school computer. Now that digital literacy is not so time consuming, I find it a lot easier to make myself home in a public computer.

Not that these are the only questions in my mind now. But let's say it is enough for one post.


Related links
Presentation handout (in Spanish).

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Hi, Claudia: I like the question about digital immigrants and natives. I think teens are digital natives because they were born with it... we, the ones over 40, are immigrants because we adopted it.
I agree with you that teens use different tools from the ones we offer them . The tools we propose (blogging, for exmple) demand an effort - reflection and being more involved with the writing process- that is why they find these tools a bit difficult to incorporate.
Congrats on your blog!

Agreed. The Internet is 16 years old and my youngest student is 15. So they may find it hard to imagine the world without Internet. That is a timeline perspective.

Now, why is it that the metaphor sometimes goes on to say that digital immigrants have a foreign accent when using Internet? That is a spatial perspective.

What does this distinction have to explain in the adoption of an innovation either by teachers or students? It seems to me that it is a bit of an excuse. It may come in handy to say there is a natural or innevitable divide. (Need to think more on this)

Thank you for your thoughts Nelba.

Dear Claudia,

I do think that we share a lot in common. Your questions and answers are the same I ask myself while blogging with my students.

- Moderation: Just like you, I think it's not what blogging is about. Blogging is about openness, about establishing a dialog. As I have this premise, I try to avoid any distraction in the communication channel. Maybe I'd consider it only if I were working with very young kids just to keep parents calm!Here I mean computer moderation settings, for we are always moderating the communication, aren't we?

I've been saying for some time now, or maybe preaching, that we should use the means our students use to connect to them in a totally new way. Again you're right. We're all connected, but in different modes and for different reasons. So, I just love the fact that I can interact with my students using their means and at the same time help them discover other "mysterious" online spaces that they haven't heard of. Funny. I had a teenage group that would meet once a week for a conversation class. Generally too hot in the afternoon, they were tired, they had no grades, but they were always there. I thought that was really amazing and found out that they were there because they knew they would learn something knew or do something "fun". We blogged, worked on podcasts, projects, made chocolate eggs, interacted with people around the world. During the week, we'd be in touch through MSN, Orkut, Skype...Now that I'm living in the US, some of them still connect, send me messages, and always in English! So, we use the same means in different "modes" or "channels", I'd say. However, the fact that they are already digital literates is a step ahead in making the most out of the online learning experience. And even my adult students, who were digital immigrants, profited a lot from the blogging experience and are still in touch. Interesting connection: the ones who became proficient bloggers are the ones who are still in touch! Take a look at this conversation going on on one of my blogs http://brazilandbrazilians.blogspot.com - The city of God. Check for my student Emerson, a quiet one in class! When he started blogging he was a pre-intermediate student. And since the beginning he has amazed me with his ideas while blogging.I'd never know what his thoughts were if it weren't for the blog conversations we established.

- Blogging at home or in class? A mix! When you blog in class, everybody gets to experience it and you have the chance to teach students precious learning strategies for them (looking up in an online dictionary, making good searches in google, showing them resources, etc...). At home, the ones who want to go beyond really excel in blogging. So, by home and class blogging, all students have the experience in different levels according to their interest, time, motivation, engagement...

Well, this is already huge! But we have so much in common...

Just loved your slideshare! Will add it as a resource in our "Blogging for Educators 08"!

Besos,
Carla
http://explorations.bloxi.jp

I'm so glad to have the view of an expert in international exchanges through blogs.

Just to mark the points where your comment makes me nod:
-'We're all connected, but in different modes and for different reasons.'
-'...the fact that they are already digital literates is a step ahead in making the most out of the online learning experience.

These are key points I believe. The motives for going online and the web syntax we already manage to express ourselves. When we still need to learn Internet dialect to learn a foreign language and then to learn to express it all in writing...that has some resonance with the effort Nelba mentioned as a difficulty students find to take to blogging.

But you seem to have bridged the gap. I just love what you and Dennis managed to achieve with the International Exchange blog project! That dialogue with Emerson is a pleasure to read.

Thank you for sharing Carla. (Lots to keep on thinking).

Wow - this IS a great post, good plenty of good content and food for
thought-There are so many points to consider and I wish I had more time to reflect on them. But "time" hasn't really been one of my best
friends lately. I have to agree with that idea of digital immigrants and citizens that has been going on for quite a time (and that I myself have used so much in my discourse)- That idea , going deep into it, is now obsolete- or , at least ...it should be updated. It's true: Students find words such as wiki, twitter, flickr, blogs, podcasts, vblogs (Well, they are quite addicted to YouTube -but this is just to break the rule), social networks, rss, syndication of contents, bloglines, Web 2.0, etc. absolutely new- real foreigners in what we considered their own land !I personally don't have access to big bunches, but -the teen students I have - experts in video games, Play Station, joysticks,and high tech cell phones with unbelievable features whose operation they master- really are at a loss when presented before any of the web 2.0 tools that I seem to love so much- It's a question of interests, I suppose- The same as in real life (sad to realize a generation gap DOES exist): Would I enjoy playing with Barbies now? I guess I wouldn't, not even if the Barbies were the most extraordinary virtual characters in the cyberspace- Well, guess the same happens with teens now. I read something somewhere within these comments that was related to time consuming blog habits and discipline that students at that age are not interested in showing- When you work on a blog (or a wiki) you first need to know what you are going to do- Time for analysis is a must and so on and so on... Students like photo logs (all of them have one and they adore commenting on their friends')- they can't live without their cell phones with recording features that they keep using all the time -and the same happens with the cams the cells hold- living without shooting is unthinkable for them- let alone sending and receiving complex texts made simple (for them, not for me) via shortening of words which for them are "2good2b4gotten" (?????!!) -too good to be forgotten- Obvious though I may appear, "translation/transcription" might have been essential for me had I been in your shoes ;-)
Focusing on the idea of moderation- I am actually thinking about opening my comments widely- I mean...I will still moderate but after the comments are published. I'm going to try allowing comments without previously approving them as I have already been pointed that this way interaction is broken. However, I'm not that convinced yet. Have to admit I have some prejudices about trolls and that stuff- Shouldn't exaggerate I suppose...Let's see what my final decision is in a few days...
In relation to getting students to work in class or at home...sometimes I work with
blogs in class but lately I have been using microblogging stuff for
homework- I'm attaching a link explaining that -Still have not
published it on my blog, so Claudia you are the first to see it
http://dotsub.com/films/pownceand/more info on how I use Pownce in the
flowing link: http://www.snapdrive.net/files/492567/pownce1.swf
(the story continues on another link-but I haven't been able to upload it yet)To be honest, at first I had to "force" them to access Pownce because I planned Extra homework (otherwise they never get further practice)- They are generally reluctant to work on English Practice activities outside the classroom-But now they are so used to it that I
am about to "declare" Pownce one of my greatest allies. Still under
experimenting stage , though. Let's see how this "evolves", or
doesn't. which would be quite sad as I'm really working hard on it.
But it is sth completely new even for me (I got to know it in July, do you remember Claudia? ...the month when the Twitter fever arose...)
Pownce also has forced me to design more material- tailor made for my specific group of students- look at these (especially created for
Pownce)
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3D7121447833722211891&hl=3De=n
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3D2469081382313877531&hl=3Den
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3D-4849741640018838747&hl=3Den
and my willingness to share it on my blog for colleagues and blog visitors
to know what I'm into:
http://english_studio.blogspot.com/2007/09/english-studio-creates-personali=
sed.html
---------------------------
If you (or some of your blog visitors) would like to share opinions via Pownce (or try it) my personal contact is
http://www.pownce.com/alicia_efl
The one I hold for my students in a
sort of private network is http://www.pownce.com/ENGLISH_STUDIO but this one is exclusive for my work with them.
Phew...I'm exhausted! This comment has taken more space than my blog posts!!!!Perhaps I will be posting this comment onto my blog some time- I've left my most recent
thoughts and reflections here- Wouldn't have happened if I hadn't started writing! Bit of catharsis ... Not bad...
All the best for you Clau and for all your readers!
See ya

Alicia,
Thank you so much for thinking out loud and sharing with us. I really appreciate it when a blogger makes it all so transparent. You voice doubts common to us all.

I look forward to a post of yours on Pownce and microblogging in ELT. We badly need it.
.......................
(note to self)
There is so much food for thought in this thread. I think I will follow-up on this with not just one post, but three (at least!). That would be:
Blogging for Students
i. Digital Natives/Digital Immigrants
ii. Comment Moderation in Student's Blogs
iii. Blogging in and outside the Classroom


Any thoughts? Should I include other topics?

I wonder how all these issues change when we shift from blogging to microblogging in Twitter or Pownce. Moderation would not be possible in Twitter, for example.

I guess we carry on learning and sharing to find out!

Right- let's move on to the topic of digital immigrants and citizens then... this post is unmissable

http://thefischbowl.blogspot.com/2007/09/is-it-okay-to-be-technologically.html

Is blogging infectious?
I started up a blog for adult students in 2006 after your FCE Blog presentation, but now kids and teens are visiting the blog too. So you’ll find many changes.
I have become active in the blogosphere. It’s hard work and time consuming but it’s fun and it works. Students are learning and practising not only in the classroom. Now, I’ve got 3 blogs. The blogging infection continues to spread in my family with my three kids becoming the latest members to fall victim. Is this a curse or a blessing??? We’ve only got one computer at home!
There are many people around the world who have started blogging. I even escorted a 10-year-old student into the world of blogs!

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