When Blogging is Born
It was Jhon in my second year senior class who triggered off the idea. He shared with us that after finishing level 1 in English he wanted to express himself more freely -to write outside the required format of the exam.
How did this happen?
He jotted down some fiction inspired by a book in Spanish, early one morning while he was reading on the bus to work. Took out a copybook and started a paragraph in English. I saw the draft, full of corrections, but neat. He made us laugh when he shared that people looked at him funnily on an early Argentinean bus. He did not let that discourage him and wrote on.
The moment I heard this I thought: blogging project.
Jhon's description of the creative moment had all the elements of a blogger's passionate writing. All but the blog. So I asked the class if they would like to read Jhon's fiction, if they would like to comment on it or perhaps share some anecdote of their own. Their eyes flashed yes.
Then I mentioned blogs and the comment feature. I told them that when they are not inspired to write, commenting on their classmates could be the start of another post. They got it. They just need to see it. We'll launch this at the lab next week.
So here we are ready to write in a new format: expressing ourselves with our limited knowledge of the English language. That's our challenge.
After playing Tumblr with gsellart and budtheteacher back in June, I decided that Tumblr is the blog engine we need for beginners. Ideal for the short postings to be expected by beginners in English language. Ideal for people new to blog reading and writing because the tool itself prompts you to clip and share.
Bud also pointed me to the work of Paul Allison on Youth Voices, which I had bookmarked long ago.
My project role
Set up the environment.
Show it at work at the lab.
Be as inspired as possible when writing.
Shaping the topics.
Carrying on conversing.
Still needs thinking...
Will I be posting with them? Shall I remain a lurker?
This poses a totally different outlook on my role in front of my students in the classroom. I could well become a community member and find a blogging voice in there.
I explicitely told them I will not be correcting their language on the blog or the comments. That will be done in class as part of a conversation on the structures and vocabulary they need to express themselves. We do not aim at producing grammatically correct sentences. Mistakes will be judged according to the extent to which they impede self expression and communication.
The blogging snario: Tumblr
The idea is to give the students a single space, a chance to have a go at blogging. A place where students can try ideas that could eventually be the seed of a blog of their own. For now, everyone will use the same account and tag their posts with their name.
Tumblr does not include comments. We will use Disqus to enable them. I still have to explore Tumblr's tagging feature.
I'm enthusiastic about this project because of the way it is being born. I never invited the students to blog, but I was alert to identify a blogger when I saw one. I believe I am basically giving him a car to go where he wants. It is ideal that the students have just finished a first level and just beginning a new one. There is time for the project to go from fledgling stage to become a stage for all the class to play. This blog will be with us throughout the course.
Learning in a networked world has a lot of synchronicity and serendipity. I came back home to write this post and I find this in tweet from Paul Allison:
Writing and Reading Class Blogs on Teachers Teaching Teachers tonight (9 PM Eastern / 6 PM Pacific)Join us tonight as we discuss the progress we are making on Youth Voices… WITH a special guest, new to our show, Sarah Hurlburt, Assistant Professor, Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, Whitman college, Walla, Walla, WA, USA.
In June 2008 Sarah published an article in the Journal of Online learning and Teaching, “Defining Tools for a New Learning Space: Writing and Reading Class Blogs.”
That's in a few minutes. Just in time.