Strangers by DavidLohr BuesoAccording to Rebecca Blood, the weblog (or ‘blog’ for short) is the first ‘native’ genre of the internet (follow this link if you want to see a good video of what blogging is all about). If you think about it, blogs fundamentally change the way that we read and write. They provide people with the opportunity to reach a large audience online, provide readers with the ability to respond by commenting, and make it possible to use hyperlinks to establish communities. Reading and writing becomes much more like having a conversation that anyone can be involved in.

Blogs have also been adopted in language education in a variety of ways. In his article on Abdullah’s blogging, Joel Bloch describes how his students used blogs to generate ideas for their academic writing course.

On that course, students had to consider issues related to plagiarism and post to a blog, providing some initial ideas. They sometimes responded to each others’ work, citing their classmates blog posts and evaluating them. On the blogs, they practised a kind of critical literacy which involved:

  • evaluating classmates’ opinions
  • stating agreement or disagreement with reasons

Ultimately the aim of using the blog was to generate sufficient ideas for an academic paper. I found this to be a very interesting use of blogs because of the way that students interacted with each other and built on each others’ ideas. The learning design here seems to me to promote blogging as an interactive, community building, knowledge construction tool. It also feeds into the aims of the academic writing course effectively. As Bloch says,

…it is clear that by becoming bloggers, they increased the amount of time they spent writing, reading, and generating ideas as well as demonstrating a variety of complex rhetorical strategies.

What do you think of this particular use of blogging? Do you have any other suggestions about how blogging can be used in language education?

Let me know your thoughts by responding in the comments below – don’t forget to read and respond to your classmates’ comments as well!

Photo Credit: Dave_B_ via Compfight cc

63 thoughts on “Blogs in language education

  1. Yeah, blogging nowadays is so important to people. Something that we are too shy to speak can be posted in blogs. It is also a good tool to record our daily life. And of course it is good for studying language because you have to read and write more. So I think blogging is a very important thing.

  2. Like weibo in China, this is a good way that we know big events and celebrities which we do not have access to communicate with before. You can not only build your relation with people you know. You can also comment on people that you admire and share it with other people also like him or her. This is a good way to communicate with a total unknown people and maybe you will become friends. 😉

    • Hi Emma, I totally agree with you because I have exact same experience in Weibo. I have more chance to follow the people I admire and without weibo I can never get access to them.

    • I also think Weibo is a very good tool to practice expressing ideas in limited length of words. I used to modify my post again and again, delete what is redundant, and this procedure is very useful. 🙂

  3. I agreed with Emma, this kind of social media can be extremely powerful in dessiminating information. When the Wenchuan earthquate happened, weibo posted inmediately,and some people even posted a disaster map,it also help to gather resourses needed in the stricken area.

    • Hi, Amber. You are right that it can also be used in our daily life with some big events. Furthermore, we can also use this way to apply in the langauge education to get resources from everyone and everywhere on the blog.

  4. I think blogs are a nice way for L2 students to communicate their thoughts in a less stressful environment than having a conversation. It is nice to receive feedback on your ideas, too, so it can be motivational.

    • I agree with you Thomas. Anxiety for language learners is a powerful deterrent for motivation to continue learning. Any tool that can lower that stress is useful in my opinion.

    • yes. i do agree with Thomas, maybe in the class, students are too anxious to say their thoughts. However, after class, students could exchange their minds through blog which makes them feel relaxed and interesting. 🙂

  5. People spend a great deal of time checking the update information on the mobile phone. We can say that people cannot live without information. Blogging can be a good platform for people to express their opinions and ideas whenever they want and wherever they go. It is a good way to develop critical thinking when you comment on other’ opnions.

    • I really agree on the point that blog is a good way to develop critical thinking, because we are always influenced by others’ opinions. Through discussion, students can help each other and delve deeper into their thoughts.

    • I also agree with you Sophie! Blogs or other types of social media give everyone the right to say their voice, however, it also brings about the problem of “hearsay”. It attracts lots of attention in China in these years as a quite number of internet users do not have the awareness of critical thinking.

    • I agree with Sophie. Blog is a communication platform more than a social network. We exchange ideas with others and then get a better picture of some issues.

  6. It’s an interesting and practical research. A blog-based discussion which leads to an academic paper helps students think critically. Deemphasising grammar and spelling would also motivate students to express their ideas.
    Besides reading and writing, I think, students can record their voices of certain topic then link to weblog to get more audience. Classmates can comment on both content and pronunciation. It’s also a good way of recording students’ learning process.

    • That’s an interesting point about the learning process: if you write a number of blog posts over time, you can see the way that your ideas about a topic change and develop. Unlike more traditional forms of writing (e.g. books and articles), blogs are also usually perceived as a ‘work in progress’ and so there is less of an expectation from readers that your ideas will be perfectly formed. I think that makes them less intimidating than the kind of academic writing that students are expected to do.

    • Recording one’s speaking output is a good idea. I have a question about the peer-evaluation. Would students feel embarrassed if they get negative comments or feedback from others? If so, they may be demotivated. Are there any suggestions?

    • Hi Junjie – the quality of peer feedback is definitely an issue. I suggest adopting some guidelines about ‘netiquette’ similar to what we have on the about page of this blog. I also suggest training the students and reminding them to be positive and constructive in their feedback to one another. Perhaps the teacher could ask students to make comments on one thing that they thought was done well, in addition to one area for improvement. This is definitely something that the teacher should manage.

    • Sorry! I still can’t figure out how to reply others’ reply. So I just @ Junjie manually hahaha. Thanks for your question. The “comment” that I mentioned means kind of discussion. If we see it as “evaluation”, maybe students can also learn how to evaluate politely and properly. For example, euphemism can be used like “I really like your point. As for me, my suggestion is that …” And if they get their peers’ appreciation, they will be more motivated.

    • I think use blog as a recorder is a fantastic idea! Building up such kind of e-profile is easy for both teachers and students to review and preview.

    • I totally agree with Cassie. I think it is a really good way to improve student’ pronunciation. By recording the voice of students and posting it online, teachers can better help students to improve their pronunciation. Since there are so many students in one class, most of the teachers cannot focus on all students equally. Voice recording on blogs can help teachers know students gradual progress well and give instructions to their students in time. It is an efficient and effective way to promote the interactions between teachers and students.

    • wow, Cassie, your idea is really good point. blogging is not only a way for students to exchange their thoughts, but also a good method for them to learn more. 🙂

  7. I think the first benefit we get from reading and commenting on blogs is that we have more practices on writing down what we think. Besides, unlike writing an essay, it is more free to say what we want to without following a certain kind of form. It prepares students for academic writing.

    • Yes, I think writing practices like blogging are the ‘missing link’ to get L2 students to write more. Academic kinds of writing are not so intrinsically motivating, and much of the time they are just doing the writing to fulfill the assignment requirement. I think that over time, writing a blog reinforces the idea of English as a communication tools rather than just an academic subject.

  8. I think that this a great way to generate ideas as fore mentioned by others.
    I think that blogging has a wide range of applications in language education. To not only think of a blog as just a way to read and write, we can do almost anything with it. I think that the main attraction with blogs are that anyone can start one. Everything is laid out as a template and is very user friendly. We could put entire lectures on our blog. We could make exercises of all kinds and the way to assess the Ss would be to have them all post comments (just like we are doing now). There are many ways in which we could use a blog in language education. As time goes on and more of these methods are used to teach language, the question would be how to make it as interesting and as stimulating as we can. As it is still a bit of a novel idea now in time it may become common place.

    • Yes, it is very important to pay attention to language education envorinment. For example, blogs can be used in different ways for learners from different levels.

    • I love your idea that “the question would be how to make it as interesting and as stimulating as we can”. I also worry about the continuance of students’ instrests ? Various attractions keep popping up in their life and teachers should also devote into the development of new activities related to blogs rather than merely creating a new one.

  9. Hi, I think this article is very useful including the hyperlinks. The structure of this article is very clear. I love this article. I think blogging is really convenient for us to change opinions and train writing ability, which switches the traditional way for students writhing academic paper. But as you mentioned above, what we need to pay attention is that plagiarism issue. Writing is about rewriting, what we need to do is providing some ideas not the certain words of initial articles. 🙂

    • I agree.
      I am wondering how to help learners express initial feelings in blogs and how to develop the critical thinking. Sometimes people will pretend to be a certain kind of people on the internet, or just translate other people’s ideas to get acceptance. As the article said, students are encouraged to express initial feelings. I am quite agree with to show the originality and creativity in blogs.

    • Hi Yueming! I agree with you that plagiarism is quite important. I still have a long way to go to write academic papers avoiding plagiarism. Maybe we can talk more about that after class and share our experience.

    • Hi,Yueming, I agree with you that plagiarism is a commom issue in bloggings. The reason of this behavior might be the valuable ideas or sentences iteself. And I think it’s better to immitate than to plagiarize,the process Ss immitating is also a way of learning.

  10. I like the point made in the article describing blogging as “an interactive, community building, knowledge construction tool”. The most fascinating attraction of blogging, I think, is the desire of being heard. The nature of publicity of blogging fulfils people or students’ such psychological need, which can be seen as a major motivation generator.

  11. I would say Bloch’s way of using blogging to teach academic writing is just brilliant. The very topic he picked for his students was ‘plagiarism’ which is concerned with the issue of ‘academic honesty’, the premise of any academic writings. And when Bloch’s students used academic language to talk about ‘plagiarism’, they also practiced how to avoid plagiarizing when they made references to their peers’ words.

    • Good point! As for my experience in sina weibo, I find that the widely spread blogs deemphasize copyright. Many bloggers just copy and paste others’ ideas, which is the exact plagiarism. In this research, students, immersed in the blog environment, will think more about plagiarism.

  12. Like we discussed in the last session, multimodality is embedded in the use of blog. By writing a blog, bloggers have to find the relevant and interesting pictures or videos to attract audience. In addition, writing skills will be sharpened as bloggers may revise their piece of work several times before publishing and bloggers will become more open-minded as they may get various comments .

    • Yes, I agree with you, Junjie. While improving those skills, we also enjoyed and polished ourselves in this fusion, meanwhile, let the ideas to interact with each other.

  13. I think using blog as a way of L2 teaching is quite a good idea. Since time is quite limited in class, many students, especially those who are less active, have little chance to express themselves. Just because they do not like to talk in front of their classmates does not mean they are not thinking. Blog provide a platform for students of different personalities. With this platform, students have enough time to think, to structure what they really want to say. And what’s also important, the student will try to build a good image in this new public place by reading, writing and commenting much more carefully than when they are doing some traditional homework whose only reader is the teacher.

  14. When I was a L2 learner in college, my teacher also built a forum for our class, just like this one. Everyone could post ideas on it and the teacher would give feedback one by one. It made us feel included in a meaning project and everyone was excited for contributing something. Unlike being silent in the real classroom, even passive students were motivated because using blogs creates a more equal communicating environment, makes learners feel safer and freer. They have more time to manage their ideas and post them more confidently. Progressively, it stimulates learners to communicate with each other more in reality.
    In addition, using blogs records study progress literally, helps both teachers and students themselves to observe changes in different periods. I think it is quite valuable.

    • We used to have a blog in college too. However, it was kind of neglected by all of us. At first, we were also excited about it, but as time went by, we did not form the habit to check, to post, to comment on it. I think that is a big problem faced by teachers who want to keep a consistent educational blog. Keeping students’ interest and persistence is very important, I think.

  15. I would like to bring blogging into my teaching, if condition permits.

    Two questions come into my mind. First, I tried to embed this kind of using blog into secondary school, taking my previous students into account. Most of them possess lower level of English, among whom some even have difficulty introducing themselves very well. For those who cannot express them well in English, this kind of blogging form means that they are driven to produce something that they are not good at. They will be hesitant about exposing their compositions to their classmates cause the grammatical mistakes, for example, will have a negative effect on their dignity. That kind of thing may happen a lot, cause even I , now, am worried about possible mistakes I have made in this piece of comment. So, actually, this kind of blogging for them may just be another suffering experience apart from usual composition. One difference is that all classmates will see their compositions this time. Blogging calls for talking freely, while students, with different English levels, may not treat it in the same way.

    Secondly, for those incorrect usages of English language in students’ comments, is it unnecessary for the teacher, as the censor authority, to correct or point them out? If the teacher doesn’t correct some mistakes, students may treat them as correctly used. Then, it is possible that mistakes spread. If teacher correct mistakes, there will be a large amount of work waiting for the teacher, similar to the usual grading writing.

    Thirdly, I think about one possible method to use this blogging literacy. Before teacher posts a topic for ss to discuss, it is better for the teacher to teach something related in class. In this way, ss with lower lever of English will be aware of what they are going to say and tried to express the content in a correct way. Thus, the damage made to their dignity can be reduced to some extent. And for those whit higher lever of English, the extension of the related topic will give their confidence, too.

    A little bit long. And I didn’t pay attention to grammatical mistakes in my comment, so please forgive me if there is any. I write in a hurry, cause I forget quickly. ^^

    • Good points! When it comes to lower level students, the teacher will need to provide a lot of scaffolding, probably working on drafts of posts with students. The idea would be for students to create posts that they can be proud of and that they want to share with whatever real audience it is that they are writing for.

    • Hi Fiona, I think teacher will pay attention about the process of class blogs more than students. As to the second question, it’s surely a big amount of work for teacher to correct every word or every sentence in every day. I think teacher can list out the most common mistakes, for example about 10 to 20, and tell students in the last 5 minutes of the class. Just like what Dr.Jeff did in last semester. And I think in this way teacher can correct the mistakes in a reasonable period of time.

    • Your idea that “this kind of blogging for them may just be another suffering experience apart from usual composition” remind me whether we should worry about the possible plagirism caused by the public of their writing.

  16. I totally agree with the idea that blog can generate ideas among students and increase their chance to communicate. But I think the functions of blog are restricted to the level of students. For beginners, blog may be used as a tool of sharing information/materials. I mean, students may confuse by the various kinds of information on the Internet, and teachers can use blog to filter the information and provide students with those valuable and useful. For advanced learners, blog can be used as learning task publisher and on-line community for sharing and communicating. The higher level of students, the more functions blog has. Another point I want to mention is, it is easy to start a blog, but it is hard to keep posting. A good blog needs persistence from both teacher and students.

    • Good point, Aileen. I also think blogging is better for intermediate or advanced level learners. And you mention the persistence problem. I think that is why Dr. Christoph carries out the policy of counting our numbers of comments. By so doing, it pushes us to keep commenting.

  17. We students get many benefits by using this educational blogs. In terms of reading and writing skills, we are firstly motivated to learn it in this way, which are totally distinguished from the traditional ways of learning those of skills. We can get appreciations and suggestions on our own posts and by looking for them, it facilitates learning process and provide us with resources of new ideas and explore the concepts learned in classroom more effectively.

    • Hi, Caroline! I agree with you that blog can also be recognised as dynamic notebook. Students take notes, develop their opinions, get inspirations from peers and at last integrate them into well-organised academic paper. This is a really interesting and motivational way.

  18. I quite agree with the idea that the blogs changes the way of reading and writing. As interaction with audience plays an important role in language learning as a motivation, it is a great solution dealing with the motivation problem of many learners.
    I have some other ideas of how to use blog in language education. Firstly, teachers could offer a large range of blogs in target language with different genres, such as news report, traveling diary or shared business experiences and so on. This usage of blog is not only able to arouse the learners’ interests in reading but also provide them access to language use in different genre. Then the next step is to encourage learners to communicate with the bloggers through comments. Through the communication, students could learn the right writing style and the cultural background as well.

    • I like this idea of focusing on blog reading (with commenting of course) and examining different genres. It’s very efficient too because all the blog resources are already out there, so no need to make your own. Nice idea!

  19. I think what we are doing now is exactly a living practice of using blogs in language education. We comment and share ideas with each other, poingting out our different opinions. And blogging, as a platform of medium, is considered as a helpful tool to us, which assists us to supplement and extend each other’s ideas during the process. It’s a really innovative way utilized in education that bring us with numerous beneficial resources.

    • Blogs is good but kind of out of date thesedays in China. In real life, few people would be willing to spare their limited time to write such long blogs. Instead, they choose to write microblogs, the Chinese counterpart of tweeter, to express their ideas and feelings. So I think the problem here may be how could we integrate language learning into microblog writing.

  20. I agree that blogging is a useful tool for language learners to practice writing and reading. It provides an interesting and relax environment for learners. But I think it also has some limitations. It is effective under the teacher’s organization. Just like us, the whole class can communicate by making comments. But for individual learners, it may be disappointed to find nobody make comments or some negative comments. Learners may lose passion in writing English blogs. Also, what if some students who are constrained to make comments, so they just copy or paraphrase part of other comments. Hence I want to know how can teachers organize and use the blogs effectively.

    • Yes,Jasmine, I agree with you, the motivation or stimulation is really important in people’s behaviours. As for me, during the process that I making comments, the primary thing is to think and then express opinions. Beside, it is also neccessary to be appoved by others. So, in order to get a better response from students blogs, A Goal is needed in the begining of the programme, for example, the promotion of students’ ability in blogging. what’s more, the criterion for grade evaluation also need to be informed at start, witch would be a useful stimulation for students.

  21. I think blogging is a quite creative way for language teaching and learning. Its advantages are listed in the passage and our classmates’ comments already. I am considering about whether I can apply this method into my future class. Students’ language proficiency and motivation are two variables that I have to think about before using this method.

    I agree with some of my classmates that this method is more applicable in teaching high-level students. For lower-levels, their difficulties in reading and writing in English may demotivate them. Maybe at the beginning, teachers can post some interesting topics with a few pictures and words only. I think in this way students will be more willing to read the post. And if students can comment with pictures or in other ways of expressions, they will be more motivated in sharing their ideas.

    • I think wikis can be applied to language education of younger learners. The activities can be quite simple. The teacher can ask the whole class to create their own wikis about all the words they have learned and classify them into different groups. Every students in the class can make their own contribution, and the students can check i they have remembered all those words. Probably the students themselves would be amazed how many words they have learned.

  22. I agree with Anika. Encouraging beginners to use pictures is a good way to motivate them. And as they move to intermediate learners, teachers may let students to write some simple sentences along with the pictures. Through blogging, students keep on reading other’s ideas and try to produce interesting responds that can match the previous speeches, which can cultivate their abilities to write in a demanding situation.

  23. This reminds me a fact that, people now prefer to spend hours of time on exploring others’ blogs and leaving comments instead of reading newspaper. And also, in Internet age, comments are even sometimes more interesting than the blog itself.
    On the other hand, if teachers want to introduce blogging activity into the class task, they should be carefully ensure that the students are doing the task of leaving creative comments which means they do both blog reading and writing task rather than doing a simply reading task.

  24. When I am doing my own blog project now. I have some questions in using blogs to learn L2. How to improve the accuracy of language when applying the writing and reading part in blog? With a lot of input of L2, it is quite hard for second language learners to figure out the problems in blogs.

  25. Another way to foster language learning by using blog is to let learner exercise their autonomy, for example searching a hot debating social issue or, probably the topic that learners are interested in, such as popular culture and celebrity scandals. Learners become the journalists or paparazzi to write a report about the issue, and share it with peers.

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