Hello everyone out there! I am so glad to have started this course and be able to write my very first blog, even though I have been familiar with blogging. The instructions from blogger.com were very easy to follow for a digital immigrant like me. I take it that for younger students (digital natives) it must be very intuitive and instantaneous. That in itself is a tremendous advantage for teachers when it comes to ask them to open a blog for class. As for its purpose, I find the idea of reflecting on my learning progress as an outstanding strategy that will lead to mutual understanding and support besides setting a legacy for our followers and a nourishing place to come back often. I hope to learn as much from my classmates’ experience as I expect to from the syllabus. And I am certain this will be the case.
After reading the materials for week 1, these are my reflections. First off, I really like Campbells´article in that it takes the reader to the very root of blogging. This document may be considered as the one that set the principles of using a weblog in terms of categorization of its implementation as a pedagogic tool. It gives a clear picture of a blog usage from the point of view of the teacher, the student, and the class. Later it was cited and expanded by the BBC providing insightful ways of exploiting a weblog with students in an ESL context. I couldn´t agree more with all these recommendations.
However, taking in consideration the swiftness of technology evolution which basically doubles its transformation almost every year, I might dare to say that the weblog that Campbell described and envisioned in 2003 may be a bit different of what a blog is today. Back then, a blog was considered a personal, individual victory for a separate space in the World Wide Web. A private place to ventilate your own being that was transformed, as time went by, in an interconnected, socially networked, and partly-owned place that is today. Just think of the new term ´micro-blogging´and wait to see what comes to your mind.
Of course, the classic blog is still alive and kicking and this blog is a perfect example. In no way I am against it. I just want to highlight the fact that it has evolved and its presence in the cyberspace remains more of a permanent place for a topical matter or special interests. See, for example, the proliferation of blogs for teachers using technology into the classroom; there you could make a list that goes on and on every day. On the other hand, I think is a bit hard to find a student blog which remains active longer after his/her class has finished. There are exceptions though, but I think it will be the general rule. It is my hope to keep nourishing this one for the years to come, since edtech is one of my passions nowadays. This has also inspired me to write one in my native language on the same topic as well. There´s a great gap or need for information on technical support for educators in Venezuela, especially among those who speak Spanish only.
Can a classic blog be used a class blog? Yes. Today many weblog softwares, including Blogger.com offer features and gadgets that make a blog suitable for running a classroom blog. Especially permanent pages that remain displayed in a toolbar or sidebar that could be used for showing steady components of a class like resources, teacher bio or specific content links and these will not be archived as regular postings. This is an example, Mr. C´s Class Blog. With time, patience and discipline we can build up a class blog like this, but today technology offers a way to achieve a level of complexity like Mr. C´s in less time. I will explain what I mean next.
Recall Campbell´s categorization. Wouldn´t it be nicer to have a tutor blog + a learner blog + the class blog in the same space? Today technology is moving more towards integration of these platforms and this equation is a reality as for today. LMS (Learning Management Systems) like Edomodo offer that possibility, where there are micro-blogs of the kinds described above, all intertwined and specifically bound to a class. The main characteristic of these student blogs in LMS is that they are time spanned to the length of the course they support but the contribution of the students in terms of creativity and participation in not undermined because of this constrain. Another form of merging blog evolution that call the attention of teachers and special interest groups as well is a Ning, where there is an integration of members’ blogs joined together around a topic or class.
Form my point of view of as an ESL teacher, blogging offers limitless opportunities for engaging students in tasks like Larry Ferlazzo describes in his article. A space to encourage creativity and promote participation and socialization as well. How would I use blogging for class? Based on an article I read from The Teaching Professor Blog, Weimer recommends thinking developmentally when designing activities. She argues, and I agree entirely, that in order to promote deep learning on a subject, we as teachers should plan ways to develop skills in a progressive manner to achieve skillful stages of performance. Her article was aimed at curriculum developers and I think it could also be applied to blogging. A good idea for ESL/EFL teachers could be designing a progression of activities for reading, writing, speaking and listening in English in a meaningful way for students. Motivating and engaging activities that are aimed at improving performance in linguistic behavior. Of course, these skills should be planned according to their needs and context. It could be up to the teacher´s discretion to decide whether these tasks are implemented simultaneously for all linguistic skills or scaffolding progressively with each skill in a separate manner. In my personal case, since I work for young adults in college whose main need for EFL is basically reading material for academic purpose, I would design tasks for such demand, without overlooking the rest of the kills, of course.
There are other platforms to engage students in the creation of blogs besides Blooger.com. Posterous, for example, is a web space for blogging that offer many benefits in terms of easiness and compatibility with a wide range of multimedia. But for the purposes I described above, I will definitively go with a Ning. It gives me blogging promotion with students and total interaction, communication and teamwork in the same place!! It is, in my opinion, the best option to promote group learning in a collaborative environment; it is something I have used it in my own teaching.
To wrap up, weblog provide opportunities for creative thinking and information
dissemination in particular ways. It could be thought of as a tool to expand, explore or develop ideas on a topic or freelance thinking. For teachers it could be thought of as a reservoir of resources, special links, and a reflection space. A place to interact permanently with students and world visitors as well on a given topic. And for students, it is a sandbox for creativity and inspiration. As an instructional tool, it should be used as support axis for teaching and learning developmentally, following a well-designed program for achieving successful performance on a given skill practiced in a collaborative environment; in our case, the goal is reaching linguistic performance for communicative competence.