Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Kick Off (Week 1)

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.


  1. Hello Julio
    Very nice blog. It seems that you are hardworker and professional teacher. I am sure that we are going to learn from you a lot. Excellent refelction of week 1. I hope to keep in contact.
    Naif Salem - Oman

  2. Hello Naif,
    Thank you very much for reading my blog and your comment. You are the first person I know from Oman. I will google-earth Oman and pay a visit to your country. So, I see you teach in high school, is it a private school or a public one? How many students do you usually teach per class? Do you teach communicative English or just English for reading purposes?
    Yes, let´s build up this conversation by Q&A, all right?

  3. OOOOOOOOOOOOO Julio ,I'm very impressed ,I appreciate your neat writing,also agree with naif I believe I'm actually beginning to learn from you ,I hope you feel free to exchange ideas and comments ,I see your interested in using technology in class well that's something we share .

  4. Thank you Batool,
    I am visiting your blog now. It looks great too.

  5. Hi Julio, this is great start to your reflective blog. I agree with you that blogs have really evolved and are being used in ways unimaginable a few years ago. Because we work with people from all different tech backgrounds, we try to make the assignments and information open enough to be accessible to everyone. And it's always wonderful to have some "blog-savvy" participants who can raise the bar and suggest other useful tools. I look forward to reading the different ways in which you use blogs in your classes.

    1. Hello Janine,
      Thank you very much for visiting this blog and your comment. I believe that developing conversations throughout theses “back-channels” is another way to build up deep learning on a subject, in our case: Blogging. Sometimes, when I read these follow-up replies, I usually find very valuable information that adds a lot more to the topic. I wonder if a Forum would be a possibility for this subject matter. That way, we may focus better on the topic and gain from each other. However, writing our views on the blogs will also add significance to your overall reflection and that´s cool. Well yes Janine, I do have some experience using blogging for class. It all started last year and I still need to learn more. I ran my first “bilingual” blog last semester for my college students at Universidad del Zulia but I know I need some upgrading. I am into uploading tutorial videos to go along with my page. Here is the link: http://inglesluzcol.weebly.com/index.html Feel free to take a look at it and please share your thoughts, they are very valuable to me, coming from such an expert. I also use a Ning site that goes along with it, where last semester I had to manage a class of 150+ students online. There I do have videos and other tasks. I really hope more people from this course get to read this reply and add comments. Feel free to enter my page. Thank you.

  6. Hello Julio,

    Thank you for sharing us your point of view on web skills. You have an attractive blog with a variety of ideas. Congratulations.

    In reference to your statement “…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 student...” it is my opinion that the students themselves indicate the starting point and the progression —as you name it— of the activities and the routes to follow, depending on the course curriculum, its goals and objectives. When you mention “… 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.” In your last words skills go in a parallel way to designing a progression…

    Kind regards,

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Hello Fernando,
    I am glad you have found time to visit my blog and add such valuable comments, thank you. You are a key person for this course for your background and knowledge. I entirely agree with you that students set the goals and progression of their learning, which takes them to building their own Personal Learning Environments, which is nowadays called PLN/PLE. There is a lot to say on PLEs I would love to discuss with you in the future. Now, when you say that designing a progression for building skills, that is correct and that´s what meant. And it is precisely in this point where you come to play. Please consider the following question. Taking in consideration your competency-based learning expertise, how would you go about designing an English course based on the premises of freelance learning (PLE) on the students´ side and competence building? How would you reconcile both? How much weight does the teacher have in such a learning program? How to balance students individual learning paths and required learning standards? Of course, all of this done through blogging. Blogs to support this type of “controlled freedom” in learning a new language. Thank you Fernando. I will pay a visit to your blog this evening, now I am off to work.

  9. Hello Julio,
    I agree with Naif Salem Alabri. You are indeed very professional as you wrote quite an impressive reflection upon the readings we had as assignments.
    Excellent work.
    I'm sure we will all learn a lot from you.


    1. Hello Fátima,
      Thanks for stopping by and for your comments. I am sure we are going to learn from each other in this course. I just like this new field for exploring new path for learning.

  10. Hi Julio, just a quick comment here as I have many more blogs to check today! We will have multiple opportunities throughout the term to discuss the various tools we are using and how we use them. However, if at any point, we feel that there isn't enough space to discuss a specific topic, we can certainly create an optional Nicenet thread for anyone who is interested. This course is so full I am hesitant to add any more expectations, but let's see how it goes, and we can assess later.
    Regarding the multiple log ins for this course, I agree that it can be overwhelming! The first term I taught this course I felt a little crazy, to be honest, but now it's just part of the routine. However, I know it can be a lot. Our reason for using so many tools is to help participants become familiar with a number of useful (and free) teaching tools by using them on a daily or weekly basis. The other course I am teaching this term is all on Blackboard, and everything is contained on one site. It's like a dream, honestly, in terms of how much time is spent just dealing with administering the course, but then again, our focus is not tech tools.
    At any rate, we can continue this conversation as we move along. I generally don't comment on blogs after the first week, but Nicenet and email are always there!