This post is aimed at teachers who consider starting a class blog. It is based on my personal research on class blogging combined with my experience over the last two years.
What is a class blog?
A Blog or weblog is a virtual space for people to post their work to Web pages displayed in reverse chronological order with an option for readers to leave comments regarding these posts (Eastment, 2005: 358; Davis & McGrail, 2009:74). Among a number of types of blogs that fit pedagogical purposes, the class blog is the result of a joint effort of an entire class and is considered to foster a feeling of class community by optimizing teacher-student communication and peer interaction (McDowell, 2004; Miceli et al, 2010: 323).
Why should we set up a class blog?
- Because it encourages learner-centredness
Consistent with learner-centred principles, class blogs require students to actively construct meaning, organize their thoughts and become more active inside and outside the classroom by reviewing material and seeking external knowledge resources (Du & Wagner, 2005:4,10).
By inviting students to post their personal work and share their views and beliefs we give them a voice; Students feel personally significant and sense that they matter to their teacher and their classmates ; this encourages them to become more actively engaged and invest a higher level of mental energy in the task.
Publication not only makes materials accessible for subsequent reflection but also offers the opportunity for feedback, which, in turn, scaffolds learners’ knowledge construction. Finally, if collaboratively implemented, blog projects can also encourage increased verbal exchanges, negotiation, peer interaction and social integration, all of which are so valuable to learning.
Of course it would be naïve to imply that by simply setting up a class blog we encourage learner-centred learning. If we continue to be in total control, don’t encourage collaboration and reflection and don’t involve them in the decision making, we simply dominate the whole thing and do not place learners in the centre of the learning experience. It’s a personal decision of course and you know better than anyone else what is good or not for your classes. I just believe that if you want to give more space to your students, class blogging can definitely help you with this.
- Because it is user friendly
Unlike standard websites, blogs allow users with little or no technical background experience to create, design and maintain the blog ( Du & Wagner 2005:2). This makes classroom integration more natural, without the need of teaching hard technical skills (McDowell, 2004; Godwin-Jones, 2003); it is also consistent with learner-centered principles which require technologies and educational practices to be appropriate for learners’ cognitive abilities (Vincent, 2010).
When I started, my knowledge of setting up and running a blog was extremely limited. I remember not knowing basic vocabulary such as tagging, blogroll and widgets. It goes without saying I couldn’t embed a video or change the blog layout. There are plenty of tutorials available on YouTube like this one. I’m going to share more on a forthcoming post but I’m sure you can find them on your own if you just type key words such as “how to set up a blog” “embed a video” etc on Google. So, even if it seems hard to you right now, you will end up agreeing that blogs are very user friendly.
- Because it fosters a sense of interactive audience
By posting their work on the Internet, the students have the opportunity to extend their audience beyond classmates (Ward, 2004:2-3). This awareness encourages a sense of ownership and responsibility on the part of the students who may be more motivated and thoughtful in both content and structure (Kitzmann, 2003:1).
Take my students as an example: by knowing that what they write is going to appear on the web they automatically become more conscious and more responsible writers, proofread their posts and seek guidance and advice from me or their classmates without being told to. Isn’t that great?
They have a reason and an extended audience for writing and this is why they want to present something that they will feel proud of
Commenting to each other’s posts or receiving comments from a wider audience can also be very powerful. Not only does it promote interactivity and reflection but also fosters a learning community in and outside the classroom. This two way communication through posts and comments enables students to become both the author and the audience and therefore benefit from the advantages of both forms (Wrede, 2003).
What are the basic steps in setting up and maintaining a successful blog?
Well, researching and getting informed would be one of the first tips I would give…but I just noticed this post is getting too long. More practical tips on a forthcoming post. If you want to dig more into the topic you’ll find a lot of resources in the references below
Davis, A. P. & McGrail, E. (2009). The joy of blogging. Educational Leadership,66(6): 74-77.
Du, H.S., and Wagner, C. (2007). Learning with Weblogs: Enhancing cognitive and social knowledge construction. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communications, 50(1). Last accessed 16/04/2011
Eastment, D. (2005). Blogging. ELT Journal, 59(4): 358-361
Jonassen, D.H. (1993). Thinking technology. Educational Technology, 34(4): 34-37
Kitzmann, A. (2003). That different place: Documenting the self within online environments. Biography, 26(1): 48-65.
McDowell, D. (2004). Blogging in the K12 classroom. In B. Hoffman (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Educational Technology.
Miceli, T. , Murray, S. V. and Kennedy, C. (2010). Using an L2 blog to enhance learners’ participation and sense of community. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 23 (4): 321-341
Godwin-Jones, B. (2003). Blogs and Wikis: Environments for On-line Collaboration. Language Learning & Technology. 7(2): 12-16. Last accessed 26/04/2011 http://llt.msu.edu/vol7num2/emerging/default.html
Vincent, D. (2010). Learner-centered learning and blogging. Edutech Wiki. Last accessed 15/04/2011 http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Learner-centered_learning_and_blogging
Ward, J. (2004). Blog assisted language learning (BALL): Push button publishing for the pupils. TEFL Web Journal, 3(1): 1-15
Wrede, O. (2003). Weblogs and discourse: Weblogs as transformational technology for higher education and academic research. Blogtalk conference paper, Vienna, May 23rd-24th 2003. http://wrede.interfacedesign.org/articles/weblogs-and-discourse