Uses of Weblogs in English Language Teaching
Arnel E. Genzola
With the loads of software applications available online, the use of weblogs made handy by various social networking tools with quite a lot of these hosting services obtainable for no cost had drawn increasing popularity and growing interest. Because of the ease of publication that these software applications afford, blogging has made itself in the popular media and in the field of teaching. Apparently, the number of users has remarkably grown, and its uses being not limited to personal, journalistic and commercial targets but as well as educational purposes.
When a language teacher introduces blogging activities within the language classroom, the opportunities for student interaction and the horizons of that learning space are expanded exponentially, providing student writers with a far greater audience both within and outside the classroom (Williams & Jacobs, 2004). What makes weblogs attractive to educators is that they give students a chance to put to use what they are learning in the classroom in expressive, interactive and immersive ways.
Dieu (2004) writes that blogging gives a learner the chances to “maximize focused exposure to language in new situations, peer collaboration, and contact with experts.” Students are not just offered with a convenient hub for information related to the course but also provided with a digital space where interactive exchanges among the members of the learning community take place. In addition to reading and writing practice, weblogs also allow learners to share their thoughts and ideas wherein the resulting conversations expose learners to authentic uses of language, stimulating and challenging them in ways that supplement classroom experiences.
Integrating collaborative online tools like weblogs will afford the learning community as many opportunities to interact in the target language within their community of learners for optimal language development.
Uses of Weblogs
- A portal to online language learning resources and links appropriate for the level and the needs of the students such as English news sites, online grammar and vocabulary quizzes, ESL interactive websites, audio and video files for listening practice, etc. Vocabulary used in the class can be consolidated and posted where vocabulary words can be linked to definitions on other sites found with a search engine. Crossword puzzles and interesting EFL web-based games and activities can be embedded.
- A platform to encourage students for interactive discussions and to incorporate new acquisitions and new language patterns and phrases encountered in their engagement into making blogposts on their weblogs or on comments made on others. Classroom discussions can be sculpted to improve upon problematic areas through the textual record of the learners’ use of the language provided by the weblogs for reflection on linguistic and cultural understanding. Reading practice can be posted for students’ commentary and written posts in the target language which will be shared and can be commented upon to engage the members of the learning community.
- A convenient hub for information allied to the language course taught such as course content, homework, instructions and reminders, tasks, tips, guidelines, enrichment, etc. Assignments, upcoming discussion topics, class rules, course syllabus and soft copies of lectures can be posted for fast and easy reference and classroom correspondence.
- An e-space to stimulate pre-class and post-class discussion through the blogposts made by either the teacher or the students. Editorials, news and feature articles from local or international dailies, magazines and journals can be posted where contents of the same can be used for focused-writing tasks such as idea outlines, paraphrasing, summarizing, etc. Students may be asked to make a blogpost in short essay form of assigned task or teacher-generated question in response to the contents of any of those articles. Further, English-language movies or video documentaries for particular language learning purposes and those with thematic connection with course content can be assigned for film reviews which can be blogged for feedbacks and interactive exchanges.
- A channel for introverted students to take an active interest in developing language skills and in learning in general when given the opportunity to express themselves through weblogs.
- A free-form online bulletin for blogposts, feedbacks, commentaries, observations, questions, explanations, interpretations and information dissemination. Photographs (photoblog), texts (textblog) and videos (vidblog) relevant to classroom activities can be uploaded for comments and responses.
- An online academic community to foster a sense of belongingness between the members of a class where interactive exchanges are shared; hence, a conducive learning environment.
- A digital portfolio of students’ written work where students can go back to prior written work and monitor the progress they have made in a particular course. Also, exemplars or commendable written works of students can be scanned and published by creating an online magazine or renaming a tab for exemplars to be showcased.
- An electronic diary for students who would love to keep an online journal of their routines, interests, thoughts and feelings, personal concerns, etc. Online journal can be done weekly or bi-weekly with students generating their own topics or meaningful experiences they wanted to post for other members to participate in a largely autonomous forum where they can exchange ideas while practicing previously learned skills.
- Other activities for enhancement can be integrated such as riddles, fables, prose and poetry, quotations, surveys, idiomatic expressions and videos of short interviews, dialogues, book reviews, etc. Moreover, project-based language learning can be facilitated through weblogs where students can be offered an opportunity to develop research and writing skills by being assigned to create an online resource for other online members of the academic community.
Language teachers looking to use weblogs in their classes have a multitude of software applications from which to choose. Of the dozens of free blogging applications available (Blogger, Wordpress, Edublogs, Ning, Elgg, SocialGo etc.), selecting the right application can not only be confusing but can also render the whole procedure overwhelming in deciding which to go for distinguishing the different features of one from the other.
The author has been using SocialGo in two of the English Academic Courses he teaches (ENG400 and EAP300). SocialGo being one of the recent applications developed appears to have been created specifically with the needs of educators and students in mind. Apart from being web-based weblog software and a new application that is bound to grow in popularity, it allows network owners to maintain privacy of the members and comments can be moderated and access to other groups created can be controlled. As a browser-based service, it does not require software downloads which makes it convenient for the members of the network to access it from anywhere in the world.
SocialGo also allows you to create your own Social Network for free. Signing up will only take a few minutes though configuring and setting up the whole network will take time. Using the powerful customization tools, you can make your site look exactly how you want.
Integrating technological tools like weblogs, wikis, and podcasts in language teaching will certainly supplement the students’ language skills development. Weblogging has the knack to enhance language learning as it provides greater opportunities for language inputs. As posited by Williams and Jacobs (2004), “Blogging has the potential to be a transformational technology for teaching and learning.”
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Article source: http://eslarticle.com/pub/e-learning-call/3859-uses-of-weblogs-in-english-language-teaching.html