Welcome to the February edition of the ELT Blog Carnival. I would first like to thank my fellow teachers and bloggers who contributed to this event. The topic of the blog carnival was blogging with students – how, why and where. I appreciate the opportunity to read the reflections, tips and tricks, suggestions, and samples of student blogging my PLN members wrote about.
Introductory post comes from Aleksandra Tasic who wrote about the reasons for and benefits of student blogging. I’m happy that this blog carnival inspired her to explore using blogs in ELT and hope we will soon read her students’ posts.
The big issue in blogging with students is choosing the right platform. I was foolish enough to have had Tumblr as my first choice only because I was familiar with its inner workings. I wish I could have read David Deubelbeiss’s post on the #1 blogging platform back then.
Lizzie Pinard describes her first experience with student blogging in her adult classes and shares valuable lessons she has learned in the process with a great insight into the potential of the activity in ELT. A special thanks to Lizzie for submitting the first post!
Tom Randoph takes a broader view of blogging with students by sharing 3 different approaches from his teaching practice with reflection on problems and limitations of different kinds of blogging. I’m glad that Tom hasn’t missed this blog carnival.
To round off this section, I would like to offer my post on rebooting writing assignments with a class blog.
- Blogging to Learn by Anne Bartlett-Bragg
- Educational Blogging by Stephen Downes
- Instructional Blogging: Promoting Interactivity, Student-Centered Learning, and Peer Input by Stuart Glogoff
Blogging can encourage young people to trust that their written words have power and that expressing themselves through written storytelling can transform themselves and our communities.
Dana Edell: Why Students Should Blog
This post is a part of the 39th ELT Blog Carnival and I have the privilege of hosting it. I proposed the topic some time in August 2013 because I was preparing to venture into the blogosphere with my students. I teach EFL at the Department of English Language and Literature, University of Pristina. I started blogging with the first, third, and fourth year students, but I will reflect on the experience of blogging with the third year students as it was the most comprehensive.
The idea of using blogging as a substitute for traditional writing classes came from an article by Matthew M. Nepomuceno in which he discusses whether blogging is an appropriate learning activity for improving writing proficiency at the tertiary level.
Allow me to first describe how things were, then elaborate on our version of blogging, and to finally round up with student evaluation of the activity.
The traditional model
In a typical writing class I would firstly present a sample of the target text type, then we would deduce the structure, register, style, and key phrases. In the follow up lesson, we would discuss a general topic or issue as a way of introducing the writing assignment, then my students would produce the one and only draft / final version of the essay in under an hour. I would be the sole member of their reading audience.
In comes the class blog
The rebooting of writing assignments aimed at resolving the time constraints, turning writing into a process with drafting and revising with various resources at hand, as well as validating the effort put into writing by providing a wider audience. The students took part in a blogging challenge which consisted of 7 topics in the span of the semester (I myself was taking part in the educators’ 30 goals challenge at the time and the format seemed very appropriate). The topics were personal with the aim of pushing my students to reflect on themselves as students, on their learning, and their community in regard to their learning. The text types ranged from multimedia free forms to argumentative and discursive essays.
I’ll start with percentages, there’s always comfort in statistics. During the semester, 43% of students attended classes regularly, while 89% of them participated in the blogging challenge. The blog doubled the participation opportunities, especially for employed or dispersed students. We work under peculiar conditions as a university diffused over a conflict area, participation is a big deal for us. In addition, my students adjusted to the medium fairly easily and confidently tech-wise.
My main goal, to provide my students with authentic writing opportunities, was achieved. Having blogged with two other groups of their colleagues, their reading audience was infinitely bigger (compared to me being their only reader). Writing for public without being pressed for time made them more careful and deliberate, more pedantic, in their word choice, sentence structure, and text organization. Furthermore, they developed meta-writing skills on the way, such as using spell checkers, thesauruses, dictionaries, and other online writing tools.
In writing out of class, plagiarism is a persistent issue. However, the more chances to copy /paste someone else’s work, the easier it is to detect it. I’ve started off with a free online service, plagarisma.net, but then moved on to Viper software. On the other hand, all those mighty tools can’t prevent them from having someone else write the essays for them. The only weapon I have is instilling them with values of academic honesty and enthusiasm for their own writing achievements, as well as the pleasure of investing sweat and tears in a piece of writing. And sharing it with others.
We missed on the greatest blogging feature, connecting thorough conversation and interaction in the comments. The reason for this is threefold. The first lies in this tug of war of writing for pleasure and writing for a grade. As the blog was set up as a vessel for the writing assignments, it never rose above its purpose. Secondly, I didn’t teach my students how to do that, although they would probably argue that they are experienced enough in commenting. The few scarce instances of interaction died out soon enough because they didn’t have a model of constructive criticisms to build on. Finally, I have been a lousy role-model. Honestly, blogging with three groups of students was overwhelming for me. I barely managed to read through all the posts and grade them, it left no space nor time for me to actually take part in the community.
Yes, we continue blogging, only this time wiser and more experienced. I will scale down the assigned workload and encourage students to write posts on topics of their choice outside the framework of grading. Furthermore, commenting will get proper attention in teaching writing and will become an integral part of the assignments through peer-evaluation.
As an exit ticket in the blogging challenge, the last topic was an advantages and disadvantages essay on the blogging activity in this course. Here is the list of the points my students made:
I would like to express my endless gratitude to the SEJ 5 group for their effort, enthusiasm and willingness to join me on this learning journey. Looking forward to the next semester!
The February 2014 edition of the ELT Blog Carnival will explore blogging with students and will be hosted here. I would like to invite you to take part and share your blogging ideas, pedagogical insights, possible problems and solutions, best practices, advice, suggestions, warnings, or simply express your support.
If you wish to join:
- you can use the submission form
- post a link to your blog in the comments below
- contact me on Twitter (@AnitaJankovic)
- post on Twitter using #ELTBlogCarnival
If you don’t blog, I offer you this space for your contributions.
The deadline for submissions is February 1st!
Meanwhile, check out the previous ELT Blog Carnival on Making Resolutions hosted by the amazing EFL teacher and world traveler, Andrea Wade.
It took a lot of time and contemplation, but I’ve finally made a welcome video for my hybrid course on Moodle.
Filmed material that didn’t make the cut served perfectly for this Magisto movie The making of…
This year I will be co-teaching an elective course in academic writing. Besides wanting to design the course to be more than a list of writing tasks and deadlines, I also wanted to attract students to apply for the course. I needed them to overlook the course name and join in. I decided to make a promotional video for the course using PowToon. Will let you know the result in two weeks.
The inspiration for this post came from Heidi Neltner, a school Teacher and librarian, and her blog post. This is my contribution to the growing community of teachers using PowToon and sharing their experiences in the Facebook group
I might have the knowledge that it is a potato, but I need teaching the skills to make mash or sag aloo. Without skills, it is just a potato.
I’m starting this post, and a new weekly series, with this excellent tweet. Below are the tools and resources I found interesting and useful this week.
- I have become a part of this year’s 30 Goals Challenge I’ve learned that language teachers are the most inspiring, supportive and collaborative educators out there.
- ELT Blog Carnival - another excellent way to connect with teachers, reflect on the practice and promote the blog. I applied for the February 2014 edition, my topic of choice is ‘Blogging with your students’
- Blogs on Academic Blogging - a great collaborative list of blogs and posts for HE
- 66+ Interesting Ways to Use ThingLink in the Classroom
- 10 Google Drive Apps for Teachers
- MERLOT - peer reviewed online teaching and learning materials
- Twitter across Bloom’s Taxonomy
Just for fun
That woman speaks eighteen languages, and can’t say No in any of them.
While Rome Burns (1934),’Our Mrs Parker’.
Burnout? I know burnout. At one point in my life I worked three jobs at 350 km apart. I worked at a private language institute in one part of the country and held two teaching positions at the University in the opposite part of the country. Sleeping on the bus was the most quality rest I had in those days. But I learned my lesson about downsizing. This post is about a different kind of burnout.
Do what you love
According to William J. Reilly, the best way to avoid work is to do what you love. I love being an EFL teacher. Teaching is not what burns out my energy. On the contrary, the creative process of lesson planning is the wind beneath my wings, the classroom interaction brightens me up no matter how crappy my day is, and finally, connecting with teachers on Twitter boosts my enthusiasm to go on. True, the Bologna reform, or at least the way my institution implemented it, has introduced an insane amount of paperwork into teaching, but I buckle up and get it over with.
Avoid doing other people’s work
I’m finally getting to my point. I work as a teaching assistant and as such I am at the bottom of a food chain at the academia. Saying ‘no’ from such a position is extremely difficult. I still haven’t learned how to go about it. My friends used to say about me that whenever I get confused, I say ‘yes’. Doing work for other people which usually comes up at the eleventh hour is what stresses me out and wears me down.
How to say ‘no’ in three steps
Elizabeth Scott, stress management guide, recommends the following:
- Instead of saying ‘no’ which might seem too straightforward, say ‘I’m sorry, I can’t do that now’
- Avoid over scheduling by saying ‘Let me think about it and get back to you’
- Negotiate by saying ‘I can’t do this, but I can …’
This is my long term goal and a way to avoid burnout. Will let you know how it goes. What about you? What are your strategies for saying ‘no’ in impossible situations?
Whether it’s the best of times or the worst of times, it’s the only time we’ve got.
Here I am joining 9000 educators in the fourth cycle of 30 Goals Challenge. My practice so far was to lurk in the shadows of Twitter and silently read the amazing blog posts. This year I joined the Facebook group where four awesome women encouraged me to step outside and take active part. Thank you for your inspiration, Shelly, Vicky, Sylvia, and Rose.
I started by sharing my defining moment on the Paddlet wall that Shelly created to kick off this year’s challenge.
Time off work has given me a chance to step back and take a long and hard look upon my unsystematic, but very enthusiastic use of ed tech in my language classroom. In addition, my work on Tempus BLATT project armed me with knowledge, skills, and invaluable insight into other people’s practice in the field of blended learning.
It’s my moment to act on it now. As the first goal is described, here are my promises for the next semester:
- I will create a learning environment for my students infused with enthusiasm for learning by setting myself as an example.
- I will promote reflection in learning/teaching through blogging.
- I will make the learning interesting and meaningful to my students whoever they are.
“Good teaching may overcome a poor choice of technology but technology will never save bad teaching.”
This is my first attempt at designing a blended course and I am afraid of overdoing it. Every day, my Twitter feed is cramped with ideas, links, advice on digital tools from educators out there doing amazing things. I get so excited and try out every single tool and learning platform. No, seriously, I lost count (and internet addresses) of all the services I registered for. It is overwhelming. Furthermore, it creates confusion, my head is buzzing with all the different constructive ideas that I cannot make head nor tail of what my course should be.
Therefore, here is my first executive decision. I am limiting myself to several tools for achieving my primary goals of going hybrid: ensuring the continuity of learning and facilitating student centered learning. The course will combine three learning environments each dealing with separate set of language and learning skills, which would also support each other in the ‘presentation-practice-production’ cycle.
1. Face to face
Flipped classroom approach will primarily free up the class time for productive skills, especially for much needed speaking practice and simulation. It wil also be a time for students to acquire and use meta skills through collaborative projects. For instance, producing video instructions on how to use Tumblr as a class blogging platform.
2. Moodle: AMRES E-learning
The good people of the Serbian Academic Network provide free hosted Moodle to all HE institutions, as well as tech support and teacher training. I like that my course on their platform will become a part of a wider academic context. Consequently, I am not just taking my students outside their classroom, but also putting them in the middle of the national academic community.
Moodle will act as supporting learning platform in a sense that it will contain the syllabus and all the course materials, something to fall back on in case a student misses a class, or is unable to attend at all. In addition, it will be a home to drill-and-kill grammar work. Thirdly, it will be a place for practicing all the different academic reading skills; as it was intended, at home, on their own, by the computer. Furthermore, the possibility to embed Quizlet vocabulary cards makes Moodle a perfect environment for vocabulary practice. Finally, the automated platform it is, Moodle will serve as a testing tool. No more wasting precious class time on term tests.
Being a social learning tool as well, Moodle will be our class network. Open meetings plugin will be a valuable tool for one-to-one consults that are often overlooked in the daily practice.
3. Class blog: SEJ Community Blog
I have looked into different platforms that support class/group blogging and finally opted for Tumblr powered by Disqus add-on for comments. Firstly, my students are young adults who are familiar with Tumblr. Secondly, I believe that using something that is, in youth popular culture, mostly associated with hilarious gifs and memes as a learning tool and promoting digital storytelling will set a good example of the learning philosophy I am trying to arm them with.
The class blog will be a place for them to share their reflections on learning, findings on English language and culture, resources for learning English, and their musings on the topics we cover in class, as well as post their written assignments for peer review.
Optional layers (student-led environments):
1. Facebook group
2. Joint Twitter account: @SEJ_Comm
My students are not the digital natives you’ve been reading about. To quote Peter Diedrichs from his workshop Pedagogical Use of Moodle, students are not web-wise in a role of a student. They do use Facebook, maybe Twitter and/or Instagram, but they are not trained to use the internet for their learning. In addition, those young people in my class are first year students who have just stepped out of their comfort zone, the togetherness of a high school class, and, in my experience, it takes them a long time to redefine themselves as individuals among a hundred new people they will spend most of their days with. They come to the university with already set conceptions of how things work and I am about to tear them down. For these reasons, I’m keeping things simple. This course in only delivered in the first semester, so there is more time next semester to take things to the next level.
For OER to really make an impact on mainstream education the resources need to be packaged together in related groups of resources or forming a learning path towards a particular learning outcome.
From: OER – from resources to mainstream practice by Alastar Creelman
Join us for a webinar on finding and using open educational resources with Alastair Creelman, distant learning coordinator at Linnaeus University, at 10.00 CET on Monday, June 3rd. In this webinar, the presenter will tackle the following issues:
What exactly are OER and where to find them?
What are the benefits of using OER in teaching?
Are there any disadvantages of using OER?
How to protect rights as an author?
How can a university work with OER?
Suggested background reading
- A Basic Guide to Open Educational Resources (OER) by Asha Kanwar (COL) (Editor), Stamenka Uvalić-Trumbić (UNESCO) (Editor), Neil Butcher (Author) Publishers: COL, UNESCO (July 2011)
You can register for the event here