A. What is a blog?
A blog is a type of website. The word is a contraction of web + log. Blogs enable users to post regular entries (or blog posts) and these can include news, comments, descriptions of events, photos or videos. In a blog, entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order, with the most recent at the top. There are many free blog services, and blogs are very easy to use and have a clean, professional look that makes them very attractive to use. To blog is also a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.
B. Why would I want to use blogs and blogging in my teaching?
The regular practice of reading and writing is very useful in learning a language, particularly in distance learning, independent study and blended teaching contexts. Blogs are a useful tool to use in your teaching, both a source of reading material and as a way to structure writing activities and peer reviewing.
For language teachers, blogs “can fulfill many of the needs identified for the effective teaching of writing.” Indeed, a blog provides “a genuine audience, is authentically communicative, process driven, peer reviewed, provides a disinhibiting context and offers a completely new form with unchartered creative potential” (Ward, 2004: 3).
In particular, you might want to use blogs and blogging in your teaching:
Blogs are an excellent source of up to date reading material: encourage your students to find a blog they really enjoy and subscribe to it.
To disseminate student generated content:
A blog can be a window into your classroom. You can encourage your students to post their work there (especially if you use the blog for a particular project): students often get an immense sense of satisfaction from having their work “published”, and blogging is indeed a form of publishing.
For sustained, regular writing:
Blogging regularly has been shown to have a positive impact on learners’ writing fluency and to increase their motivation to write for a broad audience.
For discussion and peer review:
Blogs offer students an opportunity to interact with peers and to learn from each other. Because they enable readers to post comments to blog postings, they offer a forum for discussion.
To increase opportunities for interaction outside the classroom:
Students can comment on each others’ blog posts outside the classroom. This contributes to creating a sense of community, and takes learning and peer interaction outside the confines of the classroom.
For reflection and evaluation:
Blogs are often used as a tool for reflection. For instance, students can have a personal blog that they use as a journal of their learning experience. This has been used quite successfully for students spending a period of time abroad (e.g. during an Erasmus study visit).
As a portfolio:
Because they can include photos and videos, and links to other sites, as well as “regular” text postings, blogs are an easy way to get students to produce a multimedia portfolio, documenting their work during a course or a work placement, for instance.
As with any other tools, you need to keep the pedagogical considerations in mind when thinking about how you would use blogs and blogging in your context. To find out more about these pedagogical considerations, you can go to section D.