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Blogging or Boring

In the EFL/ESL class I am currently in, there seems to be a re-current theme regarding what to have students "blog" about or how to get them to "blog", or other matters relating more to class-time than "blog-time". I guess in that sense, I am a very poor "blogger". I "blog" when I want, and usually on a subject that I desire to "blog" about. I think that is why I find it enjoyable. Writing, in it's essence is good for the soul. The ability to put one's inner feelings in words or in print, is a skill that ought to be desirable for all of us.


It is one matter to feel a thing internally, but it is another to be able to proclaim it out loud in such a way that others would understand that feeling. "Blogging" (at least to the "blogger") is just another way of putting one's thoughts into print.I can't help but wonder, this morning, if we are not destroying the very tool we are studying, by making it a "required" mode of communication.


Obviously, a "blog" can be a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but I have a concern about making kids "blog" when they don't like to "blog". And even within the "blogosphere", where does it say that I have to print what I feel? Why can't I post a photo or a drawing? Or maybe I had rather sing a song or play an instrument to express myself? Maybe we have forgotten about Gardener and his different modes of learning. The technological set of tools that we have come to know as "blogging" allows for at least this much latitude.I think it is marvelous that so many instructors are willing to explore the limits of technology and to think about how it may play a role in the classroom, but let's not forget, that not everyone will find "blogging" their desired mode of communication. It has to be seen as just another tool.


I keep going back to Tze's idea of attempting to put a language course on a cell phone.This seems like a real leap to me. Not only in the sense that it uses a technology that so many young people already have adopted, but also because it requires us to re-think communication all together.


Sometimes, I wonder if we adopt tools not because of their effectiveness or efficiency, but because we want to be in the early adopter group. Is this tool as great as we think or are we just impressed with the newness or uniqueness of the tool? When I see instructors say that they had trouble getting their students to "blog", I want to ask, "then how did you get them to communicate?" Does this mean that if the student didn't "blog", then they didn't do anything? Does it mean that there was no alternative manner in which to speak or express their thoughts? If I gave a class a choice between making a video, making an audio disk, or producing a blog to express themselves; how many would choose which one? And what if I made communication even more open ended? What if I said, you have to have a project in which you express your inner feelings, but the medium in which you wish to work is strictly up to you. Would I have a greater level of participation? What if someone had told Da Vinci, that he could ONLY keep a blog? Or maybe we told Wagner, that the only way he would be allowed to express himself was in a blog. Or Frank Lloyd Wright. Or Mother Theresa.


Now, I suspect that there will be those who read this post, who will respond that they are not teaching the expression of feelings, but instead that they are simply teaching the techniques of language. Well, you are indeed correct, and perhaps "blogging" is an appropriate tool to use. But shouldn't we be going beyond technique? I remember years ago, going to see the Rolling Stones in Berlin. The German youth loved them. They sang every word from every song, but didn't know the meaning of any of the words that they sang. I would like to think that the reason that they sang with such gusto, was not because they understood the technique of the language, but that they instead understood the emotions behind the language being used. Maybe teaching a language is beyond the technique. Maybe teaching a language is to teach it in such a way that one can express their emotions through it.You see we are all seeking our own path here, and if that path is too constricted, then we will be less likely to travel down it. By allowing for a wide path, we encourage others to traverse it.


So explore the use of blogs to your hearts desire, but please be aware that they may not meet all the needs of all of the students all of the time....they are but one of many tools.


elderbob
Thursday, February 03, 2005 at 4:32 AM

Blogger Sarolta said...

Dear Elderbob,
I found your post thought provoking but also a little disturbing. I understand that you want to protect both blogs and both kids, which is nice, because you care. But it also implies at least to me) that they both need a protection. Who from? I’m not sure I agree with you
entirely. Sorry. Kind regards. 10:31 AM  

Blogger Teresa said...

Hi, Bob!
I really enjoyed reading this post and think that you make some very relevant points about variations in teaching ESL/EFL.
I'm a firm believer in using different tools and strategies, but choosing the one I think will work best for that specific task, as well as letting the students have a say on that. Therefore, I totally agree with you that 'blogging' should be "an at-your-leisure activity", done when we feel like it and have something to say, even if it's irrelevant to others. (A possible exception is if we make it part of a required writing syllabus.)
That's why I have made blogging a voluntary activity for my students. I feel that they already have way too many required/'imposed' things (some of them total crap, I'm sorry to say!) on their different syllabi, so why impose another?
I try to teach English in a fun way, with humor to taste, and to create outside activities that I think are fun (though not for all students, of course), but voluntary!
Such is the idea of our 1 year-old blog, Have Fun with English!, which has broadened its scope quite a bit in the last weeks.
http://www.malhatlantica.pt/teresadeca/school/fun-with-english5.htm
If you browse through it, you can see that it's usually the same students posting (I've kept a log of that for my own curiosity and possible future research), but that means I'm getting to them. And that's very gratifying to me! :-)
The latest trend in voice emails has been really exciting! It's a very relevant added dimension in language learning.
If this catches on, I'll try voice chat with some of them one of these days.
I also have an idea for a photo story they can create and narrate!
Hugs,
Teresa 9:11 AM  

Blogger (Seyyedeh) Susan Marandi said...

Thank you so much, Elderbob, for putting into words what I have also felt but hesitated to express, probably because I was afraid of being misunderstood. Maybe it's just that I don't fully appreciate "blogging power" yet, but I have felt at times that, although blogging is for me a new and interesting experience,its importance is being overestimated. I guess most learners (but certainly not all) would find it interesting the first time they are introduced to the idea, but I doubt very much whether blogging is a panacea necessary/attractive for all kinds of groups and classes. (In fact--this might sound pessimistic--I wonder if 30 years from now others might not be severely criticizing blogging, in the same way that we now criticize and condemn anything labelled "traditional." The question is, would either our unconditional approval now, or our decided disapproval later on--when blogging is no longer the height of cool ;-) --change the present or future realities of our classrooms and students?

(sigh) I guess I'll just have to submit to being misunderstood after all! :-) 2:06 PM  
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