I want to expand on another educational resource that I mentioned in TESOL Connections back in January called Kidblog. Although some might think of blogging as an activity for people with too much free time, it can also be integrated into your curriculum for students of almost any age.
Firstly, a little bit about Kidblog. Unlike some sites, Kidblog has no advertising, is completely free, and takes security very seriously. This makes it the ideal platform for working with students, especially those who are not yet adults and whose parents might be concerned about student exposure to certain material on the web. Once registered, it takes no time at all to set up a class. Kidblog provides a few different options for adding students and makes individual blogs for students as they are added to the class.
As the administrator, you can determine how much control students have over their blogs by changing the user settings and moderating posts. With one account you can create multiple classes and add up to 200 students per class which is pretty amazing for a free resource. The only limitation is upload space, which is capped at 500 MB. Kidblog is constantly improving and adding features; it also has free support in case you run into some problems along the way.
How you use Kidblog is totally up to you. I think it is a great way to have students share stories about themselves with classmates and create an online space all their own. Some students might have some experience with this but others might not. Learning how to represent yourself online is an important thing to learn, especially as hobbies, portfolios, and even dating are moving online.
Additionally, Kidblog is a great platform for writing assignments and peer editing. I use Kidblog in this way by having students write original posts and requiring students to respond to or edit two or three of the posts written by classmates. Usually peer-to-peer feedback is public, which is an excellent resource for the whole class, but I like the option of leaving students private posts with feedback and grades. Kidblog is so simple yet flexible enough that you can adapt it to whatever you choose.
There are also other sites for blogging that target educators, which I hope to check out soon. Mr. James Dunn commented on my TESOL Connections article that he likes Edmodo and has had success using it with his classes. I have also heard of Edublogs being used by teachers. So, if you have experience with either of these, Kidblog, or other blogging sites, please leave your comments on them so we can try them out.
Dear Tara,I appreciate what you have potsed. I am an English teacher from Lima, Peru. I have worked at a bi national center for more than nine years. I am also pursuing a master’s in TEFL.I couldn’t agree more with you. In recent years, I have seen how technology has impacted so positively in my students’ learning, particularly in the area of listening and reading. There are so many free PDF files of graded readers now. There are webpages such as manythings.org where students can find very interesting audios as well as texts. My students are becoming more knowledgeable about world issues and at the same time more competent in English. I am completely convinced that if used properly, technology can facilitate our roles as teachers and make us better enablers of learning. I will look forward to reading your future posts. Happy Holidays!Diana Bermfadez.
Thank you for your comment, Diana! I’m glad you are finding technology in the classroom helpful for you and your students. You’re right that there are a lot of resources out there and many of them are free which is even better. Thank you for sharing the website, manythings.org, with me and others in the TESOL community. I’ll have to check it out! Stay tuned for more tech resources. Enjoy your holiday!
Do you correct for grammar, edit for vocabulary, and offer suggestions before the posts go public? How many times do you ask students to contribute in a semester? Do students collaborate on the blog posts or does each student responsible for a certain number of words/assignments? Consider me curious.
Finally, what has been the student feedback so far? How has writing for a blog influenced/changed their writing? Do you have any other tips to successfully implement this creative classroom concept?
Hi Eric! Thank you for posting your questions. I think how you use a blog would depend on what type of classes you are teaching and that a balance of accuracy and fluency (Is is fluency if it’s writing?) exercises would be ideal.
For English communication classes, I would encourage students to post more information about themselves to share with classmates with little to no editing. This way, the blog would be seen as a more personal space for students and an area where they can get to know one another better. If students know each other really well, this might not be the best way to use a blog but perhaps you could encourage students to create an English learning diary where they answer exit slip type questions once a week or reflect on their progress towards their personal language learning goals several times throughout the term. Used in this way, the blog could really inform your planning and teaching.
For my academic English course, students were writing research papers and at each stage in the writing process, I asked students to post sections of their paper for peer feedback and editing. The first assignment was posting their thesis statements and students also had to comment on the thesis statements of two other students using a checklist to evaluate its strengths and weaknesses. I think peer editing is a very important part of the writing process and it is so much easier to do when you don’t have to worry about bad handwriting or lost pieces of paper.
There are so many options when it comes to student blogging assignments but I definitely think individual and/or group posts would be beneficial for students. For individual assignments using Kidblog, I ask students to post on their own walls and for group assignments, I have students post their work as a reply to the assignment directions I posted which helps keep different assignments organized.
My students have loved Kidblog. In China, many blog sites are blocked and so my students were amazed that they had this opportunity to write about themselves and use computers for English class. I think that typing in English is also an important skill and my students definitely improved in this area as well as in their writing skills. I think if you are going to start blogging in your classes, an important thing to remember is to take it slow and see how students react to the idea initially. Do a demonstration in class, if possible, so that students can become familiar with the site before they are sent there on there own and make sure that all your students have access to an internet capable device outside the classroom too. Good luck and thanks again for your questions! If anyone else has used blogging in their classes, I’d love to hear your ideas too.