Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Draft Blog Plan for B4B Review

The points this plans addresses derive from a Blogging for Beginners (B4B) workshop task on the B4B pbwiki (Task 1 - Looking ahead - The Challenges of blog integration into our teaching). I'm posting the plan here so I can continue to develop it at my leisure (hah!) over the next week or so; I welcome your suggestions via comments.
  • BLOG NAME: The name should match the course wiki name, so there's hardly any doubt that it will be ... Writing Studio Blog.
  • BLOG HOST: The host should be free, and match the blog type that students will be using - again, there's little doubt that it'll be Blogger blogging for them.
    • Note: This is a teachers' group decision, though I almost prefer Edublogging. Radical changes in Blogger during the next week or so could influence this decision.
  • BLOG SAFETY: I will require word verification, but only retroactively moderate comments from students. By retroactively, I mean I will assert administrative privilege to delete unwanted or no longer pertinent comments. I will strongly urge students to use word verification on their blogs as well. Regarding privacy, I note that an example student blog that I've just retrieved (see: Evaluation, below) is publicly accessible without going through university or community sites. The public nature of such blogs may influence what students post as well as who reads them.
  • OWNER[S]: I'll launch a blog for the two classes that I teach across town starting in April, and list it for other teachers' and their students' reference. Other teachers and I will help students launch their own blogs. So students, too, will be blog owners.
  • ADMINISTRATOR(S): This particular plan is for but one small part of a collegial and community-based blogging endeavor. As I suggest regarding the blog name (above), another small part will be a corresponding wiki. The planned blog and budding PmWiki will inform not only classes taught concurrently but in all likelihood successive cohorts, just as preceding cohorts, blogs, wikis and web pages have already done. The wiki that I administrate is provided as a courtesy of the host institution. I will join two teachers already collaborating on blogger community building, as I have joined them in writing about online educational endeavors. One of the other teachers currently exerts administrative privileges over the community website.
  • WHEN WILL THE BLOG BE KEPT ACTIVE? I expect to start the planned blog within a week or so after posting this plan for peer review and announcing it in the B4B workshop blog. I will keep it active for the duration of the coming academic year (April - March).
  • TOPIC[S]: The topics for the planned blog will most likely be varied. However, I expect the majority of posts to focus on:
    • writing coursework and assignment details,
    • language learning activities and strategies,
    • extensive reading and learner blogging, &
    • to the extent feasible, learned-centered blog assessment (see: Evaluation, below).
  • WHO WILL POST? - On the planned teacher's blog, though students, peers and conceivably other interested parties may comment; only the teacher is likely to originate blog posts. Students will maintain their own blogs and comment on those of their peers.
  • WHERE WILL AUTHORS POST FROM? Most student posts and comments will probably originate from on-campus computer laboratories. I expect to post to the planned teacher's blog mostly from my office before and after laboratory classes.
    • Wow, this planification thing is working!
    • I've just realized that where and when students actually do what proportions of their writing ought to become research questions for collaborating teachers.
  • HOW OFTEN WILL AUTHORS POST? - Offhand, I'll say three to five times a week, both for me on the planned teacher's blog, and for students on their individual blogs. Students should be able to create two posts, drafts at least, during class time in a computer lab. (90 minutes per week) - especially if they come prepared with outlines, notes and pre-located references to use for in-class writing.
  • WHY WILL AUTHORS POST? The course syllabus requires individual student blogging for a variety of purposes including: reflection upon extensive reading and viewing activities, sharing of learning and other informative resources, posting major assignments for peer review, and commenting on others' blogs. As have predecessors, I will encourage and model unfettered expression in optional types of blog posts, of both filtering and journaling varieties.
    • Evaluation of students blogging endeavors will continue to build upon a framework of weblog assessment indices (WAIs). A quick Google search (keywords: Kumamoto, WAI, weblog, assessment, index) top-lines an example from mid-term, second semester, last year (I LOVE SOCCER: WAI: the weblog assessment index;
      November 28, 2006).
    • Student blog authors will be EFL learners, so I hesitate to categorize anything that they write while learning English as "mistakes." Instead, I prefer to think of what they say and write as approximations of communication in the target language. As time allows, in class and out - without savaging learners' writing spaces, I expect that we'll negotiate both meanings and forms of their approximations, in order to achieve or repair communication with target audiences.
    • I intend to collect specimens to illustrate need for common repairs, and to model and suggest repair strategies.
      • I may rant in class and online about repetitive oversights or omissions that I find common in drafts, essays, blog posts or comments.
      • Students who continue to make such oversights or omissions may feel like they have jumped out of the frying pan into the fire!
    • I will encourage learners to review and revise their blog entries as often as they feel a need to do so, in order to make their intents and purposes clear.
  • TARGET AUDIENCE[S]: The students will be writing to an audience including:
    • themselves - to mediate and observe their own linguistic development;
    • their peers: class mates, cohorts, successors - as near-peer role models and cross-commentators within an intermural community of bloggers including other universities; and,
    • should students decide to make their blogs readily accessible outside the community - also to other interested parties around our blogosphere.
      • Note: I'll share this B4B advice with students: "Thinking of what kind of connection your readers may have should be important when determining what kind of content you'll include (remember the more you embed, the harder it is for people on a slow connection to get access to your blog)."
  • ADVERTISING: Rather than "advertising," which has strong commercial connotations, I'd rather use the word, promotion. Community organizers will promote students blogs with RSS feeds in instructors' blogs or wikis and on community web pages. I will confer with the organizers soon, and suggest an announcement of the community on Dekita.
  • WIDGETS: As a minimum, on the planned teacher's blog, I plan to include:
    • a Creative Commons license;
    • labels keying into types of posts and specific assignments;
    • links to a course wiki and community website;
    • reference tools: a calendar and a dictionary; &
    • some sort of a logo.


  1. Hi Paul,

    I have read through your draft and I do hope that other people more experienced in blogging and closer to your teaching challenges than me, will eventually stop by and share some insight, because I cannot...BUT I DO can wish you determined, challenging students that even though, eventually causing some headaches, might truly enrich your project, and carry it beyond expectations. Good luck!

    (thanks for the link, it was great, I just realized there are so many discussion threads going on..)

  2. Hi! It's a nice project that you created. I don't have much experience in blogging projects but it's very complete.
    Good luck!


  3. Thanks, again, Maite,...

    ... for dropping back by.

    I hope that you will continue to share hot discussion threads on your blog:

    Cheers, Paul

  4. Thank you, Barbara, for your review.

    I have no experience in blogging with learners of the target language (English as a foreign language [EFL]). I hope that was evident in my plan.

    So any thoughts you have on either the blogging plan or learning via blogging, I welcome.

  5. Paul,

    Your blogging plan evidences lots of reflection on the purpose of using the tools -blogs and wikis- as well as creating a sense of community among all participants in the project.

    I definitely agree on letting students decide whether they would like to be exposed to a wider audience.

    Just two things:
    -I understand from your post that drafting may be done at home, blogging will be done at the school. How about the reading of each other's posts and comments? Will that be homework? Will you be encouraging students to use RSS feeds?

    -Does the wiki already exist? How do the course wiki and blog relate to each other?

    I am particularly interested in these questions because I am thinking about my own blog plans adjustments for 2007.

    I am adding a wiki to my FCE blog for students as from next April, so I hope you keep posting about how your project develops and the students' response to it.

    All best,
    ELT Notes

  6. Claudia Ceraso,

    Thank you for your thoughtful and thought-provoking feedback.

    I trust that you'll pardon me if I take it up a level and create a new blog post in response.

    This may take a while....

    Cheers, Paul

  7. Thank you Paul. Look forward to it.

    I perfectly understand the time these things take.

  8. Could you tell me why edublog seems preferable to blogger, as I have started a blog on edublog and find it rather difficult to "navigate"? Thank you.

  9. amp..., here's a short and sweet response:

    You're right; the administrative interface of WordPress (Edublogs' engine) is convoluted. Just a guess: nine menus times up to nine submenus times n options each....

    Every time I go back (beyond Edublogs' dashboard simply to review or post), I feel my way around.

    Yet I find the layout clean, the organization intuitive and the functions user-friendly. Edublogs certainly can do more than I ever wanted to do.

    Cheers, Paul

  10. Carla's reply to Berta on-list reminds me of a point that I forgot to mention in the SECURITY part of my plan. It's something important that I'll do, again, and tell students to do, too: "I'd go for not listing the blog in Blogger."

  11. Paul,

    Your plan is thorough and I felt as if you were talking to yourself, looking for the best options, questioning what would be reasonable to do...That was the purpose of this last part of the session, planning ahead and evaluating the possibilities.

    In the past, when I started blogging, I only had the blog with my students, not any other tool. Then, last year it just dawned on me that with wikis I could organize my class content and the blog was only for the interactive part. Wikis and blogs seem to be a perfect match for the language classroom! Here's an example of my classes wiki . The good part of it? I kept all my group's stuff in one wiki!

    As for blogger or edublogs, I'm more used to blogger, but I've worked with edublogs and it's much better now. The static pages are great, for you can organize content there, and they will stay there, not vanishing in the archive. I've just opened a new account there to test things.

    Now, from what I understood, you'll have a class blog plus individual blogs, right? Maybe, for interaction really to happen in everybody's blog, you could have groups working together. Each member of the group would be responsible for checking each other's blog and commenting there.

    Another thing, you mentioned that they would write notes beforehand, then during class time they would post an entry to their blogs. If they are young students, don't you think that they would prefer typing the post straight away?

    Well, Paul, just thinking out loud!

    I'm sure this will be a very enriching experience for you and your students.


  12. Carla, thank you once again for your thought-proviking feedback.

    Your class wiki looks familiar; I may have visited it before. I like wikis a lot. I use them for classes that aren't blogging, and am setting a new one up for the ones that will be.

    Having students work in groups to review and comment upon designated blogs sounds feasible. It may be possible to refine weblog assessment indices to reflect various spheres of interaction: group, class, course, institition, partner institutions, and beyond.

    You suggest that young students may prefer keyboarding new entries to drafting notes beforehand. Although I'm not sure what you had in mind when you said "young," I'll certainly encourage the college students that I'll be teaching to try a little of both, and probably some preliminary outlining as well. Then, when starting essays, comments or blog posts, they'll have a variety of approaches to choose from.

    Thanks again for dropping by.

    Cheers, Paul


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