Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Blogging with students 1

This school year, I am experimenting with a totally different approach to language learning. I will try blogging with students, either through a joint course blog, in which students will write one or two assignments, or through individual student blogs, which will eventually be a kind of whole year's online English portfolio. In the Finnish senior high school system, the groups a teacher teaches change 5 times a year, and each course with a group only last 6-7 weeks. To make it worth the effort of setting individual blogs up in that system, all my English teacher colleagues should be willing to collaborate and do blog work. Last spring I envisioned setting up an individual blog for all first-graders, which they would then keep adding to all through the 3-4 years in our school, irrespective of who their teacher was. Unfortunately, my colleagues didn't buy the idea, so for the changing groups, I will have one class blog per course. Luckily, with the favourable support of my school administration, I was allowed to design three new courses that first-graders with advanced English skills could opt for. Here is some more background information for this experiment. I now have a small group of students who will stay with me all through this first year, and they are the ones that will have their individual blogs.

I set up a system of teacher blogs on Wordpress to coordinate all the different courses. Only time will tell if my system will be feasible, and work in practice! I did draw several mindmaps for myself, to maintain some logic in the system. Yet, I have already found some pitfalls in it, and will have to keep tweaking it.

I also set up a wiki, in which I will try to collect useful links and more general EFL tips that will hopefully be valid for years to come, too.

Setting everything up takes a fair amount of time but I feel quite excited about it all. It pushes me to think about foreign language teaching and learning in a much wider context. Simply following the textbook, and the teacher's material accompanying it, won't be enough any more!

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