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Resource Number 7

URL http:// www.blogger.com Keywords blog, collaboration, writing

Blogger
Category III Blogging Rationale

The world wide web has become part of our everyday life nowadays. The need to share ideas, reflect on experiences, keep a record of those reflections, network with other colleagues, keep up to date with current techniques and practices, and express personal views freely and publicly has become an essential ingredient in modern teachers lives. It is an integral part of their professional development beyond basic training courses. Blogging has come to add to older publications in print format which aimed at providing essential information regarding advances in the field of ELT. Description Blogger is a web-tool that allows people to become authors by creating and maintaining their own free, journal-like website where they can publish a text, photo and/or video on the internet for deliberation. It includes navigation links and other standard website features such as a homepage, etc. People who know the weblogs URL can visit the page, read the posts, and, leave their comments in any format desired, may that be text, photo or video. Eventually, a collection of comments revolving around the topic can be gathered for either further deliberation or for future reference. The main benefit of blogs is that offer bloggers the opportunity to openly post ideas and reflections on a given issue putting it up for discussion thus facilitating collaboration with peers and colleagues from all over the world. There are many free blogging platforms and Blogger, offered freely by Google, is one of the most popular and versatile.

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The project Autonomous Personal Learning Networks for Language Teachers has been funded with support from the European Commission. This document reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Resources required Obligatory Resources:


Desktop computer/laptop Internet connection (not necessarily broadband) Creating an email address / using an already existing email address Creating a Google account visiting www.blogger.com or using an already existing Google account

Cost Completely free Setup and Configuration Blogger is surprisingly easy to use as it is only a matter of few minutes to create your own blog. No software needs to be downloaded on your computer since all steps taken towards creating one are done online. First, go to www.blogger.com and sign in using your Google account (if you have one). In case you do not have a Google account, click on the Get Started button in the centre of your screen and you will be guided through the steps necessary to create a Google account and, of course, your blog. After you have created a Google account, you will be taken to your Dashboard, which is going to be your blogs main page. By clicking on the Create your Blog now button, you will be guided through some steps to finalize the creation of your weblog. These include giving your blog a title, choosing a template, etc. After you have completed all of the above steps, you can start publishing posts inserting pictures, videos and other features. In case the author wishes to change and/or add the content of posts or even moderate comments, they can always edit them through the main page of the blog (dashboard). Blog Posts Blog posts can be simple text but they can also include photographs, videos and animations which can be inserted by copying their html code and pasting it on the blog page while viewing its html code. Posts can be edited as many times as their authors wish. Comments Comments can be left on the blog by anyone. However, if using a blog with learners, it is a good idea to activate the Moderate Comments function so that the teacher can check the writer, their content and post or delete as appropriate. Viewing of Posts The blog can be either viewed by anyone or only by invited users and it is on the teachers discretion and good judgement whether to allow the blog to be viewed by anyone.

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The project Autonomous Personal Learning Networks for Language Teachers has been funded with support from the European Commission. This document reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Styling Blogger comes with certain ready-made templates in different colours and layouts satisfying a wide range of aesthetic preferences. On the blogs main page (dashboard), you can experiment with the hues of the colours chosen and, also, change the layout of the features, i.e. position of sidebar, of the actual posts as well as the date/time/author, etc by clinking on the Design button. The overall styling can be changed by the administrator of the blog any time they wish. In case none of the templates are attractive / imaginative enough to meet the administrators aesthetic criteria, there is a plethora of other free available templates on the internet ready to be downloaded and used. Administrators can upload pictures from their computer to replace the title with a photo or even insert it as a background on the website. When composing a post, the font, size, and colour of the letters can very easily changed since the actual box where the post is composed is a simulation of standard word processing software. In addition, Blogger allows the use of widgets, which can be found either as ready made options within the Blogger platform itself, in which case the user simply selects the widget (e.g. visitor counter, You Tube video box, and many others), and move to the appropriate position within the layout of their chosen template. There is also a multitude of third-party widgets available from websites such as Widgetbox ranging from a clock, blog translation tools, to favourite quotes and more. Navigation and operation Blogger has been redesigned in a very userfriendly mode in order to assist even those who are not computer savvy. The dashboard is the main page through which all settings, posts, comments, design, traffic, etc. can be viewed, edited, or deleted by the administrator and those who have been invited as authors.

Implementation methodology Blogger is a tool supporting collaboration between teachers emulating what is better known as staffroom conversations but in more depth and adequate time for reflection on a given topic for discussion; however, as is the case with almost all webtools, it can be very effectively used in the classroom. There is a plethora of different ways in which Blogger could be integrated in an L2 environment. Teaching/Learning ideas: Collaboration for preparation of projects and discussions. Posts contributed by learners on topics set by the teacher or chosen by the learners. A data resource bank of a learners written work throughout the course resembling a portfolio. A data resource bank of extra materials/links for the teachers/learners reference. Blog challenges and competitions of short stories or poems. Commenting on other students blog posts to encourage critical thinking, as well as raise awareness of errors.

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The project Autonomous Personal Learning Networks for Language Teachers has been funded with support from the European Commission. This document reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Example of implementation Type of lesson: General English course Level: B1 of CEFR Lesson Title: Using blog to discuss differences between formal and informal writing based on samples of texts Age group: Young adults (aged 18 - 21) Number of students involved: 10 Duration: 90 min. Introduction: T presents the content and aim of today lesson to use the blog format as a follow up stage in a reading lesson (alternative to what is known as the pyramid-structure speaking activity). Lead-in: The learners have read and exploited a reading text in sufficient depth and detail. After the teacher has involved learners into pair discussion incorporating the use of any language focus whatsoever he asks each pair to highlight the difference between written and spoken discourse. After the features have been elicited, T invites pairs to work together and write down their previous ideas in a more elaborate style. Lesson flow: T asks each group to enter the school blog and upload their ideas. They can either scan their page and upload it on the blog as pictures or even compose the written sample straight onto a computer. Follow-up: As homework, learners have to log in the blog and leave their comments on what their peers/classmates have produced. These comments can vary from content and structure to style and appropriateness. As a final step, T evaluates each contribution and opens a discussion about the events presented. The T has the capability of monitoring the learners work and comment on it by praising, highlighting areas for further improvement, prompting and so on.

Other issues Training learners how to use the web-tool effectively is of essence. Poor training might eventually lead to the learners not being fully aware of all the potentials of Blogger which could give way to demotivation and gradual lack of interest in the webtool and the concept underlying its use in an L2 environment. Another important factor is that teachers need to make learners aware of certain potential risks when using a blog by giving out a list of Dos and Donts. E-Safety for learners is, finally, a major issue, especially if learners are children or teens. It is important to create nicknames and not reveal the learners real names as well as find suitable pictures to use as blog avatars instead of using the learners real photographs. Useful tips Other useful links related to Blogger are the following: Wordpress EduBlogs Tumblr

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The project Autonomous Personal Learning Networks for Language Teachers has been funded with support from the European Commission. This document reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.