Reflections on teaching EFL students

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Because of work, I missed the chat today with ...

Dana Watson in East Lansing, Michigan,USA,
Yu Hua Chen (Stella), in Changhua City, Taiwan
Jason Reagin in Suzhou, China

... but was able to read the transcript, and I decided to make a summary here about what was discussed, and add my own comments & observations. To make this read different to the transcript, I have tried to order what was said more thematically.

The three guests have recently started blogging and have been involved in some interesting projects.

Dana first started blogging when she first went to Japan to avoid sending out mass emails, and was more than happy when she realised she ended up with an excellent record of her time in Japan. she also realised that because she was blogging, she also started noticing things that she otherwise would have missed, while looking for something to blog about.

Stella came to blogging through her Masters course, and weblogs ended upbeing one of her research areas. She created a personal linguistic blog, and a Taiwanese community blog. She is now very interested in how blogging can improve proficiency in English (especially speaking and listening), especially as most of her classes are held online.

Jason was introduced to bloggign by the IATEFL Issues article 'Introducing your students to blogs' and also was invited to present a paper at a conference in Beijing, and decided to do so on blogging. He started his own professional / personal blog, and has been blogging ever since.

General comments and observations:

Dana commented that blogging has now become accessible to more people, and that blogging helped her learn more about computers in general.

Stella mentioned the difficulty in keeping interaction with students going without pressure and has experienced problems with student motivation because they are afraid of making mistakes.

Jason said he believed learners liked the idea of being published, and of having a voice, and that blogs give opportunities for learners to be individuals and to receive instant teacher feedback in the form of comments. another advantage was the increase in learner confidence and pride in student work.

Motivating students:

From the discussion that followed, it was clear that how students take to blogging was mixed. It might well depend upon their age (Stella's learners are college slackers, Bee's students were much younger, and more exctited about blogging).

Susan pointed out that students were motivated by the novelty of blogging and of CALL in general, and that this usually wore off.

Dana's way of dealing with this was by focusing on the content, as she got the students to turn their blogs into personal reporting projects.

The key, believes Bee, is in encouraging the students to be productive and active.

Aaron suggested centring the blogs on the students' interests to help keep momentum when the novelty factor disappears.

Correcting student writing:

The question of correction arose, and Bee stated that her learners preferred her to correct them, whereas Stella's learners seemed to fear correction.

Bee said this was a change from normal classes, when the student would not take notice of corrected written work. The difference is probably due to the fact that when the learners know that there's an audience for their written work, they pay more attention to mistakes, preferring the work that is published to be as correct as possible.

The pros and cons of compulsory blogging

This subject came up, and Stella said that her students were excited about blogging at first, but after a few weeks they stopped blogging if teachers did not give them assignments to do in their blogs.

Dana said she gives her students a standing assignment, expecting 3 posts per week. +

Other benefits of blogging

Stella believes that blogging benefits shy students, and is very happy that some of her students have found a voice through blogging.

Time constraints

Jason mentioned the time constraints of the teacher as being a problem, and that checking blogs and writing comments is very time consuming. RSS feeds, and aggregators have helped with this.

A suggestion for helping the teacher's workload was by getting outsiders involved in the blogging and encouraging the students themselves to write comments on their colleagues' posts.


The importance of feedback was stressed, and how this contributes to keeping the students motivated in posting to their blogs.


I don't have time to finish this now, but I will publish it anyway and come back to it tomorrw