Students as bloggers!

Many of us consider the Social Media as a communication tool, ignoring the educational value of it.

Nowadays, education and technology are almost intertwined, and many teachers try to use new tools in their classes. However, implementing social and online networks such as blogs, Twitter and Facebook in language teaching is an arguable topic that many accept and many deny.

Blogs and microblogs, gained worldwide popularity, enable users to exchange and share their ideas in a virtual world with others. At first glance, online networks don’t appear to have so much value and can do little for the education industry.  However, some empirical studies showed that blogs and social networks such as Twitter are considered a powerful educational tool in the classroom promoting writing and lexical fluency (Fellner & Apple,2006; Borau, Ullrich, Feng, & Shen, 2009).

During my previous education at YSLU University, I had never had the chance to improve my language skills through blogging or microblogging. Analyzing my previous instructors teaching strategies and methods, I am becoming sure that implementing blogging in English writing and literature courses can be beneficial for students. Hence, for writing or literature courses I would suggest the following blogging and microblogging tasks for language major university students in Armenia.

Blogging Task

Students enrolled in English literature course (16 weeks) should start to create their blogs using free weblogs like wordpress.com , blogger.com or  wix.com .  The blogs are individualistic, and each student should have their own blog. At the beginning of the course, students are asked to choose a classic literary book of their interest (about 400-500 pages) and read it throughout the semester.  After reading each chapter, students need to write a brief summary in their blogs and reflect on the chapter beneath it. Moreover, students are assigned to read their classmates’ blogs and comment on the posts.  The instructor of the course should check the students’ posts on regular basis, extract the common errors in writings and post them with an explanation on her page.  Students should keep in mind that all the posts related to the course should be in English and no other languages are allowed.

Blogs are assessed by using the process approach, focusing on the process of writings and posts rather than the final errorless written output.

Tweeting task

In parallel with blogging, students will be asked to open their personal twitter accounts, follow their classmates and teacher, and have at least one tweet per week. The tweets should be related to the book the student is reading, as well as the course materials. Here, students need to express their thoughts on their or their classmates’ books in short sentences, post quotes, expressions, idioms and new vocabulary from the book they are reading. All the tweets should include #myliterature to be easily followed.  The teacher should also tweet regularly, encourage students to read their books and post the relevant assignment.  This task will be assessed as a part of class participation.

The main aim of presented activities is to promote students’ writing fluency. Hence, expressivism framework is underlined in students written output; encouraging students to develop their writing fluency and creativity.

My blogging task is similar to Fellner and Apple (2006) and Murray and Hourigan (2008) tasks carried out on their research.  According to them, there was a noticeable improvement in the students writing fluency throughout the program.  I also expect to see the similar results and effects in my task.

What concerns microblogging (tweeting), it may have a positive effect on students’ participation, encouraging them to be more active outside of the classroom, practice English and communicate with the help of short tweets (Borau et al., 2009).

To sum up, Teachers shouldn’t underestimate the power of online networks and social media, and they can take advantages of blogs and Twitter to motivate students in language learning.

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