A blog is a web application that displays a series of entries in reverse chronological order, with a time and date stamp for each entry. Blogs also include a facility to respond to blog posts using comments. Tags allow for topic-based searching, and tag clouds (a visual display of a blog's tags) present a quick overview of a blogger's interests. Early blogs were essentially link-driven websites, exclusive to those who had the requisite HTML skills (Blood, 2000). However, from around 1999, a number of free and easy-to-use blogging applications (such as Blogger, Wordpress) appeared on the net, meaning anyone could write a blog. It was no longer restricted to the privileged and tech-savvy few.

Blogging encourages learner independence, empowerment, reflection and autonomy. For language learners, they provide an environment in which to reflect, comment, question and review progress outside the classroom in an authentic environment. (Pinkman, 2005). Blogging can be used either for writing practice in the target language, and/or to explore cultural dimensions of the target country (or countries). Research by Thorne et al (2005) (cited in Thorne and Payne 2005)) suggests that language students prefer blogging to traditional journals or weekly essays. Students also reported frequently looking back over their own and others students' earlier blog postings, and the majority noticed significant progress in their writing over time. For a blog to be successful, there needs to be significant teacher input and feedback, and the blog should be structured around a series of specific activities or topics. This encourages learner input, focus and motivation, and deepens their learning by stretching their output beyond their competency level or comfort zone. Also, the asynchronous nature of blogging enables students to take their time over postings in a low-pressure environment.

Campbell (2003) identifies three potential uses for the blog in the language classroom:

  1. The tutor blog: daily reading practice for learners, online verbal exchange using comments, class information, resource for self-study.
  2. The learner blog: students get writing practice, develop a sense of ownership, and whatever they write can instantly be read by anyone else and, due to the comment features of the software, further exchange of ideas is promoted.
  3. The class blog: Students can create a free-form bulletin board, interact in an international classroom language exchange, or a project-based language learning exercise, where students can develop writing and research skills by creating an online resource.

Here follow a few good models I came across while researching this subject:

En mi bolsillo (In my pocket) - A class blog developed by a group of advanced Spanish students. They are encouraged to talk about everyday objects that have a special significance to them. If you can read Spanish, there's an interesting debate on whether they should be encouraged to correct each others posts, or whether it's acceptable to leave mistakes in the text since they're learners. It's an interesting question for language teachers, since linguistic accuracy is the ultimate aim. However, leaving in mistakes is valuable in that the author can see progress and improvements in expression over time.

Blogging Engish - A class blog, developed by Sarah Guth at the University of Padua for advanced learners of English, with the aim of improving their language skills and information literacy skills through the use of Web 2.0 tools. E-tivities are posted to the class blog, students complete their e-tivities using a personal blog, post relevant links to using a common class tag, and there's also an intercultural wiki for exchange with students in the States (See next section on wikis). There's an interesting assessment model too: students are assessed based on their input to the various media: 10% links, 40% individual analysis on personal and group blogs, final papers 25%, comments on classmates' posts 10%, and editing the wiki (15% collective grade). Interestingly, the personal blog is graded on content and relevancy rather than linguistic accuracy, which encourages students to focus on process, reflection and vocabulary, rather than being inhibited by potentially inaccurate use of grammar.

CALL Lessons 2005-2007 - Award-winning tutor blog, developed by Teresa Almeida d'Eça, a teacher of English in Portugal. The blog, written in English with the odd Portuguese translation for difficult words or expressions, is a record of CALL lesson plans, activities and reports. As with the blog above, the striking thing is just how important regular teacher input is in the maintenance of a successful blog.

Drake College DULAP programme - Drake College follow a constructivist, student-centred approach to language learning, with students encouraged to develop an eportfolio in which they reflect on their language-learning progress, including audio clips, video clips, writing samples in the target language, self-assessment and reflective writing. Jan Marston and Clayton Mitchell of Drake University talk about the DULAP programme on a podcast on, where they highlight the importance of teaching students and staff about how to learn (and teach) in this new learner-centred curriculum.

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