Monday, January 31, 2005

BESIG and BLOGS

An interesting discussion has just started on the IATEFL BESIG (Business English) YG email list about blogging and Business English (BE).

It started when Cleve asked about BE and BESIG blogs, wondering why they weren't any (many?).

Then, after a few Qs & As about excatly what a blog was, a few of the list members declared themselves to be anti-bloggers. Of course, I had to respond. Here's an extract from the discussion so far:


> Forgive me, for I hate blogs :-) My question to you: how do you see blogs as
> contributing towards DISCOURSE amongst a community? Reflection, yes, I can
> see that - something happens to you, you reflect on it, and write it up on
> your blog; fine, I get that. But discourse?

> ...functionality which allows a blog reader to post a comment, but all the
> mechanisms I've seen for that are cumbersome and generally unused (exactly
> because they're cumbersome). In my opinion and experience, if what you want
> is to build a community that allows people to discuss issues, an online
> discussion forum (or indeed an e-mail group like this BESIG one) is much
> more appropriate. No?


I've just sent my reply:

Forgive me,for I hate online forums ;) I find them to be very cold, impersonal spaces, and (often) full of unanswered quesrtions.

Email lists, however are fine. But, iIn my experience, blogs have a greater potential for discussion and community building, although I admit that this is in its beginning stages at the moment.

I think you'll find that commenting features on today's blogs are far from 'cumbersome and unused' (just take a look at Cleve's blog : http://english360.blogspot.com/ or any of the others run by our weblogging group)

If anyone is genuinely interested in this, and especially the ideas of discourse, community and blogs vs discussion forums, it was recently (and eloquently) put forward by one of our workshop's guest speakers (James Farmer) last week. His paper, 'Communication dynamics: Discussion boards, weblogs and the development of communities of inquiry in online learning environments' can be consulted here:

http://incsub.org/blog/index.php?p=3


> As I say, this is a pet hate of mine, but what exactly IS the point of a
> blog?


Really, what we have here (in the BESIG list) is a series of discussion posts and replies that are delivered to your in-box that you choose to read (or not) and reply to (or not). The only difference between this and a blogging community is that you go to the blog for the discussion (unless you subscribe to feeds and use an aggregator of course).

I think it's also arguable that an email discussion list has more discussion going on than a blog. How many of the members subscribed to this list actually actively participate? How many read all the emails? How many read any of the emails? Don't you sometimes get annoyed when your inbox gets clogged up by hundreds of emails about subjects you aren't the slightest bit interested in?


>And what can a blog do that a plain old website can't?

Show me a website that is changed frequently (sometimes even several times a day) with topical discussion and up-to-the minute references, and you'll find what you are probably looking at is a weblog. A welog IS a website, and there are areas where both coincide. One advantage a blog has over a traditional website is that it can be more easily updated by non-technically minded people, and that makes it easier for students to get involved in web publishing.

This is of course is the p.o.v. of someone who has been actively blogging for a year-and-a-half, and I quite understand that it can be incomprehensible to those of us who are not familiar with weblogs. All I ask of you is to keep an open mind. I don't think that we should encourage all our students to blog, or that it's of interest to all teachers, but I do believe it has a place to play in EFL/ESL learning. And why not BE learning?


Watch this space...

4 comments:

  1. Watching it Graham...with big eyes...here from São Paulo, Brazil ;-)

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