Friday, December 07, 2012

Reflections on ten years blogging - part one

Just realised, thanks to Vicky Loras celebrating her third year blogging that I've now started my tenth year as a blogger, and my tenth year using this blog for blogging.

Here are ten of my blogging memories from back when I started:

1. My introduction to blogging. My good friend, David White, who's not a teacher , introduced me to Blogger, thinking it was something I'd be interested in, and I set one up early in 2003, but I didn't see the point of it then, so after creating a blog and posting once, I abandoned this. I'd love to recover the account and see what I wrote then, but I now can't remember what email I used to set it up.

2. Blogging with students. 9th July, 2003. Teaching a summer course with two groups at the Young Learner Centre, British Council, Barcelona, I'd asked for regular computer room slots as I was keen to try out a new British Council learner community (Global Village), getting the two groups to communicate to each other. However, just before the summer course started, I was told that it wouldn't be possible to register my students for the community, and so I had to find an alternative quickly. I remembered Blogger, and so set up this blog. The first post was an example for the students, who set up their own blogs the first day of the course. I then had them write on their blogs and comment on the blogs of the other class during the course. I started using blog-efl to reflect on the class, accidentally discovering what a great tool a blog is for teacher reflection. This I continued throughout July 2003, coming home from class and spending most afternoons blogging or trying to find out what other educational bloggers had been doing.

What used to look like in 2003
3. Connecting with colleagues. Nik Peachey, who I'd met at International House, Barcelona, when we were both working there, and who had become webmaster for the British Council website TeachingEnglish, contacted me because he'd heard that I'd been blogging (through the online M.Ed we were both doing at that time) and had also come across a teacher in Portugal, Teresa Almeida D'Eça who was blogging with her young learners. By now, the summer course had finished, but I had become enthused with the potential of blogging and was scouring the Web, trying desperately to find other English teachers who were blogging. It quickly became apparent that there weren't that many - there weren't even that many edu-bloggers around. Teresa was one of the three ESL bloggers that I'd come across that had started blogging with their students before me. Her blog, Fun with English, was an example of a very different approach to blogging - more controlled (because of the age of the learners), but a very interesting one that was obviously motivating her students. I reviewed her blog at the end of July 2003.

4. The first ESL blogger. Teresa had started blogging because she'd read Aaron Campbell's article about 'Weblogs for use with ESL classes' (Feb 2003), which quickly became the blueprint for ESL blogging, establishing a norm for blogging with students using either a tutor blog (owned and written to only by the teacher), class blog (owned by the teacher but written to by teacher and learners) or learner blogs (individual blogs, owned by the learners). Aaron had been using a combination of these, but his New Tanuki was a great model of how to connect a Tutor blog with learner blogs. Aaron had also been blogging since early in 2002, making him (I believe) the first ESL Blogger.

5. Mystery guest. Through Teresa, I also met Barbara (Bee) Dieu from Brazil, and was introduced to the amazing Webheads community of practice, one of the major sources of my professional development ever since. Bee taught at the Franco-Brazilian school in Sao Paulo and had been blogging with her students on a class blog, Bee Online, since May 2003. I learned a lot about blogging from her and reviewed her blog in August 2003. Around this time, she invited me, and Dennis Newson to be be mystery guests on her class blog. This experience was fascinating and underlined just how motivating blogging could be for learners.

6. English for Tourism. When I started teaching again, at Turismo Sant Ignasi, I introduced the concept of blogging to my students there. Here's an example of the blog one of my students, Chiara kept. I did my best to encourage the students to blog, but we did this for one term only, and the students did not blog much. I was learning about blogging with students, though. One of the problems was trying to do too much. In my enthusiasm, I'd started learner blogs with all of my students, which was just too much for me to realistically handle. I do remember though, after starting these blogs, that there was absolutely nothing on a Google search for 'tourism blog' until we'd set these up, so I can safely say that these blogs were the first blogs anyone had set up for Tourism!

7. Image blogs. I  also taught ESP to students who were studying Image at Politecnico Sant Ignasi, and I started to concentrate on this. This blogging project was more successful, and I continued it from 2003-2006 with students on the Image courses. It was always a popular feature of the course, and got good feedback from students.

8. Blogging at TESOL EVO. Aaron, Bee, Sean Smith and I offered a weblogging course for ESL/EFL teachers through TESOL's Electronic Village Online in 2005. This was great fun, and it brought together not only all of the most prominent ESL/EFL bloggers, but also the leading lights in educational blogging, such as Will Richardson and James Farmer, who started  Edublogs around this time.

9. Writing about blogging. I wrote an article on blogging for EFL for the British Council's Teaching English website in 2005, and then followed this up with a book chapter a year later: 'Redefining the Blog: From composition class to flexible learning' (in Hanson-Smith, Elizabeth, and Sarah Rilling (Eds.). Learning languages through technology Alexandria, Virginia, USA: TESOL. pp. 187-200.

10. Podcasting. In 2005, I became interested in podcasting, and became one of the first EFL teachers to create a podcast. A year after I'd started blogging, most of my professional development and work with learners and educational technology was concentrated on audio blogging and podcasting, but that is another story, for another time.


  1. Hi Graham. Congratulations on your tenth year as a blogger using "Blog-EFL" for blogging such challenging, innovative, and controversial posts. Thanks for sharing and inspiring us to follow/imitate you.
    BTW, I invite you to read my posts at and leave some encouraging comments. I need some tips.
    Best regards!

  2. Thank, Victor Hugo! I'm going to follow this post up with another on tips that I've learnt since I've been blogging over the years, which may be useful to you - I've also started following your blog, which looks great.

  3. Congrats Graham.I just took the plunge "seriously" for me this year so I'm quite ashamed.
    You have really devoted a great amount of time to it and that's where it all breaks down for me. So I'm doing a cheaty-type one and just putting up all the stuff I have on my machine lying dormant, which is what I hope to be doing for the rest of this school year! Congrats again!You spurred me on to do more!
    Susan Hillyard

  4. Thanks for the kind words, Susan, and great to see you blogging!

  5. It is always reinvigorating to look back and see how far we've gone, right, Graham? I remember attending some EVO webinars back in 2006 where you were a guest speaker and being in awe of how much you were doing back then. I also remember very dearly a recording about blogging you did for me and Erika for a presentation...Always good times of learning together with the Webhead community.

  6. You're right, Carla - how things have changed in 10 years, right? finding the Webheads was a great leap forward for me.

  7. Great post. I just located your blog and wished to let you know that I have certainly loved reading your blogs. At any rate I’m going to be subscribing to your feed and I really hope you are writing again soon.