Monday, January 31, 2005


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 : 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:

> 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...

Friday, January 28, 2005

Findforward & RSS

The Search Engine FindForward has the option to produce a search query as an RSS feed. From the site, enter a term to search on and select "Get RSS" from the drop-down menu.

This leads you to a URL similar to this:

This can then be included in an aggregator and I suppose you can stay updated on specific search listings.

Great, now how can I best use this?

The future of the VLE?

There is an intersting graphic on a possible "future VLE" (virtual learning environment) here

Thursday, January 27, 2005

As part of the EV2005 Weblogging course, there are chat sessions about blogging taking place. The latest was with three guest speakers:

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

I couldn't make the session, but decided to make a summary about what was discussed, with my own comments & observations.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Free-ESL-Blogs - 100% free blogs

Free-ESL-Blogs - 100% free blogs:

"These are custom made blogs especially for ESL teachers and students. Here you'll find blogs from teaching in Japan to living in Greece to studying in China to... well all kinds of stories from all around the world from both teachers and students of English. "

Wired News: Like It or Not, Blogs Have Legs

Wired News: Like It or Not, Blogs Have Legs:

"With blogs...anybody with an internet connection can engage anybody else. Concepts are presented, attacked, sliced, diced, added to and subtracted from, mangled, massaged and molded until what is left is an amalgam of the finest we as an online society have to offer. For the digitally well-endowed, it's akin to free-market capitalism, with information as its currency. And not only do we all get to watch, we can join in. "

Encouraging Creativity in Online Courses

The Jan05_05 issue of the International Journal of Instrucctional Technology & Distance Learning" has an interesting article on 'Encouraging Creativity in Online Courses

One of the sections that caught my eye was this one about "elements of learning activities that most engage students intellectually" :

"...they echo key attributes of creativity:
- finding interests and problems
- looking in new ways
- communicating personal ideas
- creating new products and solutions to problems.

...elements include:
- Students help define content of course
- Students had time to wonder/determining a particular direction that interests them
- Topics had a "strange" quality - something this is common but seen in a new way to evoke lingering questions
- Teachers encouraged different forms of expression and respected students' views
- Teachers were passionate about their work. The most meaningful activities were "invented" by the teacher or student.
- Students did something.
- Students sensed that results of their work were not fully predictable."

Monday, January 17, 2005

Keeping an education-related online diary

Incorporated Subversion has reprinted an article from a Pakistani newspaper about blogs in education entitled 'Keeping an education-related online diary'

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Incorporated Subversion

James Farmer on his blog links to a survey on Course Management Systems (CMS) used by universities, noting that two of the most popular ones (WebCT and Blackboard) were both criticized for various problems.

He has more about CMS here:

Friday, January 07, 2005

Blogs vs Discussion Lists

Incorporated subversion by James Farmer takes a look at blogs vs discussion lists in online learning environments (OLEs).

Here's a little about what he says about the limitations of discussion boards:

Discussion Boards "offer little opportunity for users to “project themselves socially and emotionally, as ‘real’ people”...In developing teaching presence in a discussion board environment the teacher has no more capacity than the learner in terms of sustaining discourse or of projecting him or herself as a “real” person."

As a contrast, he notes that "In terms establishing social presence it can be argued that weblogs offer a significant opportunity for users to project themselves as “real” people."

And his conclusion is that:

"while discussion boards may have a role to play in the shaping of future OLEs it is arguable that this role should be complemented by the implementation, within or alongside these systems, of weblogging functionality."

Linguablogs: Blogs by language nerds

Linguablogs is a list of "blogs by language nerds"

Lore - An E-Journal for Teachers of Writing

Thanks to Stephen Downes for the link to this issue of Lore, which has lots of reflection on academic blogging:

Here are a few tasters from some of the thought-provoking articles:

"I think blogging is making me a better teacher, and it may make me a better writer and scholar as well. I can only hope it is also helping my students to achieve their own goals, in the composition class and elsewhere." Carlton Clark

"One of the pleasures of blogging is that you never know how things will develop. Maybe the blog will take off as an educational tool for my students. Maybe even others will benefit from it. Or maybe the interest will be low.It'll be fun finding out." Billy Clark

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Digital Portfolios/Weblogging resources

Digital Portfolios Resources has a large collection of links all about using digital portfolios, and including stuff about using weblogs as part of digital portfolios.

I aslo came across The Digital Portfolio Weblog/Webquest which looks worth investigating.

Language Learning, The Sims and Blogging

Language Learning & Technology has an article discussing how the popular computer game The Sims can be adapted for language learning. Here's an extract from the abstract of the article:

"This commentary examines how content originally designed for entertainment purposes can be modified to provide natural and context rich language learning environments, without sacrificing its entertainment value. First, I examine a modification to the number one selling video game The Simsthat intelligently combines game data from the English edition with data from editions of other languages to form a bilingual gaming environment. This exposes learners to abundant L2 vocabulary, yet still provides enough L1 support not to detract from the game"

I've just had an idea to extend it - students could also set up a blog and post to it as if they were a member of their Sims family.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year1

Things are quiet around here, but should pick up again soon, although I'm going to be busy in January with (as I mentioned beforehand) this:

See you there?