Thursday, March 8, 2007

Using blogs and podcasts to encourage learner autonomy

After looking at the technical side of things -
let’s get down to the nuts and bolts.

Why go to all this time and bother of
setting up blogs and podcasts,
how can we use them in our classes?

You can start out as simply as you like. Blogs go down well, even with young

Here is an example from a Junior Elementary group
talking about what they've done and learnt in class.

Why not create tasks that liven up the course book you're using?

The unit we were looking at with this class was Storytelling

and here is the blog task they did.

And here is what one student posted in response.

Another task the same group did was to test out their language level
using the CEF grid and it's can do skills.

Here is one posting in response.

And another.

I've also given the same, but more guided task, to higher level students.

These examples, I hope, paint a convincing picture of how blogs and podcasts encourage learner autonomy and more than compensate for the time spent in setting them up.
  • They encourage students to find their own resources
  • and enable them to pursue subjects that interest them.
  • Once the ball gets rolling, students generate their own class material
  • and can work at their own pace, writing posts and comments when they see fit.
  • They enjoy operating with media that's in tune with their generation
  • and have the gratifying experience of expressing themselves in English within an authentic environment.
Creating a blog with your students can change class dynamics, making the relationship between you and your students more of a dialogue.
  • For example, if you comment on the content of your students’ postings between classes, you can then use the time in class, when they are working on the next task, to talk to them individually about their language problems.
  • Both you and your students will find this a far more rewarding and productive experience than setting activities in the course book for language practice. Here your role becomes more one of a collaborator: giving students a helping hand to express what they really want to say.
  • You can use students’ postings as a natural springboard to practise their speaking skills. Ask them to present their blog findings to the rest of the group. Or make the material they’ve researched for their postings the starting point for a group discussion.
Blogs can help give a sense of continuity to your classes.
  • Put what you plan to do in the next class or what you covered in the last on the blog. This provides students with a point of reference, giving them the opportunity to reflect on what they’ve learnt. It also allows students who’ve been absent from classes to catch up on what they’ve missed.
These things add up. Students become more conscious of the progress they are making and begin to reflect on how they learn best. Gradually, they begin to build up their own learning strategies. This results in a shift of focus in the learning process: the student becoming the centre of attention rather than the teacher.

I've talked here of some of my ideas of how blogs can be used in class, but you can find suggestions for far more at, for example:
Even if you don't want to set up a blog or podcast yourself, you can still use ones that other people have set up as learning resources for your students:
  • The Daily English Show an Internet show for learners of English. Each episode has a video and the blog publishes the transcript of it.
  • Absolutely cultural looks at all intercultural aspects of human intercultural communication. Every week there's a new podcast and the blog post summarises what's been said in them.
  • Storynory presents audio stories for kids with both a summary and the full text available.


Joao said...

Hello Ann
I have been reading your blog and there's a lot of interesting resources in it. I have bookmarked a few sites about podcasting if you don't mind.
Thank you very much for the comment on my blog. It seems to be a good idea to set blog tasks for the students to do in class. Can you just give a few examples of those blog tasks? Thank you.

Ann said...

Hi joao,

I set up a blog with my students in the first session we have together. They choose the title and template and add themselves to the list of blog authors. Then to get the thing started on the right foot, I ask them to choose a song that they like in English, we find it on youtube, then find the lyrics and then come up with the reason we chose the song and post all this on the blog.

They then go off and do the same with their favourite song. See an example of the results
Another task is to describe/ enthuse about their hometown
See the instructions on later posts for creating vokis, using voicethread ,animoto or editing a bubbleshare photo album for other fun tasks.

Joao said...

Hi Ann,
Thanks for the tips. It really gives me more ideas that I could use with my own students. If I understood it well, every student sets up his own blog and adds his colleagues to the list as authors. This means that everyone can post in everyone's blog, right?

Ann said...

"If I understood it well, every student sets up his own blog and adds his colleagues to the list as authors. This means that everyone can post in everyone's blog, right". No, what I do is set up a class blog for each class with every member of that class a blog author. That way the blog becomes the class organiser, I try to keep one task ahead of my students, so that while they're working on the current task I can talk to them individually about their work on the last task. Having one blog for the class makes the whole thing more collaborative, and keeps up student's interest in what each of them are contributing to the blog so they're motivated to make comments etc. According to their feedback, it seems to work well.

English with the Finglies

The web site for my CD-ROM designed for primary children learning English

The British Council in Bilbao

The web site gives you information, amongst other things, about our Talks for teachers