Using weblogs to integrate writers into target communities

The following was prepared for the Annual Conference for Teachers of English, June 8-12, 2009 in Santiago and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. It is sponsored by the Centro Cultural Dominico Americano (Santiago) and the Instituto Cultural Dominicano Americano (Santo Domingo). -Thomas Leverett, CESL, Southern Illinois Univ., Carbondale IL USA 62901-4518.


Writing teachers are often frustrated by a sense that students are disconnected from their own writing, trying to pass a class yet barely wishing to communicate anything of substance to anyone beyond the teacher. This vicious cycle can be broken instantly by publishing most work electronically in a system of weblogs that will be read and reread, often first by classmates, but eventually by anyone looking for certain topics on Google or similar search engines, or using tags to harness weblogs on given topics. Teachers must be familiar enough with the technology to lead students into it, introduce and enforce presentation standards, and display work at a central class site or program newsletter. Skills involved in transferring files and managing online sites are transferable to businesses and environments where students will no doubt need them; beyond that, their attention is directed to online communities of English speakers who share their interests and who can act as active and vibrant audiences. Teachers must prepare by becoming familiar with both the technology involved and pitfalls and dangers of online publication, while keeping true to the standards of the curriculum they are given, with respect to essay organization, grammatical accuracy, and source documentation.
Resource links

Teaching writing in online and paper worlds (TESOL 2008)

Linked outline

I. General steps of integrating technology
A. Find people who have done it
B. Try it out yourself
C. Map out the hazards and prepare for them
D. Consider & reconsider your own class objectives
E. Try it & keep track of what happens, and how it could be better
F. Talk about it; perfect it; fit it into class
II. What are weblogs?
A. What is good about them; why you should consider them
B. Different servers (arguments for & against blogger)
C. their role in the world, what they've done for me & others
Brazil and Argentina Scrapbook, Erika Cruvinel
D. wikis, etc.- different options besides weblogs
[ Rita's wiki- sharing culture ]
[ wia-in-denver ]
[ Tech in Learning Wiki (TESOL '09) ]
III. A little about our program, how we use them, what benefits we've gotten
A. Kinds of weblogs
1. Program weblogs
[ CESL Students' weblog ][ Activity Calendar ]
[ CESL Alumni ][ SIU Linguistics Alumni ]

2. class weblogs
[ EAP2, high-level writing class (personal weblogs off the template) ]
[ Newstalk, an intermediate class ]
[ Julie's Blog, another intermediate class ]

3. topic weblogs, group weblogs
[ Violent deer project weblog ]
[ Brazil and Brazilians connected ]
[ A look at bullying, S. Peters, 2005 ]

4. professional weblogs
[ my professional weblog ] [ Teresa's weblog> ]
[ Trying this and that, Dennis ]

B. Kinds of assignments
1. Research Papers & Essays
My writing classes: papers, research papers, paragraphs, read & comment ex.'s

[ WalMart essay abstracts - scroll down ]
[ Abstracts on weblog- scroll down ]
Sample research papers
[ Killer Whales: Carola ]
[ Protection of Sea Turtle: Tez ]
[ Mansho: Russia's population decline ]
Interaction with public
[ Letter from Byron Crow ]
2. Quantitative Reports
[ Drinking Survey - Dhay ]
[ Starbucks business plan ]
3. Weblog exercises (intermediate)
[ Andre ]
[ Hussain ]
[ AE2 (intermediate class)
3. Newstalk: Commenting on the news
C. Their uses in other classes, such as speaking, listening, etc.
1. Movies
[ Our movie ]
[ MEI (Spring 2009), Univ. of Maryland ]

2. Sound files
[ Including sound files on blog posts ]

3. Pictures
[ Walls Talking (Graffiti project) ]

IV. Hazards of using weblogs as class medium
S's too free with language; s's deleting or disrespecting others' work; offending someone; your image as presented to outsiders; plagiarism, etc.

V. Editing as a recurring issue: How perfect should they be, if everyone can read them?

VI. How to make them
A. Google account
1. Logon, password
B. Choosing a template; different considerations
C. Blog title, URL; what is a URL?
D. Template: what it is, what it does, who to link to?
V. More resources
[ Resources for weblogging teachers ]
[ Teaching writing in online and paper worlds (TESOL 08) ]
[ Blogging wikispace ]

Conference links:
[ ACforTE weblog (made at this conference) ]
[ Technology as gateway and window to opportunity ]
[ Original plenary ]
[ Actual plenary ]
[ Pictures ] [ home ]

[ CESL ][ Tom Leverett's weblog ]

rainstorm at santiago

IL Page maintained by
Thomas Leverett, CESL, SIUC