Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Blogging revisited

Miguel had a post that got me thinking about my blogging practice. As some of you who have been around for awhile, I used to be a daily blogger. Then it was every couple days. Then Hurricane Katrina knocked me out for a while. Since then I haven't been blogging as frequently. I have written about this before, and at the time, or at least after reading some comments on the post, I thought I was OK with it. But Miguel has me re-evaluating my take on it. He talks about how he blogs so regularly and says:
Blogging isn't something I do in addition to my day, it's something I do naturally as a part of my day.
I spend less time in front of the television, more time writing and reading.

I am trying to get back into more regular blogging. I know it is important to me, for me as a professional. I learn so much from the blogs I read, from the blog posts I write and from the comments I get.

I think that part of the problem is that I feel like I am back where I was a year and a half ago -- feeling like I have nothing to say. This is where Miguel has some ideas that I think will help me refocus. He talks about what he gets from his blog, saying:
In the past, I had to find a way to take notes, store emails, and ended up with lots of stuff everywhere. But now, I drop the links into my BlinkList (in lieu of and/or quickly jot down my impressions. This makes all the difference during my day. When I need to write something, I have a store of article ideas.
Well, my blogs enable me to jot down the ideas, factoids that would otherwise be lost. A visual learner, I HAVE to write it down to remember...and even then, it slips away.

This is a different way of looking at blogging than I have had lately. I think it will help. Let's see.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Taking the time to comment

This morning I read Ewan McIntosh's post about a student blog needing comments. This is something that I take very seriously, thanks to Anne Davis. I went to the blog and commented on a number of posts. It was fun and didn't take that long. I got a nice email from the teacher thanking me for commenting, too. You might want to check this blog out for yourself.

And then, in the last two days I have received comments from readers that have given me new insights into my own issues in the classroom. I would like to thank those of you who have recently or in the past commented on my blog. Each one of you has added something to my understanding of what it is I am trying to do as an educator.

Please take the time to comment on the blogs of others -- especially students. It matters more than we might think.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Reflections on the semester's blogging

Bud's post reminded me that I need to post something about how the semester of blogging with my students went. I guess now is as good a time as any to begin working through that thorny issue.

The easiest blogging endeavor to comment on is that of my advanced writing students, who blogged at Debating the Death Penalty. This class of two students blogged their way through a WebQuest. I think this blogging went fairly well. It did not really encourage conversation, though, so it was not truly successful as a blogging activity. But since it achieved its purposes within the WebQuest and it helped to familiarize the students with blogging, I am content. With more students, the blog would have more energy, I think, so I will definitely do this again.

The other blog was that of my intermediate reading students. I made rather extensive use of the blog with this group. We did daily class logs, wrote summaries of what we were reading in class, and talked about the readings. On paper that is what we did. In the blog, it isn't quite that pretty. There was a lot of catch-up done at the last minute rather than timely posts. The quality of some of the writing is not what those students are capable of; I was unable to convince some of them of the need to post writing that people could read and understand. This is the blog that I wrote about earlier here and here and here. While it wasn't what I hoped for, the students all learned about blogging and wrote more than they probably would have otherwise in that class. It was, in that sense a success.

There are going to be big changes in my classes for the fall, but I have to design and teach a summer course before then, so I am not ready yet to talk about blogging in the fall. It will be a part of my courses; I am just not quite sure what form it will take. I'll be writing about this more as I begin to explore the possibilities.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A difficult situation

I just had a conversation with a student in which he told me that if I place him where he needs to be placed next fall, he will leave the ESL program and, therefore, the school. This is one of the times that I am really glad that we have strict TOEFL score requirements for leaving the ESL program and for moving from level to level within the program. The matter is really out of my hands, and I could honestly tell him that. But it was still difficult.

ESL students often have unrealistic expectaions. They think that if they can speak enough English to get by, they can do university level work in English. Forget the fact that, in the case of my students, they will be studying Philosophy when they leave ESL and forget the fact that I, as a native English speaker, barely managed to get a C in the one college philosophy course I took. I would never want to study Philosophy in Spanish although I speak and read and write it quite well!

This is the worst case of this I have had in several years, so I shouldn't complain. But it was a draining experience talking with the student and then passing the information on to my Academic Dean. Just another reason that I sometimes find myself dreading the end of the year!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Listening to the radio

I just learned about a great website that I want to let you in on. Radio Lovers has lots of old-time (before my time even!) radio programs, at least some of which might be suitable for ESL/EFL students to listen to. They are available for free and, as nearly as anyone seems to know, without copyright issues. I want to explore these and see if I can't find a way to use some of them to spice up my classes a little. If you aren't familiar with the site and like old radio, check it out.