I recently posted the following questions to my students learning English at our Norwegian high school:

A. Do you think there is more pressure on how you perform/write when you use public blogs instead of writing a paper for the teacher?

B. Do you think the use of blogs reduces the difference between your work at school and your everyday life?

Reading through the answers, I was most surprised by just how positive my students are about blog writing. They find it more meaningful than traditional writing exercises. Writing on their blogs at home does not feel like homework to them.

My goal to motivate students by assigning more real-life tasks seems to be a success — many students write long texts every week and some write additional posts about topics they find interesting, without me asking them to do so!

Their answers to my questions are varied and nuanced and show why blogging is a great tool to get students to write more. Boys and girls. Recently I’ve followed discussions on Twitter about boys and writing. In my class I can’t see any gender difference. In fact when we voted for best blog in class, to be nominated for the Edublog awards this year, the two entries that got the most votes were written by boys! (As it later turned out, 11 of my students’ blogs were short-listed nominees for best student blog.)

Blogging is our chief writing activity

For the past four years, a significant part of my English learners class has involved writing blog posts, and I just love it. As usual when introducing new technology in class, I write on the LMS (learning management system) what I want the students to do. Then I wait 15 minutes and ask: “Did anyone figure this out?” I usually get 4 or 5 hands up, and these students automatically become the class experts. Their job is to help the other students accompolish the same tasks. I might be lucky but my students always seem eager to help out!

Here is an example of a task I gave my student the second week of class. Would teachers at your school be able to do this? Would you?

  1. Create a Twitter account (if you already have one use it). Follow the rest of the class on Twitter.
  2. Register for a clustrMap and connect it to your blog.
  3. Embed the code on your blog and include a widget for blog stats.
  4. Link your Twitter account to your blog, making it click-able for those who want to follow you. Use a Twitter image or text.

Using technology in class

My school is a 1:1 laptop school and I cannot imagine teaching in a school where students don’t have their own computers.

Everything we do in class revolves around the use of technology, like writing blogs and connecting with students in different parts of the world. When used wisely the laptops offer limitless possibilities for connecting and collaborating.

Recently, through my twitter network in the USA, Euronews contacted me and wanted to make a story on how the flipped classrooms hit Europe. The result is this video on Euronews filmed on location at my school. And I’m pleased the flipped classroom is spreading to Europe. I know many students benefit from watching short instructional videos at home. It can be a relief to students to be able to watch the same video as many times as you need without having to ask questions. I think it is great that more videos are out there and that students make them as well. Sometimes all it takes is another way of explaining to finally “get it.” It’s like when I introduce new technology in class, some students get it at once and others just need more time.

What my students have to say about blogging

When I do something everyone can see, I make it as perfect as I can. 

I imagine it is every teacher’s dream when students reflect on their learning and are eager to move forward and learn more. I believe working with blogs that are posted online helps motivate the students and shows them how they can express themselves in a public place in a sensible and responsible way. (I always read what they write and I help correct mistakes.)

Here is an email I got from one of my students, who are all learning (or perfecting) English as a new language: I was wondering if you could look at my blog posts, and give an assessment. It should be updated, and hopefully without those errors. I am hoping to score high in English, and therefore I believe it’s important to get a feedback so I can correct my errors. Don’t want you to rush though, if you have a lot to do :)

Some comments:

I think there is less pressure on how students preforms when they are writing blogs. This is because when you are writing blogs every week you have more chances of correcting your mistakes compared to writing four large tasks a year. (David)

I have learned a lot and it is motivating since many people read it (not that many, but more than one person). It’s much better than boring classes like we had before. It’s a modern way of learning English which is brilliant and inspiring! (Ewa)

I think its bit more pressure writing English on blogs than paper. I don’t know exactly why, but I think it’s because I just want to better in English, and blogging is more fun! (Haakon)

 The fact that you have to write something that everyone can see is more like a work situation. I think that we are learning a lot by writing our blogs and I think that we are learning a lot without even knowing it. When we get the chance we can also write about things that interests us. (Hanne)

 It is also inspiring to design your blog and decide want you want your blog to look like. I also think we learn a lot when we write on our blog. (Heidi)

 You will get more and more motivated to write posts on your blogs. It’s because you will see that so many people from other different countries read your blog and like to read about your opinion on different subjects. (Julia)

When I write a blog post I don´t think at it as unnecessary homework who don´t even my teacher is going to look at, but I rather think at it as something fun and useful. (Katinka)

 When I come home from school and sit down to do my English homework, I don’t think of it as homework in the same way I think of Math or German. (Kasper)

• I do believe that the blog thing has changed my everyday life, before I started high school; I didn’t have that much homework in English which basically made me lazy. Now that we have blogs it is more interesting to write because you know a lot of people all over the world can read. I have definitely started to write more English which is very positive. (Victor)

With this kind of feedback, you can be sure that in my classroom English learners will continue to blog for a worldwide audience. Nothing works better!

About the author
Ann S. Michaelsen is a teacher and administrator at Sandvika High School in Oslo, Norway. A promoter of computers in schools since 2002, Ann is working at the country level to implement the Skillsoft LMS in 24 schools. Ann presented at the global Microsoft Partners in Learning Innovative Education Forums in 2010, a year after Sandvika was named Norway’s 2009 Pathfinder school. She regularly offers advice and insights to fellow educators at the blog Teaching English Using Web 2.0 and on Twitter at @annmic.