I have never used blogging for my class because I have never thought that blogging could be used as a convenient tool for students to encourage their learning. However, after reading the textbook, I came up with several ideas of how to use blogging in my class.
First of all, using computer, especially the Internet, is the best need for English learners living in a country which English is rarely spoken. When you want to see around the world, you can search the Internet and find pictures and videos. When you want to make friends all over the world, you can search for an appropriate website. When you do not know how to say a certain expression, then you can google it, and find frequently used expression. Especially in Japan, the students do not have many chances to talk to English native speakers so the Internet is a useful tool for them to keep in touch with English and English speaking people and keep motivating themselves. Simply, I can say that keeping blogs is a good practice for them to get accustomed to using the Internet.
When it comes to examples of using blogging in my class, I would use it as a discussion board; for example, students write something on the board (blogging space), and other students make some comments on it. They can write whatever they want to share with friends (about English, of course,) such as, English grammar they studied recently, funny expressions, new words and phrases, or any other topics. Students can share title of books or links which they find interesting and useful.
Of course, English teachers and English native speaking teachers can also participate in the discussion if needed. However, it might hinder their active discussion if they answer the students’ questions immediately. Effective way of helping students online might be that they can drop a subtle hint about the questions and activate the discussion.
I also think blogging can be used as a tool of communicating with classmates when they collaborate with each other for a group project. Online Chatting can also work as a similar type of communication tool, however, each of you need to sit in front of the screen at the same time when they start chatting. In contrast, you can access the blog website whenever you have time and can take some time to think what to write. From that point of view, each member might be able to contribute to the project more greatly and equally than when using online chat which needs intuition rather than consideration.
Another way of using blogging might be a review of what students learned in the previous lesson. They write the topic and key words, and explain what they learned and what they could not understand. After reading their blogs, a teacher can see how fully they understood the lesson. If they have some problems in understanding a certain point, s/he can adjust upcoming lesson to make students understand more easily. In addition, if students say that a handout was difficult to understand, the teacher might need to change the format and make it clearer to them. By the way, it is also possible a teacher keeps blogs as well which are concerned with the previous lessons and s/he writes what they taught. By reading this, students can review what they have learned and can fill in the gap between what they ‘believed’ they learned and what they actually should have learned.
In this way, students can receive much benefit from blogging and all of these activities meet the National Standards for Foreign Language Learning (1993, *See footnote) in that they satisfy 5C’s (Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities). However, one big problem might be “information disparity (digital divide.)” All students need to have similar chance to access the Internet; that means, a teacher needs to check whether all of them can connect to the Internet at home or, at least, at school on almost equal terms with other students.
*footnote: the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, the American Association of Teachers of French, the American Association of Teachers of German, and the American Association of
Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese