In the past few days I have been reading blogs and making comments. Patricia‘s comment on my last blog post made me think a bit more about the effectiveness of using technology with the students. In her comment she wrote that the “students do not know what to blog about if there is no purpose to it; in other words, if blogging is not incorporated as part of a meaningful activity”. In order to do this she incorporates blogging in content-based projects making it appear as a natural activity among all other activities that lead to the final result of the research carried out by the students. This makes sense and took me to her blog where she wrote in detail about the integration of technology in the classroom. After reading her post and another one she wrote explaining in detail how she structures her research projects, I found myself thinking about a few things. All learning should be meaningful, whether technology is being used or not. If you asked the students to write a composition about a topic of your choice without giving them any further input and/or guidance, they most probably wouldn’t know what to write about. The same happens with technology. If the students don’t see the purpose of using it, then it’s most likely that they won’t. It’s not the technology by itself that motivates the students but the purpose of the activities they need to do.
I guess my students don’t blog more often because they don’t see the purpose for doing it. Although I have tried to explain that blogging would be a good writing practice in the target language and at the same time it could be used as their personal portfolio (having a portfolio with entries about vocabulary and self-study is compulsory), this is apparently not motivating enough for them to use their blogs more often. I think I understand it because this kind of blogging is more an extension of the work done in class, i.e. a kind of homework.
Yet, blogging can easily bring additional motivation and becoming more meaningful by simply have someone commenting on what the students have written. A German native speaker and teacher who lives in Germany made comments on most of the students blogs and suddenly some of them were answering her in the target language even without showing me the text for correction before. I was surprised by the extensive answers Joana wrote to the teacher. She has started learning German in October last year and yet felt motivated enough to write such big texts in a language she still knows so little about. And why? Because there was a good reason to write. Someone made questions and she felt the urge to answer them. Of course she made many mistakes but I am sure the teacher could understand everything and the communication happened.
This is a perfect example of the advantage that these kind of tools can represent in language learning. Social media is about communication, about sharing and interacting with other people, so it can be the perfect tool to develop reading, writing and speaking skills.