Prefectural University of Kumamoto (JAPAN)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN10 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Pages: 417-424
ISBN: 978-84-613-9386-2
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 2nd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 5-7 July, 2010
Location: Barcelona, Spain
In this presentation, I introduce the Weblogging in Kumamoto (WinK)initiative, and look back over the first five years of the initiative.
WinK is centred on students in the Kumamoto area of Japan who maintain blogs as part of their English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Education. Its beginnings lie in Writing classes taught at one tertiary institution by the author and a colleague in four sections, where the teachers were dismayed at the difficulties students, all English majors, had with generating text in any quantity: some students were barely able to finish a single sentence in 10 minutes. The teachers decided that regular blogging in English might be a good way to encourage regular short bursts of writing leading to greater confidence and speed.
Since then, a third EFL teacher has joined, and the project has expanded to other courses and an additional institution; we have also involved secondary teachers in continuing professional development. Some members blog on Blogger, some on, some on Edublogs, and some on Vox. Some courses are specifically focused on writing, while in others blogs are used to support reading or speaking. In some courses, the student’s blog is the main focus of the course, while in others it plays a minor or supporting role. Some courses are for English majors, others for science majors. Courses span from first-year undergraduate to Masters level, and there are examples involving English for General Purposes (EGP), English for Academic Purposes (EAP), and English for Specific Purposes (ESP) The common threads holding together all the courses and other projects under the WinK umbrella are simply the geographical tie and the fact that all members blog in English.

Although the literature on the use of blogs and related tools in language education is slowly growing, there is little established knowledge. The WinK project has served as a testbed for many ideas and tools, and our accumulated experiences can serve as a modest but valuable contribution to the body of knowledge. In this presentation I focus chiefly on the following:

(1) Writing quantity, fluency, and confidence: We have seen surprisingly big jumps in students’ writing speed and in the total quantities that students write over the course of a semester. This growth is not only within individual students; in addition, successes with one cohort of students have encouraged us to raise our expectations of the next cohort, and thus we see a separate effect of introducing blogging into the curriculum over and above that of introducing blogging to specific students.
(2) Writing quality: In the writing courses that we consider to be the core of WinK, we have put quantity very much at the forefront of our agenda. Improvements in writing quality appear to have occurred largely as an incidental benefit, and this has obvious relevance to the debate on the necessity of corrective feedback in EFL writing.
(3) Community building: One major benefit of blogging is that writing is immediately available online for other students and teachers to read. I outline some of the steps we have taken to enhance the social aspects of our courses.
(4) Tools: Overlapping with the previous 3 points, I discuss the differences amongst the various blogging engines and services, and how we have used them and external but embeddable tools such as RSS and word-counting widgets to better address the various goals of our courses.
educational technology, weblogs, case studies, writing, language education.