Autonomy and Creativity and Blogging

Autonomy and Creativity and Blogging

This week, finishing off a call for communications entitled Autonomy and Creativity and Blogging. An attempt to have one’s Cake and Eat it, I used the opportunity to clarify my aims for my intended on-line, distance learning blogging course. Basically, the course intends to use blogging to practise students’ English skills, in such a manner that they will have to reflect about their English learning, cooperate and collaborate with other students to improve their English writing skills, learn about blogs, have a bash at creating on AND have some fun.
The 18-hour course will be an introduction to the subject and has no prerequisites.
It will be implemented in second semester 2019 and is intended as a continuation from the first semester fiction writing course which is already in place. David Morley posits that all writing is creative writing and in our second-year courses, both fiction writing and blogging are approached in this spirit, with students free to choose what they wish to write and how they wish to write within the two genres. They are encouraged to find ways of expressing their personal voice and identity, within the confines of the second language and different genres. Creativity in writing (as elsewhere) would seem to depend upon autonomy, as individuals gradually develop a sense of their own style rather than simply conforming to received models, the question is, how to develop courses in such a way as to promote creativity and autonomy? As Little, Dam, & Legenhausen (2017) suggest we can exploit previous student knowledge, interests and skills and allow students choice concerning content within the course, placing evaluation at the centre of this process and encouraging students to adopt a reflexive stance vis-à -vis their learning and responsibility for their actions and their words. One of the challenges that we face as (university) teachers is to design courses that do all of this within the normative framework that an accredited university course demands.
With all this in mind, I actually started setting the course up on Moodle the on-line learning platform used by my university.
The emphasis in the course will be on the process of writing rather than the finished product, nevertheless students will be asked to work in groups and to create a blog. So this afternoon I decided to test the free online service bloggerspot, for creating blogs mentioned in one of the articles that I’ve been reading, notably Weblogs in Language Teaching and Learning by Galina Kavaliauskiené. It was indeed really easy to do, taking me less than half an hour to do and that was without having prepared a text, or images, or thought about a user name, domain name etc. It was all linked up with Google which of course made it quicker and meant that my user name and password were already in place. (NB search also for a site that doesn’t need a Google account – any suggestions anyone out there?)
This is what it looked like after half an hour’s work:
https://bouhmidbooks.blogspot.com/
So I definitely think that it’s reasonable to ask second-year undergraduates to do this, although prior preparation will be necessary in particular concerning the what they need to think about before undertaking this sort of public writing. See Learning to Write Publicly: Promises and pitfalls of Using Weblogs in the Composition Classroom by John Benson and Jessida Reyman: http://cconlinejournal.org/LearningtoWritePublicly.pdf
Practical Tips
As Kavaliauskiené suggests it might make linking it all up simpler by suggesting that students use the first letter of their Christian name and their full surname (which I didn’t do).
They may wish to consider using a blogger profile, as I did, rather than their own name.
Since I’m going to ask them to work in groups one person will have to open up the blog space and then go into settings, authorisations in order to add authors.
So far so good. It all looks doable. Just need to crack on and do it…

Little, D., Dam,L., Legenhausen, L. (2017). Language Learner Autonomy: Theory, Practice and Research. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
Morley, D. (2007). The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge university Press.

Photo by Allison Lili Guiraud, 2018
Photo by Allison Lili Guiraud, 2018

Photo by Allison Lili Guiraud, 2018

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