Handout 1 from Barney’s 2005 BESIG presentation: “The Internet and Business English – What’s new?”
The reasons behind starting the blog
My intentions were to:
- provide coherent, legible written feedback for learners outside the limited time constraints of lessons on an intensive BE course.
- create a “permanent” record that learners could refer to after a course.
- gradually develop a bank of reusable activities, notes, etc. which, by use of hyperlinks, could be used with subsequent learners.
- take advantage of ability to hyperlink to other materials and sources of information on the Web in order to provide learners with extra / alternative input as well as guide them towards using the Web effectively as a tool for independent learning and study.
Setting up and using a blog
Set up a blog
Share the URL (e.g. http://feedbackfrombarney.blogspot.com/) with your learners and agree a procedure for using the blog.
This will probably be completely new to them so it may be better to simply offer a procedure, e.g.:
- Check the blog every day for up-dates.
- Do any homework that has been set.
- Bring any feedback, questions / challenges to the next lesson.
- Agree that it is a trial, i.e. that some groups / individuals may find it better or more useful than others or may to want to use it all.
Make a commitment to your learners to add to it and refer to its content in class.
Integrate up-dating the blog into your lesson preparation time.
Keep it relatively anonymous, e.g. use a learner’s initials or group identification. A blog is on the Web and accessible to anyone who wants to read it and your learners will not want their mistakes to be advertised publicly.
Have a set of websites you regularly link to. These should be ones that are:
- recommended by you.
- genuinely useful give an answer; guide learners towards an answer; provide background information or pose a question.
As with all self-generated materials, be self-critical and be prepared to modify what you are doing in order to provide your learners with a better experience or one that suits their learning style.
Corrections from lessons, i.e. You said . . . vs. You should have said . . . Use colour coding to distinguish original utterances from proposed corrections.
New vocabulary from lessons:
- hyperlinked to online dictionaries
- comparing similar or confusing words
Pronunciation. Try copying and pasting the phonetics from a CD-ROM dictionary (Be careful with this since the symbols do not always display correctly in some internet browsers).
Pictures. Use these to illustrate points. Cut and paste from websites (Do not forget issues of copyright.) or make a link to the webpage which contains the picture.
Turn corrections into exercises to set as homework.
Create exercises using modified texts from websites (such as the website of the company the learner works for) with a hyperlink to the webpage so the learner can compare their answer with the original. Ideas include:
- Gap-fill exercises
- Remove articles
- Substitute vocabulary
- Re-order paragraphs, etc.
- Encourage learners to print and complete the exercise before checking the original.
Search based homework with links to search engines and other online sources.
Include email links so that learners can contact the teacher directly.
Post-course advice and suggestions
Successes and failures
There are a number of factors to be considered:
- The learners’ commitment to learning.
- The learners’ recognition of the important of independent learning / self-study / doing homework.
- The learners’ attitude towards and experience of using the Web, i.e. how much a part of their life it is?
- The learners’ access to a computer connected to the Internet. (In the BE world this has increased recently due to the proliferation of wi-fi enabled laptops.)
- How early in the course this system is introduced to learners.
- How it is presented, explained and justified.
- How useful the information is to the learners.
- How well it is integrated with classroom activities and the course as a whole.
Plans for the future
- Since there are a limited number of typical errors or lists of BE vocabulary, hyperlinks can be used to easily reuse previous materials and exercises.
- As the blog grows it will become possible to use the archive to support and supplement current entries.
- Try to foster interactivity, i.e. encourage learners to post comments and feedback both to communicate with the teacher but also each other.
- Use the blog to pre-teach vocabulary or provide with information learners for lessons later in a course. This can save time on an intensive course or with weekly classes. It can also help to develop learner autonomy.