Sunday, August 18, 2013

ES1102 E-PORTFOLIO (Blogging & facebook) USING SOCIAL MEDIA

Interactive Learning for Blackstone's ES1102 groups



Building an e-portfolio is a value-added component of Brad Blackstone’s ES1102 tutorial group sessions. The primary part of the e-portfolio is an individual blog that you will create as a home-base for your ES1102 writing. The core of that writing will be responses to the course writing assignments and subsequent interaction about those assignments with your instructor and classmates. In fact, one of the most critical components of the portfolio is the feedback you give to and receive from peers.

An additional, optional aspect of the e-portfolio is your interaction via the course Facebook page. We have a general ES1102 course Facebook page (please “like” ES1102 Issues & Interactions). You should visit this site regularly, using it to ask questions and give opinions and as a platform for sharing relevant video and text links with classmates as often as possible. We will refer to the blogs and the Facebook page in class.

Blogging, as you may know, is a form of self-publishing, online. Once a writer has set up a weblog, or blog, he or she can post on a variety of topics and receive feedback from anyone with an Internet connection.  This can be useful when writing is shared within a particular community, whether a special interest group, class or any other blogging group. In ES1102, blogging will serve as a way for you to
  • reflect on course content in writing in a formal and semi-formal manner;
  • develop and share your ideas with an audience that is not limited to your instructor;
  • learn about the ideas of your classmates and your tutor;
  • comment on the ideas of others; and
  • refine your writing skills. 
Your various interactions with the course Facebook page, ES1102 Issues & Interactions (, which you should friend, and within the blog space of Blackstone’s World Without Walls (, where you and your peers will park your individual blogs, have the general objective of
  • allowing you to connect with classmates and your instructor outside of class;
  • encouraging you to ask questions, give opinions and share information;
  • and helping you better understand the role of social media in shaping effective communication within the academic community. 

THE “HOW” of Blogging and Facebook
1.     Setting up a blog
  • To create your own blog website, go to, or any other blog site. At these sites, follow the instructions to create your own site. To make your site recognizable to classmates, your site address could have your given name and family name (or nickname).
  • Once you have created a blog for our course, within that, you can eventually begin to post responses to assignments.  The title of your course-related blog might be something like “EAP” or “ES1102.” 
  • Eventually, send your blog address to me and to the classmates. They will post links to your blog and that of other classmates on their own blog.
2.     Blogging groups/blogging buddies
In your ES1102 class/tutorial group, you will be assigned a blogging group of 4-5 members at the start of the semester. For every written post that you make, you should read and respond to the posts of at least two members of this blogging group. The purpose of this is for you and your blogging group members to share written ideas with each other. In this way, you might also develop greater familiarity with each other and assist each other in creating the most appropriate and effective posts possible. A second purpose is for this smaller class group to have an opportunity to demonstrate the skills needed to become a cohesive social unit.

3.     The four-stage blogging process
  • Stage One: Having setting up your blog, read the blog assignment for the first post (see schedule on the course website), and write a response of 250 to 300 words, preferably as a word document. Later you can copy and paste this doc into the new post section of your blog.
  • Stage Two:  Publish your post on your blog by the assigned date.
  • Stage Three: Access the blogs of at least two other members of your blogging group, and read their posts for the same topic/assignment. After reading each post, leave a comment.  In your commentary, you might answer questions such as these: What do you think about the post?  Does it respond to the assignment? Is the content clear and well expressed? Is the content impressive or not?  Is it concise, coherent, cohesive? Is the answer complete? Are you in agreement or disagreement with any opinions stated? Is the writer courteous (and are you)? How clear and accurate is the language use?

    Once you have reacted to the posts of at least two members of your blogging group, you can visit and comment on the blogs of other classmates.
A necessary condition for an assessment of excellent in the Portfolio portion of our course grade is that you read and react in writing to at least a total of three classmates’ posts per blog assignment.

Pay close attention to your language use. Remember, a blog is a form of publishing, and when and if you present your ideas in public, it is advisable to present them in a clear, grammatically accurate fashion. You should also use a tone that, while not as formal as that of a formal letter or official written report, should still adhere to standards for courtesy, correctness, conciseness, clarity, coherence/cohesion, concreteness and completeness, the so-called 7Cs of good writing.
  • Stage Four: Return to your post to see what commentary has been left. Follow that up, if you like, with comments back to your readers.

4    Facebook

Please “friend” ES1102 Issues & Encounters. Interact here by posting links to relevant websites, with video and written information on any course-related topic. Also, whenever you post, please write a one or two sentence explanation of what you are posting.


There is formal assessment of your e-portfolio. I will give you feedback with a focus on your blog posts' content & organization, your language use, the timeliness of your posting and the manner, frequency and accuracy of your comments on classmates' posts. (Please see the rubric for the portfolio).

While your interactions with Facebook in the course are also viewed by me and others, evaluation is less analytical (in short, more holistic). The focus is on how you make an effort to ask questions, search for relevant video and text sources to share, and then view/read and comment on the links provided by others, are able to value add to the course discussions by their effort. Strictly speaking, this may not add up to points for a mark, but it will certainly advance your learning, and it will warm your tutor's heart!


I. Assignment 1:  Due by Friday night, midnight, August 21st, Week 2

Write a  reflective post of 250 to 300 words on the topic “My English Language Learning Journey” or “Living in A Globalized World: The Importance of English for Me,” or an instructor-approved variation of one of these topics.

II. Assignment 2:  Due by Tutorial #1 of Week 4

Write a reflective post of 150 to 250 words on an event that has shaped your life and the person you have become.

III. Assignment 3:  Due midnight, Friday, September 12th, Week 5

Write the second draft of your assessed reader response to one of the reading articles related to globalization. This draft should be 500 to 600 words.

 IV. Assignment 4:  Due by the end of Tutorial #1/Week 8

Write and post the second, revised draft of your essay. This should be 800-900 words.

V. Assignment 5:  Due by the end of Tutorial #2/Week 11

Write a critically reflective post of 300 to 400 words on the topic “The Value of Peer Reviews".

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Foreign Element

In a recent set of course feedback, I was surprised to read that a couple ES2007S students, presumably Singaporeans, were dismayed by the presence of so many "foreign" students in the class. That opinion was presented via several directly stated assertions, that I will summarize as follows: 1) "Foreign" students don't take their studies as seriously as "local" students, and thus they might make group work perilous because they could become hindrances to a "local" achieving a good mark on an assigned task; 2) "foreign" students participate more than "local" students, in that way occupying classroom social space and currying favor with the teacher.

Being a "foreigner" myself, I tend to cringe whenever I read allegations based on generalizations, especially those which focus more on oddly perceived group characteristics rather than on the traits of individuals. In fact, when I reflect on the past term, I recall the term as quite special; it was a semester that indeed gave me and others in my three tutorial groups an opportunity to work not only with Singaporeans but also with nationals from India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, mainland China, Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as far off Sweden, Norway (transplanted from Bosnia), Germany, the Czech Republic and France. It never occurred to me that this was a bad thing. I generally view the sharing of ideas with others from different countries and cultures a good thing, especially when one considers that "intercultural communication" is a key topic in this particular course, one for which a blog post is even required.

 However, I will admit that several non-local students who were visiting NUS on a one-semester "exchange" did demonstrate a willingness to sacrifice some of their work for the apparent opportunities available to "do the tourist thing" and travel in the region. That was clearly the minority though, and  even a few of those who traveled a lot were able to make major contributions to the course in the way of classroom participation and overall coursework.

The allegation that stung me the most though was that some of these students could gain my favor, simply because they were "foreigners." For me, such a perception could be based on the fact that a number of the non-locals were quite vocal, forward in their demeanor and confident in interacting not just with their classmates but with me as well. It is true that some local students are shy about speaking up in class, and more so when it comes to talking one on one before and after class with an instructor. Whatever void students like that might leave in the social environment is quickly filled by the outgoing, assertive students. And from my experience in ES2007S, there are outgoing, assertive students studying at NUS from all sorts of countries, including Singapore, who are happy to interact with their sensei!

Last term, were some of these outgoing personalities who happened NOT to be from Singapore eager to engage me before, during and after class? Indeed. I didn't need to approach them and say "hello" when they made a concerted effort to do exactly that with me.

Of course, it is a stereotype that "Westerners" are more outgoing than Asians. Was this universally true of the European students in ES2007S? No. There were some very quiet European students.

Was it universally true of the Indians, who generally are quite vocal? No. There were some rather reserved Indians as well. But some members of these two groups were certainly outgoing (and -- again -- others were as well). Could the fact that a few of the "non-locals" interacted with me easily and frequently have given someone the wrong impression that they were gaining my favor? Well, I suppose....

Here I need to emphatically state it was "the wrong impression" though because, after 30+ years of classroom interactions, I am not swayed simply by talk. There must be substance there as well.

I also pride myself in being both a suitable, balanced judge of character and demeanor and an impartial evaluator of the quality of work assigned in a course. Objectivity -- as much as is humanly possible -- is required in any educational setting to ensure that every student has equal opportunity to achieve his or her best. Being objective is also essential for a teacher who wants to accurately assess a student's skills so as to provide the most effective feedback for growth. These are  principles that I live and breathe.

In fact, in my opinion, I'm a generally friendly, open-minded guy who is willing to listen and talk to any student, and any person for that matter, no matter where he or she comes from. But I can also be a harsh critic, a demanding coach, one who can separate his personal likes and preferences from the job scope, to honestly address the learning tasks at hand and assess student needs, progress and accomplishments.

What do you think? I'm particularly interested in the views of students who have taken ES2007S within the last year, or even better, in the last semester.