The use of a blog as a pedagogical aid for the learning of foreign languages is gaining support among teachers’ communities (Soubrié, 2006; Tomé, 2007) as it can help students develop online interactions and authentic productions. The current study is analysing the use of such a multimedia setting in a group of Master’s students in France, studying English as a Foreign Language, who had to keep a blog in groups of three or four, dealing with a specific topic of their interest. The introduction of such a tool was meant to motivate learners to practise written expression with an added value: the authenticity of the posted message, aimed not only at the teacher and the learning community but also made visible to the outside world.
The aim of this article is to measure the pedagogical added value of such a blog for the development of written expression more specifically, and to see the potential to transform a real activity which is well-known to the younger learners’ community1 into a learning activity for the learning of English. The aims are in agreement with the principles of the Common European Framework of References for Languages (Council of Europe, 2001), which establishes specific goals for language learners with the implementation of ICT: task-based learning, authentic interactions or collaborative learning (Wenger, 1998).
Three main aspects have been considered in this article:
(i) a description of the way the interactions take place on the blog;
(ii) an analysis of the motivating factors for such a publication online;
(iii) reflection on the role of the tutor and on the place for feedback.
A quantitative analysis of the interactions shows that the project is quite successful in terms of participation, as there are more posts on average than required in the pedagogical contract. Yet there are some disparities, concerning the level of activity from one blog to another and among the participants, that can be related to the role they undertake within the blog (do they prefer to post messages or comments, who are these for and why are they posted?) and to their level of motivation. Qualitatively, the project is also positively perceived: although the blog is not considered as a “real-life” one (the activity is perceived as a pedagogical one), the interactions are meaningful because they make sense for the learners who are fully engaged in the writing process and in the interactions. Finally, the place for feedback needs to be discussed, as the corrections online, although described as necessary, are also very often perceived as inhibiting and appear to be a critical element of the project.