The Internet TESL Journal

Weblogs for Use with ESL Classes

Aaron Patric Campbell
apc33 [at]
Ryukoku University (Seta, Japan)
The purpose of this paper is to introduce three ways that weblogs can be used to support ESL classroom learning. After defining what a weblog is, I will proceed to show how weblogs can be put into immediate use in the ESL classroom by means of three distinct types: the tutor weblog, learner weblog, and class weblog. I will also mention the software available for creating and maintaining weblogs.

What is a Weblog?

A weblog (or 'blog') can be thought of as an online journal that an individual can continuously update with his or her own words, ideas, and thoughts through software that enables one to easily do so. Unlike a standard website, weblog entries are made by typing directly into the browser and with the click of a button are instantly published on the internet. All basic document formatting, like spacing, bold, italics, underline, and creating links, requires no knowledge of HTML or FTP (File Transfer Protocol), so that anyone who can type, copy, and paste can create and maintain a weblog. However, with a very basic knowledge of HTML, users can extend their ability to customize the layout of their blog and even add pictures to enhance its attractiveness. Similar to an open journal, the accumulation of writings and other content creates both a record of learning and a resource for others. Furthermore, a weblog is interactive, in the sense that readers can respond to any given entry with a comment and even threaded discussions can take place depending on the software chosen.

Even though weblogs have been in existence since the very beginning of the world wide web itself (Winer, 2002), free, commercially available 'blogging software' of the type discussed in this article, seems to have made its first appearance in July of 1999 (Blood, 2000).  Because of the relative quickness and ease of publishing this type of software affords, the number of users has grown tremendously since then, and we can now observe blogs being used for personal, educational, journalistic, and commercial purposes. In the following section, I will introduce three possible ways that weblogs could be put to immediate use with ESL classroom learning.

Three Types of Weblogs for Use in ESL Classrooms

The Tutor Blog

This is a type of weblog that is run by the tutor for the learners. It serves the following purposes:

The Learner Blog

These are blogs that are either run by individual learners themselves or by small collaborative groups of learners. In ESL, learner blogs may be best suited for reading and writing classes. A common reading assignment can be followed by blog postings on the thoughts of each learner or group of learners. Furthermore, the act of constructing the blog may encourage the use of search engines and net surfing in English to find the appropriate sites to which links can be made.  This will empower the learner to direct the reader to sites of choice for further reading. Individually, blogs can be used as journals for writing practice, or as free-form templates for personal expression. The idea here is that students can get writing practice, develop a sense of ownership, and get experience with the practical, legal, and ethical issues of creating a hypertext document. In addition, whatever they write can instantly be read by anyone else and, due to the comment features of the software, further exchange of ideas is promoted. Tutors can even run a mega-blog of select topics of interest gleaned from student blogs so that the broader issues are brought into focus on a single website.

The Class Blog

This type of blog is the result of the collaborative effort of an entire class. The following are some possible uses:

Weblog Software

For those looking for weblog software, there are several dozen choices at present, all of which have different features. One major issue to consider is whether or not installation is required. Some weblog software is run on a central, web-based server, while others require to be downloaded and installed on a local server. For teachers without much technical know-how or support, the first option might be the easiest. Another important issue is cost. Some weblog software is free, while others may start at $5 and run up to $100 dollars a year or more to operate. Companies that are presently offering free blogging software and hosting services without commercial advertising are WebCrimson, Diaryland, UpSaid, and Sign-up is very simple and only requires an email address. You and your students can be up and blogging in a short amount of time. Do some research to find out which software is the best for your particular needs.


By introducing the three types of weblogs above and mentioning the software necessary, I hope to draw the attention of other practitioners to both the potential that weblogs have to support classroom-based ESL learning and the ease with which an ESL blogging project could be started.

Visit the Author's Blog

My tutor blog, called 'The New Tanuki' <>, was made with software called 'Blogger' from Pyra Labs in San Francisco, and costs $15 a year without any commercial advertising. With commercial advertising it would have been free.



The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. IX, No. 2, February 2003