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IMPROVING STUDENTS’ COLLABORATIVE WRITING USING BLOG

Skill: Writing; 4C Skill: Collaborative ; Web 2.0 Tool: Weebly

umi.maryamhusna@gmail.com

naxifa.axiz@gmail.com

Abstract

This paper is done to discuss about improving students’ collaborative writing using blog. It will

first discuss the four skills in English language learning and focused on productive skill which is

writing. Then, it will highlight about collaborative learning followed by collaborative writing.

After that, the use of digital technology in teaching writing will be presented. SAMR model will

be used to show the transformation phase in teaching writing. Later, it will share about the use

of Weebly to improve students’ collaborative writing skills. An example of lesson plan will be

presented afterwards. In conclusion, students will improve their writing skills through

collaborative writing using technologies.

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1.0 Introduction

Learning the English language requires the learners to develop important skills such as

listening, speaking, reading and writing. There are many ways of introducing, teaching and

learning the skills related to English language. The approaches in the teaching and learning of the

skills varies depending on the learning theory available. The use of technology has always been

encouraged in the education system. This is because the use of technology can enhance learning

experiences and enable to develop the 21st century learners among the students. Moulding 21​st

century learners are very important because of the ever changing demand in the society. Thus,

this paper will present how pupil’s collaborative writing can be improved by using a Web 2.0

tool which is Weebly. This paper will focus on writing skills, collaboration or collaborative

learning as the 4C skills and collaborative writing before presenting how the use of such online

platform can improve pupils collaborative writing skills.

2.0 Literature Review

2.1 Writing skills in English Language Learning

There are four main skills in learning English language. The four skills are reading,

writing, speaking and listening. They are usually divided into two types. Receptive skills is a

term used for reading and listening which the meaning is extracted from the discourse.

Productive skills is the term for speaking and writing which the students actually have to produce

language themselves (Harmer, 2007, as cited in Bashrin, 2013). According to Bashrin (2013)

reading and listening are called receptive skills because when we listen and read something, we

receive the language, understand it and decode the meaning. While speaking and writing are

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called productive skills because we use the language to produce a message through speech or

written text.

The productive skills are speaking and writing, because learners need to articulate words

and write to produce language. Learners receive language by listening to conversation, music,

video and also by reading comprehension, newspaper, poem, book and etc. Then they move on

to productive skills where they produce the language to express their thoughts (Bashrin, 2013). in

addition to that, Bashrin (2013) mentioned that writing is a productive skill in written mode.

There are two-way distinction of writing. They are institutional and personal writing.

Institutional writing includes textbooks, reports, applications, business correspondence whereas

personal writing covers personal letters and creative writing.

Berthoff (1981, as cited in Hudelson, 1989) has defined writing as an act of the mind by

which writers create meaning. According to him, writing is the creation of meaning from one's

own intellectual and linguistic resources and activity, rather than the copying of someone else's

text, or the use of prepared lists of words to create sentences or stories. Writing is a fundamental

component of language. When a child writes, thoughts and knowledge are blended together

creating a unique meaning (Jones, Reutzel, & Fargo, 2010, as cited in Cole & Feng 2015).

Consequently, students identify the skill of writing, as more difficult than listening and reading

(Berman & Cheng, 2010, as cited in Cole & Feng 2015). Furthermore, writing is the skill that

most students are least proficient in when acquiring a new language (Nesamalar, Saratha & Teh,

2001 as cited in Cole & Feng 2015).

In recent years, teachers have given more attention to literacy development, recognizing

that students need to be able to read and write effectively if they are going to be successful in

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English language classrooms (Allen, 1986; Hudelson, 1984; Urzua, 1987b, as cited in Hudelson,

1989). ​The children learned about writing because the demonstrations they witnessed engaged

them as they saw how writing was done (Smith, 1982 as cited in Hudelson, 1989). It is becoming

increasingly evident that young children in print-oriented or print-saturated societies, long before

they enter school or receive formal literacy instruction, interact with print, make hypotheses

about how the written language works, and engage in reading and writing behaviours (Ferreiro &

Teberosky, 1982; Harste, Woodward & Burke, 1984 as cited in Hudelson, 1989).

2.2 Collaborative Learning.

Collaborative learning is one of the component of the 21​st century learning. Famous by

the term 4C skills which includes critical thinking, creative thinking, communication and

collaborative, these 4C skills help students learn thus has became important to success in school

and the future (​University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2018). Collaborative learning is not new in

teaching and learning because it stems from the constructivist learning theory. ​The

constructivists’ learning theory believes that learners construct knowledge for themselves (Hein,

1991). ​For constructivism, learning is a construction process where learners have the active roles

to control their learning process by being reflective and relies heavily on collaboration among

students (Educational Broadcasting Corporation, 2004). ​This believes bring out approaches

which focus on the learners’ experiences in making meaning in the learning process rather than

focusing on the teacher as the transmitter of knowledge ​as the behaviourism learning theory. The

differences in how learning occurs between these two learning theories result in different

approaches towards learning and the learning process. One of the approaches is collaborative

learning.

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Collaborative learning is constructed based on the view that knowledge is a social

construct ​(​Center for Teaching Innovation, 2012). ​Collaborative learning happens where

interaction occurs between peers who are engaged to complete a common task. (Ingleton, Doube

& Rogers, 2000). Laal & Ghodsi (2011) further explain that learners could complete a task, solve

a problem or create a product in collaborative learning. Collaboration is about working together

to reach a goal and putting talent, expertise, and smarts to work (Pakizer, 2016). Lejeune (1998,

as cited in Collaborative Learning, 2015) suggests a common task or activity, small group

learning, co-operative behaviour; interdependence; and individual responsibility and

accountability as the main characteristics of collaborative learning. The characteristics suggested

are in accord with the constructivist theory of learning which are important in the learning

process nowadays in which concern to build the 21​st​ century learners.

There are many benefits of collaborative learning. Ingleton, Doube and Rogers (2000) list

a few benefits especially for the students when collaborative learning is applied in the learning

process such as it can develop lifelong learning skills, it fosters teamwork and it could develop

interpersonal skills. In addition to that, it could also develop generic skills needed for future

employment and ease the pupil’s transition to higher education learning such as in the university

(Ingleton, Doube & Rogers, 2000). This is because Nagata and Ronkowski (1998, as cited in

Ingleton, Doube & Rogers, 2000) suggest that collaborative learning could give the opportunity

for the pupils to think for themselves, compare their thinking with others, conduct small research

projects and do investigation with their peers and practice higher order thinking skills. Based on

the presented discussion, it could be agreed that collaborative learning provides many benefits to

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the learners in many areas which need to be addressed by the educators and education system in

this 21st century teaching and learning.

2.3 Collaborative Writing.

Collaborative writing is originated from collaborative learning (Fong, 2012). Similar to

collaborative learning, collaborative writing involves two or more persons working together to

produce a written document (Nordquist, 2017). The students’ collaboration is considered the

most important and helpful part of their learning (Lunsford, 1991, as cited in Nordquist, 2017).

The importance of interaction in learning which is based on the Vygotskian theory of learning,

has gotten many support from educators who become the advocates of students’ collaboration in

the classroom (Fong, 2012).

Collaborative writing has been done in the normal classroom setting such as in group

work or pair work. In the past, interaction in the writing activity was usually focused on the

beginning part of the writing process which is brainstorming and the end part which is peer

review (Storch, 2005). Whereas in the current setting of collaborative writing, learners work

together throughout the whole writing process where they make decision and bear the

responsibilities together (Storch, 2005). In collaborative writing, the presence of multiple author

may cause conflict to resurface. However, this can be avoided by having a few important things

such as setting goals, assigning tasks, generating and recording ideas which can be used in

production of the text and editing where members of the group can comment about and

enhancements for the text (Spring, 1997). Based on this discussion on collaborative writing, it is

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evident that collaborative writing could enhance the learning experience for the 21​st century

learners and is inline with the 4C skills discussed here which is collaborative learning.

3.0 The use of digital technology in teaching writing.

According to Karlan (2010), among national organizations considering writing outcomes,

there is a widespread acceptance that writing has moved from a paper and pen activity to one that

is technology-driven. Throughout this paper, the term ‘technology’ will refer to digital

technology. Technologies are recognized as having potential both to support writing and the

teaching of writing (National Commission on Writing, 2003; National Writing Project & Nagin,

2006 as cited in Karlan, 2010) and to represent new venues for writing itself (National Council

of Teachers of English, 2004 as cited in Karlan, 2010). There are quick changes in literacy as the

result of emergence of computer and the development of new technologies (Cole & Feng, 2015).

Some of the changes are in favour of technology such as writing in e-journal, blogs (Yamac &

Ulusoy, 2016). The use of technology can motivate and encourage pupils to engage in reading

and writing and it has been proved to be beneficial in fostering writing skills among the pupils

(Lee, 2012 as cited in Cole & Feng, 2015).

As Hockly (2013, as cited in Kamijo, 2017) states, it is not the technology itself that

enhances learning, but rather the use to which it is put. The substitution augmentation

modification redefinition (SAMR) model (Puentedura, 2010) provides teachers with a useful

framework for successful technology integration while it helps them design and evaluate mobile

learning activities. SAMR model includes four different levels in which technology can be

integrated in the classroom. The first is substitution where the technology is just a tool substitute

with no functional change. The second is augmentation where the technology still acts as a direct

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tool substitute, but with functional improvement. Next is modification which technology allows

for significant task redesign while the last is redefinition, where the technology allows for the

creation of new tasks previously inconceivable (Puentedura, 2010).

According to Romrell, Kidder, and Wood (2014, as cited in Kamijo, 2017), learning

activities using technology that fall within the substitution and augmentation stages are said to

enhance learning, while learning activities that fall within the modification and redefinition

classifications are said to transform learning. The ratio of activities the teachers use within each

classification depends on the level of technology integration the teachers are seeking. If the

objective is to embed technology fully into the curriculum, the teacher should aim for all the

activities to fall within the modification and redefinition classifications. This discussion shows

that all activities involving technology could transform the students’ learning experiences

(Kamijo, 2017).

4.0 Using Weebly to improve students’ collaborative writing skills

As the technology has advanced, there are many platforms available for collaborative

writing which enable experts or contributors from different parts of the world to collaborate on a

writing task such as writing journals, book and blog (Eapen, 2007). In the past few years, online

collaborative writing tools such as blogs has been integrated into education (​Brodahl, Hadjerrouit

& Hansen, 2011; Richardson, 2005 as cited in Vurdien, 2012). This is because the low cost,

accessibility and ease of use of are the characteristics which make Web 2.0 technologies

attractive to be used in the teaching and learning environment (Ajjan & Hartshorne, 2008 as cited

in ​Brodahl, Hadjerrouit & Hansen,​ 2011).

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Weebly is one of the blog which can be used as a platform for collaborative learning.

Weebly is a website for building website (Bernheim, 2018). Weebly is so easy to use because it

does not require the user to be an expert in HTML or coding. The drag-and-drop interface ease

the use of the software making it highly accepted by people regardless of their technology

comfort level or experience (Bernheim, 2018). It is free for user who does not desire to use its

more high end services such as the premium apps making it desirable to be used in classroom

setting. Below are some of the interesting features in Weebly.

Interesting Features in Weebly Explanation

The elements provided are


on the left hand side
included basic (text,
image), structure (divider,
spacer) media (video,
audio) and more.

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The elements are provided
for the user to be
drag-and-drop to a page
which is on the right hand
side.

Using Weebly, pupils can


give comment to their
peers’ work, communicate
with their friends and also
the rest of the world.

There are numbers of researches which show integrating technology, such as the

internet, can enhance and improve students students’ writing skill (Sandolo, 2010). Similarly,

some studies have shown that students have an easier time in expression themselves when they

can write using the computers and by using and utilizing Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, pupils are

able to run from thinking about what others might think and thus allowing them to express

themselves more freely (Sandolo, 2010). Using the blog has increase the pupils’ motivation to

write (National Commission on Writing, 2006 as cited in Sandolo, 2010).

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5.0 Example of lesson plan

The lesson plan will be based on the year 4 textbook, unit 7.

Year 4 Bestari

Theme World of Knowledge

Topic Unit 7 : Blogging

Focus Writing

Learning Pupils will be able to participate in collaborative writing with the use of
Objective
technologies.

Activities: 1. Pupils to form groups of four.


Week 1
2. Teacher introduce Weebly to pupils.

3. Teacher demonstrates how to use the features in Weebly.

4. Pupils to register to Weebly with guidance.

5. For the first blog, pupils to write at self-introduction for every group

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members with guidance.

Week 2 1. Pupils to collect data about plants in the school garden.

2. Pupils to write about how to grow plants in the school garden with

guidance.

3. Pupils are encouraged to find more information on the blog/web.

4. Teacher asks pupils to put link about the informations taken in the

blog/web.

5. Pupils explore on how to put pictures and videos in the blog.

Week 3 1. Teacher encourages the peers editing of the written work by using

‘medals and mission’ model.

2. Pupils may put comments in comment sections.

3. Pupils are given time to review their blog/ their friends’ blog.

4. Pupils enhance the layout and design of the blog with guidance on

using the features or elements available in Weebly.

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6.0 Discussion

The use of Weebly in improving collaborative writing is deemed appropriate because

online co​llaboration can bring additional benefits such giving flexibility, students’ participation

and behaviour towards learning, trackability and autonomy (Collaborative Learning, 2015). In

addition, Godwin-Jones (2008 as cited in Vurdien, 2012) states that blogs provide users with

new opportunities and incentives for personal writing. Learners who have joint responsibilities

over the production if the text may developed a sense of co-ownership so they would be

encouraged to contribute in all aspect of the writing process (Storch, 2005). This is evident in the

classroom setting where pupils work more seriously in completing their writing task if they are

presenting it in class.

Sandolo’s (2010) research shows that is important to incorporate technology into the

classroom while learning to write and while creating essays because the use of technology like

computers can ease the motor demand from the learners who have difficulties in fine motor skills

and it allows the learners to self-revise their writing and essay. In addition, ​technological tool

which is used in the writing process could assist younger generations in the future as the world

transforms itself towards a digital era (Lee, 2016). Halsey (2007 as cited in Sandolo, 2010) states

that technology might not be suitable for all pupils, but technology will give pupils the purpose

behind their writing, their motivation might possibility increase because they have the ‘real’

audience who will read their work. This is because blog writing is basically geared towards This

is evident in the use of blog where the content can bee seen by anybody around the world thus

making the learners more self-aware of their own work. ​In addition, ​a study in Spain by Vurdien

(2012) states that pupils are more aware of the mistake in the writing because peer correction

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was done. Furthermore, the study also indicates that blog can be utilized as a tool for learning

outside class and because it is interactive, it can raise the pupils’ motivation and because pupils

are able to express their view on their peers’ blog entry, pupils could improve their linguistic

performance (Vurdien, 2012).

7.0 Conclusion

In conclusion, all these benefits of using Weebly in improving student’s collaborative

writing could be categorized into four categories which are the social, psychological, academic

and assessment (Johnsons, 1989; Pantiz ,1999, as cited in Laal & Ghodsi, 2011). Students’

writing skills will be improved through collaborative writing using the Weebly since it will

integrate with and address the different set of skills which will enable the learners to become 21​st

century learners. This will result in increasing their confidence level in writings.

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