You want comments, not likes

750 shares but only 2 comments

Nearly 750 "shares" and "likes", but only 2 comments…

Here's one that comes from a great blog I follow, Creative Bloq. It's not related to ELT, but the problem you can see them having above is one the vast majority of blogs have nowadays (including this one!): they're getting very few comments.

In language teaching, if you're using a class blog, or something else (an Edmodo group, or Facebook, or whatever), you want lots of comments, as well as the posts. Both should be produced by the learners as often as by the teacher and  you want the comments particularly (a) because it suggests the learners are finding the content interesting and (b) because comments provide meaningful opportunities for more interaction and use of the language.

To get such comments, you really have to add a "comments" stage to your task design, and require it of your learners. It's not enough just to "like"!

Apart from what you're doing with your classes, if you're reading blogs (etc.) for the purposes of professional development, you want to write comments. You want to do so because "liking" and then immediately forgetting and moving on to the next thing to "like" really isn't engaging the brain in any meaningful way whatsoever. Actually having to write some sort of response does, as does entering into dialogue. To develop as a teacher — or as anything else — you need to brain to be engaged. "Liking" isn't enough!

If you think you just don't have time to "comment", my advice would be to stop "following" so many people or use something organised like The Old Reader to follow blogs via RSS, rather than wasting your time "liking" stuff on Facebook (etc).

Rant over. Am I starting to sound like a grumpy old man…?

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14 Comments

  1. I agree with what you are saying in respect to meaningful engagement of our brains. But in the social media craze we live in, 750 likes is also a great metric for sucess (if the content wasn't interesting you wouldn't even get those). Unfortunate? Maybe. But still; 750 likes and 2 comments is better than nothing.

  2. Yes, you're right, Marco, at least from the marketing point of view.

    Strictly from the language teacher's point of view, and that of the learners, however, I'd say we're really not getting more than 50% at the very most of the value from technology if we're not commenting.

    From the point of view of professional development, I think it's a bit like being at Uni. Which would you rather do and which is more beneficial? Listen to a lecture (or just read), or participate in a tutorial (read and comment, and dialogue with other people)?

  3. Yeah! With you on the GOM bit, also re the comments ,- )!

    Tip: on blogs, remember:to select the "notify me of followup comments".

  4. In my personal case, at Uni I used to always pay attention in class (as long as both the subject and the way it was being delivered were interesting) and ask lots of questions (interaction/comments). I did this for two reasons mainly:
    1. My co-students didn't ask hardly any questions, so I couldn't learn from that.
    2. This is the way I learn. I have never been the type of syudent that learns from memorizing information but rather from processing and assimilating it in class, through understanding it. And for that, I need to ask about everythuing and anything I don't understand.

    So, yes. From the point of view of a teacher, no comments should mean that the content you are sharing is not doing its job. Which begs the questuion, is it the right kind of content for your students?

  5. Thanks Kim 😉 !

    That's a great tip. If you don't choose that you have to keep returning to stay in the conversation: choosing that lets you get any replies by email (which you can then turn off whenever you wish).

  6. Marco, when it comes to language classes, I'd say that it shouldn't really be the teacher writing all the posts, but the learners.

    Then, you want to design tasks that will get the posts to produce comments from their peers. Peer assessment is one thing you can do.

    Here's another idea that works well — getting the learners to write posts with their objective being to get as many comments as they possibly can.

    Again, the comments to get more language….

  7. What I meant was that if the original post (blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) was produced by the teacher, the content might not have been good enough or interesting or motivating enough for the students to do any more than like it. If that is the case, then I suggest the teacher should re-create the content in such a way that it will engage the students. An idea might be to ask questions that cannot be answered simply by liking the post. For example, asking controversial questions or ones that will produce different points of view (that always gets people talking). Or designing class activities that Have To continue online (such as in the blog). Or making sure that you know your students enough to know what kinds of subjects interest them and writing about them.
    Another idea might be to gamify the platform a bit by, for example, letting the students know that at the end of the week/month/year there will be a draw between all the active participants on the blog. That might encourage a bit of extrinsic motivation on them.

  8. Not all the students comment of course ;-( !

  9. I'm not a big fan of gamification, Marco (despite being a board- and videogames player) but yes, the idea of competition to see who can be most active is a possibility.

    Not sure that having to comment is necessarily the way to go. Kim is probably right, some just won't comment, no matter you try.

    With teens, I might make participation in the commenting mandatory but the most successful forums I've seen have been those where the learners have commented because they've wanted to (topics on football are a sure-fired winner 😉 !

    I liked Marco's idea of "questions that cannot be answered simply by liking the post". If you're using Blogger, remove the "share" buttons; with Word Press, don't include them. If you're using Edmodo, then unfortunately you have no choice but to have them. Having no "like" buttons stops that happening… but you still need some incentive to comment.

  10. I'm not sure it really bothers me if not everyone contributes, Kim. Not everyone will get to First Certificate, either 😉 !

    There is what's called the 1-9-90 rule, among other names, which says that very few people will be active participants in online forums, etc.

    You obviously DON'T want 90% "lurkers" but I'd say that if you're getting 60% plus to actively participate regularly, and use a lot of language in the process, you're on the right track.

    If 90% on participating, you're doing wonderfully well!

  11. This is something I've been thinking a lot about lately, Tom. There came a point I felt literally overwhelmed by and crushed under the weight of the different sources I was trying to follow. I ended up reducing the number of sites I follow on a regular basis. As for student participation, I'm not sure I agree with other posters on the issue of "motivation" as the key to a supposed "lack of interest" on the part of the students. There can be an infinite number of reasons why students don't participate in out-of-class activities. For starters, Spaniards are a hard bunch when it comes to convincing them of the many benefits of using English outside the classroom. Most students think learning English is about "ir a clase de inglés, abrir el libro y ya", so they'll spend three hours sitting in class and perhaps, if we're lucky, an extra hour or so doing "homework" (which in their minds is probably filling whatever grammar exercises they feel they need to complete).

    Quite honestly, I sometimes get a little bit tired of all the "motivational" talk we teachers must engage in. Motivation cannot be imposed on students. Motivation is intrinsic. Students need to understand that THEY are responsible for their learning. Our job as teachers (at least this is how I've always seen it) is not to be mere entertainment providers (there's the TV for that), but to open up the many possibilities students have to practice English outside the classroom. I always tell all my new students the minute they walk into the class they should see their learning as "25% class time, 75% English use outside the class". I never mention the word "homework". Instead, I hold a specific, workshop-style lesson in which I find out how much my students are familiar with the technology available (most of them aren't), then proceed to show them how to use the Internet and other sources to their benefit. Got 20 minutes a day to practice your English? Watch a short video. Choose a picture you liked in the newspaper and try to come up with a lexical set of interesting words, collocations or phrasal verbs related to the picture. Feel like you have an extra 10 minutes? Feel free to use the picture and write up a photo caption, no longer than 3 lines, and share it with your classmates via e-mail/Edmodo/whatever.

    It's hard, but it can be done. Then, there will always be students who feel it is not their job or responsibility to do any work outside the classroom becuase they're paying you to "teach them". Fine. As you said, not everyone will progress on to FCE and we, as teachers, just need to accept that.

    Long comment, sorry! Cheers,
    vanesa

  12. Hello Vanesa,
    I'm afraid I don't entirely agree with your point of view on motivation. Motivation isn't always intrinsic (although this is the best kind), but it can also be extrinsic. For example, I have intrinsic motivation to learn English because I love the language in itself (and languages in general) and I have always had this interest, so for me it isn’t something that I have to do painstakingly, but rather something that I truly enjoy. But for many students, motivation is extrinsic because the only reason they learn English is out of necessity (their parents force them, they know it will be good for them professionally, etc.), but they don’t actually enjoy learning English like I do. So, there are different kinds of motivation and different ways to motivate students.
    As for the part the teacher should play in the student’s motivation, in my opinion it is the teacher’s job (at least to a certain degree) to help the students be (and keep) motivated to learn English. And a teacher can do this in many different ways, one of which is by using interesting and engaging materials, both in class and outside. In my opinion, if a teacher is not capable of achieving this at least a percentage of the time, they simply aren’t doing their job properly. A good teacher should be able to identify the interests of their students and consequently prepare materials that will engage at least the majority of the students. And they should also be able to find ways to turn whatever extrinsic motivation the students came in with into intrinsic motivation. That, for me, is what a great teacher is. And we all remember both really good teachers that we had while growing up and really bad ones. And what most probably differentiates them is how good they were at engaging us with the subject they were teaching, in keeping our attention, and our interest in it.
    But going back to the original point of this article, how to get students to comment rather than just like stuff we publish on our social media or other platforms, I think if it is the teacher who published the original article (or whatever content he/she wants their students to interact with), then it is their job to make sure that the content in question is interesting enough or motivating enough to actually engage the students with it. If not, they may like it, but they probably won’t comment or share it.
    Furthermore, if we bear in mind that like you mention on your own post, we are all following far too many people, brands, sites, blogs, etc. on a daily basis on social media, via email, etc., the amount of content we are exposed to is huge, which makes an even more compelling case for the need to publish qualitative, attractive and engaging content. Otherwise, students might not even see it.

  13. Thanks for commenting, Vanesa.

    I'm with you on the motivation thing and having taught English in Spain since 1979 (!), know what you mean the difficulties of getting people to do anything extra outside class 😉 !

    Perhaps the secret is — as you say — not seeing it as "homework" and all the awful memories that brings back of school to many of us.

    But I think that's the difference well designed tasks that exploit some of the possibilities technology brings. If the "homework" is write an essay or do grammar exercises, or learn phrasal verbs, I'm not sure I'd want to do it myself. But if all I have to do is argue about (say) football or the environment or whatever, using the sort of (private) social media I'm already using with friends… that's completely different, if you ask me.

    As a learner, I'd do that because I want to. I'm not sure that's the same as being "motivated"…

  14. Thanks Marco for commenting again.

    I see what you mean, and agree to some extent, but think in language classrooms a lot of the posting should be done by the learners, so that to some extent the generating of comments is something they ought to be doing. Because the comments themselves can be motivating, when the discussion kicks off, to some extent the learners are self-motivating — they WANT to do the task, they want to participate.

    I've had a curious experience with a group of friends (Catalan, Spanish, English, French and Italian) who have been using a WhatsApp group to learn whatever language we wanted to learn — WITHOUT a teacher. No one is the teacher, we all post whatever we think the others will respond to (a lot of photos of newspaper headlines…) and reply in whatever language.

    There's no teacher to motivate anyone, in other words.

    Can't say how effective it is, but it sure is fun 😉 !

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