Site/App review: “Weebly: Create Free website Free blog

 

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A few decades ago, when the Internet was not as popular as today, creating your own website and building on it could be a far-fetched activity or it was even a dream especially when you did not have the knowledge and skills to do so. Today, thanks to especially social networking websites, people can easily create their own pages and organize them within the possibilities of those environments or platforms. If you want to be more independent, and create your own page in mostly in your own way, you can still do so by taking URLs on some hosting webservers. Although most people think that this requires a lot of skills and knowledge of codes, HTML, CSS and so on, it is not the case most of the time thanks to these hosts where you can publish your own page or blog. Services like WordPress, Blogspot, Edublogs and so on are really popular to create your own page or blog. Recently, there is another popular service provided by Weebly with which you can easily create your own page/blog or even your class as a teacher with the ease of some clicks, and drag-drop. I will describe Weebly more below by also elaborating on its intended audience, how it works and how it could be utilized in an instructional context.

  1. Description

As also described in Wikipedia.com, Weebly is a web-hosting service that allows the user to “drag-and-drop” while using their website builder. As of August 2013, Weebly hosts over 20 million sites, with a monthly rate of over 1 million unique visitors. The startup competes with Wix.com, Webs, Yola, SnapPages, and other web-hosting and creation websites.

Name  : Weebly

URL    : http://www.weebly.com AND http://www.education.weebly.com

Use     : Intended Audience

The intended audience of this tool is simply everyone who wishes to exist online with an individual webpage, blog or also a store. Furthermore, this tool has a specific focus on education and teachers can launch classes on Weebly and create websites or blogs for their students with simply their names when students do not have their own emails because of age problems. Students are also the intended audience of Weebly education and they can create their own pages or portfolios where they upload their assignments or else. As a result, although general public is the intended audience of this tool, specifically educators and students are aimed with Weebly education.

  1. How does it work?

drag-and-dropIn fact, one of the claims of this web-hosting tool is that building a website has never been easier, and it is possible to say that it has a point since it is really easy to create webpages on Weebly. First, you need to sign up, or you can even sign in using your Facebook and Google accounts. Afterwards, you take a URL under weebly.com for free or take your own domain by paying a certain fee. Later on, you can go pro and get some additional features like changing favicons, opening an ecommerce/store site or connecting your own domain. Actually, even for free users, there are so many features like uploading photos, files with the ease of drag-drop; uploading videos, changing themes, appearance, fonts with a full customization of your page. Furthermore, the page you have created will also be tablet or mobile device friendly without an extra effort. You can also check your page stats and do many other things by using Weebly mobile apps.

  1. Further suggestions on how the tool might be used & Limitations

logo_edWeebly seems to be a tool, which makes your job really easy by several practical and convenient features. You can do many things based on your aims, or creativity when you can easily create a page/blog or class of your own online. The things you can do with your own page and blog are clear and will not be elaborated further. However, as teacher, when you use Weebly education, it serves like a course management system as well. It is also an option that you can set your students free and create their own pages, but Weebly education gives an instructor full control by assigning pages to each student, or group of students and you can easily keep track of their progress on the same page. Blogs are strongly recommended for educational purposes, and I really like using them in my class as a student diary since it makes students confident since they are able to share their ideas with public.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 9.00.08 PMYou can do the same thing with Weebly education where a maximum of 40 students can enroll in your class for free, and you can keep track of their progress, view their pages and give feedback. Students create different pages on their own site, and submit their work and assignment create portfolios so that you can easily check and grade them. In fact, for hands-on projects and activities, guiding students to create some work online since they are already motivated for it; they actually like showing off their work; check productions of each other and give peer feedback; complete their assignment and access to them whenever they want and so many other benefits. Therefore, Weebly, especially Weebly education could be really useful both for teachers and students especially in language learning classes where students mostly enjoy doing projects on different topics such as travel, business, entrepreneurship, music, art and so on.


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The time has come to officially announce my website!

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There must be hundreds of thousands, and even millions of websites there on the Internet. Now it is time to introduce another one!

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The question is why?, why to struggle to add another page among all others. In fact, the answer is simple. It is ‘mine’! If there are potential people who are thinking of creating their own websites or who already struggled to create theirs, they are sure to understand this feeling: ‘It is gonna be ‘yours”. A webpage could be a good resource and actually a tool to build an effective portrayal of self based on your target audience. Today, every webpage, especially the ones like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or else behave like a community in itself and they bear certain connotations with them. However, your own page which you host somewhere could be an effective display of the self. With this in mind, and thanks to my great enthusiasm to learn this new language, I started my page a few months ago.

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If you want to create a webpage, you can simply choose hosts and webpage design tools like weebly.com, wordpress.com and others. However, I chose the difficult way and I started designing it from scratch dealing with every bits and pieces like codes. For this to be done, I used a simple but nice MAC/PC app ‘seamonkey’ to design pages at the beginning, ‘textwrangler’ to edit codes, ‘fetch’ for MAC’ and ‘winscp’ for PC to publish your pages. Consequently, I am really happy with what has come out of it so far and I wanted to share it with the people who care, the people who are interested in teaching language through technology or accessing resources online. In fact I do not want to elaborate on the website for long since it takes time to read and the website itself is still in progress and there will be more content added in the future; so you can simply click on one of the links on this page and pay a visit there. As you can find information about me, you can also access to the teaching resources or links I shared there. What is remarkable about the website is that it adjusts its resolution and look according to the device you are visiting with such as your phone, tablet, or computer. If you have a chance, you can visit in both ways and I appreciate your comments. Your comments and feedback are always welcome and I will be happy to hear from you about my website.

Here we go!Screen Shot 2013-11-23 at 12.50.59 AM

Social Networking Sites: A Modern Hypocrisy or A Simple Portrayal of Real-self

Below is an interesting piece of writing in which I have mainly written about social networking sites/communities and identity construction. Well, it is at least interesting for me since I am actually laying myself on table and discussing my own online identity in detail as objectively as an individual can do when writing about oneself. I am not sure how far you can possibly go and read, and whether you will enjoy reading it, but I could say that I enjoyed writing such a piece of paper since it makes me feel that I am both the subject and the researcher. I might also suggest you to try doing such a thing and see what happens. You may end up somewhere up there where you may feel a total stranger to your real-self or online identity; or you may also realize how integrated these identities could be. If you do so, and share your comments here, I will be really pleased to publish and read them.

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The role of language in the formation and expression of identity is necessarily huge since people express themselves and communicate their ideas through words and sentences, namely language. In the past, the discussion used to be concentrated on language use through words, gestures in terms of various receptive or productive skills. Still, regarding language use, similar things are being discussed by many; however, there have been really radical changes, especially in terms of media through which message is conveyed or the environment where they are transmitted. Therefore, the importance of language still remains intact, but identity and the platform where it is being constructed have gone through significant changes. As a matter of fact, just as language is used to express face-to-face self, it is also used in online social networks to a considerable extent. An individual’s face-to-face self did not use to endow one with unlimited opportunities to wear or build various identities and does not still do so today, but thanks to today’s online opportunities particularly on social networking environments, one can present him/herself in a number of dissimilar ways. As a result of all this discussion and current radical changes, within this paper, I will briefly focus on firstly the close relationship between identity and language use with a reference to its short historical progress, and then explain how my language use in online social networks has shaped or is shaping my identity. Finally, by giving examples from my case, I will also touch upon how one’s online identity gets closer to his/her real identity as a result of an intense integration of online world to our real life.

To begin with, technology has made a dramatic transformation on concepts like language use, literacy and identity. Today, a great amount of language learning process takes place through new media and learners are exposed to language input especially on online social networking communities. As they are doing all these activities as part of their personal interests or professional status, they are also guided by educators to benefit from or directly use those tools like Facebook, Twitter and etc. for academic purposes. Therefore, as also quoted by Blattner and Fiori (2011), Downes explains that being ‘literate’ traditionally meant to be able to read and write; however in modern society that definition has expanded. Our reliance on technological means of communication and especially Web 2.0 tools has dramatically impacted the way individuals interact and socialize with one another. In fact, as also discussed in Mills’ (2011) article, in addition to the cultivation of motivation and engagement, some suggest that the development of online profiles within social networks has a direct influence on the reinforcement of an individual’s identity since identity is co-constructed by both language use and socialization. Slater further suggests that the expression of online identity is performative and that you essentially ‘become what you type’ (Mills, 2011). As a matter of fact, this claim seems really far-fetched to me since online identity is just a part of one’s personal self, and people not only type but also speak their ideas or express them in many different ways. Moreover, the gap between the online worlds and real world gets less and less as individuals integrate technology and online communities into their face-to-face life. In fact, this issue is going to be discussed more at the final section of this paper, but what is commonly accepted by many is that people build their identities in a different way on online networking communities through the language they use when compared to their face-to-face self in real life. As a result, identity characterized as a very broad concept and shaped by many instruments is also constructed through the language we use. Since a considerable amount of language used today seems to be happening within online social communities, they might give a big clue about one’s sense of self and identity. Therefore, in the next section of this paper, I will reflect on the connection of my online identity and language use.

As for my online identity, it seems that it is mainly divided into two categories. On one hand, there is my identity within social networking communities like Facebook and Twitter, although I do occasionally use the latter. These two, especially me on Facebook, currently do not differ a lot from my face-to-face self in real life, the reason of which will be generalized and discussed later in this paper. On the other hand, I have my own website and blog which have been created recently, and which do not reveal a lot in terms of my real self and communicate my academic identity more. To start with my personal website (u.arizona.edu/~mpolat), one might only have some limited idea about my real self through some pictures and images, but regarding the overall concept and the language I am using there portrays me as a person who is highly academic. The language is totally in English and there is nothing in Turkish although the latter is my native language. Personally, I mostly use Turkish in my everyday life with my family and friends except for the ones who do not know Turkish, but my identity which has been constructed on this website seems to be really different since the target audience aimed there is my colleagues, employers and professors who are in the same field as me and a considerable number of whom do not speak Turkish. Afterwards, regarding my blog (imustafapolat.wordpress.com) where I am posting recently seems not much different from my website since the target audience is almost the same. However, regarding my academic tone, and register, it seems that I have made my identity just a little less academic (except for one post about ‘blended learning) and more intimate since blog-writing mostly requires such a language use in order not to bore the reader with a highly academic tone. To briefly refer to my twitter account (twitter.com/muspol), there is not much data to reflect on my identity there since I mostly use this tool to keep up-to-date with very recent news (like news about traffic) through its ‘discover’ tool. However, referring to my specific tweets, it seems that they were mostly in English at the beginning, which is interesting since all my followers were Turkish at the time, and later on, tweets are sent in both languages, but mostly in Turkish although there are followers who do not speak Turkish. Regarding the tone and register of the tweets, it seems that they have been written in a way as if I am talking to someone specific such as a politician, an authority figure or a TV channel although the intended audience are mostly my friends and family. As a result, as for my identity on Twitter, it seems that there is no identity built completely by taking all my tweets into consideration. Finally, as Reinhardt and Zander (2011) state, four hundred million people (the number is over even 1 billon regarding the current updates on social networking websites), approximately 6% percent of the planet, are active users of Facebook, the most popular of social-networking sites (SNSs). The average user spends more than an hour on the site, which is more than most of the activities done through an ordinary day. These numbers make Facebook a very effective ground for the members to portray their own identities. In order to do so, there are so many instruments like posting images, videos, sharing music, messaging, calling people and etc., almost all of which require people to use language. As for my Facebook account (facebook.com/summacumlaude), it seems that it is a little interesting and it portrays my online identity in a way which is more similar to my real face-to-face self compared with other online environments such as my personal webpage and blog which have a highly academic tone and not much information about my everyday life. To start with the differences, one interesting difference is again posting things in English especially when I first signed up for Facebook just like I used to do on Twitter, and the most probable reason for this is that Facebook used to be in English, not in Turkish in my country and there were only few contacts who can also speak English at that time. After family members and close friends or contacts were added as contacts, it seems that this difference has become less obvious. Moreover, as quoted in Mills (2011), consistent with Slater’s (2002) suggestion that you become what you type but just because of the tools in use on Facebook, it seems that my online identity is a kind of person who can express feelings instantly and on spot such as anger, happiness, and etc. by specifying even the relevant names although it is not the case in my real life most of the time. What’s more, regarding how I express myself, multimodality plays a very key role within social networking communities like Facebook. To illustrate, I often post pictures, sometimes videos, rarely songs on Facebook; however, it is not the case regarding face-to-face self that I show people pictures, share videos and songs with them. Therefore, at this point one becomes a kind of person within the limit of the opportunities and tools offered on a specific platform. Another difference between my online identity on Facebook and my real self is that the language I use on Facebook especially regarding instant messages which could be regarded as similar to spoken language in real life is a production of careful consideration although it is not the case in real spoken language. One important reason for this is that you have a chance to revise what you have written and correct your mistakes in spite of its being instant, but you cannot have this opportunity while speaking in real life. Hence, my online identity might be being reflected differently since it is not instant in real sense. One final difference which might also currently go under similarities is that, especially when I am posting on Facebook, my target audience is all the people in my contact list, so I have always this feeling that I have to pay attention not to bother anyone or argue with people and I try to avoid conflicts since a big part of communication is composed of face-to-face contact and body language. However, when I am talking to someone in real life, my target audience is not too large to think about what I am going to say twice, three times or more, and this necessarily causes a lot of differences in terms of language use. In fact, as it has been just mentioned, regarding the final difference stated above, the gap between my face-to-face self and online identity gets less and less evident, and I certainly believe that it is also the case for many except for the ones who have created false accounts. In the final section of this paper, then, I will discuss this situation and how it has become so.

Today, it is really apparent that technology is intertwined into our lives and rather than a world separated from the real world itself, it is as if it completes one’s face-to-face self. In other words, except for the false accounts especially on Facebook and similar social networking communities, people have similar contacts and they are creating a sort of timeline of their real life. As a result, with only some exceptions like easily joining various groups, people have similar identities both within online communities and their real life. To illustrate, regarding my own Facebook identity, it is not like I have different face-to-face self and considerably different online identity since I have the same contacts I have in my real life and I am always aware of the fact that I will seek those people’s company when I switch to real life. Therefore, it cannot be said that online identity of one is considerably different from his/her real self because the former is so intertwined into the latter that most people are aware of the fact that any possible clash between these two might cause some conflicts in their lives.

All in all, language and identity are closely linked to each other both in one’s face-to-face life and within online communities. In the past, prior to the advent of technology, identity used be constructed in a different way; however, today our identity is shaped in different ways as a result of online communities and multimodality. Depending on one’s purpose in these online communities and their target audience, individuals construct their identities differently as a result their communicative activities such as posting images, sending messages, sharing things, and etc. Personally, it seems that I have been constructing a different identity regarding my webpage and blog with strong focus on my academic self. However, as a result of a strong integration between my online identity on Facebook and face-to-face self, I cannot claim that it differs to a great extent from my face-to-face self as, I believe, it is also the case for most people using technology today,

References

Blattner, G, and M Fiori. (2011). “Virtual social network communities: An investigation of language learners’ development of sociopragmatic awareness and multiliteracy skills.” CALICO journal 29(1): 24–43. http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&btnG=Search&q=intitle:Virtual+Social+Network+Communities+:+An+Investigation+of+Language+Learners+’+Development+of+Sociopragmatic+Awareness+and+Multiliteracy+Skills#0 (October 18, 2013).

Mills, NA. (2011). “Situated learning through social networking communities: The development of joint enterprise, mutual engagement, and a shared repertoire.” … Theories, Technologies, and Language Learning ( … 28(2): 1–24. http://works.bepress.com/nicole_mills/33/ (October 18, 2013).

Reinhardt, J, and V Zander. (2011). “Social networking in an intensive English program classroom: A Language Socialization Perspective.” Calico Journal. http://www.u.arizona.edu/~jonrein/pubs/reinhardt_zander_2011_short.pdf (October 18, 2013).