Friday, November 03, 2006
  Weeks 12 and 13 reflections (last!!!)

The article by LeLoup and Ponterio (2006) provides an overview of the ‘most useful’ Internet sites. The overview was compelled as a result of the Foreign Language Teaching [online] Forum – the project for foreign language (FL) teachers where they had to nominate and describe the most FL useful websites.

There are many websites mentioned in the article. Here are some of them.
1) Google search engine site. It is suggested that not many FL teachers pay attention to ‘advanced search’ [on the write hand-side of the main search box – NZ], which provides students/teachers with different information on any language. It can be used as a quick L2 to L1 dictionary or thesaurus to verify the word, cultural item, grammatical structures etc.
2) FL and special needs website. It’s an online bibliography of 1400 references on modern foreign languages and special educational needs. For instance, if someone is interested in teaching English literacy in year 7, they can go to this site, click on ‘basic skills in subject’, then choose 'English' and look through the references.
3) If someone is interested in ESL teaching in the United States, there is a Developing educational standards website. It is all about American FL standards as well as standards for LOTE.
4) The Quia website provides activities/quizzes templates for on-line activities [something like our HP, but there is a yearly-fee charge involved – NZ].

Thursday, November 02, 2006
  My respond to Nilly's and Yvonn's comments

My respond to Nilly’s and Yvonne’s comments.

Thank you, guys, for your very prompt and kind comments. I start with positive reflections.

I think that Website creation was one of the best experiences through the whole course. The reason is that I had more experience from the WebQuest creation and was a bit more relaxed. As a result, I had more time to concentrate on creative and educational parts of the site. I was remembering my Russian students and building my site according to their interests, abilities and ELP level. My students were very flexible, open and ready to experiment. They also could appreciate a good joke so there was an Ozzie slang activity + American vs. British English Quiz activity.

I didn’t nominate the age of my students on the front page of my site. [The reason is that I didn’t want to bound other teachers/students. If they feel that the site is suitable for them so let it be]. Yvonne guessed correctly – the site is for adults with advanced ELP level. The time limit is chosen according to my students’ abilities. It’s variable, and another teacher is most welcome to change it. In fact, teachers can change anything on the site. Remember, that I constructed it strictly for my audience. I think that Yvonne asked why not to make activities more colourful. You are welcome to do it Yvonne. :-) I didn’t because I think the moderate background is very good for a complex and complicated test/activity. It doesn’t distract. There is a bright and ‘speaking’ picture on the top, which prepares students for each activity. Besides, there are a lot of colours on the home page. I thought a bit of calmative contrast would be nice.

The other remark from Yvonne was that she would like to see hints on the same page as activities (so students don’t have to go to the mane page). That’s the idea! That’s advanced ELP level! I wanted them to go through the Useful links first and then start activities. My students were very lazy (in a good way) – they would rely on their memory and would use the main page again only as a last resort.

Nilly was very kind to me. [Thank you!] She found some proofreading mistakes [I gave it to a NS!!! He corrected some minor things and told me it was fine!] Nilly also suggested me to expand Rhyming activity from 1 question to some more. Nilly, for the record – there are 7 of them. You just need to click on ‘show all questions’ on the left-hand side of the page. ;-) I was very pleased that Nilly noticed my effort with Russian equivalents of English muffins and biscuits (question 3 of American vs. British English Quiz activity). I knew that cookery was not one of the strongest sides of my students so I thought they would appreciate some help. ;-)

Overall, I attempted to create a fun, interesting, entertaining and educational website. Since it was created as a final activity for the whole topic [International English], I thought that entertainment side would be appropriate on the main page with a bit of education on activities pages. Since there is not much authenticity in Russian schools [not enough authentic literature + communication with NSs of English], I incorporated as much authentic websites as appropriate for a 90-minutes workshop [which is all about reading - so I didn't want them to feel overloaded].

Saturday, October 28, 2006
  Brief info on my website

Do they speak English?’ website was developed as a part of the 1st year curriculum of the faculty of Foreign Affairs (FFA) of Mari State University in Russia.

It is designed as a final activity for two core FFA subjects: History of English language and Practical English: reading and writing with the emphasis on reading.

My website is focused on a small group (12-14 learners) of students. All the students are 17-18 years old females, specializing in Linguistics and Translation and learning English as a foreign language. All of them have the advanced level of English language proficiency.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006
  Weeks 10 and 11 reflections

An article by Kenworthy (2004) discusses the problem of positive influence of Internet on improving academic writing skills in EFL context. The article is build around compare/contrast essay writing activity based on information found on the Web. The author claims that Internet provides teachers not only with information but offers different ways of approaching and using it [writing an essay based on Web information – NZ]. He signalises that Internet:

*provides authentic readable texts;
*addresses variety of topics;
*involves all types of audiences;
*offers different forms of texts (newspapers, magazines, dictionaries, books etc.);
*available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week throughout the world.

He also provides research data suggesting that Internet:

1) contains ‘real language in meaningful context’ (Warschaur and Haly 1998);
2) helps learners to be creators rather than ‘passive recipients’ (Brown 1991);

3) promotes learner autonomy (Graus 1999);

4) boosts interest in foreign language and culture (Osuna and Meskill 1998);

5) forms positive attitude towards EFL/ESL learning process (Kern 19950).

In terms of academic writing, Kenworthy’s objective is that learners in collaboration with a small group of classmates plan, negotiate, research and share Web information in order to write a compare/contrast essay. He suggests that teachers provide different websites along with familiar search engines (Google and Yahoo) so students have more choice to search for relevant information. He also says that learners should be reminded to take brief notes in their drafts and use citations as Internet is ‘fluid’ and sometimes it is impossible to revisit a particular site (one of the limitations of Internet).

The author also remarks benefits of such collaborative activity:
1) intensive interaction between learners;
2) reduction of teacher-centred instruction;
3) development of syntactical competence;
4) learners are resources and experts for each other;
5) development of high motivation towards goal achievement.

Sunday, October 08, 2006
  Weeks 8 and 9 reflections

An article by AlKahtani (1999) is focused on the problem of using computers in teaching ESL reading. The author gives brief historical overview on the topic together with research reviews on computers and ESL reading. He also provides evaluation of 3 softwares which can be used for ESL reading: Mac Reader, Story Board and Reading Galaxy. AlKahtani points that first two softwares are lacking design effects. Reading Galaxy, on the other hand, is filled with sounds, music and colours which help better interaction with the program. The main purpose of this software is to develop learners’ comprehension skills. The author also suggests that it can be used for listening comprehension (e.g., learners listen to a passage read by computer and answer questions asked by computer). Reading Galaxy software can be used as pre-reading, reading or post-reading activity. It helps students with:

  • Reading comprehension (e.g., multiple choice questions);
  • Building vocabulary (e.g., decoding secret phrases);
  • Reading for details (e.g., reading claims and going to the text for answers);
  • Appreciation of plot, characters and settings of a book (e.g., answering questions about character);
  • Logical thinking (e.g., figuring what’s wrong with the picture);
  • Etc.

Depending on learning situation/environment, students’/teachers’ preferences, Reading Galaxy can be used in a computer lab or in a classroom with single computer connected to LCD panel.

The author also points out the limitation of the program – it is impossible for teachers to change or modify this software.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006
  Weeks 6 and 7 reflections

It is always a pleasure to learn about progress and promotion of computer technology and its availability in places where only 5 years ago it was an unattainable novelty accessible only to selected people. Russian province was one of those places. Fortunately, the situation is changing and CALL is becoming one of the main teachers’ tools in EFL teaching process in Russia. An article by Bovtenko (2006) proves it by discussing a problem of free Web-based softwares adaptation for specific teachers’ and learners’ needs in particular teaching/learning situations. The author introduces Internet–based software classification concepts, explains how they work and gives numerous examples for teachers to look at/choose from. For example, she mentions so called Virtual Class Fellowship, type of Intranet [same as our QUT Virtual and OLT pages – NZ], where students can safely [it’s usually closed and inaccessible to others – NZ] communicate with each other and a teacher on-line (in real time or conventionally). The author refers to NiceNet as an example and gives some practical guidance of how to use it. For instance, a teacher can register one or more units and put there:
List of students
Assessment tasks requirements
Time-table and dead-lines
Reading materials for a unit/units
Additional information
Academic calendar, etc.
Students are given an access code and allowed to use all materials, make comments, post their projects, initiate discussions etc.
The author also mentions that this type of activity is very valuable as it gives students an opportunity of real communication in L2.

The article may sound not very exciting to western audience, but it’s a real break-through for Russian teachers as there are not many articles in Russian language on the subject. We need to keep in mind that unfortunately not all Russian teachers speak English (I am talking about teachers of Russian language and literature, teachers of Mari, Tatar or Chuvash languages and literature, who could also benefit from reading this type of article) which limits their access to articles on CALL and its usage in the classroom.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006
  Week 5 reflections

The article by Solovov (2000), Candidate of technical sciences and Professor Assistant, proves that CALL has become a key factor in teaching process in Russia. In the article he discusses the problem of CALL and distance learning (DL). He suggests that CALL needs not only computers and computer programs but strong educational base, strong and elaborate DL curriculum. He points out that this curriculum should be created as a complex program for all the stages of a course [for instance, 5-year Bachelor of Arts in History etc. - NZ]. The author states that curriculum should contain: 1) powerful theoretical base (for example, textbooks, electronic articles, magazines and lectures); 2) elaborative materials on monitoring of student’s progress (for instance, Internet tests and trainings); 3) materials on practical skills development (‘Web trainers’, Internet workshops etc.); 4) ‘curriculum package’ for essays, term papers and thesis.

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