A RANDOM WALK ALONG THE INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY Part II
KENNETH J. DICKSON
This article, the second in a planned three-part series that began with last year’s general introduction to the Internet as a resource for language educators, focuses on the basic Internet knowledge that students need to know in order to take full advantage of this ever-growing technology as a tool for language learning. Included in this writing is an overview of the various aspects students need to be aware of as "Netizens," an outline of the qualities of a good ESL website, and basic examples of all the major areas of web-based language learning from a student’s point of view. This article offers readers guidance on how to deal with some of the difficult Internet-related issues that may arise, and helps them attain the skills necessary to access and recommend suitable websites for students. For instructors, the ability to appreciate the purpose and design of websites is a first and necessary step along the way to helping students set up their own websites, which is the subject of next year’s final article in this series.
"Unlike the great Athenians, we live in a crowded world of strangers, from which standards of taste have all but disappeared," as Roger Scruton writes at the beginning of his populist An Intelligent Person’s Guide To Philosophy. He goes on to say, "Nothing in this world is fixed: intellectual life is one vast commotion, in which a myriad of voices strive to be heard above the din" (Scruton). And so with these apropos remarks we continue our journey through the Internet.
In the previous article, we explored a range of issues beginning with a simple description of the most common Internet resources: Email, Usenet and World Wide Web; we then looked at the aspects and issues that make the Internet unique as an environment for learning, as well as some of the inevitable problems that such an environment brings; lastly, readers were encouraged to explore by themselves the different avenues and resources available for TESOL teachers on the Internet, search engines and directories, and some of the general resources also available to Netizens.
In this article, I will discuss issues of relevance to ESL teachers considering using the Internet with their students, either in the multimedia laboratory or at home. We will highlight some aspects that students will need to know, outline the qualities of a good ESL website, and provide specific examples covering all the major areas of language learning from a student’s viewpoint that are likely to arise. After reading this article, it is hoped that readers will be able to help students out with problems, assess critically, and recommend confidently suitable websites for their own students.
In addition, by beginning to appreciate the purpose and design of websites, readers are being prepared for the task of setting up their own webpages. First, however, we need to make sure that our students’ computer skills are appropriate for the tasks we are setting them.
Students’ Knowledge (or Lack of) About Computers and the Internet
Many young people display a level of confidence in using computers that we can only marvel at. Technology is as familiar to them as the Scrabble or Lego was to us. And yet, even today there are many students who do not have a computer at home or at school. Even where computers are available, students may not have equal or adequate access to these resources. It is our responsibility to ensure that our students are well-versed with a number of issues before we begin to use the Internet for teaching English: Computer Competence; Navigation Skills; Search Skills; and Security Issues.
Students need to be familiar with the actual computer and the operation of each part in order to get any benefit at all from using the Internet. So if you are planning to use the Internet with your students, you need to make sure that they are comfortable with the different aspects of the computer system and networks that this will entail. This falls into three basic categories: computer operation skills; keyboard and mouse skills; and software operation skills.
First of all, students need to know how to turn on and off the computer system and any necessary peripherals that need to be used, such as the modem, speakers, and monitor. They may also need to know how to use the floppy disk and printer, depending on the particular assignment or task that you have given them.
Secondly, students need to have understood and be able to practice a range of basic skills. First, they need to have learned how to operate a keyboard, using the Roman alphabet. So this presumes a basic knowledge of English to start with. Even where students have some level of typing skills, it will still profit students if they can type at a reasonable speed, for example, in Chat applications such as ICQ. Software exists that can instruct students in these basic skills. Mavis Beacon’s "Typing Tutor" is a well-known software program that can teach students typing and help them improve their keyboard speed and accuracy. In addition to keyboard competency skills, operation of a mouse is essential. Students need to be familiar with clicking, double-clicking, selecting, dragging, and right-clicking (for the two-button mouse) to produce the context-sensitive menus.
Lastly, they need to be able to use Windows 95 or 98 (or indeed whatever system is used) to some degree. Basic competence should include: knowing how to deal with system issues such as crashes, rebooting, turning on and shutting down the system; starting and closing programs, such as Internet Explorer or one of the many email packages; and having some degree of familiarity with each of the programs, such as the buttons standard on Explorer or Navigator. In addition, knowing how to open a new location via the "File" menu or through the Address bar in both Explorer and Navigator, the "Save As…" function should they want to make a copy of anything they read, and handling bookmarks (or "favorites," as they are known in Explorer) will be very useful to students.
However, email programs tend to be more complicated to operate than browsers, so students will need to be aware of a wider range of skills in order to operate them properly. Perhaps the easiest solution in the early days is to use one of the many web-based email services that are currently available. Yahoo! currently provide both English (http://mail.yahoo.com) and Chinese (http://mail.yahoo.com.tw) email websites which are simple to operate and do not have the obvious complexities of Outlook 2000 or Eudora Pro.
In general, before you begin, one sensible course of action would be to create and administer a mini-survey of students’ competence in these basic skills before attempting to use the Internet with your students. An example can be found in Appendix B. When you assess the results, you will then need to plan extra resources and time to cover these basics.
Assuming a basic level of competence, another suggested approach would involve incorporating some of the more advanced points, such as searching, into the lesson plan as a way to present the aspects of Internet navigation along with the content.
In addition to basic competence with operating the browser, students will need to be familiar with the essential concepts of navigating using the browser software. These concepts include: hyperlinking, navigation, and forms.
Hyperlinking is one of the fundamental concepts behind the World Wide Web, providing a huge interconnection, or "web," of documents allowing users to jump from one page to another, one website to another, and even one server to another somewhere else in the world. These hyperlinks take several forms: text form, picture form or picture-within-picture form. The text form is usually a highlighted and/or underlined word or group of words which may be found anywhere on a page. The picture, hypergraphic, or picture-within-picture, hotspot, are the graphic equivalents of the hypertext link. These serve the same purpose. The address of any hyperlink can be found in the status bar at the bottom left of the browser window.
One of the typical functions of the hyperlink is the navigation bar which allows you to move around a particular site. These navigation tools can also be represented as graphic links. This menu of pages should enable users to navigate the site with ease and return to the home page from anywhere inside the site and are usually located on the top left of the website, though in theory can be anywhere on the webpage. Students should get plenty of practice just exploring these navigation bars on each website.
Forms are a very important aspect of the World Wide Web. Once students begin navigating the web, they are going to come across a variety of forms when registering for a password for email or seeking access to a restricted site.
Message boards, response forms, and web-based email all use forms in some way. So, when students first come across a form, such as registering for email, this will provide an opportune time to guide them through the basics: the tab key, submit and reset buttons, radio buttons, drop-down lists, and scrolling text boxes.
In addition to those basic issues, students will also need to be adept at finding information on the Internet. These three issues provide a basic checklist of typical functions that your students will need to know.
Once students have grasped the basics of navigation, they will need to become more familiar with other ways of finding information on the Internet. There are four basic ways which can help students with finding the information that students are looking for: Directories; Search Engines; Subject-Oriented Sites; and Lists of Links.
The most popular directory nowadays is Yahoo! (http://www.yahoo.com), which is quite easy to use. A manually compiled directory organized hierarchically, this is perhaps the best place for students to start. Any search will provide both relevant categories and sites within a particular category. When clicking on a category fails to produce useful results, users can simply click on a category higher up the directory.
Once students are familiar with simple searches, they may try another search engine, Ask Jeeves (http://www.askjeeves.com), which uses natural language queries making it much simpler to operate and get useful answers. Results are usually provided in two sections: answers to known questions and a limited set of results from a small group of other sites. Where more than one answer exists, a drop-down box provides alternatives to select from.
One of the better search engines nowadays is Google (http://www.google.com). It is a more formal search engine, but it is quite fast and results contain a link to a cache of the page (making slower sites available easily). In the event that a query produces too many potential results, simply adding a word to the end of the original query serves to limit the search even more.
Yet another way to navigate around the internet is via subject-oriented searching. This seems to have decreased in favor in the recent years, probably because of the huge amount of information now being made available. Perhaps the oldest subject oriented search is the WWW Virtual Library (http://www.vlib.org) which may still be a useful starting place for any information-related query. The oldest encyclopedia in the world, Encyclopedia Britannica, also went online in 1999 at http://www.britannica.com and was an instant success with its interesting combination of articles, websites, and magazines all located in one place, though overall it seems to be somewhat slower to access.
It is important to note that most websites have a list of related links to other pages. This may be a very handy shortcut to finding new and useful websites on a related subject. However, the quality of these links suffers a number of problems: dead links; links which have been moved; pages that have been deleted since list compilation; and links to sites of questionable authenticity. Better-managed sites will have adopted some means to deal with some of these problems. But many seldom-updated websites will not have properly dealt with these problems.
However, there are also a number of websites that simply collect, organize, and maintain ESL learner links, providing plenty for the even most motivated students to do for quite some time. These can be found later in this article.
Taken together, these four methods will help students to find information and relevant websites quickly and effectively. Preparing a lesson practicing the skill of searching on the Internet for specific items would be a very practical suggestion for students. There also exist a variety of Internet Treasure Hunts which are a useful way to familiarize students with some of what the World Wide Web has to offer.
Security Issues – Passwords, Viruses and Privacy
There have been many stories raising security concerns and issues in the media in recent months. Since real damage, both financial and material, can result from these issues, it is wise to be aware of the issues as they affect ESL students so that any problems can be dealt with effectively and quickly. Basic security issues that ESL students should be aware of include password security, virus protection, and privacy issues.
Among the first security issues that new users will be faced with is "user ID" and "password." Students will need to be encouraged to take reasonable precautions to make sure that passwords are not lost, forgotten, or stolen. Network access passwords may not be so easily retrieved once forgotten and may require verification of the user’s identity.
Many websites, on the other hand, do make provisions for lost or forgotten passwords, but it is not always convenient for students to use these services as some form of email verification is usually used. In addition to these obvious points, though, students should not be allowed to share, publicize, email, or otherwise allow their passwords to become known to others.
One typical hoax involves unsuspecting email recipients being asked to send their user ID and passwords by people claiming to be their ISP, Network Administrator, or Website Administrator. It is important to note that no representative will ever under any circumstances ask a user to reveal their password as their company already maintains a database of such information.
There are other sensible precautions that teachers should advise their students to adopt in order to help prevent passwords being guessed or cracked by special software programs, including:
- 1. never write down passwords;
- 2. never use words that can be found in a dictionary;
- 3. combine upper-lowercase letters, numbers and other permitted symbols;
- 4. never reveal password(s) to anybody.
Individual websites may also have particular requirements with regards to passwords not otherwise mentioned here. Because of the ubiquity of passwords on the Internet, from access and email to personalized websites and ICQ, sensible use of passwords will prevent many of the potential problems.
The CNN website recently revealed a new virus threat with the headlines "Melting Worm Slithers Into the Wild" (Ohlson). Names such as Melissa, Chernobyl Virus, and Happy99.exe are all becoming increasingly familiar to readers. A survey by International Computer Security Associates, reported on IDG.net, found that more than 50 percent of viruses were contracted via email, and computer downloads recorded about 16 percent of cases (Harrison). Since viruses do real damage, and email is the primary route of infection, both teacher and student should take a number of basic precautions to prevent viruses having a significant impact on the systems and data.
The most basic step is to make a back up copy of all the data within a particular system and/or a complete back up of the actual hard drive. In the event that a virus causes damage to the system, once the system is clean, the data can be restored quite quickly and efficiently. This habit should be encouraged among your students as it will prevent a major loss of work and data.
At the very least, students should be encouraged to keep recent copies of their most important files and data on removable media, such as floppy disks, optical media, or even via the Internet at one of the sites with storage ability, such as Yahoo! Briefcase (http://briefcase.yahoo.com) or i-Drive (http://www.idrive.com).
Computer users can also take advantage of software designed to identify and remove viruses. Readily available on the market, these products can be easily installed. There are many such options, but two of the most popular are "McAfee VirusScan 5.0" and "Norton Anti-Virus 2000."
In addition to installation, the software must be set up and used on a regular and frequent basis to reduce risk of viral infection. Both "McAfee" and "Norton" maintain websites that offer to update the virus definitions that can be detected. Because new viruses appear often, users should be encouraged to update their virus definition lists at regular intervals. Such actions as installing, using and updating anti-virus software will help prevent most of the common problems associated with viruses.
With many viral variants occurring, it is still possible for a system to become infected with a virus, especially the newest viruses. With the ability to create and send out attachments easily, students easily overlook the danger that such attachments can cause if they are not treated properly. Several kinds of attachments can contain viruses, such as "*.exe files" or "macro-viruses," and are the primary cause of most viral infections. Proper handling is essential.
Some steps can be taken to prevent infections:
1.) If you receive a suspicious executable file (usually ending in *.exe) in an attachment, e.g. "Happy99.exe," do not under any circumstances execute it, unless you are sure that it is safe. Run the anti-virus software or delete the offending email.
2.) Macro viruses are harder to deal with because they can be hidden within a document. Run the anti-virus software. Delete any email from an unknown or questionable source.
3.) In more difficult situations, insist that all email attachments are in generic formats, such as "*.rtf," "*.wri," or "*.txt." This will play havoc with the formatting of complex documents, but it should result in more secure documents.
4.) In the most severe situations, set up your email to either not receive or automatically delete all emails with attachments.
5.) Using web-based email services does cut the risk of infection on your system by placing an effective barrier between your computer and the infected email, though it does not necessarily help find out which files are infected and which are not.
These steps are recommended to help students avoid some of the dangers associated with viruses and macro-viruses, but the most important point to learn is to be aware and to be cautious of the dangers associated with virus infections. Disasters do happen, but most of them are preventable.
With many websites collecting and reselling information that users supply, privacy issues have recently taken on a new dimension with recent revelations about Internet industry practices, and ongoing investigations into some of the largest players, like "Doubleclick." However, with these issues still unresolved, all users must develop a sense of awareness about privacy issues on the Internet in order to protect themselves from potential abuse. ESL students should also be given this same consideration.
A recent report by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an Internet privacy forum, highlighted 12 prudent ways that online users could protect themselves from privacy abuse on the Internet. Eight of these issues were immediately relevant for ESL students learning English on the Internet with a minimum level of competence:
Keep a clean email address. Students are liable to join a multitude of mailing lists, websites, and chatrooms, in their initial enthusiasm for the Internet. So maintaining a private email address solely for friends, family, teacher, and other close relationships, as well as an address for use in any forms, mailing lists or password-protected sites, will help prevent unwanted "spam" and reduce the danger of unwittingly receiving a virus.
Never reveal personal details to strangers or new acquaintances. Email penpals, chat environments and MOOs are often used as venues to practice English conversation, but students must understand that caution needs to be exercised insofar as the kind of information revealed to others in these environments.
Realize you may be monitored at work: When using the workplace computer, avoid sending highly personal email to mailing lists and keep sensitive files on the home computer. ESL students, who are not so competent in the use of email, should both exercise restraint in sending outspoken or critical email to lists. They should likewise be cautious about who is being sent personal email. If inappropriately sent, sensitive or personal comments may cause embarrassment, emotional pain, or worse. In situations where students avail themselves of public or shared computers, either in the libraries, computer rooms, Internet cafes or elsewhere, extra caution should be taken to ensure that personal email and passwords are protected.
Sensitive data or files should never be left on such computers, even in the trash file. Retrieving such data is neither difficult nor time-consuming for those with sufficient motivation to pry into others’ lives. Users should empty the browser cache; in addition they should never ask their browser to remember passwords or user ID.
Beware of sites that offer a reward or prize in exchange for information. Students are an easy target for a wide range of promotions, falling prey to offers of free books, CDs, vacation packages, etc. It is important for students to realize these are often gimmicks designed to create marketing targets, at its most benign. At the very worst, students may become easy victims to a wide array of scams that are prevalent on the Internet these days. Scambusters (http://www.scambusters.org) is a good source of information for more details about the various kinds of cybercrime that seem to be growing increasingly common.
Do not reply to spammers, for any reason. Invariably, students will become prey to spammers trying to promote get-rich quick schemes or chain letters as their email address becomes known through poorly policed registration schemes, via mailing lists, usenet groups or the multitude of ways that email addresses are farmed. Students must be aware what constitutes spam and that they do not have to reply, in any way, to any spam that they receive, no matter what it contains.
Be conscious of Web security. In addition to concerns over passwords mentioned earlier, ESL students should be aware that their security and privacy can be compromised in other ways. With the increase of marketing by ESL companies on the Net, shopping on the Internet is becoming a daily occurrence. Students should be encouraged only to shop at reputable dealers and trusted sites, be cautious about who they reveal credit card, bank account, and ID numbers to, and make sure when shopping online that all transactions are taking place via "secured connections." These are denoted by a small lock symbol in the status bar.
Remind students never to send any such information by email, which is unencrypted, or when using a public forum such as a message board or a chat client, or on sites that are unsecured.
Examine privacy policies and seals. Because of the possibility of students’ English levels being quite low, if a TESOL teacher wishes to recommend any site requiring passwords and/or email addresses and/or other sensitive or personal information, she should certainly act in the students’ best interests by determining the nature of information sought and by checking the privacy policies and seals of such a site.
These actions will help determine if the site does respect the rights and privacy of its users. A lack of sufficient English, on the part of the ESL students, to understand such policies should not be an excuse for ignoring these important issues.
Remember that YOU decide what information about yourself to reveal, when, why, and to whom. Often we are intimidated by questionnaires and forms that demand information be given, and students can be easily intimidated by such questionnaires in a foreign language. Despite advances in technology and the desires of marketing companies such as Doubleclick to make advertising more individual, students and teachers still have the right and power to reveal only what information they think is appropriate.
By ensuring that your students have the knowledge necessary for operating the equipment, using the software appropriately, navigating the World Wide Web environment, being able to find information on the Internet, and taking security issues responsibly with regard to passwords, viruses and privacy, you are empowering your students to take advantage of a technology that will influence their lives as well as their learning.
Suggested Criteria for ESL Website Selection
There is much to offer ESL students on the World Wide Web: Dave’s ESL Cafe lists over 3088 different sources while Internet TESL Journal lists over 5400 links in its pages. Both of these sites classify the links into categories for ease of access, but other than that little is provided in the way of evaluation, either theoretically or practically. So how is the TESOL teacher to know which sites are worth recommending or incorporating into classroom work?
Curiously, while there is an abundance of information on website evaluation from a technical point of view and on materials evaluation, there is relatively little information on ESL website evaluation. Despite some overlap with general technical and design issues, ESL website evaluation does demand different and supplementary criteria to evaluate effectively a website and its suitability for your students. So what criteria would constitute a good ESL website? There are four different criteria that should apply to ESL websites:
Content, Design, Accessibility, and Interaction.
Content. The driving force that entices people to use the Internet is not the medium itself, but rather the content. With ESL students, this is no less true. A good ESL website should provide content that is relevant to the site’s stated purpose, motivating to students and, preferably in context (Nelson).
In WWW CyberGuide Ratings for Web Site Design, McLachlan suggests two more criteria that are relevant: Content should be clearly identified and well-organized. Moreover, a good website should be able to accommodate a range of levels, a variety of students (in terms of mother language, age, ability, motivation, etc.), students’ language progression, different aspects of the World Wide Web (whether it be interactivity, communities, pictures, sound, etc.), and lastly a variety of activities (exercises, puzzles, interaction, communication, etc.,) allowing students a range of language opportunities.
Design. The design of a website covers a number of aspects that should be of concern to teachers who are interested in recommending any particular websites for students. When first looking at a website, it should be easy to find the important elements of the website. A good design includes many aspects: appropriate use of graphics/multimedia, sensible choice of colors for background/text, recently updated content, and an overall sense of organization to the website.
Consistency is also important. Users do not mind websites evolving slowly over time, though radical or inconsistent designs may lead to frustration and poor retention of users if they cannot find what they are looking for. In addition, make sure that the site is operable by students of different levels through providing instructions that are comprehensible and simple (Kelly).
Menus should be provided to aid navigation around the website, but the structure of the overall website should be simple enough to keep users from getting lost.
Accessibility. A good website should be easy to access, but this consists of a number of different points all of which bear consideration: download speed, navigation, registration and passwords, extra software, open design, and a stable environment.
A good site should download quickly so students need not wait too long before something appears. In addition, the navigation of a website must be obvious to understand and simple to use. A number of websites also require users to apply for a password and user id which, in many cases, is quite unnecessary and more likely a way to create a mailing list for subsequent spamming: Such a site must be usable at least in part without registration. Most of the time, registration requires a lot of extra effort and time on the part of students and the benefits may be rather limited.
Since many aspects of language teaching on the web use multimedia elements, such as sound, movie clips, or Java, it is important that a website makes clear what, if any, system requirements are necessary to get the most out of the website. Typically, such websites will employ RealPlayer, ICQ, Shockwave effects, Streaming Video/Audio amongst others, each of which requires different software.
Downloading and installing such software will undoubtedly be troublesome for those students who do not have it, are on slower dialup modems, or do not have the ability to install it themselves. Indeed, many computers still run a large variety of Internet browsers so, ideally, a website should try to appeal to as wide a range of users as possible. Again, if there is a limitation on the kind of browsers that can access the site, it should be clearly stated on the front page.
Lastly, but most important, a good website should be stable, both in whole and in part. The World Wide Web is evolving rapidly, this is to be expected, but a good website should take this in its stride by making sure that documents are not moved around, that links are not dead, old documents are properly archived with a search engine provided. The site itself should have a stable server that is usually on. A site that is frequently unavailable will quickly become unvisited.
Interaction. Offered up in a variety of formats on the Internet, interaction can be grouped into three fundamental types: feedback; interactivity; and community.
Feedback on student’s performance of some kind is necessary for students to develop whether it is a score on a grammar or vocabulary exercise, it can take the form of drop-down box, an interpretation of a survey, a suitable sound or graphic, an email to your box, and in more depth an explanation of what went wrong and why.
Interactivity is one of the unique aspects of the World Wide Web. A good ESL website should allow users to interact with it in an easy and natural way, such as permitting searches, creating messages, personalization features, providing adequate linking to the front page and other pages, and so on. In other words, the site must respond in some ways to user input.
Community is very important for a good ESL website. It creates a richer environment of individuals who are willing to return there to communicate with others of similar interests. The benefits of communities are obvious: support, encouragement, advice, sharing, learning, and fun, to name but a few. Most major websites now include some form of message boards, chat clients, conferencing and email lists as a vehicle for creating a community of users.
Without interaction on the World Wide Web, in the forms of feedback, interactivity and community, it would be a dull, static and uninviting medium, whose usefulness would be severely stunted for ESL learners everywhere.
Good Websites for Language Learners
Despite the obvious limitations of trying to catalogue an ever-growing, ever-changing medium, I will set out a select list of 24 of the best websites in the following six categories: Skill Areas; Language Issues; Reference; Communication; Links; and Internet.
Randall’s ESL Listening Lab
This well-designed website has an extensive selection of listening exercises covering a wide range of levels, from beginner up to advanced, and for special purposes. For each exercise, there is an interactive comprehension page, transcripts, pre-listening questions, post-listening discussion boards, chat center, as well as help and tips on potential problems for teachers.
Improving Your Speaking Skills S1 and S2
Despite the relative paucity of speaking related websites on the Internet, these two pages, offered by the Language Center of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, provide real and practical advice for students written in straightforward English. Chinese University of Hong Kong also offers advice at: http://www.cuhk.edu.hk/eltu/ELH/doc4.html.
E. L. Easton
Accessing almost every website involves reading so it is difficult to recommend any particular kind of reading on the Internet. Taking into consideration the needs of your students will help you to find the exact reading matter suitable for your students. There are links here to a range of reading activities for all ESL students from children to adults.
Purdue Online Writing Lab
This is an excellent website covering a wide range of writing issues for students and teachers. Included are well-written handouts covering an array issues from basics to advanced. There is also a section with extensive links. Interactivity is poor, however.
Guide To Writing And Grammar
This online grammar resource is extremely useful, though directed towards composition. It includes similar resources to Purdue’s, but also has quizzes, a question page with an extensive "faq" file, links and resources, and more.
ESL Idiom Page
Rather a simple little page that presents an idiom with a meaning and a sample sentence. For users who want another, they just click on the button on the bottom left. This low-powered interactive system allows students to decide how much they want to learn.
E.L. Easton – American English Pronunciation
This site is an interesting and very detailed aid for teaching pronunciation, with clear explanations and exercises. Audio segments and interactive quizzes check both sounds and theory. The exercises start off with basics and encompass some quite difficult aspects, such as word stress, contractions, and reduced forms. You can also find songs, poems, and links to other websites. Ideally students should know the IPA phonetic transcription system in order to take full advantage of this website.
Common American Slang
This site has three interesting and easy options for navigation: random, alphabetical and complete listing. Each item contains a word, a meaning and an example sentence. However, interactivity is seriously limited. A visit to Common American Slang at http://www.aitech.ac.jp/~itesls/slang/ may make up for some of the missing elements.
This website has an interesting selection of idioms related to animals, food, relationships and the body. Some attempt has been made to present them interactively providing scores and feedback to some degree.
The Idiom Connection
This website has over 1000 idioms in its collection. However, interactivity is limited to pointing and clicking, so perhaps students will quickly tire of this website for anything other than a reference site. There are quizzes, but feedback is limited.
Word Play: Sites That Feature Fun Words
This is a huge collection of word-related resources. Perhaps not ideal for students, but certainly worth mentioning. Some discretion would therefore be advised.
This website follows the format of the other sections on Idioms and Slang. There is an interactive quiz at http://www.aitech.ac.jp/~iteslj/quizzes/js/ck/ma-proverbs.html which provides correction and feedback for users.
The Internet TESL Journal’s ESL: Quizzes
There are currently over 1,400 self-study quizzes linked from here. This is a great place to start for quizzes of all varieties. Some quizzes require additional software.
Interesting Things for ESL Students
A wide selection of activities that are highly recommended. Quizzes on vocabulary, slang, proverbs, as well as a large variety of fun puzzles and games for students.
The online version of their Collegiate Dictionary has a thesaurus, too. It has other activities such as word of the day, quizzes, pronunciation guide, and etymology. You can also find a brief history of English. Unfortunately, interaction and communication are two aspects that are very weak on this site.
The complete Encyclopedia Britannica can now be found online. It contains both news, detailed information, website reviews, etc. This site can be a very informative source for reference. However, it seems slow to download, and interaction and communication options are very limited. Nevertheless, this site is an ideal source of information for students doing their homework, carrying out research for an oral presentation, or simply engaging in further reading.
17.) Email Friends
Linguistic Funland’s Email Pen-pal Opportunities for Students
This website provides classes of students with the opportunity to find someone willing to become an email penpal; however, only teachers may apply for their class as individual postings have now been cancelled. You can either post a notice or reply to one of the notices already placed there. Registration is required, but it is straightforward.
Dave’s ESL Cafe Chat Central
This is quite an interesting web-based chat system. It requires a simple registration. There are different rooms for teachers, students, grammar, and a lobby. Simple to operate, but users must keep pressing submit before they can see replies from others.
Dating back to 1994, this is still one of the best environments for communicating available for ESL students. It is created around the paradigm of a university and provides a simple environment for one-to-one or group chatting, a dictionary, games, etc. A MOO, for the uninitiated, is a text-based environment that recreates a real world situation using a simple interface and operates in real-time so users can communicate with each other.
20.) Message Boards
ESL Discussion Center
Another good resource from Dave’s ESL Cafe providing over 20 forums for students to participate in, covering a range of topics from making friends to literature. Pages come up quickly postings at the top and the new message area at the bottom. The Display offers some degree of configuration options. When clicking on a posting, you can see the whole thread and a new message box. Simple and powerful to use.
21.) Discussion Lists
SL-Lists: Internation EFL/ESL Email Student Discussion Lists
Established in 1994 but still active, there are 10 separate lists designed for ESL learners covering a range of topics, such as business, learning English, music, movies, and sports. Members may sign up either as part of a class or individually.
22.) Links of Links
Dave’s ESL Cafe
This is one of the main websites currently on the Internet for ESL learners. It includes a search box, random links, top 10, ability to add or modify a link, "what’s new" and "what’s cool." Also, users may vote on a particular link, thereby making interaction possible. The site’s excellent organisation, and the ease of navigation make this a highly recommended place worth visiting on the Internet highway.
23.) Links of Links
Internet TESL Journal Links: Links for ESL Students
This is quite likely the largest collection of ESL-related links on the Internet, maintained by the Internet TESL Journal. This web site is neatly categorized for ease of use and covers practically all of the issues that language learners are likely to raise questions. In addition to this, visitors to the site may submit additional links that they find, visit the "what’s new" section and search the links through the search box. Interactivity, unfortunately, is relatively poor.
A Guide To Surfing For EFL Students
As part of a familiarization exercise, this site is a great place for teaching students about the Internet. It is written in simpler English, is interactive and has a variety of levels; it teaches Internet vocabulary and knowledge through interactive quizzes, and teaches searching skills. Full of practical tips and exercises, this is probably best used in conjunction with a teacher and class.
In this article, we have looked at some of the issues that first-time users face when discovering the Internet for themselves; tried to point out some of the pitfalls that affect users directly; outlined four criteria that can be used when evaluating websites for recommending to students; and, lastly, suggested twenty-four websites that stand out in each of five overall categories. Now it is up to the classroom teacher to decide which sites, how and why he or she should integrate into the lesson.
Perhaps the inspired ESL teacher can create a page linking the pertinent parts of different websites (e.g. a listening exercise, then a vocabulary quiz, followed up by a posting to a message board using what has been learned) together into the day’s lesson, adding where something is missing (e.g. warm up, feedback, etc.), so that ESL learning on the Internet is integrated into students’ lives.
Some of the website pages may also be given as an alternative to the traditional pen and ink homework assignment. Eager language learners can be asked to bring in a print-out of their work the following day and keep it in their portfolio or logbook of their Internet activities. Perhaps even the teacher and students may begin to think of how to create a class website that in turn helps other teachers and students to begin the process of learning about the Internet. Whatever course of action, students and teachers will benefit from a medium that inspires creativity, interactivity and "communicativity," both in the real and the virtual world.
EFF’s Top 12 Ways to Protect Your Online Privacy. Electronic Frontier Foundation. 6 December 1999. n.pag. Online. Internet. 19 April 2000.
Available WWW: http://www.eff.org/pub/Privacy/eff_privacy_top_12.html
Harrison, Ann. "Email Most Common Virus Carrier."" IDG.net. 3 August 1999. n. pag. Online. Internet. 19 April 2000.
Available WWW: http://www.idg.net/go.cgi?id=239448
Kelly, Charles I. "Guidelines for Designing a Good Web Site for ESL Students." The Internet TESL Journal. Vol. VI, No. 3. March 2000. n. pag. Online. Internet. 19 April 2000.
McLachlan, Karen. "WWW CyberGuide Ratings for Web Site Design." Cyberbee. 19 March 2000. n. pag. Online. Internet. 19 April, 2000.
Available WWW: http://www.cyberbee.com/guide2.html
Nelson, Jeffrey T. "A System for the Evaluation of ESL Web Sites.: Diss. Idaho U., September 1997. n. pag. Online. Internet. 19 April 2000.
Ohlson, Kathleen. "Melting Worm Slithers Into Wild." IDG.net. 16 March 2000. n. pag. Online. Internet. 19 April 2000.
Available WWW: http://www.idg.net/go.cgi?id=13175
Scruton, Roger. "An Intelligent Person’s Guide To Philosophy." Penguin USA. 1999.
Sperling, Dave. "ESL Web Guide." Dave’s ESL Cafe On The Web. 11 April 2000. n. pag. Online. Internet. 19 April 2000.
Available WWW: http://www.eslcafe.com/search/index.html
Sperling, Dave. The Internet Guide for English Language Teachers. New Jersey, Prentice Hall Regents, 1997.
"TESL/TEFL/TESOL/ESL/EFL/ESOL Links."" The Internet TESL Journal. 18 April 2000. n. pag. Online. Internet. 19 April 2000.
Available WWW: http://www.aitech.ac.jp/~iteslj/links/
An Additonal List of Links Mentioned In this Article
|Ask Jeeves||www.askjeeves.com||Natural language search engine|
|Britannica||www.britannica.com||Encyclopedia and Reference|
|Dave’s ESL Cafe||www.eslcafe.com||Internet Website for ESL|
|Doubleclick||www.doubleclick.com||Internet Advertising Company|
|McAfee’s||www.mcafee.com||Anti-virus software company|
|Norton||www.norton.com||Anti-virus software company|
|Scambusters||www.scambusters.org||Internet Fraud Alert Network|
|Virtual Library||www.vlib.org||Directory of information|
|Yahoo!||www.yahoo.com||Directory of websites|
|Yahoo Mail!||mail.yahoo.com||English-language web-based email|
|Yahoo Mail!||mail.yahoo.com.tw||Chinese-language web-based email|
A Mini-Survey of Students’ Computing Abilities
|1. Do you have a computer at home? (Check One)||No or Yes|
|2. Do you have reasonable access to one at school?||No or Yes|
|3. How familiar are you with it?||0% 25% 50% 75% 100%|
|4. Can you type fairly quickly?||No or Yes|
|5. What programs can you use on the computer? (List three)||______________________|
|6. Is (1) or (2) connected to the Internet?||No or Yes|
|7. Have you ever used the Internet before?||No or Yes|
|a. how many hours a week do you spend?||1~2 3~5 6~9 more|
|b. how competent are you?||0% 25% 50% 75% 100%|
|8. Have you ever used email before?||No or Yes|
|9. Have you ever used a browser before?||No or Yes|
|10. How often do you use the Internet to study English?||Never Sometimes Often|
|b. which site do you like most?||______________________|
|11. How competent are you at searching for information?||0% 25% 50% 75% 100%|
|12. Have you ever communicated in English on the Net?||No or Yes|
|a. how did you communicate?||Email Chat MOOs Other|
|b. would you like to do this again?||______________________|
|13. What would you like to know about English on the Net?||______________________|
|14. What other activities were you doing on the Net?||______________________|
|15. Have you ever created any website on the Net?||No or Yes|
|a. Tell us about what you created.||______________________|
Hwa Kang Journal of TEFL, Number 6, 2000, pp. 17-44. Copyright 2000. Language Center, Chinese Culture University.
Last updated: 22/05/00 9:49:48 PM