Teaching English using the internet: Guidelines for Teachers
The twenty-first century is unquestionably the age of the Internet. Technology has supported language teaching for decades. Computer-based materials have been in use since the 1980s. In the last few years the number of teachers using Computer-assisted Language Learning (CALL) has increased markedly and numerous articles have been written about the role of technology in education in the 21st century. Although the potential of the Internet for educational use has not been fully explored yet and the average school still makes limited use of computers, it is obvious that we have entered a new information age in which the links between technology and TEFL have already been established.
In this article I discuss some of the ways that computers can be used in English language teaching, with a view to helping colleagues make the most of the opportunities they offer to students.
It is helpful to think of the computer as having the following main roles in the language classroom:
teacher - the computer teaches students new language
tester - the computer tests students on language already learned
tool - the computer assists students to do certain tasks
data source - the computer provides students with the information they need to perform a particular task
communication facilitator - the computer allows students to communicate with others in different locations
Computer as teacher. In the early days of computers and programmed learning, some students sat at a terminal for extended periods following an individualized learning program, there has been a return to a much more sophisticated kind of computerized teaching using multimedia CD ROMS. In such programs, students can listen to dialogues or watch video clips. They can click on pictures to call up the names of the objects they see. They can speak into the microphone and immediately hear a recording of what they have said. The program can keep a record of their progress, e.g. the vocabulary learned, and offer remedial help if necessary. Many of these CD ROM programs are offered as complete language courses.
As an alternative to large CD ROM packages, there is an increasing number of useful sites on the World Wide Web, where students can get instruction and practice in language skills such as reading, listening and writing.
Computer as a tester. The computer is very good at what is known as drill and practice; it will tirelessly present the learner with questions and announce if the answer is right or wrong. In its primitive manifestations in this particular role in language teaching, it has been rightly criticised. Despite their obvious disadvantages, such programs are nevertheless popular with many students. This is probably because the student is in full control, the computer is extremely patient and gives private, unthreatening feedback. Most programs also keep the score and have cute animations and sounds, which many students like.
Computer as a tool. It is in this area that I think the computer has been an unequivocal success in language teaching. Spreadsheets, databases, presentation slide generators, concordancers and web page producers all have their place in the language classroom, particularly in one where the main curricular focus is task-based or project-work. But in my opinion, by far the most important role of the computer in the language classroom is its use as a writing tool. It has played a significant part in the introduction of the writing process, by allowing students easily to produce multiple drafts of the same piece of work.
Computer as a data source. The huge source of information is an indispensable resource for much project work, there are very many CD ROMs, e.g. encyclopaedias, that present information in a more compact, reliable and easily accessible form.
Computer as communication facilitator. The Internet is the principal medium by which students can communicate with others at a distance, (e.g. by e-mail or by participating in discussion forums).
Now let’s take a look at what exactly the Internet is. The Internet is an international network of computers, which makes it possible to share information between the various computers in various ways.
There are several possible reasons for using the Internet in language teaching:
-In addition to the communication benefits of the Internet,
-the Internet can also be used to retrieve and access information.
-The World Wide Web is therefore a virtual library at one's fingertips; it is a readily available world of information for the language learner. While the Internet offers numerous benefits to the language learner, a few such possibilities are examined here, in the context of language learning.
-Perhaps one of the most essential pedagogical principles of language teaching is one that emphasizes the study of language in a cultural context. Understanding the culture of the target language enhances understanding of the language. To this end, the Internet is a valuable resource to both language teachers and learners. As discussed previously, e-mail on the Internet allows language learners to communicate with native speakers. In this manner, the Internet facilitates the use of the specific language in an authentic setting. Therefore, revisiting cultural aspects ofnative speakers speaking the language is considered necessary. It is further proposed that the purposes of learning foreign languages “have evolved from linguistic through communicative to intercultural and intercultural communicative competence” (Piasecka, 2011 p22). Developing linguistic competence focuses on language as a code, while communicative competence results from interpreting language as a communication system.
-The Internet can also be used to acquire information from language resources for a variety of purposes. For example, students can access current information from countries around the world. They can obtain geographical, historical, social/cultural, economic, and political information from the countries in which the target language is spoken. Students can read web versions of daily newspapers and same-day news reports from sources such as the French Embassy's gopher service, the daily Revue de Press (Armstrong and Yetter-Vassot, 1994). Such experiences can allow learners to participate in the culture of the target language, which in turn can enable them to further learn how cultural background influences one's view of the world.
-The Internet also serves as a medium for experiencing and presenting creative works. While students can peruse the information on the Net, they can also use it as a platform for their own work such as essays, poetry, or stories
Lastly, the Internet provides supplemental language activities which can provide students with additional practice in specific areas of language learning. These include:
-pronunciation development, a teacher can record model words, phrases or sentences, put them on the website, and learners can listen to them in their own time in order to "improve their receptive skills". The teacher may then encourage the visitors to record their own version of the words or phrases, and e-mail the recording to him or her for evaluation or correction. However, unless the teacher charges for such a service, (s)he is under no obligation to actually listen to any such recordings e-mailed to him or her, or to reply to the writer.
At the top of the range of such websites there are complete online courses, usually designed and maintained by large companies. Such courses may offer reading, grammar, vocabulary and other exercises at different levels, have areas of the website where students can write messages to each other and so on.
There are a number of advantages of web-based teaching. The main one is that it's available "24/7" - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The website never needs to sleep, unlike a human teacher. This means that if a student quickly needs help with a certain language area, they are quite likely to be able to find some sort of help or support quite quickly.
-The other advantage is that it can be free, or relatively inexpensive, to many users.
- reading tests and comprehension questions, grammar exercises available multimedia capabilities, cloze tests, vocabulary exercises, and so forth.
- E-mail There are a number of ways e-mails can be used for teaching:
-teachers can use it to distribute "phrases of the day" for students to digest in their own time.
-More useful is a programme in which a teacher e-mails one or more students a task of some sort to complete, which is then returned to the teacher for marking and correction. Taking it one step further, the teacher can set up a so-called e-mail discussion group, which allows students to easily e-mail all group participants. Such a system allows the teacher to set a group of students a task which requires them to communicate with each other by e-mail, thereby encouraging productive writing skills. The teacher may choose to monitor the ongoing e-mail conversations and make corrections, or just await the outcome of the task, commenting on its content and language as appropriate.
As mentioned before, e-mail also allows the teacher to send recorded audio-clips to the students, and the students to reply with their own for commenting and correction.
The benefits of using e-mail for teaching are that it is often more motivating for students than web-based learning as it gives them an opportunity to interact with other students and a teacher, albeit largely on a written level. Also, as students can be in different locations around the world and have different backgrounds and jobs, this offers a ready information-gap for the teacher to exploit.
Search engines can be particularly helpful to teachers in finding almost any kind of information on the Internet. Teachers might want to try some of the following education-related and generalized search engines:
www.bigchalk.com - Education search engine for students, teachers and parents
www.education-world.com - General education search engine
www.awesomelibrary.org - Search engine of carefully reviewed top 5% of education web resources
www.yahoo.com - Major generalized web search engine
www.altavista.com - Major generalized web search engine
www.ask.com - Search engine which allows you to type in your question; includes a section for kids
www.refdesk.com - Search engine for finding facts online
www.google.com - Major and large generalized search engine
www.metacrawler.com - Search engine which searches other search engines
www.ilor.com - Major generalized user-friendly web search engine
-Multimedia in-class presentations: A student uses a presentation program to supplement a standard spoken presentation with images, charts and graphs, or sound.
-Essays in the form of World Wide Web pages: while even a traditional text essay might be posted for comment, the best web essays will make use of the Web's unique ability to incorporate multimedia elements.
-Web teaching units for your class or other classes: students can become teachers by sharing their research and analysis with the class or with an outside audience (including secondary and primary school classes).
-Web exhibits: by emulating the form and rigor of museum and library exhibits, students can produce a classroom and community resource on their topic.
-Collaborative projects: all of the above projects lend themselves to collaborative work by groups of students.
The Internet is one of the most powerful tools for teachers to help students collaborate, interact and participate actively in the learning process. However, the wealth of available resources may cause confusion among students and discourage them from participating, if they are not given the necessary guidelines. When students are faced with thousands of Internet sources they cannot effectively handle such large amounts of information. One of the most important tasks for teachers is to assist their students so that they can discover what they enjoy most according to their level of linguistic competence. Teachers are also responsible for the evaluation of all the web tools offered. Computer technology is becoming both more useful and more cost effective for many fields of teaching. And yet only you, the teacher, can determine whether these methods will prove effective in your classroom. Whatever you decide, remember that technology complements, but does not fundamentally alter, the elements of teaching.
Internet lessons don't prepare themselves - so it would be wrong to think that using the net in teaching was an easy choice for a teacher. In fact, it calls for just as much, if not more, preparation than a conventional lesson. Here is a check list of key points for preparation, planning and management.
-Have clear aims.Check everything thoroughly. Check that the computers are working, check that any sites your students may need to access are still there and have the content you expect.
-Have back-up material or sites prepared in case something happens to the sites while the class is working. If you are teaching an internet class you need to be flexible so that if there are problems with the technology or content, then the lesson doesn't come to a halt.
-Although the web is a new resource, it makes the same demands on the teacher as more traditional teaching resources. And it's important to remember that whatever the resources and material being used - it is still the teacher that does the teaching, not the computer. Here are some top tips for teachers using the internet.
-Monitor carefully. The same class management skills needed for a conventional lesson are still needed in the internet class.The range of accessible material on the web is one reason teachers need to plan and monitor carefully. There are software programs available to help filter or block certain types of content, but these do not always work effectively. There is no substitute for the teacher being well-prepared and alert.
-Don't be afraid of the technology, it's not difficult to learn to use.
-Finally - have fun and be creative!
The internet is a fantastic tool for teachers. It's not the answer to simple teaching or learning, but it is an incredibly motivating resource for both teachers and learners. You can find materials for use in traditional classes, you can access message boards and discussion groups for your own interest, development and to get ideas and activities for lessons, you can use it as a communication tool which allows your students to interact with people around the world in English and you can use it as the basis of lessons with students accessing the internet live during lessons. It's not always easy to use and it does have its problems but it's a motivating and engaging resource for both students and the teachers.
The internet is a fantastic tool for teachers. It's not the answer to simple teaching or learning, but it is an incredibly motivating resource for both teachers and learners. You can find materials for use in traditional classes, you can access message boards and discussion groups for your own interest, development and to get ideas and activities for lessons, you can use it as a communication tool which allows your students to interact with people around the world in English and you can use it as the basis of lessons with students accessing the internet live during lessons. It's not always easy to use and it does have its problems but it's a motivating and engaging resource for both students and the teachers. In this article, we look at the internet and how it can be used by teachers of English as a tool for their own development and as a resource for classroom teaching. However, many teachers fail to realize that the Internet can be of great benefit not only for long-distance exchanges but also for linking students in a single classroom. This article looks at ways of using Web-based language learning (WBLL) activities, specifically at using the internet as a materials resource and how to prepare for and manage internet lessons.
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