Sunday, February 8, 2009

ESL website evaluation

  1. What does the application attempt to “teach”?

This website is made by a teacher name Isabel Perez who purposely created this website for her students. She is the Spanish Secondary English teacher whom designed this websites with an intention of improving the students’ level of proficiency in English. This website is specially created for the students who are in the secondary schools. So the age range of the targeted users is between 13 to 17 years old. Either way this website is also useful for the teachers who are teaching the secondary students.

This website promotes the authentic learning of language as it integrates all the language skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking) as well as the founder offers the CALL Methodology for teachers who are interested in creating their own ESL website.

  1. What sorts of things is the application user expected to do with regards to learning the content?

The application users are expected to engage with a variety of language activities included in the websites. The activities involve all the language skills such as writing, listening, speaking, and reading. The targeted users can master their grammar when they do the exercise with the “Happy Verby Gang” activities and also the Hot Potatoes exercises. Then this website also exposes the users to song activities where students can learn to practice their grammar, vocabulary and sound. Other interesting activities involve students to write their own blogs, they have online quizzes for those who want to challenge their knowledge, browsing and treasuring hunts.

The core activity in this website is mainly about vocabulary and grammar. This website offers a list of popular songs for the students to brush up their vocabulary as well as their grammar. “The Happy Verby Gang” will also help the students to engage with grammar activities.

  1. What sorts of computer skills is the application users expected to have in order to operate/access/use the application?

This website promotes a user-friendly application. This website uses the basic computer skills such as drag and drop, cut and paste, typing and browsing. The computer skills applied are necessary for everyone since no complicated computer skills are needed. There should be no problem for those who don’t possess much knowledge about computer skills. The exercises only required us to have basic knowledge of computer skills. I doubt if the students have any major problems to navigate the application in the website as they are very simple and easy to use.

  1. While you are “playing”/ “accessing” / “assessing” the application, does it remind you of anything you do in a classroom, or with a teacher, or with a fellow classmate, or in self-study?

It reminds me of one event during my practicum session when I used some sort of online games which I have saved in my laptop. I found that my students are captured by the activities but maybe it was too easy for them which bored them towards the end of activities. But I don’t want to remember this as a nightmare or bad teaching experience. I want to put it this way; students sometimes enjoy the teaching process in which they perceived the knowledge without them realizing it. In conclusion to the use of computer and website to promote CALL, I think students like to explore knowledge through games. This websites is suitable to be used for such purpose since it provides many games and activities.

  1. Can you pinpoint some theories of language learning and / or teaching underlying the application?

As I go through this website, I find that there are two theories of language learning which have been highlighted or in other words applied in the activities. They are Content-based Instruction theory and silent way. Content based instruction is defined as “The integration of content learning with language teaching aims.” (Brinton, Snow and Wesche ) “When language becomes the medium to convey informational content of interest and relevance to the learner, then learners are pointed toward matters of intrinsic concern.” (Brown, 2001) This quote is very much through if we take a look at this website; it promotes an independent learning as the means of this website is to provide the language skills for the students. The students are inspired to reckon on their surrounding, take the “Happy Verby Gang” as an example, it gives the simple model for the students to engage with the learning as the example is very common which they can see in their daily lives. This also in other hand promotes a meaningful learning as it opens the genuine mind of students to perceive the knowledge.

Chamot & McKeon, 1984 purposed that silent way is defined as a humanistic approach. This approach suggests a discovery learning where the students are independent to learn by discovering various facts by their own. In one of the activities in the website, for example the treasure hunt activity, they are given the questions based on the topics, they will have to refer other websites to look for the answers, this somehow promotes the discovery learning whereby they have to search by themselves.

  1. How well is the constructivist theory of learning applied to the chosen website(s)?

The definition of Constructivism is that the learners construct knowledge for themselves. The constructivist theory states that learning is an active process of creating meaning from different experiences. To relate this theory to this website, the students play an active role to engage with the activities. They have the autonomy to discover the information and knowledge provided in the activities. They have to play the games to experience the awareness of the fact they are learning. They may not be conscious of how their language skills are tested and improved though their discovery learning from the website.

  1. In 1980s and early 1990s, there was a major debate on ‘whether the computer was “master” of or “slave” to the learning process (Higgins and Johns, 1984). In relation to your evaluation – was the computer a replacement for teachers, or merely an obedient servant to students?

I never thought that a computer works either as a replacement for teacher or just an obedient servant to the students. Personally, I think computer works as a medium of where students can gain their knowledge easier. It makes information just behind their fingertips. Computer is an excellent machine which is produced by human being; there is no reason why we should compare whether the computer is the master or a slave to the learning process.

Human created computer to make the learning process becomes easier and simpler. The software and the system are made by human to make the computer functions very well. We cannot simply say that the computer is more genius than human neither can we conclude that human are more intelligent than computer because both of them (human and computer) work best together.

It is true that knowledge from computer which is not perceived rightly will turn out to be the other way around. That is why the students still need a teacher’s guidance. Above all things, computer is a just a gadget which makes our lives easier towards knowledge, it is a teacher who touches the heart of the student which makes the whole learning process more meaningful and interesting. Computer helps students to gain knowledge even when they’re far from their teachers or even when the school holiday is around.

  1. Would you like to use the application yourself in your future work?

Yes? Give reasons:

No? Give reasons:

Yes, I would like to use the application for myself for some reasons which are :

I like the English verb tenses they use in this website. “The Happy Verby Gang” makes it seems easier for students to understand the sentence structure because they are simple. Thus to me, it promotes a meaningful learning whereby students can see the real and common thing is being used as examples.

Secondly, I like the idea of this website which gives the opportunities to the teachers to get involved with the activities designed in the website itself. It promotes the teachers to share their ideas to come up with more interesting activities which can improve their teaching styles, improve their computer skills as well as expose students to the beauty and fun of learning the language from the website.

Lastly, I also like the idea where they include the students’ blog in which the students can give comments and share what they have gained from the website. This means that this websites give both teachers and students to share their opinions. Maybe from looking at the students’ comment the activities can be improved and made into various interesting activities.

  1. Suggestions/ Recommendations.

The materials in this website is already interesting however it will be better and more efficient if :

1. The website doesn’t provide the specific answer to each questions ask. In other words, it does not provide the remedial reinforcement. There is no specific explanation of what the answers are. Students will find if difficult to get the answer the teacher is not around. It will only confuse them thus demotivate them to learn if they only got the wrong answers. I suggest that this website should produce the answers scheme for each exercise and activity. I think the most important thing is that the scheme of answers should be provided, at least at the end of each activity students will be able to check their answers thus it will be easier for the teacher who are busy to use this websites for a lot of exercise since they do not necessarily have to provide the answers if the specific answers are already provided.

2. Activities should be improvised. It should be made according to different level of students. All activities are either very easy or easy. It would be quite boring for the students from higher proficiency level. The teacher cannot expect all the students come from lower proficiency level. If I were to use this website I need a variety of task which suits the level of all my students from high proficiency to the lowest proficiency level. This will make it easier for me so I won’t have to improvise the exercise if it’s too easy for my excellent students.