ESL WEBSITE EVALUATION (10%)
Learning a second language is a long and complex journey that one has to undertake, Brown (2000). Today, there are various types of books, materials and online activities created to help learners in acquiring a language. In regards of today’s modernization, online activities and websites are very popular especially in second language learning. The existence of these online websites is hopefully to make the teaching and learning process more interesting and meaningful especially for Malaysian students.
1. What does the application attempt to “teach”?
Susan Schneider’s ESL websites offers great learning opportunities. The website includes all the aspects of English skills, games, extra information and some additional links that are beneficial for the ESL learners. The main aspects in the website are Fall Class Party, Level 2/3, Level 4, Online Dictionaries, Extra Practice, Grammar, Reading, Listening, Pronunciation, Writing, Vocabulary, Study Options, International Recipes, American Holiday and Community Information. The learners have the opportunity to learn variety of educational activities in this particular website, which not only focus on language but also recipes and general information. Other than that, all the main applications offer a number of useful activities for the learners to try. For example in reading section, Susan prepares exercises of basic context clues, main ideas, reading comprehension (skimming and scanning within a period of time), topic sentences/ supporting details, comparing & contrasting information and reading speed exercise. This may help learners to focus and improve on the subjects that they choose. In a way, learners can practice independent learning in this ESL website. All the basic skills of language learning are integrated in this website for the learners to improve their English together with the useful exercises that have been created to test the learners’ existing knowledge and understanding.
2. What sorts of things is the application user expected to do with regards to learning the content?
Learning is fun and do not make things complicated especially in second language learning. In relation to the above statement, this website does not expect the learners to do anything. All that they need to do is to select the language skills that interest them, understand the instructions and answer the exercises carefully. All the exercises provided in this website vary from each component in order to meet the different level of learners. For some exercises, learners may have to use their critical thinking for some exercises especially for reading and writing components. As for teachers, they can apply the activities and exercises in their language class manually if the class does not have any access to the Internet. For example, teacher plays grammar quiz with the students using the exercises in this website. Instead of practicing teacher talk all the time, verbal quiz can help students to enhance their confidence and knowledge in English language learning. Perhaps, an interesting language class will make a better understanding for the learners.
3. What sorts of computer skills is the application users expected to have in order to operate/access/use the application?
This website is very user friendly because the learners do not have to acquire any special skills to utilize and try out the exercises provided. The most important thing for the learners to have is the access to Internet and the URL of this website. As for the exercises, they require the learners to use their basic skills such as typing, clicking and dragging. However, most of the exercises involve the learners to fill in the blanks with their answer. This website is created to be as simplest as possible for the learners to enjoy their moment of learning English.
4. 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?
Unfortunately for this question, it will be a ‘NO’ answer. It does not remind me of anything because I did not use any website for my ESL learning during my school time as well as my college time. Most of the exercises were done manually without the Internet connection. Recapping the moment I learnt English during my school time, my teacher used traditional approach of teaching or teacher talk that involved only textbook and blackboard all the time. We did not have the chance even once to use the language lab, which I do not know why. As for self-study, I prefer to use books rather than ESL websites even until now. Personally, I think using books is more conducive because I can revise them anytime and anywhere without having to bring my 3kg laptop and pay for monthly Celcom or Maxis broadband. In other words, I think I am not used to being exposed to internet before this and that influenced me to prefer books rather than ESL websites. However, if I were to be a teacher, I will try to use the ESL websites in my language class. For some learners, a simple exercise can be very meaningful just because the teacher uses internet in their language class. Thus, that will somehow help the learners to be more independent and they might want to search the ESL websites for their own revision.
5. Can you pinpoint some theories of language learning and /or teaching underlying the application?
‘A theory of SLA is really an interrelated set of hypotheses and claims about how people become proficient in a second language’, (Brown, 2000). Therefore, a theory of second language acquisition is always being connected to one’s learning process. The first theory of language learning underlying to this application is Ausubel’s Meaningful Learning Theory. This theory stresses that ‘learning takes place in the human organism through a meaningful process of relating new events to already existing cognitive concepts or propositions – hanging new items on existing cognitive pegs’ (Brown, 2000). In this website, the learners use their schemata knowledge to try out the exercises provided. For example, the grammar exercises, learners should have known the basic forms of grammar and its functions. The exercises focus on enhancing the learner’s understanding of the knowledge that they have acquired. This will encourage the learners to be more competence in the target language.
The second theory involves in this ESL website is Communicative Language Teaching. The theory focuses on all of the components (grammatical, discourse, functional, sociolinguistic and strategic). Besides that, language teaching is also designed to engage learners in the pragmatic and authentic use of language for meaningful purposes. Other than that, students are given the opportunities to focus on their own learning process through understanding of their own styles, and lastly, the role of teacher is that of facilitator and guide for the learners, (Brown, 2000). All of the characteristics of Communicative Language Teaching theory above are closely related to this ESL website, which somehow teaches the learners to create an independent yet meaningful learning. This theory is beneficial for the ESL learners especially to be implied to our Malaysian learners so that they will not totally rely on their teachers to give them knowledge.
Despite those theories above, Susan has also included the motivational theory in her website that may attract the ESL learners to explore and learn English thoroughly in her website. There are a variety of language games in the website for the learners to attempt, (check it out for interesting language games in the website below).
http://www.harcourtschool.com/menus/preview/harcourt_language/grammar_park.html). Most of the activities and games include the intrinsic motivation by giving good feedbacks for the learners such as ‘try again, correct, good try and congratulation’. Although the reward is unseen, however, ‘intrinsically motivated behaviors are aimed at bringing about certain internally rewarding consequences, namely, feelings of competence and self-determination’ (Brown, 2000). Therefore, when the learners have the motivation of learning English using this website, it can help them in improving their target language effectively.
6. How well is the constructivist theory of learning applied to the chosen website(s)?
‘This theory states that learning is an active process of creating meaning from different experiences. In other words, students will learn best by trying to make sense of something on their own with the teacher as a guide to help them along the way’, (Brown, 2000). As for this website, the constructivist theory is well applied in order for the learners to acquire a meaningful learning. Learners will be able to learn the language to the fullest with their own effort. Other than that, learners can engage with a few interactive activities such as listening activities in http://www.eslpod.com/website/#. This website also gives the learners the opportunity to practice autonomy and initiative learning as been proposed by the constructivist theory. A study by Brooks, J. and Brooks, M. (1993) has proved that learners acquire a language most by practicing it, teaching others and immediate use of the target language. This theory also encourages the learners to think critically in answering the questions and that applies to some of the activities in this website especially in reading and writing sections. The exercises prepared are based on their own thought and open-ended questions. Thus, this website really integrates the characteristics of constructivist theory for the second language learner in order to acquire the target language.
7. 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?
Due to today’s modernization, some people may agree with the perception of computer is an obedient servant to learners. Learners nowadays are more attractive to technological-based activities such as online language games and lesson. In second language learning, learners prefer to involve with activities that are not textbook-based. In this matter, I would say that computer is much more as a companion for the learners to enhance their language. Different approach of learning a language will somehow affects the outcomes of the learning process. Thus, it is hopefully that with the assistance of computer in language learning, we will produce more competence people especially Malaysian learners from rural areas. However, I am strictly disagree with the statement that computer is a replacement for teachers because no matter what happens, computer can never be the same as human beings. The human-human interaction is more effective than computer-human interaction. Regardless the variety of softwares and websites in the Internet, learners still need the assistance of a teacher to help them in explaining the facts and understanding the use of the language skills. Although this website offers beneficial information and different types of exercises of language learning, it can never be meaningful enough without the guide of a teacher. All in all, in integrating a meaningful second language learning, the learners may use the computer as an additional language tool in enhancing their knowledge. While teacher, on the other hand, as the person in charge to assist and guide the learners.
8. Would you like to use the application yourself in your future work?
Personally, as a future English teacher, I would like to use this application later on in my future work. This website not only gives my students the opportunity to learn independently and meaningfully but it also gives me new ideas and lesson on teaching English as a second language. As a new English teacher, we are expected to produce an interactive and fun language-learning environment by the senior teachers. Therefore, by using this application in ESL classroom especially for learners in the rural areas, this will somehow build the students’ interest and motivation in learning English. However, this website will only be used as an additional language tool without neglecting the main source which is the textbook as guidance and the scheme of work for the English subject. The use of computer and ESL websites plays the role in making the English lesson more lively and meaningful.
This question actually required me to explore the activities and exercises provided in this website to look for the weaknesses. However, I found it difficult to get the weaknesses in this website especially in the activities because all the important elements are included such as clear instructions, colorful language games, attractive images, interesting activities and able to cater the learners’ ability in English language. However, despite all the positive parts of this ESL website, there are one thing that can be suggested to improve this useful website. Looking and viewing on different online websites made me conclude that appearance is very important in order to promote an ESL website. Appearance creates a positive impression in one’s mind. As for Susan’s ESL website, it is suggested that the main page of this website should be more colorful and lively because the target learners and activities are from the beginners to the advance learners. This website offers exercises to all learners from different level of intelligence, thus, it should be more attractive. Furthermore, a lively main page will somehow convey a positive message to the learners that this website is very interesting for English as second language learning.
Brown, H. D. (2000). Principles of language learning and teaching (4th ed.). New York: Pearson Education.
Brown, H. D. (2001). Teaching by principles (2nd edition). New York: Pearson Education.
Santrock, J.W. (2006). Educational Psychology. New York: McGraw Hill Higher Education
Posted by : Diana Binti Othman
ID Number : 2005478502