Example 20

Summary of the material aims and content

The material is intended for intermediate to advanced young adult students of English as a foreign language who are studying in their home country.  The aim of the material is to facilitate a task-based learning project in class.  In the first phase of the task (Willis, 1996) students work in pairs at one computer and are directed to read the instruction page thoroughly.  The instruction page contains steps to follow and questions to answer in order to give students direction and guidance as they search through the pages.  Students are instructed to skim through the multimedia information provided on pages corresponding to each English speaking country.  The countries included are: The United States of America, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.  By reading authentic and meaningful information on the internet, students will stay motivated. (Kramarski and Feldman, 2000)  Students discuss and evaluate the information, and then decide together which country they would like to present to the class as their chosen country of study.  Once they have decided on a country, students will return to the page to read the information and watch the video with more detail.  Links to vocabulary quizzes are included to help students learn new vocabulary related to the geographic features, wild animals, or popular sports of the country.  They will take notes and answer the questions provided on the ‘Instructions’ page, and then prepare a short presentation to give to the class.  This will give students an opportunity to collaborate on a project that fosters communication while using technology in the classroom.

Secondary Aim
… One underlying aim of the material … is to inspire students to have the desire to study English abroad, and have the opportunity to discover the people and cultures of the language they are studying.

…  In task-based learning, there are usually three phases. (Willis, 1996)  In the pre-task phase the teacher presents a framework or model for the activity and establishes a desired outcome.  Students are usually given a time frame in which to complete the activity.  Then during the task phase students work in groups to complete a task while the teacher monitors with minimal interference.  ….  Task-based learning is a key element in creating a student-centered classroom.  This can be difficult to facilitate, as the language produced is often unplanned and teachers must give feedback and correction based on the unplanned language that is produced.  However, students need the chance to use both planned and unplanned language and do not always learn concepts in the order they are taught in a classroom. (Willis, 1996)  The materials are intended to be used in a task-based approach to language learning while at the same time integrating technology into the classroom.

….  The use of WebQuests, in particular, has become a popular way for teachers to integrate technology into the classroom.  The materials I created loosely follow the pattern of a WebQuest.  WebQuests were developed by Bernie Dodge and Tom March and are ‘an inquiry-oriented activity in which most or all of the information used by learners is drawn from the Web. WebQuests are designed to use learners’ time well, to focus on using information rather than looking for it, and to support learners’ thinking at the levels of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.’ (Dodge, 2001)
Using the internet in this way in an EFL setting can be challenging when so many websites are too far above the language level of the students.  However, with enough structure and direction, EFL students can learn to navigate through information found on the internet. (Sox and Rubinstein-Ávila, 2009)  One way of structuring my website to support English language learners is to reduce not only the amount of text but also the number of links found on each page.  This prevents students from becoming overwhelmed or distracted by other websites. (Al-Shehri and Gitsaki, 2010)  By putting students into pairs and following the model of the WebQuest, technology can be integrated into classroom instruction without losing the communicative aspect.

In addition to reducing the content on each country page, a separate page for instructions is included on the sidebar.  This provides a scaffold that is necessary to keep EFL students on task. (MacGregor and Lou, 2004)  Students often forget directions given at the beginning of a lesson during the pre-task phase, or are not always sure how to structure an oral presentation.  The instructions page is easy to navigate back to, and is broken up into steps to give students guidance and keep them from getting distracted. (Sox and Rubinstein-Ávila, 2009)

The quizzes produced with Hot Potatoes software in reality may not be the most effective way to teach vocabulary.  They are simplistic and monochromatic and the technical limitations can be frustrating; for example, when the drag and drop feature does not automatically scroll down the page.  In addition, using pictures may not convey the full meaning of a word.  For example, the picture associated with the word for forest is very similar to the picture of the swamp.  …

Another limitation to the project is in the content of the text found on each country page.  It is a challenge to find short but interesting and relevant information for an entire country.  Only being able to present a small amount of information to EFL learners could promote stereotypes associated with a country which, in reality, is a complex dynamic of cultures, languages, and histories…
Another limitation lies in the subject matter…, if students are not interested in study abroad at all, or cultural boundaries prevent them from even considering it, it may prevent them from becoming fully engaged in the task.  In addition, if the materials are to be incorporated into a syllabus, consideration must be taken that the syllabus is not meant to be used for a course that takes place in an English speaking country.  It would feel like a pointless task if the student had already made the decision and taken the steps to study in that country.

The length of the task is another limitation to consider.  The task includes multiple phases and steps within each phase. It is intended to be completed in pairs to maintain a communicative aspect.  If the task takes longer than the prescribed teaching period, and a student is absent one of the days, the pair work will be disrupted or students may not remember information as easily the next day.  …

Reactions from Users and Conclusion
Preliminary users were not able to complete the full task due to time constraints but they were asked to look through the information and think about what country they would like to study in.  This was difficult because the students had already chosen to study in Britain so the information from the website was not a motivating factor in their decision.  Students also had a difficult time noticing the links to the Hot Potatoes exercises since there was no incentive of needing to use new vocabulary words in a final presentation in front of a class.  Students gave positive reviews of the pictures, videos, and links, particularly the link to the International Dialects of English Archive.  Although the project is designed for young adult, intermediate to advanced level students, the material could be used for various ages and levels.  In reality, anyone interested in learning about English speaking countries could use the website for general information and links to help them learn more about studying abroad in those countries.