What does the application attempt to ‘teach’?
The application, which is an ESL website; http://funeasyenglish.com/english-activities.htm
attempts to teach English in an interactive and fun learning condition. The name of the website itself shows that the aim is to make sure students would enjoy learning English. Thus, clearly the website is built to help students learn English in another perspective and to help them having a new learning experience, outside the classroom. Research has proved that technology is useful and important for teaching children, especially children who are living in the modern era. I believe that the website is relevant for today’s education.
What sorts of things is the application user expected to do with regards to learning the content?
Specifically, this website aims to guide students to master English not only the four language skills but also to learn the language from a different view which is the American English. Therefore, through this website learners are exposed to variety of mediums such as television and radio. Through these mediums, learners not only learn English for educational purposes but also will have a view on the usage of English outside the classroom or outside the Malaysia setting. By using authentic materials, students will enjoy learning English and experience new learning environment.
What sorts of computer skills is the application users expected to have in order to operate/access/use the application?
The application, http://funeasyenglish.com/english-activities.htm
is very user-friendly. Application users or students or teachers are not required to master any high computer skills in order to use the application. They are only required to know how to use the keyboard, mouse or the speakers. Users only need to have access to the Internet or otherwise they could not open any links. This website also does not contain any page that requires users to use Microsoft words, power point or anything related. Users just have to follow the instructions given and they can enjoy watching videos or listening to the radio and playing language games in just a click by the finger!
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?
While I am accessing and ‘assessing’ http://funeasyenglish.com/english-activities.htm
, it does remind me of some activities that I did in the classroom. Normally, English teachers will try their best to create an interactive English lesson. For example, during my practicum days, I normally taught a lesson by asking some of my students to do a role-play as examples for certain conditions or terms or played some games that were connected to vocabulary and grammar lessons. By having a role-play, normally my students will understand better. The videos provided by this website use similar technique in which the moderator explains by acting out the examples. This website does not remind me of self-study especially with the videos provided. I am sure students or users of this website will be motivated and entertained by the videos while learning English, especially when the people involved in the videos are interactive towards users.
Can you pinpoint some theories of language learning and/or teaching underlying the application?
The website http://funeasyenglish.com/english-activities.htm
is focusing on ways to help users especially students to acquire English in a way that is not available in language classroom. As H. Douglas Brown stated in his book; ‘Teaching by Principles’, “Carefully planned uses of games and simulations (eg. For practicing certain verbs, tenses, questions, locatives, etc) add some interest in learning second language. The English activities provided in this website can definitely motivate students to acquire the language because of the colourful illustrations, images as well as songs. A study by Elizabeth Meija proves that video is a great medium of exposing learners to acquire the language in terms of pronunciation and expression; “Videotaping classroom projects and presentations is a useful way to help students improve pronunciation and overall fluency”. Thus, that is why the moderator of this website uses videos in teaching the second language. The videos are authentic but at the same time, very educational.
How well is the constructivist theory of learning applied to the chosen website(s)?
Vygotsky argued that children develop more systematic, logical, and rational concepts as a result of dialogue with a skilled helper. Thus, in Vygotsky’s theory, tasks that are too difficult for the child to master alone can be learned with guidance and assistance of adults or more skilled children (Zone of proximal development). Therefore, the videos in the website provide help to guide students or learners as someone who has mastered the language teaches it. Besides the constructivist theory of learning through videos in learning a language, or provides language activities, the web site http://funeasyenglish.com/english-activities.htm
also includes several language tests that learners can take after they have understand the concepts such as grammatical tests, vocabulary, pronunciation or reading comprehension. The constructivist theory of learning is once again applied to the website as it encourages students critical thinking and inquiry by asking them thoughtful, open-ended questions. The website also provides follow up after the activities and explanations.
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?
In my opinion, based on my evaluation, I think that the computer is actually merely an obedient servant to students. Students or learners are in control of everything and it is up to them whether to use it or not. The computer is generally built to help or assist learners in learning and the software or websites are created based on students’ needs. Further improvements or changes are catered based on learners’ needs. I could not agree that the computer is a replacement for teachers. No matter how useful the software or application is for students, they still need guidance from teachers, especially in term of direct communication. Communication between teachers and students are vital in the learning process (Tjeerdsma, 1997). This can only take place in the classroom and not through any software or websites.
Would you like to use the application yourself in your future work?
Yes? Give reasons:
No? Give reasons:
Yes I will definitely use the application in my future work as I find it very useful in second language learning. Teachers are encouraged to use technology in language classroom as a way to motivate students in learning (Brown, 2001). Thus, I might use the videos or language games or even exercises provided by the website as my teaching aids. Furthermore, I can expose my students with authentic reading materials or listening materials; like from NBC news or Bloomberg .I noticed how the website focuses on American English and so my students can have a clear view of how American English is different from British or even Asian. However, I do not think that it is relevant for my students who are in the lower proficiency level of learning English. They need simple explanations and exercises in order for them to understand or practice using the language. I will use different approaches according to my students’ level of proficiency. Even though the website provides learning activities and tools for younger learners or kids, I still find that the materials are still too hard for students with lower proficiency level in learning English, especially with the American accent.
I must say that although the website is very interactive with the videos, tv application and also radio application but the only application that functions well is the videos which are hosted by youtube. Therefore, although the links are useful, but if learners cannot use it then it is time consuming for them to wait. I would like if the website does not only focuses on the American English but also the BBC English. It would also be easier if the moderator can organize the activities or content based on different levels from beginner, intermediate and advance so that learners can adjust their learning based on their level of English proficiency.