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Designing Internet Activities

The Internet is particularly adaptable to language courses that are designed for specific groups of students. While the Internet may never replace the course textbook, Internet based activities can meet specific needs of your students. In fact, many teachers use Internet activities to supplement classroom instruction and encourage language use outside the classroom. This is particularly true in EFL classrooms where students have little opportunity to practice their language skills once class is over.

Planning

The planning stage of design is critical to successful Internet activities. This includes analyzing student needs, finding and adapting materials to your syllabus, establishing clearly defined instructions and determining how to evaluate your students' performance.

Analyzing students needs.

This could possibly be the most difficult part of designing Internet activities for your class. This is especially true if you are designing activities for students that you have not yet meet. Nevertheless, it is important that you know how much experience your students have had using the Internet. Questions you should consider are:

  1. How long have they used a computer?
  2. Do they have a computer at home?
  3. If so, do they have Internet access?
  4. If not do they have access to a computer at school or at a computer cafe?
  5. How much time do they spend on the computer? On the Internet?
  6. Do they have experience navigating web sites that are written in English?
  7. How do they feel about using the Internet for study?

The answer to these questions should help you in determining what type of Internet activities to design.

Finding and adapting materials

In previous units we have discussed finding materials on the Internet. We also examined a few web sites and discussed potential activities that could be designed using those sites. When adapting web sites for activities you should have a clear set of criteria that will help you evaluate the activity.

Instructions

It is important that each activity have clearly defined instructions that will guide the student through the activity. This is especially true for assignments that are to be done as homework. Remember to keep the instructions simple but clear. Use language that the student will understand. If a task has more than one step, write the instructions so that the steps are discernable.

Evaluation

While the Internet provides abundant opportunities for language learning it provides little in the way of assessment. If you send your students to one of the many ESL/EFL web sites and tell them to perform a certain task, the web site may have a type of assessment tool such as an on-line quiz or some other type of immediate feed back device, but only the student doing the activity will see the results. So the question is, how do we as teachers evaluate our students' performance when using Internet activities? The most obvious answer is self-assessment. This could be accomplished through the use of questionnaires similar to short quizzes. The questionnaire could be incorporated into the activity or could be administered after the activity was completed. Other possible assessment methods include peer-assessment and group assessment.

Your Turn

Building on the previous lesson, work with a partner and visit the following Internet web sites. Be prepared to,

  1. give your opinion about the usefulness of each website for langauge learners.
  2. outline an activity that you could use with your students
  3. decide what type of assesment should be used to evaluate the activity
  4. You have 30 minutes to complete this activity.

    1. http://www.teenadvice.org
    2. http://www.crayon.net
    3. http://www.mysterynet.com/
    4. http://www.exploratorium.edu/memory/index.html

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