Sunday, March 4, 2007

Review #6

Name: There is no name but la passerelle is a ‘footbridge’ which suggests a bridge to the English language.

Level and Skill: Level 3 to Advanced (Niagara College) in the skills of Reading and Writing

Interactive: Yes

ESL/Non- ESL: ESL site but it appears it was designed as an EFL site. Also useful for Non-ESL learners.

What makes it good? The site is designed with the possibility of doing many of the exercises without the interactive component. The menu has four choices two of which are Interactive tests and Non Interactive. For some learners who feel threatened by the negative reinforcement of “wrong” flashing on the screen, the non interactive alternative is ideal. Navigating the menu is made easy because the instructions are brief yet sufficient enough not to burden the learner with extra reading material. The interface is clean with no visuals in the exercises that might mislead or cause distraction with the exception of the simple circle and lines of the Hangman games under Language Games. There is a particular emphasis on ESP content for Business English, Medical purposes and Engineering. The level of difficulty ranges in these categories but for ESP learners and teachers alike, many of the activities are good reviews for testing reading and terminology. The Writing Sentences Spell and Write and Word Opposties are timed creating a bit of an incentive. There is a lot of content that delves into English literature, highlighting Victorian Lit. For those Non-ESL learners, these activities are just fun for testing general knowledge. Overall, this site is fairly comprehensive in content, clean (no advertising) and straightforward to use. I would give it 4 stars out of 5.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Review #5

Name: Rosetta Stone

Level and Skill: Beginner to Intermediate Level in Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking

Interactive: Yes

ESL/Non-ESL: applicable to both

What makes it good? For any language learner, this is an ideal site to experiment with the variety of languages offered in the demo. I found that a good portion of my afternoon was occupied by trying at least a quarter of the 30 language possibilities. It became quite an addictive exercise in fact, as I listened for the similarities of the sound to the actual word being spoken. I loved the sound of some languages and was instantly attracted to the Romance and Germanic families of languages knowing that at least some of my responses would be correct! I was reminded of the Contrastive Analysis of our Language Acquisition course in Term 1, where we were given an activity from Michael Swan and Bernard Smith’s Learner English and asked to analyze a specific language in contrast to English. The Rosetta Stone exercises provided a better understanding of why interference can be so problematic for an ESL learner. For a linguistic specialist, this site would definitely be attractive with an overview of all the language families.

The pronunciation and listening skills are excellent practice for some of the suprasegmentals and ESL learners could benefit from slowing the pace down on the speech recognition software to suit their needs. In terms of practicality, however, I am not sure if learning the basic vocabulary of a horse, cat, ball, man, woman etc. are really useful. These would not be my first choices for vocabulary building. While the site is interactive, there is a certain tedium to pointing and clicking on the pictures and hearing the positive reinforcement of the harp music and the more negative resonance of the organ should the choice be incorrect. I imagine the full Rosetta Stone programme provides a more dynamic, appealing and powerful interface to learning languages. This was a great way to spend a couple of hours putting myself in the seat of the ESL learner.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Review #4

Name: Learn to Read at Starfall

Level and Skill: Pre-Benchamark, Literacy to Low Level Learners in the skill of reading, phonic instruction and vocabulary development

Interactive: Yes

ESL/Non-ESL: Could apply to either but the site is primarily designed for young children and the beginning reader.

What makes it good? During my practicum, my mentor teacher pointed this site out to me. She uses this site with many of her learners who are adults enrolled in a literacy level course. At first, the site appears to be quite juvenile, however, for many of the adult learners who are unfamiliar with the Roman alphabet, the ABC exercises are an opportunity to explore the letter sound relationships and develop some word recognition skills. The interactive aspect of the exercises in all 4 categories is easy to use, so for those learners who have had little or possibly no experience with computers, the elementary steps to using a mouse, moving and clicking on an area of interest, is ideal. There are lots of visuals with arrows, animations and hands that point. Even though the explicit phonic instruction in this Starfall reading programme along with the repetition might seem tedious, for the emergent ESL learner who often has trouble making the letter sound connections and building on vocabulary, this site offers a good starting point.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Review #3

Name: English Language Centre Study Zone University of Victoria

Level and Skill: Level 1 through to Level 5 Advanced. The skills focused on are: reading, grammar, comprehension and vocabulary building. There is also a link to an Intermediate level listening course.

Interactive: Yes

ESL/Non-ESL: The site is definitely for ESL learners with its connection to the English Learning Centre at the University of Victoria.

What makes it good? Upon clicking on the Study Zone link to the ELC, you are immediately invited to choose a level of which, there are 5 and then one additional, called Extras. These access levels all have grammar, reading, vocabulary and puzzles but in a level appropriate variation. The Level 1 or 200 materials, have pictures that the learner must identify from a list. Easy to scroll through for the correct answer and if boredom sets in, the next level is easy to access. The gradient level of difficulty and content is ideal as many of the activities are not unlike those that might be taught in the classroom but are beefed up with an interactive aspect that is totally controlled by the learner. The titles of the material are also attractive like ‘Pulp Friction’ at Level 5 making reference of course, to the movie Pulp Fiction,
corny nonetheless, a clever psychological mechanism. The viewer, however, is unlikely to see Uma Thurman or John Travolta featured in the article about the Pulp and Paper Industry in B.C., although the subject of drugs (hemp and marijuana), is a good part of the reading comprehension! I liked the way that the skills of predicting, scanning and skimming were the first steps to reading this article. The timer at the top is an excellent tool for this exercise, which provides a bit of additional motivation for the reader. The time allowed for reading is perfect for the level. Likewise, at Level 4, the titles for reading are imaginative and catchy, “The Death Car”, “The Chocking Dog” etc.

The Sample Listening Course provides good opportunities to listen to English pronunciation, conversation in context and an opportunity to discuss the topics with the teacher or other learners. Although some of the clips are staged, the fundamentals of listening and interactive communication are integral. The instructions are easy to follow and all the units are labeled and described prior to listening. Although this aspect of the website is designed as a tutorial course of study over 12 weeks, it simply serves as good listening practice. This is a great, well designed site that I would highly recommend.

Review #2

Name: Canadian Slang

Level and Skill: Applicable to any ESL level with an interest in knowing the translation of some of the Canadian slang they may hear. There is no particular skill that is targeted except possible comprehension of some terms and definitely no skill required in using the site!

Interactive: No

ESL/Non-ESL: Both, as there were quite a few terms of which I was unaware.

What makes it good? Not much actually. I have to believe there are better sites available for ESL learners who want to navigate the world of Canadian slang. Upon going on the site, I was immediately assaulted by pop-ups with annoying sounds and active x control commands that prevented me from scrolling up or down. I had to end task in one instance. Sorry, but I am not going to ‘Dress my Zwinky” and nor am I in the market for ‘Mate 1 intimate dates from Hamilton’! If I really want to know what the peg is or the rock , maybe I will go out and buy a Two –Four, sit in front of the bar(google bar that is) and scroll all day. The idea of FUNetics that Mike Ellis has tried to create in other languages with pictographic equivalents is simply confusing and a little bit juvenile. Gracias pero no gracias; this site gave me a skull cramp. For many learners making a serious effort to understand idioms, colloquial language and slang, its sure to do the same to them!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Review #1

Name: Guide to Grammar and Writing

Level and Skill: This website would be most useful for Advanced Level learners where EAP is required for Post Secondary studies in College or University. Particular attention is paid to grammar structures in the skill of writing.

Interactive: Yes, there is a vast range of interactive quizzes and exercises to choose from in the index.

ESL/Non-ESL: It is not exclusive to ESL learners but this site is listed as one of the resources in the ESL programme at Capital College. Educators, grammar enthusiasts and learners from a variety of backgrounds could benefit from this site.

What makes it good? As the dedication to this site indicates, the professor who developed the Guide to Grammar and Writing did so with the intention of helping his students to write essays and research reports. The organization and layout of the site is clear and simple, with a central index organized into 6 easily navigated areas of exploration into grammar mechanics and usage. The information is categorized into levels, beginning with ‘Word and Sentence Level’ moving sideways to ‘Paragraph Level’, ‘Essay and Paper Level’, ‘Peripherals and Power Points’ for the more visual user, interactive Quizzes and Grammar Exercises ending with ‘Grammar Poll Guestbook and Awards’, which gives the learner an opportunity to give critical feedback about the site or, to ask questions in the subtopic area, ‘Ask Grammar’. The online lessons are creative, culturally appropriate, current and often have a colourful lexicon embedded in the content. The coloured font is easy to read once the selection is made. Fun cartoons, some of which are animated, are interspersed amongst the text making the information more attractive and enticing to the learner. The scroll bar at each level, gives one endless possibilities for a selection of grammar points from comma use to vocabulary builders, to tips on argumentative essays. The website also offers access to other useful websites through a variety of hyperlinks. Overall, this site is a fabulous resource that makes learning grammar totally ‘user friendly’!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Welcome to my new blog.

This is where I am going to review websites for my 9011 course in technology.