Chat centres can be a rewarding experience for the language learner. The user meets other learners online and can communicate with them through text, speech, and video. It is easy to set up a chat server, but difficult to gain users: it is a very lonely feeling to be the only visitor in a chat room;-) The main problems with chats are the lack of content and the difficulties encountered in organising and arranging chats using the less taught languages. However, when combined with tasks and suitable groups of students (age groups, interests etc.), chats can lead to real communication and, when followed by post task work, language learning.
One of the most used chat programs is Microsoft Messenger. To download and read more information, go to http://get.live.com/messenger/overview .Microsoft Messenger includes many useful features like:
Another platform for online chats is Skype www.skype.com,where a feature named Skypecasts allows the user to participate in online community chats with up to 100 participants. Skype has a directory where it is possible to locate language learning chats or to host one yourself.
Friends Abroad from Babbel.com is a service that assists language learners in finding other learners to chat with: http://www.babbel.com/go/friendsabroad with more than 700.000 registered users from 200 countries
Cloze exercises are similar to the fill-in the blank exercise but in a cloze exercise the words to remove are selected automatically (i.e. every 5th word). This is an activity that can easily and in a few minutes be created with the “Hot Potatoes”3 software.
When a student has handed in a text in an electronic form, it is bad practice just to print it out and to comment on it with the old fashioned red ink. It works much better when the teacher inserts suggestions into the text using the word processor or special programs. An example of a program for commenting texts can be found at: http://www.cict.co.uk/software/markin/index.htm.The program can be adapted to different languages.
Crosswords are often very popular with students and, when created from the vocabulary that the students have just been working, they can be a good tool for post task exercises. This is an activity that can easily and in a few minutes be created with the software “Hot Potatoes”4.
And with Hot Potatoes students may even create exercises for one another.
Drills are often referred to as “Drill and Kill” exercises. A computer can do anything that the old fashioned language laboratories could do; Model: “He has one car”, Response “No, he has two cars”. “He has one computer”, “No, he has two computers” … The user input can be either text or speech through the computer microphone.
Electronic dictionaries are very useful for the learners of the less taught languages. There are several examples of dictionaries that are either free or shareware on the Internet. Try the address http://www.dictionaries.com or perhaps search the web for online dictionaries with Google (this is preferable because new services appear frequently).
An electronic portfolio, also known as an e-portfolio, e-folio, or digital portfolio can be a simple collection of work on a diskette or, in the more advanced version, a student website where the student presents selected pieces of work. Some of the work may still be in progress thus demonstrating the learning process.
In education, portfolio refers to a personal collection of information describing and documenting a person’s achievements and learning. There is a variety of portfolios ranging from learning logs to extended collections of achievement evidence. Portfolios are used for many different purposes, such as accreditation of prior experience, job search, continuing professional development, certification of proficiency.
The pedagogical idea is that the student becomes aware of her/his learning styles, helping her/him to choose the right activities, thus increasing learning. Portfolios can also be used for assessing students. Read an article by TIM Caudery on portfolio assessment here:
Blogs (see the blogs heading) may also serve as portfolios.
There is even free software that can serve as basis for electronic portfolios, e.g. the OSP http://www.osportfolio.org/ and Confolio: http://www.confolio.org/wiki/Introduction/Main A collection of portfolio templates can be downloaded from: http://www.coe.iup.edu/pttut/Portfolios.html The Moodle Course Management System http://moodle.org/ can also be used for portfolios.
Fill-in the blank.
The user works with a text where some of the words have beenremoved on the basis of a certain criterion (new vocabulary, verb forms, prepositions etc.), and the user has to find suitable words to solve the exercise. This is an activity that can easily and in a few minutes be created with the “Hot Potatoes”5 software.
Find the answers.
The student is given a question and looks for the answer in documents, video, or audio using the Internet, CD-ROM, DVD or similar storage systems. The answers can then be presented to the teacher / class in different forms. When the “find the answer” exercise becomes more elaborate, it actually becomes a webquest (read more in the WebQuest entry).