TASK 2 ( ESL WEBSITE EVALUATION)
What does the application attempt to “teach"?
Basically, this website or application is mainly about learning English Language in a fun and most relaxing way. It is targeted for users aged 4 until 11 years old. I found it very interesting and different from the other normal websites. It is somehow similar to any video games or programs that children normally play on their computer or playstation. That interests me more to explore and access this website.
This website is about a ‘country’ called the ‘Mingoville’ which consist of a species of animal. Users are required to follow and complete the missions given while learning English along the way. There are a lot of interesting activities in each mission. These activities cover the learning process needed; from gathering information, providing explanation, learning new things, completing tasks, gaining feedback and self-motivation. Further explanation regarding the activities in this application will be notified in the next question.
What sorts of things is the application user expected to do with regards to the learning content?
As been mentioned earlier, this website this mainly designed for children aged 4 to 11 years old. It is proven that children are easily attracted to something colourful, imaginative, interesting and animated. These are the factors needed to be focused on in designing a program for children especially when it is related to education. This is what the program is aiming at. It is stated on the first page of the website, ‘English for Fun’!
This application is user friendly and very easy for children to access even without any guidance from their parents or even teachers. Children can even learn it at home during their pastime. The colourful animation makes it very intriguing and it is attention grabbing. The sound effects and various interesting language activities add in the ‘spice’ towards it. The missions that have to be completed indirectly boost up children’s self-motivation to complete all the tasks and activities until the end of the journey. All the tasks provided are related to language learning in a more relaxing way for children. For an example, there are a lot of introduction to new vocabularies, the usage of English language in everyday life and others basic language forms.
What sorts of computer skills is the application users expected to have in order to operate / access / use the application?
This application does not acquire complex software of skills in order to operate it. As it is being targeted for children, it is very user friendly. As I have mentioned earlier, it is similar to a computer games children normally play. So, it is easy for them to access this application. They only need to sign up for the game before start exploring. No worries, because the sign up is free. The only problem is, users need to have an email account in order to sign up. After a few minutes, everything is at their finger tip. There is no downloading needed for this website. It is ready to access.
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?
I remembered a few incidents using this kind of method of teaching and learning process. The first incident was when one of my fellow classmates conducted her microteaching where she used a game called ‘Varmin’. It is actually a normal computer game but she transformed it as a part of her lesson in teaching direction. I found it very amusing and different.
Later, when I performed my practicum in school, I adapted her method and used it in one of my class. It worked and my students loved it and found it easier to understand the lesson. Maybe this method will not be applicable to all subjects, but it is something different for future teachers to instill it in nowadays advanced minded learners.
Can you pinpoint some theories of language learning and/or teaching underlying the application?
According to Paul Bloom, a Professor of Psychology at Yale University, “Normal children learn tens of thousands of words, and do so quickly and efficiently, often in highly impoverished environments. He argue that word learning is the product of certain cognitive and linguistic abilities that include the ability to acquire concepts, an appreciation of syntactic cues to meaning, and a rich understanding of the mental states of other people.” Through my analysis, I found out that this website focus more on gaining and learning new words through the tasks given.
Other than that, obviously, there is communicative language teaching theory as well. The website activities focus on all of the components including grammatical, discourse, functional and they are given opportunities to self-learning with a guidance of their teachers and parents.
How well is the constructivist theory of learning applied to the chosen website?
Social constructivism views each learner as a unique individual with unique needs and backgrounds. The learner is also seen as complex and multidimensional. Social constructivism not only acknowledges the uniqueness and complexity of the learner, but actually encourages, utilizes and rewards it as an integral part of the learning process (Wertsch 1997). In relation to this website, users are required and trained to push themselves to the limit and self-realizing their inner capability. In completing the missions and tasks provided, users are motivated to learn English at the same time.
According to the social constructivist approach, instructors have to adapt to the role of facilitators and not teachers (Bauersfeld, 1995). For this website, teachers are able to monitor and facilitate their students and still creating the interesting environment for the learners to learn English.
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, computer is just an alternative for teachers to seek for improvement in their method of teaching and learning process in the classroom. It is unfair to state that computer is a “master” or even a “slave” to the learning process. Both teachers and computer have their own specialties in contributing to the education sectors. In my opinion again, both teachers and computers are interrelated and needed each other. In order to improve and create new revolution to the education industry, there is no harm in combining both for the betterment of our future generation.
Would you like to use the application yourself in your future work?
Well, as for me, if I am not going to be a primary school teacher, I will definitely use it for my children. I found it very interesting to instill the interest for children in learning the English Language. It is the most effective way without forgetting the ‘manual’ alternative as well, such as books and etc.
In my opinion, the only flaws that I can trace is, the lack of variety in terms of the level of proficiency. It will be widely access if this website offers missions and tasks for different level of proficiency such as the three basic levels; beginner, intermediate and advanced learner. It may be more challenging yet fun for users from all over the world to sign up and explore the website.