6.Working with lower levels of language proficiency
7.Web teaching dos and don'ts
You can use web pages in the classroom in a variety of ways:
• as printed pages, with no computers. Although printing is not necessarily the cheapest option, it is certainly a viable one in places where there may be limited access to the Internet. Indeed, a lot of activities using web pages will only necessitate the printing of one or two pages, which can subsequently be photocopied.
• with one computer with an Internet connection. This can be enhanced by connecting the computer to a data projector or even an interactive whiteboard, allowing for greater visibility in class, but it is also possible to make use of a single computer on its own connected to the Internet for reference.
• in a computer lab with a set of networked and connected computers. If you're lucky enough to be in this kind of situation, then you are ideally placed to incorporate Internet content into your regular teaching.
It's important that both you and your learners see the use of the Internet as an intrinsic part of the learning process, rather than as an occasional activity which has nothing to do with their regular study programme. We would therefore recommend that, if you plan to use the Internet, you should talk to your learners and explore the reasons for using this resource with them. This can be done at lower levels in their own language or in English with higher-level classes. You will need to talk to your learners about why Internet content may be useful to them and discuss their attitudes to technology in general - when they use computers, and what for. Show them how the coursebook and other materials can be enhanced by extra material from the Internet, but above all, make it clear that this is not a toy, not something that you are just using to fill in the time.
With some learners there may be some resistance to regular computer use in the classroom. We have often found, for example, that professional people view computers as work tools rather than as resources for learning. It is vital that they appreciate that this is a useful, as well as an entertaining, tool in the classroom and that it can contribute to their language development in a variety of ways, for example by giving them the opportunity to build vocabulary or improve their listening skills. Lower-level classes can be engaged with visual and multimedia materials, the use of songs and other video materials.
ELT websites or authentic websites?
Your choice of website will depend largely on what you want to achieve with it. Many teachers tend to steer clear of authentic websites, and by this we mean any site not created with the language learner in mind, believing that their students will find them too difficult. But, as with all authentic materials, the level and language challenges posed by these sites can be largely mitigated by the type of task you expect your learners to carry out.
A well-designed task will allow your learners to deal with authentic sites, guiding them through not only the text, but also the layout and navigation problems that may otherwise impact on their learning experience.It is also the case that many learners these days are far more used to working with computer-based text and information than they are to dealing with more traditional, paper-based forms of text, and this familiarity with the conventions of web design can count in your favour when deciding to use authentic content from the Internet.
Of course there are plenty of ELT websites which provide content that your learners can use, for example language practice activities they can do on their own. They provide valuable opportunities for more controlled language work and are often a great help to learners who need to brush up on certain aspects of the language or to prepare for an exam. Such sites are often ideal for homework, access to the Internet permitting.
Authentic sites, on the other hand, can be chosen to fit your learners' interests. This is a key factor in keeping motivation high in your electronic classroom. When evaluating authentic sites for possible incorporation into your teaching, try to find ones which have an easy structure and navigation, and with smaller chunks of text per page. These will be more approachable and understandable. Design your tasks to make them achievable, and show your learners how they can use online dictionary sites to help them - if they need them.
Authentic sites also provide an ideal opportunity to work through the issues of 'total comprehension' that plenty of learners have to deal with at some point in their studies. They can be guided towards being comfortable with understanding the content of a site and identifying what they need to know or find out without getting bogged down in having to understand every word on the screen.