Friday, March 24, 2006

Types of tasks for web-based lessons

There are several ways of grouping task-based activities. For example, Willis (1996) groups them into:  

A. Listing  
B. Ordering 
C. Comparing  
D. Problem solving  
E. Sharing personal experiences 
F. Creative tasks 

Pica, Kanagy and Falodun (1993) classify these activities according to the type of interaction:
A. Jigsaw tasks c Information gaps tasks c Problem-solving tasks  
B. Decision-making tasks c Opinion exchange tasks. 

According to Richards & Rodgers (2002), they can also be classified into: one-way to two-way tasks, convergent or divergent, collaborative or competitive, single or multiple outcomes, concrete or abstract language, simple or complex processing, simple or complex language, reality based or not-reality based. 

For the web-based lesson suggested in this ICT-blog, we will use Willis’s classification (1996). For each type of task , Willis gives the outcome, processes involved, starting points and follow-up tasks. 

Check the summary chart of Willis’s tasks. You can use it as guide to plan your activities for your web based lesson. Remember that the main focus of a task based approach is meaning and communication. 

If you want to do some language exercises (e.g. grammar), you can do that after the follow up activity focusing on the problems students had while doing their tasks during the lesson (Harmer, 2002) .


* Willis, J. (1996). A Framework for Task-Based Learning. (Longman Handbooks for Language Teachers). Addison Wesley Publishing Company. 
* Pica, T., R. Kanagy, and J. Falodun (1993). Choosing and using communicative tasks for second language instruction. In G. Crookes and S. 
* Gass (eds.), Tasks and Language learning: Integrating theory and practice. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. 9-34 * Richards, J. and Rodgers, T. (2002). Approaches and methods in language teaching. Cambridge University Press. * Harmer, J. (2002). The practice of English language teaching. Longman.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Web-based lesson design process

How would I go about designing a web-based lesson? 

First, I would focus on the topic or topics the unit from the book has got. So for example, let’s say I choose unit 5 from Super Goal (Manuel Dos Santos, 2001). The title of the unit is: Is there any pizza? The grammar points are: coun –noncount nouns; some & any; and would like. I find this unit in the book and scan the content to identify the topic(s) where functions and linguistic aspects are embedded. In this unit, we have two topics: food & restaurants I will choose as my web-based lesson focus: food

What do I do next? 

Well, I start finding sites related to this topic. I can do one of the following things when searching information about it: 

Option 1. I can type in the Google search engine the word “Food”. It will retrieve a list of sites with broad topics related to food. I’d check the first link since it is the most visited site and this may mean it has got interesting information (It’s not always like that, though).  

Option 2: If I want a game or quiz, I would type: “food+games” or “food+quiz” or “food+interactive” and choose one my students may like and enjoy.  

Option3: If I want a sound (and do not want to have copyright problems), I could type: “food+podcast”. For a video, you can type: “food+videocast”. Even though, you can download this audios or videos for free to your computer, it’d be great if you acknowledge the people who produce them by mentioning them in your material as reference or sending a letter to them and letting them know how useful the sound or video has been for your class. 

Now, let’s pretend I went for option 2 and found a game related to food:

This game will be my inspiration to start designing my web-based lesson. Remember that we will follow a task-based approach to design our activities for this lesson. So I will divide the whole process into: pre-task, task and follow up activities.  

The pre-task could be a brainstorming activity, questions, a picture, a short text related to something they have previously seen or practiced in the classroom. Remember we are recycling or reinforcing, NOT introducing new content!! Ok. Having made that clear, let’s say I go for a picture. So I go to Google images and find one that I could use for my students to identify words related to food. This is site is: It was the best I could find. We will not always find the perfect thing on the net because people don’t design their sites thinking about our pedagogical needs (unless it is an EFL site) but we can always ADAPT! …What I'm trying to say is that we don’t have to spend hours finding the perfect site…It should be reasonably sound for our main purpose: recycling and exposing our students to language and more authentic material that will lead them to do things (writing, listening, speaking, reading) meaningfully. Ok…Having found this picture, I will design the following activities:  

1) Students will match with the picture with a list of words related to food with a classmate. 
2) Students classify the words from the list into “Good for my health”, “Not so good” or “Can live without it. 
3) Students to compare their answers (communication – sharing tastes in food) 
The task activity can be started by asking students: “GO TO”….That is, by visiting the site we chose for this part of the lesson…For the task, you can choose activities like scanning, making comparisons, solving a problem, etc. For this material about food, I ask students to  

1) go to:

2) play the game. 

3) read the suggestions given after the game and correct the ones they have in the external material. 

4) play the game again and organize the food into things they eat little, some or a lot…As you can see we are dealing with grammar but within a context…I try not to shoo students away by writing “Classify food using expressions of quantity” in my task-based activity  

5) share this information with their classmates (communication again). 

The follow up activity (activities to consolidate what students did from the previous activities in the web-based lesson) can be a writing or speaking activity (a letter, dialogues, role plays). For my lesson, I ask students to write about a food group (which is what they have in the game) and e-mail the composition to their teacher. Check: Food (external material) and a graphic representing the web-based design process.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Evaluating an Internet site

The use of Internet in ELT (English Language Teaching) has been increasing at an extraordinary speed. Among the many reasons* to use from the Internet in the language classroom, we could have:  

a) authentic reading-listening material  

b) different types of text genre 

C) communication and / or research projects 

d) Students' published work 

e) Language exercises 

One of the shortcomings of the Internet is the sea of sites it has dealing with ANY kind of topic. Some of them unsuitable for teaching or for our students to visit so we should be (extra) careful when choosing a web site to reinforce or recycle any given unit, module or lesson. I would suggest the following criteria to do so:  

A. Organization (lay-out & structure): it is related to the overall design and arrangement of the content of a web page ( page and type size, typeface, and the arrangement of titles and hyperlinks)  

B. Currency: It has to do with the frequency the web page is updated (Do links to remote sites work? Is the site easy to navigate?)  

C. Accessibility: It is related to the access you can have to the page (does it load quickly? Can you move around easily? Is the page always accessible when you get in?)  

D. Clarity: It has to do with the way information is presented (Can you read the information easily? Do graphics add to content or distract? Are there spelling mistakes or usage?)  

E. Appropriateness and relevance: It has to do with the content (Is the content appropriate for the lesson, module or unit?; Is it appropriate for the level/age of my students? is it relevant for the lesson /unit / module topic?  

I think it’s a good idea to use a format to learn how to evaluate Internet sites and it's also and excellent way of keeping track of EFL or Non-EFL sites to use in our web-based lessons. I suggest one taking into account the criteria mentioned above. Have a peek at the web site evaluation sheet. Comments are welcome!  

Sites related to this blog post:  

The Internet for English Teaching: Guidelines for Teachers  

Evaluating a website  

Evaluating Internet resources:  

* Taken from Franklyn Hinds's presentation ICT in ELT

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Planning and designing a web-based lesson

If you want to plan a web-based lesson, you can follow these steps:

1. Consider the ICT you are going to use (A digital camera? / A DVD? / Internet?)

2.  Design lesson plan and external material 

3. Apply lesson plan  

4.  Evaluate lesson plan (Check results and students’ reactions to the activity)

5. Edit your lesson plan (If need be!) It’s important to mention that activities for web-based lessons are task-based. This means that a lesson does not follow the traditional PPP (Presentation-Practice-Production). Task-based language teaching can be defined as “…an approach based on the use of tasks as the core unit of planning and instruction in language teaching (Richards & Rodgers, 2002). Harmer (2000) defines it as "...a task students have to perform or a problem they have to solve". The following chart shows basic differences between PPP and task-based language teaching (TBLT). It might be an oversimplified chart, but I just pretend to sort of set some basic differences between PPP and TBLT for my “newbie” teachers. You are welcome to add more! 
  A task-based methodology has 3 basic stages:

Pre-task, Task and Follow up (post task) (Willis, 1994; Richards, 1985)

A web-based lesson can be applied at the beginning, middle or end of the class. I think it is better after you have finished a lesson. Logistic reasons! Doing it at the beginning or middle of the lesson means that the lab should be available for you to start or continue a lesson at any time. And yes, reality checks. There’s a fixed schedule for you to go to the lab!

The end product of a web-based lesson may be: external material (printed document), a Word document or a blog. Any of them should be supported by its respective lesson plan. In the lesson plan, you state level, aim, time, etc. of the content you want to develop in the lab. The external material should be a guide for students to work in the lab. It should have activities and sites to accomplish this task. It can be a Word printed document or an electronic one to be opened from a computer (saving paper and money on copies!). The example of a lesson plan and external material was based on Franklyn Hinds’ web based lesson material from British Council, Venezuela.

Here's an example of a web-based lesson using a blog:

Reference: Richards & Rodgers (2002). Approaches and methods in language teaching. Cambridge University Press. Harmer (2002). The practice of English language teaching. Longman

Friday, March 03, 2006

What's a Web-based lesson?

A Web-based lesson is a set of activities, mostly tasks, that includes a Web site or many Web sites. It can be delivered entirely online or it can be an online component of a F2F lesson generally to complement it. Instructions can be on paper asking students to go to certain websites or in a blog, a wiki, a web site or an open source platform like Moodle. A web site can be used in a lesson for a variety of purposes including research, developing skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking), collaborative work among other things.
What's so good about using the web in the language classroom?

1. A wide variety or resources (text, audio, video) can help you not only to plan lessons adapted to your students' needs , but mirror the way your students are learning outside the classroom.
2. It is easier to cater for different learning styles and "intelligences" (Howard Gardner).
3. Interaction (synchronously or asynchronously) is possible through different electronic resources.
4. The collaborative nature of most web tools provide opportunities not only for interaction, but creating and learning locally or internationally.
5. Some activities can be checked over and over (e.g. podcast lectures) or tasks can be reviewed to be improved before publishing the last version (e.g. Writing in wikis). 
6. It may encourage autonomous work.


1. When planning a web-based lesson we cannot lose sight of its pedagogical aims.
2. A web-based lesson does not mean translating F2F activities into online ones.       
3. Instructions should be crystal clear since students will be working most of the time on their own.

Adapted from Developing Web-based lesson plans 

Web skills

IT (Information technology) skills are really important to plan your web based lessons or to set up Yahoo groups, blogs, wikis, and you may have. If you feel you need to improve these skills or you just simple don’t have them, BBC has got this excellent interactive course to develop some basic web skills…! This course has got 10 pages (see the numbers next to Online Course):  

Page 1: how to use the course 

Page 2: connecting 

Page 3 & 4: browser and browser plus 

Page 5: forms 

Page 6: searching 

Page 7 & 8: e-mail and e-mail plus  

Page 9: online safety 

Page 10: communities  

Ok ready? Give it a try and let me know how it went!

Computer skills

New to computers? Visit this BBC site (click on the link below) to learn how to use a mouse, keyboard and computer screen. Remember that getting basic computer skills will help you feel more confident when designing web based lesson or using ICT tools like blogs, podcasts, e-mail, a word processor, spreadsheets, etc. 
Click here, and have fun! 

Thursday, March 02, 2006

What's it all about?

This blog is for teachers who are willing to start exploring ICT (Information and Communications Technology)and are interested in integrating it into the language classroom. Suggestions will be welcome! I hope you can get the most of it and realize that using ICT in ELT (English Language Teaching) is more than a "cool" thing to do. It is a tool that can enhance our teaching practice and as a result the learning of our students. You will find here:  

1) Sites for ICT activities

2) Articles related to ICT

3) Tutorials 

4) ICT events 

If it's your first time into ICT, it might be a bit confusing - You know, a sea of terms and tools (most of them alike), a lot of clicking here and there, downloads , uploads, googling, moodling, skyping, podcasting, e-mailing...Don't get scared!...Once you've given it a try and you sort of become an "expert" , at least, in one of them, understanding the rest might become a whole lot easier...Yes, it will be a bit chaotic at first but rewarding at the end...And, I truly believe that "...knowing is better than wondering..." (Benjamin Franklin)

SEMINAR: ICT in ELT: putting the 'Learning' back into 'E-Learning' (2006)

Photograph by Meer Sild from Estonia
ICT in ELT: Putting the "Learning" back into the "E-learning" was held in the Manchester Conference Center from Feb. 12th to Feb. 17th. It was a high quality seminar. Facilitators, like Gavin Dudeney (event director), were not only excellent presenters but handled the content of the seminar professionally. 

This seminar served not only to expand my knowledge on certain ICTs I knew but to get to know new ones. Also concepts like COPs (Communities of practice) improve my understanding of ICT's and its role in ELT. The presentations, hands-on activities and case studies helped us understand:  

1) Tools and approaches to build COPs like Yahoo groups, PpBB (Web based discussion), Moodle (Virtual learning environment), Skype (synchronous online meetings), Windows netmeeting (synchronous meetings) and blogs. These tools were nicely presented by Eric Baber (Online Course Designer for Royal Holloway University of London) 
2) Communities of practice in action like Webheads;  

3) Platforms for virtual learning (Moodle); 

4) Pedagogical approaches and material design.The facilitators were two teachers from Manchester University, Gary Motteram (language teacher educator at the University of Manchester) and Diane Slaouti (Programme Director of the University of Manchester ) ;  

5) Teacher Development (computer literacy; learning about online tutoring; identifying potentials and challenges of ICTs) presented by Nicky Hockly (Director of the Consultants-e) and some case studies by Gary and Diane. 

There was also this live panel discussion that in some way helps us think about the different situations we have got in our countries in connection to ICT and language learning. In the case of Venezuela, I believe, we should focus on: 

1. suggesting IPC teachers from the Department of Modern Languages to design and implement courses where ICT's for language teaching and learning are taught. It's easier to teach these new generations of teachers familiar with computers, video games, text messaging; and even web design than older generations like mine. That is, even though we start training teachers at public primary and high schools (Básica), some of them will not be that willing to learn (computer phobia; lack of computer skills, etc) or may not find it necessary since kids can learn (anyhow) without using Ict's in the classroom (teachers who have been working from more than 20 years, for example) or some of them are about to retired (the why-bother attitude).  

2. suggesting the setting up of Cops to IPC and public school language teachers to encourage them to share knowledge and experience in ELT.  

3. thinking of teacher development courses on line to reach as many teachers as we can in Venezuela (Moodle platform could be great for this)  

4. keeping a blog where Venezuelan teachers ( and teachers from other countries) get updated on what's new in connection to ICT's providing tutorials and samples for them to follow. The easier the ICT tool, the better for teacher training! I almost forgot to mention that the British Council made an interesting presentation on the different web sites like Learn English, Teach English and ELTECS. It is worth visiting them. They can be an interesting and educational source for teaching and learning on-line.  

Manchester Conference Center (2006)

Miguel Mendoza eFL by Miguel Mendoza is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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