Introduction

by Dr Jarosław Krajka

Department of Applied Linguistics,

Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Lublin, Poland

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1.  Internet-based Lessons – Introduction.

The question which needs to be answered in the beginning is the following: what is an Internet lesson and how is it different from a traditional lesson of English? An Internet lesson (also called an Internet-based lesson, a Web-based lesson or an online lesson) is a lesson, in which the Internet and computers are used in some way in the teaching process. Usually, the Internet is used as a source of materials, as a basis for some language work or skills focus, and Internet websites are used instead of coursebook materials. An Internet lesson may also make use of new means of communication made possible by the Web, namely email, chat, discussion groups or videoconferencing.

 

2. Internet Lessons vs. Coursebook Lessons.

In order to justify the use of Internet lessons in learning English, and to convince teachers of the need to introduce them into their teaching, some advantages over coursebook lessons could be given here:

Ø      authenticity: the teacher may use authentic materials from the Web, which are made not for a particular group of learners, but for the whole English-speaking community. In this way, students can get the feeling of more meaningful and realistic learning.

Ø      recency: in contrast to the coursebook, the Internet is updated very often, and consequently the Internet websites are much more current and therefore appealing to students.

Ø      variety and choice: during a Web-based lesson, students do not have to read the same text and answer the same questions – on the contrary, each of them can choose a review or biography he/she is interested in. In this way, online lessons foster independent learning.

Ø      novelty: the materials found on the Web and the methods of work with them bring an element of novelty, as students do not know the materials and are not able to read the texts or see the pictures beforehand. Thus, Web-based lessons are unpredictable as for content and methods of work, which is in contrast with the coursebook, highly predictable and repetitive.

However, there are also drawbacks and dangers posed by Internet lessons. Here are some of them:

Ø      fast Internet connection is necessary, as otherwise the whole lesson may break down

Ø      it may be difficult to schedule a computer lab for English lessons

Ø      online tasks are more consuming and less predictable than coursebook tasks

Ø      the content of many sites may be too difficult for lower-level learners, as most websites are not meant for any special level of students

Ø      sites with offending material are easy to encounter, either willingly or not

Ø      some sites may have factual mistakes and/or spelling errors.

Thus, teachers should be aware of these limitations and problems, and try to find some solutions.

 

3. Internet Lessons – Technical Requirements.

What should a teacher have at his/her disposal to conduct an online lesson of English? Below, some requirements are given:

Ø      fast and reliable Internet connection

Ø      computers, but not necessarily very new and powerful

Ø      sound cards

Ø      headphones

Ø      an optional networked printer

Ø      an optional scanner

Ø      website space and individual email accounts.

Surely, most Internet or computer labs possess all these features, and the only obstacle could be the low quality of the Internet connection. In such a case, the teacher should carefully plan the lesson, give students specific sites to work on, preload the sites before the lesson, use the time when websites load for some other offline language activities (speaking, pair work, etc.)

 

4. Internet Lessons – Students’ Computer Skills.

Web-based lessons require some amount of computer skills, and students should know how to:

Ø      type

Ø      launch applications (the Internet browser, the word-processor)

Ø      search the Net effectively for sites with a given keyword

Ø      send and receive email messages

Ø      use a chat program

Ø      save a complete site or a picture from a site (providing the copyright law is not violated)

Ø      copy and paste some text from a website to a word-processor

Ø      edit documents in a word-processor.

 

5. Internet Lessons – the Teacher’s Role.

Internet-based lessons, as opposed to coursebook lessons, demand the active role of the teacher in searching for materials, adapting them to the level of the class, creating tasks to be executed in the classroom. In this way, teachers become material developers, and they use the Internet as a great treasure trove of authentic, interesting and current materials to choose from. Of course, preparing such a lesson demands a lot of time and effort, and that is why beginning online teachers are advised to use ready-made lesson plans (the ones published on this website or in academic journals such as Teaching English with Technology, http://www.iatefl.org.pl/call/callnl.htm) before they start creating their own materials. At the same time, teachers are advised to treat Internet-based instruction as a means of supplementing coursebook instruction, help the coursebook by introducing new, interesting and current texts, relate the coursebook contents to the current moment, give students the opportunity to interact with students from other countries learning with the same coursebook.

 

6. Internet Lessons – Stages of the Lesson.

Web-based lessons, similarly to lessons with reading or listening focus, can be divided into three basic stages: pre-, while- and post-stage. Below some characteristics of each can be found:

a)      Pre-stage. It is usually offline (done with traditional methods without the Net or computers). It might be devoted to the introduction of the topic of the lesson, some speaking warm-up, the revision of key structures and vocabulary which will be useful later on. Also in this stage the teacher should familiarise students with the instructions for the while-stage, present the computer tasks if necessary, and guide learners through the materials to be completed during the while-stage, so that all students know exactly what they are supposed to do and how.

b)      While-stage. It is online, and students work individually, in pairs or groups on the Web, executing tasks assigned by the teacher, looking for and extracting the information necessary to complete the assignments. Internet sites serve here as a source of materials and stimulus for speaking and/or writing.

c)      Post-stage. In the final, offline, phase of the lesson, the teacher should focus on checking the way the assigned tasks have been accomplished, and students should report their findings to the whole class or the other group. The teacher should draw their attention to interesting words or structures encountered when working online, as well as give some feedback on the errors they have made. On the other hand, students should give feedback to the teacher on how they felt about the task, the problems they might have met and the solutions they have come up with.

 

7. Conclusion.

It is hoped that the above introduction has managed to explain the idea of Internet lessons and some of the most important issues connected with them. Obviously, it was impossible to discuss all possible problems here, which leaves the matter open for discussion.

One of the main aims of this website is to collect and publish lesson plans so that teachers can benefit from an archive collected in such a way. Of course, lesson plans created by teacher trainers and teachers from all over the world are also welcome.

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