This is the last exercise type in my series of exercises designed to practice phonemic script. This exercise works like conventional hangman, with the difference that the words to be guessed need to be ‘spelled’ using phonemic symbols, entered with the buttons in the web-page.

Phonemic hangman is a lot more difficult than the conventional version. The exercise allows seven wrong guesses, but this could be increased to make the task easier. All the words are connected with family relationships. Grouping words by theme means that this exercise can be used to recycle vocabulary. It also encourages the student to think, rather than just click randomly. Can you think of any other ways that the words could be grouped?

I have used numbers rather than the traditional gallows – I would like a better visual metaphor but have not been able to come up with one. Any suggestions?

The exercise is at:
http://users.otenet.gr/~petermac/call/phonhang/phonhang.html

I would appreciate your feedback – you can use the “Report” button to post feedback to this weblog. I am sure there are bugs which I have yet to find.

 

This exercise aims to practice transcription of words into phonemic symbols. The user is asked to transcribe words, one at a time, from a text prompt. They are given feedback on the correctness of their transcription and are able to correct it until they have it correct. They can also get help, by asking for the next symbol.

The words I have chosen in this example are a fairly random selection of words that cause spelling/pronunciation problems. Words could be chosen that feature two or three basic sounds which are being practiced. Any other suggestions?

The exercise is at:
http://users.otenet.gr/~petermac/call/phon/phontxt.html

I would appreciate your feedback – you can use the “Report” button to post feedback to this weblog.

 

This exercise is similar to the other transcription exercise, with the difference that the user hears the words, rather than sees them written. They can listen to the word as many times as they want.

The words I have chosen in this example contrast two vowel sounds. Have you got any other suggestions about how this could be used?

At the moment I am using RealPlayer to control the sound clips – but I am still having a lot of problems with this. I chose Real Player because it is widely used and easy to control with JavaScript, but it is not possible to display a volume control in Mozilla based browsers.

The exercise is at:
http://users.otenet.gr/~petermac/call/phon/phonaudio.html

I would appreciate your feedback – you can use the “Report” button to post feedback to this weblog.

 

One of the ideas that often comes up when weblogs are discussed is that they offer students an audience for their writing. I think this raises a number of important issues.

The first one is the nature / identity of that audience. Who are they? Successful writing is addressed to an identifiable audience, whether it is readers of romantic novels or users of a new video recorder. The needs and expectations of the audience are an important ingredient in the writing process. The audience for an open weblog seems to be essentially unknown. A weblog is a location in cyberspace which people can stumble across and read. (Certainly, the anonymous audience may in time develop into an identifiable group, but this is not the case when the weblog is created.) I do wonder how well learner writing can be served by this kind of random audience.

I also feel that the power relationship implicit in a weblog might be unhelpful. Most weblogs are owned – they ‘belong’ to an individual or group. Insiders post content and outsiders comment on content. There seems a very clear hierarchy here, and this is very different to an e-mail discussion list. A discussion list is essentially a developing community of practice. While a list may be owned / managed by an individual, usually there is a more equal power relationship – everyone is free to post. While there may be very different levels of participation, an e-mail list is basically a community of equals.

Student journal writing is often mentioned as an example of how weblogs can be used, but I think I approach them in a very different way. With EAP learners, I do try to get them to keep a learner diary. I see this as something they can do _if_ they feel comfortable with it, and most importantly as something that is private – they can show it to me if they wish, but there is no obligation to do so. Making learner journals public changes them dramatically. Since they are public, learners are under a pressure to produce – a learner who does not write anything is likely to feel that they are not doing what their teacher wants. It also prevents learners for using them as a means of expressing their concerns to the teacher – some learners feel uncomfortable doing this in a face to face situation.

I also think that there is often an assumption that publishing student writing is a good thing, and I feel a little uncomfortable with this. It is often suggested that providing writers with an audience leads to increased motivation. However, is that audience really there? If my learners produce the millionth class weblog, how many readers will they really get? If I want to help get an audience for their writing, could I not perhaps do this more successfully through an organised e-mail exchange? And looking it from the other side, do I actually want my learners to be spending time reading other people’s weblogs? These are texts that bear no relation to their reading needs in terms of style, purpose, language or genre. If I merely want them to read for pleasure, would they not be better off reading novels, articles etc, rather than weblogs written by other learners of English?

This is not to say that weblogs have no role in language teaching, but I think that being aware of these issues can help to ensure the success of a weblog. Like all uses of technology in education, the success or failure of a weblog lies in the way it is set up, and a successful weblog activity will need careful organisation. It is important that weblog activity is integrated into the course – that it isn’t something that is tacked on to the rest of the learning activities in order to give a traditional course some technological bells and whistles. Organisation is important – it will probably work more effectively if it is set up as an exchange between one or more existing groups of learners. Two or three classes could set up weblogs and read and comment on them over a period of time. Alternatively, a number of learners from different groups could combine together to collaborate on the same weblog. In addition, a weblog activity will also work better if it is based around a defined topic or task. For example, three classes might be reading different books by the same author or on the same topic and could use weblogs to comment on them.

Weblogs seem to have less application with adult EFL learners. Dealing with adult professionals requires an approach that is focussed on outcomes – learners are not interested in ‘knowing English’ – they need to be able to use English to do something. Whatever value weblogs may or may not have, there can be few learners who are studying English in order to produce a weblog. The important question for me is whether weblogs will help learners to develop skills that can be transferred to there own situation? I also think it is important to be fairly sceptical about the use of technology in ELT. When considering an application I want it to enable me to do one of two things: to do something new, or to do something more effectively. Discussion boards and e-mail lists would seem to be more effective alternatives in many cases.

So what exactly do weblogs allow us to do that we couldn’t do before? And what do they allow us to do more effectively?

 

This is the first entry in my new weblog. I have set up this weblog to discuss and evaluate CALL activities. This weblog is run with Movable Type, which I haven’t used before. It seemed pretty easy to set up. I have tried to keep the interface as plain and simple as possible, though I can add a lot more functionality if needed.

Any suggestions about how this could be improved? Does it work OK for you? Leave a comment.

The rest of this message is technical.

I will be adding a better looking header with a menu bar. At the moment there is only one page, so there isn’t much for a menu bar to do. But I will shift things from the side bar to the top of the page, and add links to other content.

I have added a newsfeed, which took a lot of setting up but seems to work OK. I wanted to convert the newsfeed myself rather than depending on another site to do it for me. I tried a lot of different ways to do this and finally got it working with RSSMonkey. It took a lot of experimentation, but it does seem the easiest to use and it automatically caches the feeds to a file, which saves time. This is something that will be useful since I can use the same program to add newsfeeds to any of my web pages – something that I have been wanting to do for some time.

What I would really like to do is limit the newsbox to a limited selection of three stories from the feed, rather than include them all. In this way there would be space for news from more than one source. I have looked at the code but it is a little beyond my grasp – I know virtually nothing about perl. It doesn’t look too difficult, and I am sure it is possible, but it really helps if you have some idea about what you are doing, and I don’t.

I am not very happy with the comments pop-up and will probably change it so that the comments appear at the end of a page. If people have disabled pop-ups on their browser this might be a problem??? What would be nicest would be to have the comments entry page written dynamically within the page – in other words it appears when needed and then disappears.

A spell checker would also be a nice addition. I have the plug-in but haven’t got around to setting it up. If it is anything like the newsfeed, I will probably leave it for a while.

 
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