Review #1: Website

 

Website reviewed by: Aimee Perrino 

Your e-mail address: aperrino@smcvt.edu

1.  Site description

Site title: ESL Blues

URL: http://ww2.college-em.qc.ca/prof/epritchard/trouindx.htm

System requirements:

Sound card necessary? yes

Plug-in software required? Yes: Macromedia Flash Player is required (A link to the required plug-in software is available on the website.)

Site Author: Eifion Pritchard

Last updated on: 12/12/05

Subject Area(s):

ü      reading

ü      vocabulary

ü      grammar

Target Audience (Please check all that apply.):

ü      pre-intermediate to high-intermediate ELL/EFL learners

ü      adults/middle & high school students/university students

Is the target audience specified? yes

2.  Summary:

The website ESL Blue provides interactive quizzes, readings and grammar tutorials for students who are studying English as a foreign or second language.  Diagnostic tests are available to determine specific areas which need to be focused on.  Upon completion of the diagnostic test(s), links to activities for practice are provided according to the errors made.

3.  Contents:
a. State the educational objectives of the site.

b. Describe in detail the organization/structure of the site (major branches and their function).

This site holds the links for all of its main indexes and sub-indexes on the home page.  All diagnostic tests, exercises, and tutorials are accessed through alphabetical links from the home page.  The first heading on the page is titled, “Navigation Options.”  From here, you choose whether you want to work on your own or be guided.  For independent study, you are referred to the subsequent index of links which are listed in alphabetical order.  If you need guidance, you are directed to take one of the diagnostic tests in order to pinpoint your needs and receive links to pages that will help in those areas.  The top left side of the screen shows a condensed list of the index titles so that the user can see and link to all indexes without having to scroll down the page. Directly under this in the side bar is a Grammar Troubleshooting section as well as a list of sub-indexes and related links.

c. Describe in detail the content/type of activities that the site offers.  For large sites with a complex branching structure, focus on one branch and its content/type of activities.  Include as much information about the various pages and links as possible. Support any assertions with examples from the website. Give examples of what the site does/does not do. Include a discussion of the site’s interaction with the student and its online Help resources. Discuss the type of feedback given to the student.)

The content on the ESL Blues Website can be divided into five categories as follows:

Diagnostic Tests

The user can choose diagnostic quizzes for different proficiency levels.  They can also choose quizzes for specific points of grammar in order to check their competence in a particular area.  The diagnostic quizzes give the user a final score and take them to the instructional and quiz pages for the questions they missed so that they can better understand their errors. 

 

Animated Grammar Tutorials

There are 5 tutorials:

  1. verb “to be” past tense questions
  2. verb “to be” present tense questions
  3. past tense yes/no questions
  4. past tense negative forms
  5. spelling tutorial on doubling final consonants

Some of the tutorials have the option of listening with music or without music.  Most of the tutorials are interactive and at some point in the presentation, the student can practice the grammar point being taught.

Interactive Readings Texts

There are three reading texts with some interactive features.  The first text, Shark, has a pre-reading/brainstorming activity.  The text itself has highlighted vocabulary words which will be defined if the user hovers over the words with their mouse.  The text on sharks also has two follow-up vocabulary quizzes and a quiz on taking risks that involves an opportunity for students to use a search engine to do further reading on the topic of sharks and risks.  The second text, Detective Story, is a quiz for detailed reading comprehension.  It has a vocabulary quiz on the right side of the screen which can be used during or after reading and there is one comprehension question at the end of the text (see screenshot on the next page).  The third text, Urban Legends, does not have any related activities but does provide a link to a website containing more information on urban legends for students who want to read more about them on their own. 

 

Interactive Grammar Quizzes

These quizzes make up the bulk of the material on this website.  The quizzes can be divided into two types—flash and non-flash.  The quizzes that do not require flash always begin with directions for the quiz as well as a model or example for the user.  These quizzes provide buttons which the user can click on to get a hint, check their answers, and/or get the correct answer.  Some of the flash quizzes give the user the option to get directions or see a model before beginning but other quizzes are self-explanatory.  Some of the flash quizzes are timed and many have sound effects for right and wrong answers.  Some of the flash quizzes also provide a button for help if a student is stuck on a particular question.  The help button provides an example of the grammar point that is being quizzed.

Interactive Vocabulary Quizzes

There are twelve vocabulary quizzes most of which focus on the use of prepositions and easily confused words such as say/tell and make/do. There is also a quiz for British versus American vocabulary and one on proverbs.  The feedback features for the vocabulary quizzes are similar to those for the grammar quizzes.

*Note: all activities are ranked with a number according to their level of proficiency.  1) pre-intermediate 2) intermediate 3) high-intermediate

4.  Site Evaluation

a. Describe your thoughts about the site. In your discussion, address the following questions.  Does the site achieve its educational objectives? Is it motivating? Is it easy to use (for the student/teacher)? Is it attractive? Does the site provide meaningful experiences?  Is it culturally biased? (Explain what kinds of assumptions are made about the learner's familiarity with specific aspects of a particular culture.)

Does the site achieve its educational objectives?

I believe that the site does achieve its educational objectives because it provides a good balance of activities which target each of the areas of the objectives.  It screens the students, gives them the option of direct instruction or self-study and provides them with resources for either.

Is it motivating?

The website is motivating because of the use of animation and music (in the tutorials) and flash with sound effects.  Although the timed quizzes may not be appropriate for some, they could be motivational for others.  Also, the diagnostic quizzes are very motivational for the user in that they can target the areas they need to concentrate on and thus, do not have to feel they are wasting their time with things they already know.

Is it easy to use (for the student/teacher)?

This site is primarily for use by students but in one-on-one situations, teachers can easily monitor how students are doing.  A print option for diagnostic tests would be an excellent addition for teachers in order to help them guide instruction in follow-up lessons.  The site is very easy for students to use because the directions are clear and models and examples are provided when necessary.  Also, navigation buttons are always available to help the student return to the main index, repeat a quiz or tutorial, or link to other pages.

Is it attractive?

The page is very simple with no graphics or animation.  The layout is clear and easy to use but students would not necessarily be drawn to the site by its appearance.

 

Does the site provide meaningful experiences?

Because of the nature of the website, which is to practice and reinforce grammar and vocabulary skills, there are not a lot of meaningful experiences provided in this website.  It is focused more on direct instruction and practice.

Is it culturally biased?

I think there is a degree of cultural bias but not to the extent that it impedes the learning experience.  For example, one quiz question referred to the traffic in Montreal but the learner would not need to understand that there is normally heavy traffic in Montreal (or even what heavy traffic means for someone coming from a rural area) in order to answer the question because the demands of the task do not require that. However, the text on urban legends would definitely require some background knowledge on this concept in order for the learner to comprehend what they are reading.

 b. Discuss the sites advantages/disadvantages. Discuss errors/problems/frustrations you encountered. Discuss theoretical and pedagogical strengths/weaknesses/limitations/concerns. Evaluate the site’s overall usefulness for the intended audience.

Strengths

Weaknesses

ü      tools for students to pinpoint the areas of grammar that they need to work on

ü      use of animation and flash (with sound music/sound effects) to catch and keep the learner’s interest

ü      self-study format with automatic feedback

ü      reading sections provide links to related material for independent research

ü      large volume of quizzes in many troublesome areas

ü      separate index for grammar troubleshooting for students who need to focus on specific areas

ü      easy to navigate because of properly placed and linked navigation buttons

ü      ease of use is enhanced by having all content links on one page

ü      Activity levels are clearly marked with numbers that correspond to the required proficiency level

*               lack of texts in the reading section

*               reading texts that exist need to be developed further with more activities for pre, during, and after reading

*               limited vocabulary exercises

*               some dead links

*               lack of immediate feedback on some of the quizzes

*               some quizzes recycle questions if the student finishes before the allotted time is up so students end up answering the same questions again

*               materials are limited to pre-intermediate to high-intermediate level English; there are no materials for students at the beginning or advanced levels

*               site is not attractive and more content specific graphics would lend to the tasks

 

 

Overall Usefulness

Overall, this site is very useful for pre-intermediate to high-intermediate level ESL/EFL students who want to target their weaknesses in grammar and practice specific grammar points on their own.  It is less useful for those students wishing to improve their reading skills or build their vocabulary skills. 

 

 

 

This page was last revised on: Tuesday, March 28, 2006

© Christine Bauer-Ramazani
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