Home > CALL > Sample online development exercises

Sample online development exercises

WordPress is used as the platform for the exercises. This gives the creator lots of choices of appearance.

Project developer Gordon Wells has been working over the summer on creating some sample English online exercises based on source material from Guthan nan Eilean/Island Voices. Using a combination of free “off the shelf” WordPress, Dropbox, and Hot Potatoes software he constructed an “Island Voices: English Exercises” platform, including linkage to the Wordlink and Multidict programs developed under the Leonardo POOLS-T project.

What can a language teacher do, using this approach?

1. Create a stock of separate online pages with different sets of teaching units on each.
2. Create individual teaching units that include embedded video (or audio), transcripts with optional linkage to online dictionaries, interactive self-test language exercises, and suggestions for writing or further discussion in class or online.

Wordlink takes you straight to an online dictionary for translation of an unknown word.

A sample unit for advanced students can be found here, based on the Am Pàipear interview with Norman Maclean for the Series Two Enterprise collection. (Some older units previously produced for Cothrom are also included for illustrative purposes on the Series One Page – though POOLS-T has seen significant development of the online dictionary access tool since their creation.)

This is developmental “work in progress”, and not an integral part of the current project, though it may point a way forward for more work in English and/or Gaelic that will add further educational value to the materials produced here.

As always, comments from language teachers and language learners are most welcome.

Categories: CALL
  1. Nìall Beag
    18/09/2010 at 11:36 am

    I’ve always been quite dubious of the value of fill-in-the-blanks exercises, and I see Hot Potatoes makes a fairly big deal of these.

    Perhaps it’s just that no-one’s ever adequately explained the intended purpose of these — I found it very hard when I was teaching English (a short career break only) to set a task where I was unclear on the goals, because I couldn’t know how to support the students if I didn’t know what they were supposed to be doing/achieving.

    It’s of no small concern to me then to see that the Hot Potatoes homepage has FAQs on “How to write good multiple-choice questions”, “How to write good multiple-select questions” and “How to make a multiple-choice exercise function like a traditional test”, but nothing with regards to how to use the “gap-fill” functionality.

    I wrote a blog post last night on the topic of these fill-in-the-blanks exercises in the language class, comparing it to the cloze test of Gestalt psychology and the gap-fills from the Cognitive side, and why I think it can’t be either of them.

    So what exactly should the language teacher use a fill-in-the-blanks exercise for?

  2. gordonwellsuist
    18/09/2010 at 2:46 pm

    Fair question. In this case, the exercise is conceived as a self-test exercise for an advanced level autonomous learner, checking both lexical and syntactic control. Although the gap-filling exercise is presented in the target language, earlier reference to online dictionary access should make it clear that a doctrinaire “monolingualist” approach is not required or enjoined.

    • 18/09/2010 at 8:08 pm

      I think I see what you’re getting at, but at the same time I can’t see what insight the learner would get from taking such a test. What action can the learner take to improve his score?

      That’s my worry with Hot Potatoes and packages like it — that the task design ends up dictated by the available technology rather than by a particular educational goal.

      If there was a way to generate an action plan — to tell the learner what to revise — that would be a different matter, but HP doesn’t offer this and as it’s not open source, there’s no way to add it in.

      But you’re making me look more critically at the role of testing in learning, which is certainly a good thing, and inspiration for a later blog post….

      • gordonwellsuist
        19/09/2010 at 12:31 pm

        The test should show the learner their strengths and/or weaknesses. How they go about improving on their weaknesses, once identified, is a separate issue – a function of any self-improvement strategies or third party (eg teacher) assistance that may be available. It’s important not to claim more for any particular exercise than it can actually deliver – agreed. And yes, the temptation to let technology dictate the terms of the whole language learning enterprise should be avoided at all costs. Having said that, if it can be appropriately harnessed or contextualised then it can supply a useful supporting role. Looking forward to the blog post…

      • Nìall Beag
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