If you are reading this, perhaps you are already familiar with the Internet and are aware of the abundance of information available. As a teacher using the Internet, perhaps you have had the opportunity to borrow or lend teaching materials or techniques. If so, you are aware of the potential difference this could make in your teaching and your students' learning. Of course, such potential exists for nearly any field or interest.
As a professional tool, the Internet might seem like an interesting option which makes tasks easier, however, as others benefit from greater and faster information exchange, it becomes necessary for us to be involved if we hope to remain current. From being an interesting option, using the Internet could become a skill as necessary to life as reading, writing or using a library.
As educators, we try to prepare our students for their roles in the world. From the English department of a Japanese high school, we see an opportunity to use the Internet to give students a chance to practice the English which they have learned, share knowledge-including teaching about their own culture and learning about others, and learn a valuable skill for their future lives.
In this course, a Japanese teacher of English and a native assistant English teacher are currently working with two groups of seven students each. Each group meets for fifty minutes, two times per week, for one school year. Our aim is to help students gain specific skills and knowledge useful in using the Internet so that they may later use it independently. Skill learning has been divided into three groups: grammatical and compositional skills related to essay writing; computer skills including using the keyboard and basic DOS commands and text file use with IBM compatible personal computers; Internet skills including using e-mail, text chat programs, and posting to bulletin boards and home pages.
To get students accustomed to the use of e-mail, we began with basic writing exercises. These were usually short essays of about three paragraphs, written at home and typed into IBM compatible computers without Internet access. Essays were saved as text files on diskettes and checked by the teachers, who marked errors for student self-correction. We began with self-introductions by both teachers and students. These were followed by a series of question and answer messages between students and the teachers, using text files as e-mail. Projects included essays on the following topics: "If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go, and why?" "Describe your dream home" "What is school life like for you?" and "What do you do in your free time?"
In between essays, students practice skills specific to essay writing including: brainstorming, paragraph and essay organization, and grammar practice based on common student errors. When students finish their work for a day, the class sometimes assembles in the front of the room where a projection monitor shows an Internet text chat program. Students have brief conversations with students from other countries with a teacher typing the studentsﾕ own questions and answers. This gives students an opportunity to learn what students in other countries do and do not know about Japan, as well as to learn ways in which other countries are different from Japan. It's fun, maintains interest and gives them ideas for their essays.
Beginning with the school life essay, students have started to post essays to a student bulletin board created by Shinji Masui (BBS for Students http://www.masui.com/bbs/bbs.html). This is intended as a place for students from any country to express their personal experiences and read about the personal experiences of students from other countries. Other students are invited to reply to existing essays, write new essays on the same or similar theme, or write entirely new essays. Eventually, our students will form pair teams and create their own home pages, with each home page to focus on a specific cultural topic of interest to the students. While the teachers hope to help students gain a broader view of what "cultural topic" means, we will not assign specific topics. At the end of the course, students will reflect on their experience of using the Internet.
Of course, there are always problems. Our biggest problem was solved before the course began. This was the problem of teaching ten students with Internet access from only one computer. Students write on computers without access, save text files on diskette and later transfer the entire file. For times when the whole class needs to watch the one computer with Internet access, we have a projection monitor. Students cannot all surf the net at the same time, but that is not the focus of this course.
Other problems are not solved so quickly. The greatest difficulties in this course, from the point of view of an assistant English teacher, are the state of the development of the studentsﾕgrammatical, compositional and typing abilities. Students need a great deal of correction and are reluctant to take responsibility for correcting their own errors. We have used writing practices to work on common problems, with some success, but are now seeking a good grammar reference preferably with practice activities, and possibly on the computers to which we may refer students. Many of the students are also slow to "flesh out" and to organize their essays, but they are improving. Lastly, a great deal of time could be saved if students learned touch typing. Those students who have computers at home are much more productive in class, but at this point, we have not chosen to teach typing skills.
Lastly, the difficulties encountered by an assistant English teacher with limited Japanese language skills must be mentioned. This course naturally uses Japanese language software systems, so in addition to thanking Mr. Masui for conceiving and developing the course, I'd like to thank him for pointing and clicking me through the kanji. I hope all assistant English teachers in such a position are as fortunate.
Students have now been in class for about eight weeks. While writing progress is slow, typing is getting faster, essays are improving in content, and students are quickly learning to use text files and electronic mail. They seem to be well on their way to independent use of the Internet.
Contents copyright © , Kirihara Uni