Page 10.qxd   11/19/2003   9:19 AM   Page 10                               The Internet in every classroom?               ...
Page 10.qxd   11/19/2003   9:19 AM   Page 11                               school library, or even single computers locate...
Page 10.qxd   11/19/2003   9:19 AM   Page 12      Outside computers        The Internet o=ers >ve basic possibilities for ...
Page 10.qxd   11/19/2003   9:19 AM   Page 13                               meaningful and motivating when studying cultura...
Page 10.qxd   11/19/2003   9:19 AM   Page 14                               content areas will be assigned a clickable butt...
Page 10.qxd   11/19/2003   9:19 AM   Page 15                               Email is the Internet function which has been m...
Page 10.qxd   11/19/2003   9:19 AM   Page 16                               everyone to have access to the information they...
Page 10.qxd   11/19/2003    9:19 AM     Page 17      References                                                Warschauer,...
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Internet in every classroom outside internet

  1. 1. Page 10.qxd 11/19/2003 9:19 AM Page 10 The Internet in every classroom? Using outside computers Daniel Linder Many language education scholars and professionals consider that the ideal way to connect their classrooms to the Internet is to use Internet-connected computer labs in the school. Many publications cater to the needs of teachers who work in such ideal environments (Dudeney 2000; Eastment 1999; Teeler and Gray 2000; Warschauer, Shetzer, and Meloni 2000; Windeatt, Hardisty, and Eastment 2000). Yet many teachers work in situations where computer availability, and lab access to the Internet, are less than ideal. This article suggests several activities for teachers to use in these situations. The activities involve students using Internet-connected computers outside the classroom, including computers in school walk-in computer labs, self-access study areas, libraries, computers in local public libraries, community centres, and where possible at home. Introduction Using the Internet for language teaching is not a simple endeavour; the Internet is actually many di=erent things, each with a di=erent pedagogical value. Despite this complexity, the Internet is a valuable tool for language education, with the potential to become an indispensable tool for language teaching in the future. Many teachers worldwide are already using Internet-connected computer labs in their schools. However, there is a large (perhaps larger) number of teachers who work in less-than-ideal classroom environments. These teachers may not have Internet-connected computer labs in their schools, or the computer labs may be overcrowded, di;cult to schedule, and complicated to use. I would like to suggest several ways that teachers in these situations can harness some of the potential of the Internet for teaching English. In these suggested approaches, students connect to the Internet on computers outside the classroom, where they gather or publish information on the Web, or where they share information by using email. The classroom is more likely to be used for reading/writing texts, and for talking about them. Internet accessibility The prototypical way for English teachers to connect their classrooms to in school computer the Internet is to use Internet-connected computer labs in the school. An labs ideal computer lab generally contains one fully-equipped Internet- connected computer terminal, and one desktop workplace for each student. These computer labs are often complemented within the same school by other Internet-connected computers in self-access centres, the 10 ELT Journal Volume 58/1 January 2004 © Oxford University Press
  2. 2. Page 10.qxd 11/19/2003 9:19 AM Page 11 school library, or even single computers located inside individual classrooms. However, such ideal Internet access through computer labs in education is not uniform. Internet access tends to be greater in developed nations than in developing nations, and within developed nations accessibility tends to be greater in more a<uent urban areas than in less a<uent outlying areas (see Murray 1999). As a goal for the future, educators such as Murray have called for the Internet to be made much more widely accessible to educators and their students, and an immense number of educational authorities have already taken action towards this goal. Widespread access to the Internet in education may not be unrealistic. Whereas that level of Internet access in private homes may be decades away (think about access to telephones and electricity, both basic technologies that Internet access depends on), widespread, even universal, access to the Internet in education is already an educational reality in some areas. For data on Internet access in public and private schools in the U.K., see the Department of Education and Skills’ latest ICT Survey at, and for data on access in public and private schools in the U.S.A., see the National Center for Education Statistics In fact, when considering the low percentages of the world’s population that have Internet access through computers in private homes (worldwide 9.57%; United States 59.1%; United Kingdom 56.88%; Australia 54.38%; Spain 19.69%, according to data retrieved from NUA Internet Surveys,, on September 1 2002), the data for access to the Internet through educational institutions and other public facilities, such as public libraries and community centres, o=ers a much brighter picture. The schools and other public services function as levelling devices that put all citizens, including students, on the same playing >eld: many schools and other public institutions provide students with technology that they would otherwise not be able to access. Computer lab In spite of this optimistic view, another issue that is becoming more availability prominent as Internet access becomes more widespread is the availability of the technology. Even though a school or educational institution may have ideally-connected computer labs, these facilities may not be available to all teachers and students in a similarly ideal way. Teachers of English, for example, may experience scheduling difficulties, since many of these labs may not match class sizes, and therefore be complicated to use. There are no statistics on computer lab availability vs. accessibility, but anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that problematic computer lab availability negatively a=ects teachers’ and students’ use of Internet-connected computers located in school labs. I hope to help practising classroom English teachers overcome both accessibility and availability limitations of the situations in which they teach by outlining networking possibilities using outside computers. The Internet in every classroom? 11
  3. 3. Page 10.qxd 11/19/2003 9:19 AM Page 12 Outside computers The Internet o=ers >ve basic possibilities for the networking English and the Internet classroom: Real-time communication with other network users (using the Internet as a telephone or video conferencing device, Internet Relay Chat, and others) Deferred-time communication with other network users (email, mailing lists, newsgroups, and others) Source of information (text, images, voice, and sound, especially on the World Wide Web) Outlet for publication (text, images, voice, sound, especially on the World Wide Web) Distance teaching/learning. Where computer facilities are unavailable for use during class time, the Internet can still be used for information collection, publication, and deferred-time communication. Computers may be available either inside the school, in the form of walk-in computer labs, self-access study areas, and the school library, or outside school in local public libraries, community centres, or even in students’ homes. Activities using These activities displace the physical presence of the student in front of outside computers an Internet-connected computer in the computer lab during English class time to Internet-connected computers outside the classroom and class time. Students do all pre-computer and post-computer parts of the activity in the classroom, while the on-computer parts of the activities take place outside the classroom and class time. In all cases, students use the Internet outside the classroom as a text-based means of acquiring information (for example, gathering data about a certain topic, and receiving emails) or as a text-based means of sharing information (for example, sending emails and setting up web sites). They will also use the English classroom for reading, writing, and talking about the texts. Students should always work in small groups or pairs, and all pre- and post-computer classroom work should involve talking about the text(s) they read or write. Talking about the text(s) in pairs or small groups allows students to develop a combined sort of literacy that not only involves reading and writing, but also critical thinking, and a healthy sense of purpose. All of the following approaches are ideally suited for students aged 16 and up, at intermediate, upper-intermediate, and advanced levels. The amount of class time needed varies from activity to activity, but as a general rule most activities require between 8 and 10 hours of class time to complete. Activity one In this activity students conduct research on the Web using outside computers, and bring into the classroom authentic data for speci>c class projects or speci>c topics being studied in class. When doing project work, or when studying content-based units, students can supplement the material available in their textbook, the school library, or other traditional sources, by gathering information from the Internet. This type of research and data collection is especially 12 Daniel Linder
  4. 4. Page 10.qxd 11/19/2003 9:19 AM Page 13 meaningful and motivating when studying cultural contents, such as current events, trends, and new developments in technology. Essentially, this is a reading and writing activity, the objectives of which are to >nd high quality relevant information for the project or topic, and to rewrite the information. This activity assumes that the entire class is conducting a project on a single theme, or studying a single topic. In the class period before the next unit, ask your students to access the Internet outside the classroom and (see Eastment’s guidelines below) print out the best and most relevant material they >nd. If printing the information is problematic, you can suggest other options for recording the material, such as copying the text in longhand, or recording it aloud on a cassette as they read. Ask students who have no access to Internet-connected outside computers, or who would prefer not to use them, to gather data from traditional sources of information, and to bring into the classroom photocopies or other recordings of traditional material they have found. In this way, all students will be equally involved in the information- gathering stage, and no group of students will be singled out for either additional work or additional learning opportunities. In the classroom, the students now take the information they have gathered, whether from the Internet or from traditional sources, and make the information available to the other students by making wall displays, writing reports, or making oral presentations in pairs or small groups. The information on the walls, in the reports, or in the oral presentations, then becomes available to all of the students to integrate into the context of the class project or topic. Evaluation of this activity would be based on the quality and relevance of the information they have found, and how well they have rewritten the information for the wall displays, reports, or presentations. You must remind your students that it is standard academic practice to identify their Internet sources properly by citing the name of the web sites, the authors of the texts, the url addresses, and the date when they retrieved the material. You must also speci>cally teach them to search for quality web material at all times. Eastment suggests that every web site and web page should be accurate, authoritative (‘Is it clear who wrote the page and is there an email address for contact?’), current, and well- presented (2001: 102). Students using these guidelines will be able to >nd high-quality relevant material. Activity two Here, students create a class web site, by determining web site content in the classroom, and uploading the content from outside computers. Just as web sites on the Internet provide extraordinarily attractive authentic material for research and data collection, putting one’s own web site on the Internet is also meaningful and motivating. Bicknell (1999) has shown that current software and a little programming know- how make creating a web site a very feasible activity. Essentially, this is a writing activity, the objective of which is to create a high quality class web site that other peer classrooms may >nd relevant for gathering information, or for contacting your class by email. First, have the whole class plan the web site content areas. Each of these The Internet in every classroom? 13
  5. 5. Page 10.qxd 11/19/2003 9:19 AM Page 14 content areas will be assigned a clickable button on the front page of the web site. They may include an introduction to the class and the web site, biographies of class members and the teacher, reports on recent classroom projects, creative writing, humorous cartoons, jokes, anecdotes, news stories about the school and your local area, contests, trivia questions, quizzes, links to other web sites, a call for other classes to contact yours by email, and so on. As a whole-classroom activity, have your students brainstorm ideas and select an equal number of content areas as the number of pairs or small groups you plan to break them up into. Once the whole class has determined the exact content areas, students working in pairs or small groups write a text for the area they have been assigned. When the web site contents have been completed, have one or several students volunteer to do the technical part of the activity, i.e. the actual o=-line web site design and the uploading of the site onto a free on-line web site provider such as Have these students include a counting instrument to see how many visits they get, and a guest book to allow visitors to comment on the web site. Once the web site is uploaded, have all the students make a ?ow chart of the web site for the classroom wall. Their work will be evaluated on the quality and relevance of the information they have decided to put on the web site, how well they have written the information for it, and the ?ow chart posted on the classroom wall. Students should be reminded that once the site has been uploaded it is open for visits 24 hours a day from any Internet-connected computer in the world. The content areas can be changed or updated periodically throughout the year by simply repeating the above activity for new content. Though all students are involved in planning the web site content, and in creating the web site ?ow chart, the student(s) who volunteer to design the site and upload it onto the Internet may be perceived either as being burdened with an unfair amount of work, or as gaining an additional learning opportunity. In order to avoid this perceived imbalance, the pair/group roles could be reassigned in an alternate way. Rather than having all student pairs/groups—including the student(s) who will later design and upload the web site—work exclusively on web site content in the classroom, student(s) who will work on the web site design and the uploading on an outside computer could be allowed to use the class time to circulate from group to group, advising each of them on how to approach the content area so that it will be technically viable and attractive to visitors. In this way, the designing and uploading by student(s) would not be overly burdened with writing content, and with doing the technical part of the activity. While not having a direct involvement with the computer side of the activity, groups working on content only would none the less feel truly engaged, and would bene>t from the know-how of the Internet student(s). Activity three Students can correspond with ‘keypal ’ classrooms by email, or write emails to individual experts, leaders, or webmasters, using the classroom for writing the texts and outside computers for sending them. 14 Daniel Linder
  6. 6. Page 10.qxd 11/19/2003 9:19 AM Page 15 Email is the Internet function which has been most used in English classrooms, and is commonly considered to be the most valuable approach to second language acquisition (see Warschauer 1995). One of the most fruitful things you can do with email is to organize an email (keypal) exchange, or to make inquiries of experts, leaders, or webmasters. These are essentially writing and reading activities, the objectives of which are to initiate and maintain a written correspondence with a keypal classroom, or if possible to make an inquiry of an expert, leader, or webmaster. You can set up a keypal exchange fairly easily through an organization such as Intercultural Email Classroom Contacts at, or through the call for other classes to contact yours by email on your classroom web site (see Activity two above). Once you have found a partner classroom, you will have to co-ordinate the exchange carefully with the other teacher. You and your partner teacher will have to divide your classes into the same number of groups, have each group open up an exchange-speci>c email address on a free server such as <> on an outside computer, and begin to exchange these email addresses with each other. Then, in the classroom, each group will write the text of an email to a keypal group. The emails should be short (75–100 words maximum) and contain not only information statements but also questions. Then, from an outside computer, each group will send the email (and a carbon copy to you for evaluation purposes) to its corresponding keypal group. In order to lighten the load of the Internet-connected students, who have to type the email message on the outside computer, you can have students share the burden of typing by dividing up the task. Students who have access to a computer of practically any kind outside the classroom, whether it is connected to the Internet or not, can type out the email message and store it on diskette for the Internet-connected students simply to cut and paste into the body of an email. The students voluntarily access the Internet outside of the classroom to check the exchange address at an agreed periodic interval, and to bring these emails into class. Try to continue the email exchange throughout the school year. Your students can also consult experts, leaders, and webmasters, by writing them emails in relation to class projects or speci>c topics being studied in the classroom. You can ask your students to come up with a list of relevant names and email addresses of scientists, politicians, or webmasters, by voluntarily searching the web outside the classroom (see Activity three). Then, in the classroom, each pair or small group writes a text containing one or more inquiries, and one member of each pair or small group voluntarily sends the email message (again, with a carbon copy to you) from an outside computer. They can set up a speci>c email address for this, as above, or they can use the volunteer’s personal email address. Although the people these inquiries are addressed to are often very busy, they are generally responsive, so each email message should be kept very short, and contain very speci>c questions. The students voluntarily access the Internet outside of the classroom to check for email replies, and then bring them into class. The original inquiries, and any replies received, can then be posted on the classroom walls for The Internet in every classroom? 15
  7. 7. Page 10.qxd 11/19/2003 9:19 AM Page 16 everyone to have access to the information they contain, as in Activity one. Students should follow up with a courtesy ‘thank you’ message. In both of the above cases, students are evaluated on the quality of their written emails, and on how well they understand the replies received from their keypals, experts, leaders, and webmasters. Caveats This series of guidelines assumes that teachers have a reliable connection to the Internet, and feel comfortable using the Internet themselves. Teachers should always be able to do the exercises they ask their students to do, and so, at a minimum, they should have such basic knowledge as how to conduct information searches on the web, how to set up a web site, and how to send and receive email. Before proposing these activities, which require the accessibility and availability of outside Internet-connected computers, teachers should assess what realistic possibilities are at their students’ disposal. If you suspect that students stand a very low chance of using outside computers, you should suggest activities using outside computers only as a complement to classroom activities otherwise based on traditional classroom resources, and on traditional outside sources of information and communication. Using these exercises in such a complementary fashion, teachers and students who work and live in areas of the world where access to computers is very limited can still bene>t from some of these activities, particularly from Activity one and from the second activity proposed in Activity three. In any case, you should always ensure that students are aware of the time and resource demands that they may assume in doing these activities, and remind them that while their use of outside computers is always voluntary, classroom participation is mandatory. One of the main problems with information available on the World Wide Web is that there is no control over information quality. Therefore, as I have mentioned above, students should check on the quality of the information provided on any given web site, and determine the person, entity, or organization responsible for it. Though much of the information on the Web is very commercial, very super>cial, and of very doubtful quality, much of the information on the Web is also of high quality, current, and free. Distinguishing between the two is a skill that we can foster through the application of Eastment’s guidelines, and through the repetition of Internet-based activities, as this skill comes with time. Conclusions The value of the Internet for English language teaching is undeniable. As a source of authentic material, a place for publication of material produced in the classroom, and a tool for intercultural communication, it is particularly useful when doing project-based and content-based work. I hope that all practising classroom English teachers, especially those in less-than-ideal teaching situations, will feel more encouraged to use the Internet in their teaching. The solution proposed here—using outside computers—and the approaches suggested here, might be a good place to start. Revised version received September 2002 16 Daniel Linder
  8. 8. Page 10.qxd 11/19/2003 9:19 AM Page 17 References Warschauer, M. 1995. Email for English Teaching. Bicknell, J. 1999. ‘Promoting Writing and Waldorf, MD : TESOL Publications. Computer Literacy Skills Through Student- Warschauer, M., H. Shetzer, and C. Meloni. 2000. Authored Web Pages’. TESOL Journal 8/1: 20–6. Internet for English Teaching. Waldorf, MD : TESOL Dudeney, G. 2000. The Internet and the Language Publications. Classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Windeatt, S., D. Hardisty, and D. Eastment. 2000. Press. The Internet. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Eastment, D. 1999. The Internet and ELT : The Impact of the Internet on English Language Teaching. The author Oxford: Summertown Publishing. Daniel Linder is the co-ordinator for undergraduate Eastment, D. 2001. ‘Search engines, web English courses for the Central Language Service directories, and sites for news and current a=airs’. at the University of Salamanca in Spain. His ELT Journal 55/1: 102–6. research and teaching interests include English for Murray, D. E. 1999. ‘Access to information Business, authentic materials, as well as technology: Considerations for language translation and interpreting. He is a member of educators’. Prospect: A Journal of Australian TESOL the Institute of Linguists (London). 14/3: 4–12. Email: Teeler, D. and P. Gray. 2000. How to use the Internet in ELT . London: Longman. The Internet in every classroom? 17