Hot Potatoes in Language Learning
School of Post Graduate UHAMKA, Jakarta, Monday, January 20th, 2014
Eka Prasetia Bakti
English is an international language. It has been used by people in the world, so
everyone needs to master it to make them ready to face the globalization era. One of the
countries of which the people need to learn English in academic field is Indonesia. In this
country, English has become one of the subjects which students are expected to be able to use
it as mean of communication. All schools in Indonesia involve English as one of the
compulsory subjects in the class. In vocational schools, the compulsory of the ones are Math,
English, Computers, Entrepreneurship, Natural Science, and Social Science. According to
Harmer (1991, 1), “Probably the greatest number of language students in the world do it
because it is on the students curriculum whether they like it or not!”
From this situation, the students have problems in learning English. English is
different from Bahasa Indonesia. English learns language outside of students‟ mother tongue.
The students can find the difficulties in learning activities, especially in comprehending the
four skills, they are listening, speaking, reading, and writing. That is way evaluation has to
relate to the learning teaching activities. English is very unique language, because it is very
challenge our skills. In fact, if we can improve it regularly, we can easy to understand with
English language. I am as a students feel that all of the subjects at school can be interesting if
the teacher can explain them clearly and using interesting ICT media in teaching learning
activities, especially to learn English.
ICT is generally defined as technology functioning to support the process of
conveying information and communication. With the development of ICT, the communicator
and communicant can communicate through telephone, internet, email, satellite, television,
video conference, and the like. According to Hartoyo, M.A., Ph.D., There are some
advantages of utilizing ICT-computer in language learning. For example, (1) ICT serves as
the „media‟ bridging and enabling the learning process or event direct communicator between
students and teacher although they are not present in the same room or place; (2) ICT can be
created to enable students to learn the lessons with the guidance, instruction, information, or
further explanation for specific terms merged on the program such as „tutorial‟; (3) ICTcomputer in language learning is that it can be an inseparable; (4) ICT-computer can serve as
a peer for students in playing educational games, or as source of learning material, which can
give illustration for verbally difficult to explain concepts as well as other interactive and
attractive illustration If combined with other media, such as video. Moreover, ICT as a
medium for teaching is becoming more and more acknowledged. In this article I wish to
share some aspects of using ICT that have proved the topic from two points of view: (1)
strengths and weaknesses, and (2) advantages and disadvantages both for students and the
I share my experience in using the Hot Potatoes for teaching language courses in
English with different levels. My focus will be on how the web-based environment can be
used for supporting student-centered learning, increasing student motivation,
individualization and cooperation in creating the study-materials, at the same time developing
a feeling of “me” and of belonging together. Taking a look at my different past and current
courses, I will view different ways of motivating students by engaging them in building the
learning materials. I analyze how the ICT solutions can be used as a support for different
classroom activities, group-work and pair-work assignments; for independent work; for
enforcing student-centered learning and the principles of individualization; forming one´s
personal opinion, and being able to express it on topical issues.
Hot Potatoes is probably the most popular authoring software among language
teachers (as well as teacher of a range of other subjects). It‟s been around for several years
and has gone through several various. It is produced by Half-Baked Software Inc (how these
IT people love their puns).
Hot potatoes provides you with a user-friendly interface which takes the hard work
out of producing excercise, you simply type the list of words you want to include in your
crossword, and the program makes a grid accommodating all those words. Then you assign a
clue to each word, press the export to web button, and the program automatically produces a
web page with your crossword. You can send this HTML file to your students by email,
transfer it to their machines by saving it on a floppy disk which you then give to them, or
upload it to your website.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Nowadays, there are the ways of teachers try to teach English in improving their
comprehension, one of them is Hot Potatoes. As my experiences, it gives me motivation to
learn English because we may create the assignment with interesting one. Therefore, we have
to know the strengths and the weakness media of its.
The Strengths of Hot Potatoes
In this website, the program allows us to make five different types of exercise that we
set up using basic templates. The purpose of the Hot Potatoes is to enable us to create
interactive Web-based teaching exercises which can be delivered to any Internet-connected
their interactivity, but we do not need to know anything about these languages in order to use
the programs. All we need to do is enter the data for our exercises (questions, answers,
responses etc.), and press a button. The program will create the Web pages for us, and we can
then upload them to our server.
There are five basic programs in the Hot Potatoes suite:
The JQuiz program creates question-based quizzes. Questions can be of four different
types, including multiple-choice and short-answer. Specific feedback can be provided both
for right answers and predicted wrong answers or distracters. In short-answer questions, the
student's guess is intelligently parsed and helpful feedback to show what part of a guess is
right and what part is wrong. The student can ask for a hint in the form of a "free letter" from
The JCloze program creates gap-fill exercises. Unlimited correct answers can be
specified for each gap, and the student can ask for a hint and see a letter of the correct
answer. A specific clue can also be included for each gap. Automatic scoring is also included.
The program allows gapping of selected words, or the automatic gapping of every nth word
in a text.
The JCross program creates crossword puzzles which can be completed online. You
can use a grid of virtually any size. As in JQuiz and JCloze, a hint button allows the student
to request a free letter if help is needed.
The JMix program creates jumbled-sentence exercises. You can specify as many
different correct answers as you want, based on the words and punctuation in the base
sentence, and a hint button prompts the student with the next correct word or segment of the
sentence if needed.
The JMatch program creates matching or ordering exercises. A list of fixed items
appears on the left (these can be pictures or text), with jumbled items on the right. This can be
used for matching vocabulary to pictures or translations, or for ordering sentences to form a
sequence or a conversation.
In addition, there is a sixth program called the Masher. This is designed to create
complete units of material in one simple operation. If you are creating sequences of exercises
and other pages that should form a unit, you may find the Masher useful. The Masher can
also be used to upload Web pages not created with Hot Potatoes to the www.hotpotatoes.net
The Weakness of Hot Potatoes
Hot Potatoes has a little bit weakness in teaching learning activities. First, Hot
potatoes is not a tool to design web-based exams; second, the necessary infrastructure must
be available and affordable; access to adequate computer equipment can be a problem for
pupils and students; third, we need the connection internet to support our activity in using Hot
Potatoes; fourth, limited bandwidth causes slower performance for sound, video, and large
graphics. If we have bad connection, it is difficult for us to apply it because Hot Potatoes
should be connected to the internet. Therefore we need the media and facilitation to support it
such as connection internet if we want to share the assignment on our website.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Hot Potatoes
Nowadays, there are the ways of teachers try to teach English in improving the
students‟ comprehension, one of them is Hot Potatoes. In this website, it gives me advantages
and disadvantages in learning teaching activities.
The Advantages of Hot Potatoes
Nowadays, teachers can easy teach students at the school, and one of the easy ways is
through Hot Potatoes. The exercises created by Hot Potatoes programs use a variety of
buttons and prompt to interface with the user (the student). While the data for exercises
(questions, answers etc.) will change from exercise to exercise, such things as button
captions, prompts, and explanations will not change so often.
Each program provides an interface to the configuration file, accessible through the
Configuration button on the toolbar, or the Configure output command on the Options Menu.
These will bring up a screen like the one below, giving access to all the configuration data
relevant to the application you are using. We can click on the graphic to get more information
about items and functions.
Adding a reading text
All of the Hot Potatoes programs give you the option to include a reading text in a separate
frame next to your quiz. (The only exceptions to this are the drag-and-drop output from JMix
and JMatch – doing drag-and-drop inside only half of the page is not practical.) The reading
text may be typed directly into the program, or it can be an imported from an external Web
page. Clicking on Add Reading Text from the file menu, or clicking on the button on the
toolbar, will bring up this screen. Click on the graphic to learn more about the functions.
Adding a timer
You can add a timer to your exercise by specifying this in the Timer tab of the Configuration
screen. Check the checkbox to include the timer, and set the time limit in minutes and
seconds. When the timer runs out, the student's work so far will be scored, and the score
displayed; after that, no further work on the exercise will be possible. Please note that the
student can always reload the page and start again, but they'll have to do all the work a
second time to complete the exercise.
It is possible to type HTML tags directly into most of the Hot Potatoes text boxes, in order to
insert images or links into the Web pages. However, if you want to insert a graphic, you can
use one of the built-in functions to help you. With your cursor in a Hot Potatoes text box,
click on the Insert menu and choose Picture / Picture from Local File. A dialog box will
appear, allowing you to select an image from your hard drive. Then you will see the screen
below. From this screen, you can configure the information which will create the IMG SRC
tag and insert it in the text box. Note that Hot Potatoes is NOT a WYSIWYG Web page
editor; the tools on the Insert menu are only intended to help you create HTML code for the
page, and you will not see the image until you actually compile the page. Also, note that the
program automatically creates a relative file path between your data file (your .jqz, .jcl or
other Hot Potatoes file) and the image file on your hard drive. If you do not intend to put your
HTML pages in the same place as your data file relative to your image files, then you will
need to configure the relative path manually to ensure that the image appears on your page.
This will be much easier if you understand basic HTML.
You may wish to insert a link to another Web page in one of the fields in your exercise. To
make a simple link to a Web page, click on the Insert menu and choose Link / Link to Web
URL, and you will see the screen below. You can also insert a link to a page on your hard
drive by choosing Link / Link to Local File; if you do this, you will see a dialog box from
which you can choose the file to link to, and a relative path between your data file and that
file will be created automatically. Note that if the file structure you plan to use on the Web
server is not the same as that on your hard drive, or if you store your Hot Potatoes data files
separately from your HTML pages, you will have to edit the relative path manually to make
the link work. This means understanding some basic HTML.
Adding sound and video
It's increasingly common to add sound and video to Web pages, and this is especially
appropriate in the case of educational materials. There are two basic ways to add sound and
video to your pages: Inserting an object, and adding a link. Adding a link is the simplest
approach, and this page explains it.
Adding sound or video to your pages is basically no different from adding a link to a file;
sound files and video files are no different from other files. Here are some basic guidelines,
and a couple of example scenarios.
The disadvantages of Hot Potatoes
The disadvantages of this program should be realised. First, “it is easier for students to cheat
with hot potatoes by clicking on hint to see each letter of a word” said by Jeff Standford
Moodle; second, Hot Potatoes software does not check the spelling automatically, we have to
select the part of a text we want checked and choose “Edit” and then “Spell check” on the
toolbar; third, the font cannot be changed the same way as in Word.
Hot Potatoes is a set of software tools produced by the University of Victoria/Half-baked
Software. It has been developed by the TESL department in this Canadian University. It takes
several tried, tested and „best practice‟ second-language teaching techniques and adapt them
into a pre-programmable interactive learning program which has the capability to go deeper
than „drill-and -practice‟. Hot Potatoes program is very useful electronic to help the learners
interesting in practicing some exercises. We could create our interactive exercises by adding
a reading text, timer, sound, video, graphics, and link. This article written based on my
experience in using the Hot Potatoes for teaching language courses in English with different
levels. Finally, the beneficial of this study are they could use Hot Potatoes as an evaluation to
measure the students in following the teaching learning activities.
To reach the teaching learning objectives, combining Hot Potatoes in the learning
activities, the teacher and the students must
The teachers must use their own creativities to create their interesting exercises
because they can add the sounds, image, or everything to make students more challenging in
doing every single of the activities.
The students must be autonomous learners because they can check their answers on
There are some technologies increases, so we have to update all the information of
technology to improve our knowledge. If it is possible, we try to implement the technology
with teaching learning activities.
Harmer, Jeremy. The Practice of English Language Teaching. New York: Longman, 1991.
Hartoyo. ICT in language learning. Semarang: Pelita Insani Semarang. 2012
Smith, David Gordon and Baber, Eric. Teaching English with Information Technology.
Printed in UK. 2005.
Walley, John, Welch, Theresa, and Williamson, Lee. E-LEARNING IN FE. 2006.
Stanford, Jeff. Moodle 1.9 for second Language Teaching.
http://conference.pixel-online.net/ICT4LL2011/common/download/Paper_pdf/IBL21-114FP-Lehner-Wieternik-ICT4LL2011.pdf. Accessed January 15th, 2013.
%20to%20Get%20Burnt.pdf. Accessed January 15th, 2013.