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Scientific Essay, 2011
4 Pages, Grade: 1,3
During the intensive course, I was overwhelmed by the vast amount of teaching materials which can be accessed on the internet. In addition, modern technology provides new opportunities for both teachers and their students to use English, or any other language, in an interactive way. Certainly, there are some excellent new developments - but there are also some ideas that are rather inappropriate for use in class. The ability to critically assess and revise both material and online features is therefore crucial to all teachers. This paper is an attempt to evaluate some of those recenttrends that were used in the creation of the classroom-kit for Cory Doctorow’s “Little Brother”.
The first modern tool that was used is the entire blog itself. A blog is a website that can be edited by a specified group of people. However, it can be viewed by anyone who has access to the internet. Nowadays, there are numerous online servers that offer anyone creating a blog for free, namely www.blogger.com,http://www.blog.deand http://wikispace.com.Students developed this blog in the course of reading “Little Brother” in class. Meanwhile, weekly assignments that they were supposed to upload onto the blogwere given to them.
In general, this is an ideal way to combine the content of a lesson unit to the use of the internet. For example, students learn how to correctly operate a blog and may develop a higher interest in reading the book by using new means of technology. Most importantly, their published texts can be seen by a vast amount of people. In contrast to work that is handed in to their teachers and,hence, read only by them, other classmates have the chance to read the contributions of their peers and comment on it. Therefore, they have the feeling that their productions are worth more and that they do not just work to please their teachers’ expectations.
However, there are also numerous disadvantages and obstacles. Firstly, teachers are required to check their students’ publications on a regular basis. Otherwise, the teenagers might upload harassing or abusive material against other teenagers or social groups. Unfortunately, these contents could quickly be spread on the internet. Fortunately, it is possible to change the blog’s settings so that every entry has to be unlocked by the creator of the blog before it is displayed online. Moreover, teachers also have to check the correctness of their students’ work. Unless they correct spelling mistakes and content errors, it is highly probable that erroneous texts are uploaded as can be seen on the blog about “Little Brother”. For instance, in “About the title”, several important elements of the story are not mentioned such as the reasons for Marcus’ anger against the DHS, his arrest, the terror attack on the bridge and his relationship with his girlfriend Ange. In addition, the phrase „asks [people] to help him“ is an understatement and does not reflect the dangers that Marcus encounters.Besides, the limited lexical range (“got really scared“ instead of “were afraid”; “to get information” instead of “to receive/find information”) and an obvious grammar mistake (*“because he want people in the US“) have not been corrected either.
In “Chapter 1”, a group of students was asked to write a short summary of the chapter. This activity can be quite advantageous. Not only do they enable learners to quickly remember the most relevant events of the chapter; they can also be used to improve students’ writing skills and lexical range. However, in this case, the synopsis is rather inadequate. First of all, it does not introduce the characters sufficiently. Undoubtedly, the term “aphid” might be confusing for there is neither any definition of this term nor an explanation of its relevance to the story in this section. Secondly, Marcus’ talent for using and programming computers is omitted. Unfortunately, it is not written in a formal, academic style either. For example, abbreviations such as “can’t” instead of “cannot” are used. Moreover, the students could have found a more suitable alternative to words such as “of course” (obviously) and “gets sent back to class” (is sent back to class; is asked to go back to class). Indeed, there is no correction or comment made by the teacher about this. As a result, students would not be made aware of those mistakes and might assume that this example is of good quality.
Secondly, there are several organizational problems. For example, in some cases, not all students can be expected to be able to access the internet on a regular basis. Although the number of households that are connected to the internet has increased over the last few years, some teenagers would require schools’ computers to complete their work. Thus, they could not do their homework on weekends but would have to stay after school and, consequently, could not meet their friends. Obviously, schools would also have to provide sufficient technological equipment.
Admittedly, there is a lot of time and effort for both students and teachers involved, but creating a student blog can be a beneficial opportunity to boost students’ reading interest and productivity.
Students were furthermore required to find online materials that correspond to the different chapters. For instance, students were looking for cartoons and images that deal with the main topics of each part of the book. For example, in “Chapter Two”, the cartoon visualizes one central scene in this chapter. However, its design is very distracting and confusing: The drawings of Marcus and Darryl differ from both the cartoon of the last chapter and from the three pictures within the cartoon – in every picture, they look different. This could have easily been avoided and would have prevented frustration and misunderstanding. Moreover, the most essential scene of the second chapter in which Marcus and his friends try to escape after hearing the sirens has not been illustrated. Unfortunately, feedback from their teachers is again missing and so these problems are likely not be noticed by the students.
Nevertheless, this task plays an essential part in contributing to train students’ internet using skills as they are required to search for specific information by utilizing online search engines. This skill has become fundamentally important in modern life and they will often need it.
Alternatively, students could work on an interdisciplinary project with an Art class by first drawing a cartoon and then scanning and uploading it onto the blog. In addition, it would also be possible to create own cartoons on the computer and publish them afterwards. Again, students could additionally use material online.
Furthermore, the students were using “Wordle”, which is an online program that allows them to designan image that contains several words. The color, position and size of the words can easily be changed. Not only does this feature allow students to interactively work on the book, for example by looking for and illustrating key words; it can also be used to assess one’s own writing in order to notice and replace redundancies and repetitions, particularly function words such as “and” or common terms such as “important”, “very”, “bad” etc.In addition, “wordle” may also be of helpful use to educators. For example, they could introduce new vocabulary to their students by creating a colorful image of the new words. Alternatively, they could utilize it during brainstorming activities or book analyses in order to highlight words that are of particular relevance. Fortunately, “wordle” can be operated for free and its use is not limited to country of residence or private purpose.
However, there are also some downsides to this feature. Although the “wordle” on top of the page “About the title” catches one’s eye, no explanation of its creation is offered: Is it based on the entire book, or only certain chapters, or are they perhaps just a collection of words that are somehow related to the content of the book?Clearly, it is essential to explain a “wordle” and to give information about its content. Otherwise, readers will be unable to grasp it successfully.
As can be seen from this paper, it is not possible to utilize any online feature in class without proper revision. Not only should impeccable modern technology help students improve their language skills, i. e. their grammar and lexical range in particular; it should also prepare them to both successfully and safely apply their technological knowledge outside of school.
 The reading guide is available online: https://oihsreads.wikispaces.com/About+the+Title.
 There are various self-help guides available for free, for example http://www.drawingnow.com/how-to-draw-cartoons.html or http://www.how-to-draw-cartoons-online.com.
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