1. What does the application attempt to “teach”?
http://www.manythings.org/ is one of the ESL website that caters the need of many learners. What is nice about it is the handy links provided that relates to most of the important features of English language. This website comprises not only the lessons on the three of the four language skills, reading, listening and speaking; but it also caters the visitors’ preferences in their own learning. For instance, there are vocabulary games along with pictures, audio recordings, flashcards and numbers more of user-friendly applications. Students from various ages and level of proficiency are given the opportunities to challenge themselves with selectable kinds of exercises. It provides immediate feedbacks, so that the students or even teachers can assess themselves. The feedback also includes corrections and suggestions, which made it superbly effective tool for teaching even students from a novice level.
2) What sorts of things is the application user expected to do with regards to learning the content?
Student users are expected to be able to revise what they have learned in school with the exercises provided in the site. Not only this would widen their exposure on their vocabulary and forms of language, it could also lengthen their memory on certain topics. For instance, there are words in the textbooks that do not have pictures about them; the students could find them with appropriate visual aids on the site. Aside from that, students could also boost their confidence in trying out exercises that they could not had at schools like all the puzzles and some listening exercises. This is undeniably true especially when it comes to schools that do not have enthusiastic English teachers hardworking enough to prepare the students with the fun exercises.
3) What sorts of computer skills is the application users expected to have in order to operate/ access/ use the application?
Due to the fact that the website’s intention which allow users from various ages be able to learn in ease, this website requires basics knowledge of typing with the keyboards, using pointers to click at the correct answers and these are basically enough. It is so easy that even kids from the age of 4 till the elderly can understand the lessons and do the exercises. Even if the site is accessed via tablets or smartphones, the interfaces are pretty simple and straightforward. For some contents, the users need Adobe Flash Player and Adobe Reader to use or access the content involving multimedia and Portable Document Format files (PDF). However this is not a tall order to be looked at, as the softwares can be simply downloaded these days with no charges at all.
4) While you are “playing”/ “accessing”/ “assessing” the application, does it remind you of anything you do in a classroom, or with a teacher, or with a fellow classmate, or in self-study?
When using this site, i found it rather related to what i had during my tuition class with a neighbour during my primary schooling years. We had our own privilege to choose on which topic were we interested to learn. This somehow gives the junior learners not only the freedom to choose their topic of interest to learn and do exercises, but also the motivations to try and pick the others which indulge their curiosity and give them some challenges in improving their language. The same goes for the language skills choices. It can be resembled as a TESL students courses we had to take in the methodology classes, which allows the students as well as the teachers to access the available lesson on the allocated language skills comprising listening, speaking and reading. The enjoyable audio podcast also reminds me of how my teacher used to bring me and my classmates to a room with a radio and she played a cassette of some nursery rhymes just to make us practice on listening. Using this site however, things have become much simpler where the teacher can just turn on his/her laptop and play the audio provided in this site. Best of all, students can also read the provided lyrics, which can be daunting without any.
5) Can you pinpoint some theories of language learning and/or teaching underlying the application?
When exploring the site, i found it convincing enough to state that one of Krashen’s Monitor model, the affective filter is somehow applicable to the lessons and exercises. It emphasizes that students would be able to learn at an optimum progress when they have low anxiety, and a good motivation and self esteem would acquire the target language easier. These are interrelated with the pronunciation and vocabulary lessons whereby the users have apt time to listen and type, or sometimes answer the exercise. They are not restricted by any durations or countdowns that would make them anxious. To add, the site also promotes audio-lingual method, a kind of learning styles that involves repetitions of dialogue, as well as drilling real usage of conversation that will enhance their target language proficiency, especially in listening and speaking. This is based on how the site utilizes the flash player plug-ins and having audio recording for the users to listen to, which is superbly interesting and efficient.
6) How well is the constructivist theory of learning applied to the chosen website(s)?
The constructivist theory of learning was proposed by Vygotsky, which enlighten that individuals will make sense and constructs the knowledge for themselves as he or she learns. This theory suggest that learning should be meaningful enough for the learners to be able to grasp and able to apply what they have learned in a real life situation. The site consider this theory as one of the eminent factors to assist the users to learn, by giving a real life examples in the reading and listening lessons and exercises; for examples the conversations in a restaurant, in a library and even some phone conversation. The vocabulary list is also a laudable aspect of the site, which includes suitable words from what a typical laity would use in a real life use. For instance the verbs listed in the vocabulary section are mostly common words used by people and not the sophisticated or flowery ones.
7. In 1980s and early 1990s, there was a major debate on ‘whether the computer was “master” of or “slave” to the learning process (Higgins and Johns, 1984). In relation to your evaluation - was the computer a replacement for teachers, or merely an obedient servant to students?
The site may be a replacement for teachers when the classroom sessions are over. So in a way aside from providing the students with lessons and exercises they can try out themselves at home, with the supervision of their elder siblings or parents of course. The question of either computer can be a master or a slave to the students actually depends on how they view the computers for certain answers to their problems in English. For instance, when students are relying too much too look for answers using a computer or any digital media, like listening for pronunciations of certain words for affirmations, or depending too much on the assisted grammar corrective system, then the computer can be considered as their slaves. This goes the other way around when we can assume the computer as the students’ master. One way is by just using stiff and too structured form of language used in the site’s examples, without really considering on using other vocabulary in certain contexts. For example, a student would not be talking using vernacular form of languages when speaking to the officials like the King or the Judge in a court. These need practices in real life for sure.
8. Would you like to use the application yourself in your future work?
Manythings.org is indeed an appealing site to be explored by English learners as well as teachers. The user-friendly interface as well as numbers of lessons and exercises really challenge the users into clicking on the links and further broaden our knowledge and proficiency in English. The variations of topics and skills to be learned are appealing and easy enough to be explored. The visuals and audio recordings Plus, the numbers of resources and ideas for teaching English lesson are also a laudable aspect to be looked at. Thus it is very good for English teachers especially for the new ones. The fact that the site does not use require sophisticated or up to date flash player or plug-ins also made it accessible even by regular netbooks or computers, which makes it easier for the senior teachers who are new to the technology-based instruction to adapt themselves in a comfortable way.