<html> <a name=top></a> <head> <body bgcolor="#ffffff"> <title>Internet Based Learning with ESL</title> </head> <h1>Internet Based Learning with ESL</h1><p> A critical look at the planning methodology for designing an internet based course to help Thai students develop critical thinking, points of view, and opinions in an ESL environment.<p> <b>by</b><p> <b>Willard Van De Bogart</b><br> <b>Language Center</b><br> <b>Nakhon Sawan Rajabhat University</b><br> <b>November 29, 2004</b><p> Published in PASAA (A Journal of Language Teaching in Thailand), Chulalongkorn University Language Institute, Bangkok, Thailand - pg 97 Vol. 38, April 2006<p> Order Journal at Chulalongkorn Book Store

<b>Abstract:</b><p> <blockquote><b>Using the internet as a resource and reference tool by which to develop critical thinking on social and political issues has become an essential skill for functioning in a globalized world. Trying to live peacefully in an ever changing political landscape where cross national interests impinge on every aspect of our daily lives has shown to be explosive and fatal. To maintain established cultural values as newer values infiltrate into traditional customs requires a new set of social skills. The internet search engine strategy capabilities can help Thai students analyze and evaluate these new social forces and compare them against a framework of beliefs which has held the wisdom together gained from generations of trial and error. The symbiosis of divergent cultural values which used to take centuries to find expression is now achieved in decades if not sooner. How students were able to form opinions about these new social and political issues was the basis for developing a critical thinking methodology to prepare students to understand different points of view. Aided by the internet the students were taught how to express their ideas relating to their own personal lives, their community and the socio-political culture they were living in.</b></blockquote><p> <b>Developing the Rationale</b><p> Can Thai students learn the English language and critical thinking more effectively with an internet based course or without an internet based course? Is the academic jury still out on the final judgement to this question or has our global information technologies changed educational methodology forever while the jury still deliberates their answer?<p> If someone were to ask you to develop an internet based course where would you go for advice and guidance? The best answer of course is you would go to the internet. However, nobody can talk to you as you go on your solo journey discovering information on the internet. Nobody can help you in determining which information is best suited to your needs. The internet sits there in front of you like some exotic avarice entity constantly being fed data and becoming so large that it now boasts it is eight billion web pages tall and growing exponentially. So how do you approach this gigantic wizard called the internet to encourage English language learning skills for critical thinking? The answer is by making learning with the internet friendly and not being intimidated by the size of this new "Internet Wizard" as you go about developing your course.<p> This paper is about a project that involved a step by step process to help Thai students develop their own ideas about current events and social problems both personal and global. The project gave students and opportunity to express their ideas about any news item they saw in the media as well being encouraging on how to develop opinions and points of view.<p> The development of search strategies on the internet was used to foster a student centered learning approach to learning English and critical thinking as well as producing a personal portfolio to be used as a resource guide for writing about ideas. The project further gave students the opportunity to understand how news stories were a reflection of what was going on in the world as well as offering many journalistic techniques in order to be able to express their own ideas.<p> Outlining the entire course was a daunting task to be sure, especially since there are not any course syllabuses that could be found on the internet which could be applied to developing an internet based course for critical thinking. However, at the rate the internet is growing it would not be surprising to find such a syllabus when you least expect it. A case in point is that most recently the first syllabus in the world based on how to use the Google Search Engine was placed on the internet by Joe James from the University of Washington Information School in the United States. Ironically this new course did not even consider Google as a search engine but as a cultural phenomenon. People have begun to use Google as a verb and the popular past time for people is to go "Googling" more than they go searching. "Lets go Googling", has become a new idiom in the English language.<p> <b>The Internet as a Social Phenomenon</b><p> It is not surprising that Thai students who do not have a strong grasp of the English language to use in critical thinking do however come equipped with knowing how to play computer games, write emails, spend hours on chat rooms, and look at other web sites usually recommended by their friends. But when it comes to explaining personal cognitive skills or becoming and experienced independent information seeker the students reach an impasse. Here then is the junction between independent thinking or critical thinking, and the repository on the internet of practically all references to human history including a good portion of the most recent scientific discoveries and a wide variety of academic scholarship.<p> At first it seems like an impossibility to design a course for the internet especially when you consider the internet now consists of over eight billion individual web pages. But even though the size of the internet may be intimidating and growing exponentially there is an easy access point called a "search field" which makes relating to the internet a lot friendlier. A "search field" is a small empty space on a search engines web page (like Google) which allows a word or a combination of words to be typed into it. Within a matter of seconds a complex set of algorithms (a set of coded mathematical instructions) searches all eight billion web pages for the data that most closely matches those words or word in a matter of seconds. This information technology has revolutionized mankinds access to ideas prompting the terms "knowledge revolution" or "information age".<p> <b>Understanding the Internet</b><p> The first step to consider when designing an internet based course is how the students will enter the internet when they first see a web page on the computer screen. This is done by learning how to write or use hypertext mark-up language (html) to prepare text and graphics, and a file transfer protocol program (ftp) to send the finished web page to a web based server. The second step to consider is how the web page will ultimately be viewed on the World Wide Web (www) by other information seekers using a universal resource locator (url). However, the technical considerations in designing the coded language for the internet based course are not within the scope of this paper. Moreover, the logic which is built into an internet based course which uses hyperlinks to go from one idea to the next is a crucial consideration when developing a course for the internet. More significantly the value of using personal classroom instruction can not be overstated when helping to guide the students through the web based course. Showing how to navigate the hyperlinks gives the students a road map by which to follow once they are in front of their computer screens. So now, lets look at the scaffolding of an internet based course. Where do we start and where do we want to end up?<p> <b>Designing the Course</b><p> The goal of the course was to be able to have students develop an idea for a story and then be able to create arguments for or against the content of that story. The course had a built in limitation of sixteen weeks so a series of topics for each chapter had to be so arranged which would satisfy the goals and objectives set out in the beginning of the course.<p> Therefore, the initial chapters constituted the search and find strategies. The body of the course was to give definition to the ideas, and the final chapters focused on the details of the subject matter by adding arguments and further research. Advanced search strategies were introduced along with how to go into on-line libraries. The entire course could be immediately viewed when the students began the course by choosing any of the thirteen chapters which made up the course. The students could also view any of the material at any point in the course as each chapter had stand alone information which could be used to help in the critical thinking process. There were no restrictions on curiosity when it came to the students learning behavior.<p> The initial emphasis, however, was getting an idea for a story or a social or political issue. Examples and suggestions were offered to the students at the beginning which was only meant to act as considerations in the selection process. Basic assignments were always given to aid in the critical thinking process. Each week a chapter in the internet based course was projected on a screen in the classroom, and a full description of the chapter and any search techniques were demonstrated where they were called for. Assignments had to be put on diskette and passed into the teacher so that there was a way to evaluate how well the students understood their assignments.<p> As mentioned, many story topics were presented in the first chapter, but how a story may develop from such an initial topic is not really known by the students. Critical thinking is slowly developed and in the beginning the students have no idea how their choice of topic is going to evolve. Actually, each student was required to pick three topics for their story and then select the one they would develop. The final selection was made after the teacher made comments about how each topic could be developed and related to the world at large.<p> The example used for a romance story was about Paradorn, the Thai tennis player, and Tata Young, the Thai popular singer. The internet was introduced at this early stage in the course to show examples of other web sites that dealt with romance stories. But again, the course had to progress for eight more weeks before arguments, points of view, and opinions were put forth for the students to learn. The main objective in the beginning of the internet based course was finding a subject that was familiar and easy to relate to. Using popular stories from Thailand helped in that process.<p> <b>The Growth of the Course</b><p> Charting a learning path for the students was the most significant challenge in determining what exercises would be best to introduce first and then add to the students body of knowledge in a step by step process. This was done by introducing each chapter as a building block to the previous chapter which could be best described as helping students experience the process of information discovery. Evaluating how students found meaning in their selected topics was a significant teacher centered activity. The entire pre-disposition of the course was to enable critical thinking. Again, the end goal was to help students develop the ability to analyze, criticize, postulate ideas, reason and reach judgmental conclusions.<p> <center><b>Phase I Portfolio Development</center></b><p> <ul> <li>Finding ideas <li>Collecting material <li>Taking notes <li>Organizing <li>Getting ready to write </ul><p> Designing an entire methodology for the course before the course is taught is to construct a framework to guide the students into learning about the subject of critical thinking. The larger goal to be achieved is to have the students be able to look at their work critically or at least be able to reflect on the importance of what they are writing about. Showing each student how the subject or topic thy selected is integrated into the larger world was a key factor to getting students to think about many aspects of the topic they selected. At this juncture in the course it is important to pose as many questions about the students topic so they can see how a topic can be expanded or developed.<p> Therefore, designing tasks along the learning path to critical thinking is the challenge of the teacher. The path I selected in this internet based course put emphasis on suggestions and possibilities on how to analyze their topic. There are many path ways to achieve critical thinking skills so I was not strict in how the students learned those skills.<p> The five learning paths suggested in Phase I were so selected in order to get students to go out and find material related to their topic. Many students found too much information for their subject. In an early effort to succeed in the course the students would rely on quantity of information since it was easier to come by than finding quality or relevant information. The reason for this was because no analytical skills had been introduced to qualify what information had to be found. However, finding information was very successful and the portfolio instantly became an unwieldy stack of books, journals, newspaper clippings, CDs, and a host of other media. Only when the concept of note taking in chapter three was introduced and applied to the information in the students portfolio could there be any possibility of prioritizing the information. The students readily learned how to slow down their quest for data.<p> After all the information was finally organized either by level of importance or by categorizing the information were writing skills introduced. The writing, however, was of a different way to express ideas. Narrative expression would have to wait for another month. Before that time creative techniques in writing were introduced in chapter five. The portfolio, the diskettes, and the students writing were all due for presentation at one time at the mid-point of the course.<p> <b>The Grammar Bridge</b><p> Five learning paths were introduced by the fifth week, but the bridge to expressing ideas and presenting arguments had yet to be crossed, and here is where grammar was introduced as well as learning new vocabulary. At this point in the course the subject had been selected and somewhat developed in terms of its relevance to the larger world. The next teaching task was to introduce the usage of verbs for the story as well as identifying all the key nouns. The students were asked to use verbs for the past, present and future. Steering the subject into the past, bringing the story into the present, and projecting the story into the future were done to emphasize the importance of time in the story. Every name and object was identified until the students reached Phase II.<p> Phase II, finally brought the students into the domain of critical thinking and five more learning paths.<p> The use of all the verb tenses was very successful. However, knowing the proper way to use a verb was still not helping the students analyze their subject. The verb exercise was intentionally placed midway in the course so the material thus far collected by the students could be expressed in time frameworks.<p> <center><b> Phase II The Path to Critical Thinking</center></b><p> <ul> <li>How to write a point of view <li>How to express ideas and arguments <li>How to write an opinion <li> How to use Boolean logic when doing web searches <li>How to use the library on-line </ul><p> Phase II is where critical thinking is introduced. Up to this point in the course no attempt was made to have the students do any critical thinking with their topics. At the mid-term juncture the students had a sense of achievement with the production of a portfolio, a diskette of all their assignments, and a fairly comprehensive understanding of their topics. However, there may not have been any understanding of what to do with the topics they selected.<p> But, all the uncertainties which may have been entertained by the students was about to change. Now the students would have to determine the difference between facts and opinions, or what problems might exist in their topics. Here was the place in the learning path where the students had to understand the reasons they were collecting the materials and be able to comprehend how others might interpret their ideas.<p> The next five learning paths would expose the students to the concepts of judgment, arguments, opinions, and points of view. These concepts are not easy to deal with and teacher assistance is necessary to help the students move along their learning paths. At this point in the course the internet and the on-line libraries played a big part in terms of helping students become exposed to other references related to their chosen topics. Simple search strategies were elevated to advanced search strategies. Libraries were explained as places where periodicals could be found as well as special collections within libraries. The concept of first person point of view and third person point of view was demonstrated by examples of other writings. The ownership of the students ideas using the personal pronoun I was a big stepping stone to having the students understand how to write in the third person.<p> Most of all the concepts having a personal opinion or idea and being able to defend that opinion was a crucial link to get the students to break out of their own personal interest areas and into a wider context of community, and the world. One topic that was developed from a personal point of view and then into a global point of view was "Dog Consumption" by Miss Amphaiphak Saengthong. Here was a story that began with knowing that dogs were friendly and made very good pets. Then on further examination it was discovered that many parts of the world people ate dogs as part of their cuisine. This raised many issues and finally made an excellent paper. All the papers are accessible from chapter thirteen on the internet based course which is on-line at http://www.earthportals.com/rajabhat13.html<p> <b>Final Realizations</b><p> For a teacher who is about to embark on developing an on-line course I must advise that the amount of time required to design and implement such a course for the internet, and the time to evaluate the students work increases many times fold as compared to a more traditional text based course. Evaluation of portfolios, reviewing of diskettes, reading all the papers and making critical observations by writing on student papers extends the amount of time necessary to review all the students work.<p> So, a fair question to ask is that if the internet based course requires so much time to evaluate student output is it worth the increased effort? Better still, is the quality of the work produced any better than if the internet was not used? How can an answer to either of these questions be justified? In a questionnaire that was developed for the students (Appendix A) it is interesting to analyze the students responses. Can these answers be any guide to the success or inadequacy of this internet based courses effectiveness in teaching critical thinking? The answers clearly show that a majority of the students did feel that the internet helped in their research.<p> One factor which needs to be taken into consideration besides the increased amount of time required to evaluate the students work is the size of the class. As can be seen by the number of papers this course had nearly 40 students. Ideally a course of this nature, with the requirements sought after, should be limited to fewer students.<p> Granted the internet is a profoundly useful addition to educational instruction. However, the breath of information which the internet is coming to represent in the 21st century is going to put new demands on teachers as well as the need to understand the interface between the students and the lessons the students access on an internet based course. Initially, Thai students found a simple subject easier to understand that how it fit into the greater whole. However, with the introduction to a step by step process of idea development the students were finally able to integrate more relationships of ideas about their topics. Taking into consideration how students from different countries learn will by necessity dictate what course strategies or curriculum development is best suited to the students learning behavior.<p> If you are the content provider for an internet based course, as I was, you begin to readily appreciate how important the selection of information is as well as anticipating the time the students will take with exploring the information presented to them. It is important to realize that students already have some basic computer skills. These skills range from gaming activities, observation skills, viewing and listening skills with real audio and real video streaming applications. However, and I repeat, cognitive skills, information seeking skills, and search strategy skills may be non existent. The challenge for teachers to use these technologies could not be more apparent. There are countless documents that can be viewed on the internet telling about the effectiveness of the internet in learning English for ESL. The real time challenge though is when a course is actually being designed and placed on the internet. The list of considerations can be disconcerting as well as daunting to be sure, but the future is before us, if not already, and more and more students feel comfortable with sitting in front of a computer to do something and are more than ready to learn by it.<p> It is the teachers who now have to find a learning path to satisfy their appetites for innovative ways to engage their curiosity in using the internet for instruction. These comments and reflections are based on experiences gained from designing and implementing an internet based course. The results are not definitive by any means, and maybe they never will be as our knowledge and our technologies grow ever so quickly demanding that we learn how best to cope with this exotic entity I call the "Internet Wizard".<p> <b><a href="http://www.nsru.ac.th/langcenter/OUTPUT.htm" target="_blank">Appendix A</a> - Student answers to a questionaire.</b><p> <b>References:</b><p> What ails our language programme? Education Reporters, Nation September 12, 2004<p> A Critical Thinking Approach in Teaching English to Thai Learners,<br> Panit Boonyavatana, paper presented at ELT in a Globalized World: Innovations and Applications<br> December 15-17, 2003, Chulalongkorn University<p> Where is the literary voice of Thailand?, Thanong Khanthong, Nation, Opinion October 8, 2004<p> Students Perceptions of English Learning through ESL/EFL Websites,<br> Shiao-Chuan Kung, Tun-Whei Chuo,<br> TESL_EJ Vol. 6. No. 1 , June 2002<p> Enhancing English Proficiency of Thai Students by Using Web-Based Teaching and Learning Materials,<br> Kanchana Prapphal, Prakaikaew Opanobn-amata, Tavicha Phadvibulya and Chitchon Pratontep,<br> paper presented at ELT in a Globalized World: Innovations and Applications<br> December 15-17, 2003, Chulalongkorn University<p> Thai StudentsLearning Styles and Preferred learning Strategies,<br> by Anchalee Chayanuvat,<br> paper presented at ELT in a Globalized World: Innovations and Applications December 15-17, 2003, Chulalongkorn University<p> Thai Artists are Stifled by Stuffy Establishment,<br> Bill McCormick, Nation, <br> Letters to the Editor October 9, 2004<p> Thai Writers Should Focus on Quality, not Sales,<br> Paisid Aramphongphan, <br> Nation, Letters to the Editor, October 11, 2004<p> Critical Thinking in an Online World,<br> Debra Jones, Internet Librarian,<br> Cabrillo College, Aptos, CA, 1996<p> Google as God,<br> Jill Serjeant, Reuters, Los Angeles,<br> Nation, May 9, 2004<p> LIS 598 Google Syllabus<br> Janes, University of Washington,<br> Winter 2004<p> A Report from the Teaching and Learning with the Web workshop at WWW 94,<br> K. Hensarling, D. Peraya, D. Schneider and M. Speh,<br> University of Geneva, May 1994<p> Reporting and Writing News A Basic Handbook,<br> Peter Eng and Jeff Hodson,<br> Indochina Media Memorial Foundation.<br> October 2001<p> Online Uprisings are Changing China,<br> Xiao Qiang, <br> Bangkok Post, Global Viewpoint,<br> August 15, 2004<p> <hr> Return to: | <a href="rajabhat.html">Rajabhat On-line Home</a> | <a href="http://www.earthportals.com/Portal_Messenger/willard.html"target="_blank">Other writings by Willard Van De Bogart</a> |<p> <center><a href="mailto:willard@portalmarket.com"><center>willard@portalmarket.com</center></a></center> <center>&copy;1995-2005 Earth Portals</center><p> </body> </html>