Online interaction

20th October 2000 at 01:00
FUSEE. Hodder and Stoughton


CAMARADES. Nelson Thornes.

Publishers are still at the early stages of providing websites to support their key stage 3 courses, but those who have taken the plunge are producing some interesting materials. The best is without doubt Fusee which has its own domain name (unlike others where access is via lots of clicks and sub-divisions from the publisher's main site) and is very quick to download.

Ten buttons correspond to the 10 units of the pupils' book and provide links to one or more actual French websites which relate to the theme of the unit. Exercises on the text of the French sites are to be worked through in parallel windows, that is, with the French web site open in one half of your screen and the Fusee exercise in the other. The exercises are varied and genuinely interactive.

Even if you do not use the Fusee books this site will be useful. The carefully chosen French web pages cover, for example, cinema, DIY, the Eiffel Tower and football, as well as the delightful Premiers pas sur l'Internet on which French children write about musique, voyages, curiosites, and so on.

The Equipe site states that the user should have the pupils' book open while working through the online activities. Sometimes this is for reference, such as when a traditionalgrammar exercise is offered (supply un or une, etc); sometimes the comprehension questions on the screen refer to passages in the book.

Another section, "Visit the web" provides links to a selection of lively sites on, for example, chocolate, Leonardo di Caprio, cycling, and Burkino Faso. Rather disappointingly, this collection is the same for all units and provides no accompanying activities.

The Camarades site opens with a self-righteous hectoring on the value of ICT in language learning, telling us that "outcomes are designed for subsequent use by an audience" and such like. Once past that there is a selection of activities based on the pupils' book. These are mostly, but not always, available at two levels of difficulty and consist of grammar, comprehension and display-type activities.

Many of them could be done without a computer - is it perhaps a case here of using technology for its own sake and missing the immense potential of the web for putting exciting authentic material in front of pupils?

The great advantage of the web, of course, is that it is never static.

As the developers listen to feedback from users we can no doubt look forward to a growing and ever-improving bank of resources.

Richard Marsden is an independent advisory teacher. His online activities for language learning will published by AngliaCampus early next year

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