Tripping the light fantastic;English as a second language;Cover feature

10th September 1999 at 01:00
3Schools are connecting to the National Grid for Learning and teachers are being trained, but what software, materials and support will be out there for them? George Cole investigates the role of good content for the cyberschool generation, followed by a subject-by-subject stock-check

There are nearly 100,000 students in Britain learning English as a Second Language (ESOL), and this summer many colleges ran summer schools to cope with the enormous demand.

Stephanie Longson works for Stockport English Language Service which caters for a wide range of adult learners. "Some are well educated people, others less so; some have lived in England for many years but others are recent arrivals. Like many other centres in Britain, we have a number of refugees from places like Kosovo, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon." Students range from 16 to people in their 60s, so how can technology cater for their different tastes and needs? "Technology is dynamic," says Longson, "so that whether you are young or old, you feel a real excitement when you see a good CD-Rom running on a multimedia computer."

She has used First Aid, produced by St John's Ambulance, and Chronicle of the 20th Century. Both discs are well designed and can support a lot of language activities.

Many tutors are still looking for traditional drills and skills programs to practise tenses or prepositions and find that the web is a good source of downloadable activities.

Student generated surveys have been part of the Access to Employment class run by Melanie Rowland at South Thames College. "The students are Intermediate level and come from many countries - Colombia, Algeria, Somalia, Indonesia, Pakistan. They range in age from 17 to over 40." The students devised a questionnaire and interviewed people to record how they had found past and present jobs. They entered the results in Excel and used Chart Wizard to create a bar chart illustrating the results.

Finally, for those who think that the web can only be useful for learners who have good English language skills, then it's time to think again. The Internet is one of the most successful media for reuniting families split by war. There are at present 50 million displaced people in the world and organisations have created websites to help refugees locate their families. For example the Red Cross ( has a Balkans Family News Network in Serbian, Albanian and English which is being used as a forum to track down missing relatives or exchange family news.

10 websites

Case studies, reviews, resources and information

Award winner. Brings news from students' home countries

Dave's ESL cafe


Comenius Software Shop with software reviews


Anti defamation league fighting prejudice and bigotry

Lively Asian web site

National Library for the Blind. Sixty second theatre is fun


Black Information Link for UK's black community

BBC World Service learning English website

British languages and culture

10 resources

Chronicle of the 20th century, pound;25 from Dorling Kindersley. Tel: 0171 836-5411

TextEase, pound;85 from Softease. Tel: 01335 343421

First Aid, pound;49.99 from Granada Learning. Tel: 0161 827 2927

Similar Sounds, pound;41.12 (inc VAT) from St Andrew's University. Tel: 01865-514770

Tense Buster (5 levels), pound;50 each or pound;199 the set from Talkfast. Tel: 0181 948 1011

A Woman's Work, pound;20 from Rushbed Software. Tel: 01706 216659

Microsoft Encarta Africana, pound;49.99

Homebeats, pound;25 from the Institute of Race Relations. Tel: 0171 833 2010

The Official Driving Instructor, pound;9.99 from Europress. Tel: 01625 855000

Telephone Talk, pound;49 from Libra Multimedia. Tel: 0171 637 5677

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