Kaleidoskop is an extensive, growing site presenting a wide range of topics concerning everyday life in Germany that have universal appeal (such as persons, places, institutions, etc.) and provides insights into how Germans of all ages live, think and feel.
The learner will strengthen reading, writing and listening comprehension skills and will expand vocabulary. S/He will become very familiar with numerous aspects of German culture.
Target Student Population:
Students with intermediate and advanced proficiency in German as well as those interested in the culture of Germany and the activities of 'regular' Germans.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
One year of college German or its equivalent.
Type of Material:
Lecture and presentation, including audio and video materials.
Due to the nature of the content, the material can be readily and easily integrated into lesson plans or used for independent study. The site?s author has provided tips for instructional use, additional links and suggestions for exercises. In fact, he has designated a section ?fuer Lehrer/for teachers? which offers tips and requests feedback.
The site makes use of animations, video, and audio. RealPlayer is required.
Evaluation and Observation
Kaleidoskop excels at presenting the everyday culture of people of all ages in Germany and does not stray from this organizing principle. The choice of the overall theme and the topics is relevant (plain presentation vs. critical treatment of cliches, stereotypes, and generalizations).
The content is currently divided into 10 themes that are further subdivided into various categories. The theme ?Geschmack,? for example, has 15 subcategories presenting individual preferences for food, vacations, etc. The content is up-to-date and appealing to a large audience. The depth and quality of the material are definite strengths.
The language of the individual readings is represented in context and reflects the appropriate register of the speakers. Slang, colloquialisms and more difficult constructs are highlighted and linked to explanations in German.
The German du/ihr/Sie forms of address are not uniformly applied, occasionally resulting in a somewhat too causal, familiar tone of address.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The site offers a highly effective framework for teaching and learning. There is something for almost any type of learner and for many styles of reception. Exercises of various types are included, as are answers (where feasible and appropriate). Where applicable, the most important vocabulary items are explained. For certain readings, the glossary for framed windows pops up in the upper right hand area. Selections come in varying degrees of difficulty (short to long, "easy" to challenging) as well as in different forms and media (interviews, articles, reports, images, sound files, prose texts, lists, etc.). Many opportunities for input are provided,
including options to respond to questions and to exchange with other visitors. Another strength of the site is its ?Forum? feature, linked from many pages, which encourages discussion and interaction.
A general section specifically designed for instructors is included. In this section, more background information on the entire project and the underlaying theory and pedagogy as well as professional information about the author can be found. Teachers are encouraged to add contributions, including their own teaching tips.
The forum appears to end in mid-2001; only some have ongoing contributions. The archiving program may be defective.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The site is easy and straightforward to navigate but requires a little experience. A table of contents, accessible from all points, is provided, and there is a clear separation into chapters and topics (and sub-categories). Images serve to briefly introduce the topic, accompanied by a short introductory text. All themes and the individual contributions are very well structured and organized. Text links and image links do different things (however, this is explained). Many pages offer further links, on-site as well as off-site. A "help" and "news" file are always available, as is a feedback link.
The site makes full use of the strengths of the medium (hyper-linking), which--oddly--might occasionally lead to the danger of visitors getting "lost" in a way, and feeling they are going around in circles. There is a wealth of material at one?s fingertips, i.e., many links, which can lead one astray.
Other Issues and Comments:
It appears that the material has been regularly reviewed only until 2000. Nevertheless, Kaleidoskop is a superb resource.