Espa?ol con Carlitos, the Spanish language component of the Babelnet Project, is co-financed by the European Commission (Lingua D/2). Carried out by 14 European institutions (schools, universities and enterprises), Babelnet?s aim is to develop teaching and learning materials grouped around a specific theme with interactive units having a variety of activities providing for different levels of proficiency.
Type of Material:
Carlitos is designed to stand alone as a unit of instruction to teach the four skills and culture. Self-directed learners can learn a lot from it. It can also be used well in a classroom setting.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
The modules in Espanol con Carlitos help develop Spanish language skills at different proficiency levels.The learner can begin at a novice hi level and build up to an intermediate mid or higher proficiency level in speaking, reading and writing.Cultural information is abundant.
Target Student Population:
The site is suited for Spanish language students having a minimum proficiency level of Novice Hi. It is very appropriate for secondary students who will enjoy its youthful appeal.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
The learner can begin at a novice hi level in developing the four skills and culture.
The main pages include four sections: content (personal) information regarding the fictitious character"Carlitos"; interactive games on a variety of topics, e.g., vocabulary; a cultural section on history and geography for Spain and Latin America; a reading section on literary and factual topics; and a food section.The themes revolve around real-life experiences and topics that will be interesting both to youth and adult learners as well. A site map allows the user to view the site from topical themes or from grammar-based themes.
The reading selections include a detective story, literary pieces and readings on factual information on different Spanish-speaking countries. The poem "La Casada infiel" of Federico Garcia Lorca, is both glossed with images and read in Spanish via Real Player.
In addition, the site includes many interactive features, such as a section where users can send pictures of themselves and find pen-friends to correspond with in Spanish, a synchronous chat room designed for professors of Spanish and their students and a contest that engages users in a competition that will cause them to interact and learn Spanish at the same time.
While the content of Carlitos is extremely rich, with much new material being added all the time, it will soon be necessary to reorganize the home page to better highlight the wide variety of excellent features. At the moment, Carlitos is like a smorgasbord of engaging materials from which faculty and students can pick and choose. There is so much here to choose from, however, that it is posssible to miss some of the very fine features.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The site maintains thematic unity around the character of Carlitos,
with all vocabulary topics and grammar usage combined to develop proficiency along a continuum. The themes provide the context to develop grammatical skills, as well as a variety of other skills. Carlitos not only instructs but entertains, e.g., the games that will appeal to learners of all ages.
While the primary section centers around Carlitos' "life,? each activity can still be used independently from the site to supplement classroom lessons that instructors may find helpful to enrich their own programs using different texts or materials.
The reading selections start at a mid level of (intermediate)proficiency centering around a detective story, while the advanced level is focused on literary pieces and factual information on different Spanish-speaking countries.
The reading selections include written glosses and provide immediate feedback based on scale of 100% if activity is perfect.
There are a great variety of activities. There are wonderful links, e.g., photo images of a step-by-step process in making a paella. These often aid in enhancing cultural information.
The home page includes a window where the student can look up a particular verb, and then all the conjugations appear. This helpful grammatical link takes the user to the Verbix.com site (already listed in Merlot).
The forum and chat discussion links create opportunities for the users to develop communication skills. The "encuentros" link provides another opportunity for students to exchange personal information in a "safe site." This exchange can foster interaction between European and US Spanish-language students.
An interesting motivational element is the "concursos" link,
which encourages students to compete in creating web modules on a variety of topics. It encourages a global interaction that allows students from different parts of the world to interact. It also engages them in critical thinking and creative approaches to learning.
A visit to the live chat "International Room" at the time of this review, revealed no Spanish speakers and an inappropriate English language conversation, which ended with the offensive party being removed from the discussion. When the question was asked if the chat typically included Spanish language practice, the people present in the chat room answered in the negative. There were no participants in the Spanish-only chat room at the time. As with all chat rooms, faculty should monitor this one before sending students there to chat.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The module is attractively designed. It is rich with images, photos, some audio files, and links to other sites.
The content of the material can easily be identified and units can be selected according to three levels of difficulty to accommodate the proficiency levels. Student can easily select easier or more difficult activities by clicking an arrow once on the screen.
Individual modules will open in separate windows with the click of the mouse, a nice feature.
The verb conjugator on the home page could benefit from a more detailed label than the phrase "Escribe un verbo."
It would be an enhancement to have more audio renditions of literature and perhaps a few musical extracts, within copyright restrictions.
As stated above, there is so much material, that there may be a tendency to get lost, and the site could require that an instructor guide the learners initially. If the site is used independently by a user,
it may take a couple of visits to sort out its organization.
In many of the activities,e.g., reading selections, the ayuda (help) button does not function.
Other Issues and Comments:
The technical requirements for the site are not listed, and there are several dead links.
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