This site presents select authentic texts dealing with issues of interest to young Germans. The material is taken from the online version of a (printed) magazine for young Germans, published by a major German newspaper. The site offers a selection of didacticized articles for language learners, with a focus on the opinions and experiences of young people in Germany. An associated section for instructors offers tips for implementing the material, a discussion forum, and other supplements.
The prose texts provide opportunities to enhance reading skills and strategies (there is a link to a sub-site that reviews reading strategies and gives hints), the videos provide opportunities to enhance listening (and viewing) comprehension. In addition, composition can be practiced. The material encourages the development of media literacy and it exposes visitors to current German youth culture.
Target Student Population:
The site is aimed at intermediate and advanced learners and up (a minimum of 100 hours of German is recommended). It would be too difficult for most beginners.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Explicitly addressed are students who are able to deal with relatively easy material without major difficulties and without recourse to external aids. All internal material is in German only.
Type of Material:
The material includes short text articles, video sequences, assignments and exercises associated with both texts and videos, a hot-linked glossary of terms (particularly idiomatic constructions and slang), and access to communication with other learners via chatrooms, as well as the opportunity to send in material for publication on the site itself. Instructors will find a section dedicated to their needs, including a project description, handouts, hints, a forum, and further links.
The site can be used either for individual self-study, in group learning situations,
as basic course material or as a supplement.
A frames-capable browser with a .rm/.ram RealMedia player plug-in is required; other plug-ins may also be required. A computer with sound card and speakers or headphones is necessary to hear the sound in the video sequences.
Evaluation and Observation
All material is engaging and of potential interest to language learners. There are texts and videos, and the associated tasks are meaningful. Users are offered flexibility in that they can choose either didacticized or undidacticized texts (organized by difficulty), can pick texts on a thematic basis, or can choose only texts with associated videos. Learners can participate in competitions and submit comments to certain questions. New material is added on a regular basis, and the site seems to be consistently well maintained.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The site is designed with maximum effectiveness in mind and accomplishes that. The textual material is outstanding and includes a wealth of supporting material, including extensive and detailed yet clear and straightforward tips for both learners and (on separate pages) instructors. The teachers' pages even contain information for adapting the material to supplement several popular print textbooks. Students find interactive exercises that allow them to comment on issues, and they can join exchanges (fora or chat) with other students. Just as for the learners, instructors can exchange tips, experiences, as well as exercises via the site's discussion forum and postings. This is is one of the few websites that includes a bibliography of sources for its methodology; clearly, this is a project that has been meticulously planned and its richness reflects this.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
Providing the user has sufficient German to follow the instructions, the site is extremely easy to use and navigate, with an ever-present but dynamic side menu and links at the top that always make the start page accessible. Links within the texts are colour-coded: red links bring up exercises (some of which are external links),
green denotes links to external sites, and blue takes the user to the glossary. Most of these open in a new window. The pages with the text lists present a chart that gives an overview of the titles, their respective themes, reading strategy/style, and learning activity. There are even external links to a glossary, bilingual online dictionaries, and German grammar resources in both German and English. The instructors' pages feature a complete alphabetical list of all pages in the site, and a graphic sitemap is available as well. Most video clips are offered in a low and high bandwith version, thus increasing the likelihood that much interesting material is accessible to those with limited equipment.
Other Issues and Comments:
Overall, this is an excellent site, well-designed visually, technically, and pedagogically.