||Mar 25, 2005 by World Languages Editorial Board
|| The site is one of Mexico's national webpages for developing art and culture
among elementary and middle school children. This site is ideal for bilingual
programs. There is a rich presentation of multicultural multimedia materials,
e.g., virtual visits to the Mexico City's Zocalo and the Castillo de
Chapultepec; pop-up windows with recipes for making the Rosca de Reyes recipe.
There are reading selections with visual and sound multimedia effects.
|| The learner is placed at the center of the educational process, respecting the
different ways in which an individual learns at various stages of life, as well
as differences among individuals in the ways they perceive the world and express
their ideas. The site attempts to help a user identify with at least one of
the characters of "La Pandilla", based on age, locale, or due the his/her
experiences and manner of understading reality.The group of characters
called La Pandilla, represent ages 6-11, come from different
regions and states in Mexico, and represent an educational philosophy
espoused by Project Zero. Project Zero is an educational research group at the
Graduate School of Education at Harvard University which strives to understand
and enhance learning, thinking, and creativity in the arts, as well as
humanistic and scientific disciplines, at the individual and institutional
|Target Student Population:
|| Grade School, Middle School, High School, College
|Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
|| Intermediate Level reading skills. Elementary and intermediate grammar to
include use of present past and future time to describe and narrate.
|Type of Material:
|| In general, the primary material is focused on reading narratives designed for
native speakers, in particular Mexican children and adolescents.
|| The learning objects teach and enhance learning,
thinking, and creativity in the
arts, as well as the humanistic and scientific disciplines. The site has a
decided Mexican "flavor" with unique traditions representative of regions and
states in Mexico.
|| Macromedia Flash 7
|| The research on multicultural children's literature notes that literature
focusing on minority cultures is extremely low. Little exists that can be
considered authentic or culturally appropriate material. In "Cuentos y algo mas
(eighteen reading selections)," and other pages in the Artenautas, the reading
selections are rich with a variety of materials. These depict an aspect of the
"latino culture", emphasizing Mexican traditions and values. The readings
reflect a sensitivity to these aspects of the "latino" culture and "consciously
seek to depict a fictional latino (Mexican) experience with authentic
characters, set in an authentic community. The story is told from a Mexican
child or adolescent's perspective, with the text describing the ethnicity of the
The selected stories are interesting and engaging. Most of the plots of each
story include problem solving, and characters deal with some type of conflict
that is resolved successfully, e.g., "Angela" and "La princesa y las dos
galletas." La leyenda de Bruno Traven is another perpetual theme on El dia de
los muertos. "Los mascaras del año que nace" is a fable relating an account of
a New year's Eve tradition of wearing masks, combining indigenous and Spanish
beliefs. "La casona del alquemista" is a story that weaves the past with the
present. The story begins in the Middle Ages during the Spanish inquisition
ending with modern times. The theme centers on the need to value and preserve
historical sites. The story ends asking the reader to react to what the main
character might have done as a result of the ending.
The texts deal with universal themes also. In "Las nuevas
" a reader can experience virtual flights via text and images. This
reading promotes a concept that adventure and new experiences requires some
risk-taking, and asks the reader to react to what he/she would like to fly.
The animations include a parachute sail in Acapulco Bay, travelling in a helium
globe over San Miguel de Allende, and enjoying "bungi" boards. The classic
story of "Los viajes de Guliver" encourage the ability to imagine. "Un pueblo
especial" draws on magical illusions to teach values. The characters inherit
special gifts like the ability to fly. The theme centers on recognizing each
person's special gift, and the responsibilty that goes with it, e.g., the
ability to fly requires taking care of the environment and using its resources
The section, "Visitas virtuales." includes virtual visits to nine different
locations to archeological sites, historical locations and museums in Mexico,
e.g., El Castillo de Chapultepec, Teotihauacan, "El Zocalo de Mexico." Each
selection includes not only the virtual visit, but a reading selection detailing
relevant information about each locale.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
|| The different characters of La Pandilla are Agustin (helps relate the new
material through narrative readings); Maria (questions the why of things and
attempts to make connections to concepts); Alex (understands/learns through
experience); Paula (understands through logical reasoning); Lucero (understands
by means of her feelings, perceptions, how something feels or is seen); and
Juanito (like Maria, questions the why of things and attempts to make
connections to concepts). The methodological approach includes elements of
Gardner's "Multiple Intelligences."
grammar, word usage, etc. makes the story easy to read from a child or
adolescent's perspective; adults can easily follow the storyline if they possess
an intermediate reading proficiency. Many of the reading selections are ideal
for teaching and reviewing the preterite vs. imperfect usage. The great variety
of themes help to enhance and build a rich vocabulary. For example, "El Sr.
Vela" is a story of a candle that finally discovers what it should do with its
life, and finds happiness in the end. (vocabulary:professions & social
events; grammar:Preterite vs. Imperfect.)
|| New selections are introduced each month. On occasion, particular good reading
selections are removed, and there should be a method of keeping these in an
archival bank. Consequently, teacher-prepared lesson assignments are wasted on
reading selections with a short "shelf life."
Since the site is intended primarily as a repository of L1 reading selections
for authentic readers, an L2 instructor must provide for teaching L2 reading
using an interactive information-processing reading model which employs a
top-down and bottom-up reading process. In addition to presenting new
vocabulary, there must be a provision for prereading, a reading comprehension
check,and post-reading with expansion activities using the other L2 skills,
e.g., listening, speaking and writing.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
|| The site follows an excellent webpage design format, being very inviting and
attractive with a good color scheme. The application of Macromedia
Flash Player delivers a high-impact and rich Web content. The Flash animations
require that a user have access to a computer with ISDN or DSL lines to view the
site with minimum download time. Otherwise,
a 28.8 modem requires more than a
ten-second download time, important to note since Macromedia Flash is primarily
used throughout this site.
The Flash presentations include very colorful animated images, narratives and/or
dialogues. Generally there is music with most Flash presentations. The
illustrations are an authentic portrayal of the culture, with the music often
complementing this authentic portrayal. In several Flash presentations, there is
an additional richness with images, e.g., photos, incorporated into the
animation, dialogue bubbles to caption the speech when two characters are
The text is legible and readable in most of the Flash animations. In the section
"Visitas virtuales, " the Java Applets load quickly and
provide exceptional 360 degree photographic views of the sites, and allow the
user to zoom in or out with the Quicktime technology. A wonderful interaction
is created with the combined use on a page of an animated Flash and a virtual
display of a site with Quicktime. For example, the user interacts
simultaneously with the Flash animation, which gives an explanation or dialogue
between the characters about the theme, e.g, Cuevas' paintings in the El Museo
de Jose Cuevas, and can also interact by moving the curser
using the Quicktime application, to locate the particular painting under
The search engine allows for the user to link to reading selections or other
activities according to each category (page) in the site.
The site includes very useful links found in the "Padres y maestros" page, and
in "Otros sitios," for the young users.
|| In general, a user can navigate the site, but can get lost. The site does not
provide information on the required technology or provide for downloading either
Macromedia Flash or Quicktime Player. The directions for using the Flash
animations and Quicktime are in Spanish. These directions are clear and work
most of the time. However,
there may be a need to guide students initially to
navigate easily. At times the directions do not match expected usage, e.g, use
of arrows in the "Visitas virtuales." At times the text appears somewhat small
in the Flash animations.
|Other Issues and Comments:
|| When viewing a Flash animation, the buttons and arrows all work, but
only navigate back to the beginning of the particular story/theme. This may
have been the webdesign choice for young viewers, who might get lost when
navigating through the site.
New selections are introduced each month, and the site is generally under
Ideally, webpages should allow for the user to view reading texts embedded in a
Macromedia Flash technology and also reading the text having a more traditional
webpage format. By providing for the latter, vocabulary words in a text can be
glossed and linked to cues for meaning, with the text remaining visible while
the cue is displayed. Incorporating this technology, involves not only reading,
but the development of reading skills.