Voyage virtuel is one of the twenty units of Civilisation francaise, developed by Marie Ponterio at SUNY, Cortland. The unit opens to a clickable map of France on which places of interest are indicated by a blue dot. By clicking on a dot, the user enters the page devoted to the area (city, region) which presents photographs, brief descriptions of some of the most famous cultural and touristic attractions in the region, as well as links to other interesting resources on the same topics. The sub-pages have a consistent design, beginning with an introductory paragraph that associates a city and its region. "A voir" describes the major things to see in the city, followed by "Dans la Region", which gives a pictorial tour of the surrounding area. "Quelques specialites" brings in appetizing photos of the regional culinary specialties. "Pour en savoir plus" provides carefully selected external links to expand the users familiarity with the area featured. The map offers a virtual tour of 68 of the most popular touristic destinations in France.
Type of Material:
No special technical device or plug-in required.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
The main purpose of the site is to introduce the learners to the French culture without overwhelming them with information. The descriptions use a simple, colloquial vocabulary and short sentences always closely related to the pictures. The photographs provide a visual context to the commentary as well as a mnemonic device to remember the names of the products and places presented. The user of Voyage Virtuel will develop cultural awareness and reading skills. He will increase vocabulary in the target language and become more familiar with French culture, history and geography. French is the language of Voyage Virtuel.
Target Student Population:
Intermediate and advanced students in language, conversation and culture courses. Beginners can make use of photographs.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Completion of one semester of elementary French seems to be the basic language training required to begin making use of this resource. Intermediate and advanced students will be comfortable using it. Beginners and independent learners may have difficulties understanding the descriptions which are written exclusively in French.
This website does not claim to be exhaustive but to provide an introduction to some of the main points of interest of France. The places and monuments have been carefully selected so that the visitors will get a good sense of the diversity of France and of its cultural riches before actually visiting the country.
The photographs will first attract the attention of the visitors. At the center of the pages they take more space than the commentaries and give the impression of virtually touring the places. All photographs are of excellent artistic and technical quality. This high visual quality makes the site a wonderful resource for in-class projection, in general language courses as well as in culture or conversation courses. Vivid colors in close-up pictures and spectacular panoramic views of famous monuments such as Mont Saint-Michel will make their impression on the virtual tourists. At the same time, the concise nature of the commentary will facilitate the memorization of the vocabulary and names of products and monuments. Great care has been taken to present the material in a scholarly manner, yet the pages have the inviting feel of going through a photo album. The captions are very well-written, containing vocabulary and structures that will enhance reading skills.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
Since Voyage Virtuel is a unit of the same author's Civilisation Francaise site (see Peer Review in MERLOT) , the Index link on the Voyage Virtuel home page returns to CF. Nevertheless, Voyage stands very well on its own as a self-contained learning resource.
This website can be implemented in various types of learning and for a broad range of purposes. Teachers can project the map and use it as an accessory in a conversation or culture course,
or assign research topics to the students as homework. Independent learners can supplement their grammatical program with these cultural resources. For that matter, Voyage Virtuel can be adapted for use along side any textbook, as its non-linear presentation allows the user to approach the pages in any order.
It is easy to imagine learning assignments to accompany this site. One can also think of using the website for testing the students' cultural awareness at various levels of instruction, including teacher preparation programs.
The careful selection and maintenance of the links to external resources is commendable. Most links take the visitors to regional or municipal administrative offices that provide up-to-date and accurate information on the regions. The author has given preference to quality of content over quantity, which makes the site a reliable collection for teachers and learners.
Voyage Virtuel offers a good initiation to French culture and geography. It does not claim to provide an in-depth description of the places. Students should be encouraged to extend their exploration beyond the website, using the provided links.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The website is simple to navigate and does not require any special technical skill or plug-ins. The design is consistent throughout the site, allowing the user to return to the main page (the map) from any of the other pages.
If the external links opened in different windows, this would ensure that the users will not get lost when following a link outside of Voyage Virtuel and that they will easily find their way back to the starting point.
The organization of the Bibliographie on the first page could be enhanced by separating the print resources from the web links. This would make for a cleaner, more readable design.
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