This site is designed as an electronic workbook for use with !Arriba! ? Comunicacion y cultura (2001 Prentice Hall) The vocabulary and grammar corresponds to most basic college elementary texts. The site is a collection of workbook exercises e.g., fill-in-the blank and short answer items that are text specific, but can easily be adapted to other first year texts/courses. This site is driven entirely by the idea of "visual association." Clip-art style drawings provide the prompts for all activities.
Type of Material:
Drill and Practice
Internet access. There is a note on the home page for Mac users regarding the downloading of fonts.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
The student will learn vocabulary and grammar structures appropriate to the first year of Spanish language study.
Target Student Population:
This e-workbook will be used most effectively by students of Spanish at the first-year level. It would also be a good review tool for learners with more experience.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Evaluation and Observation
The site makes good use of visual prompts, with even greater potential in a teacher-controlled environment. It has a clear, user-friendly interface and easy navigation. The content covers the full range of first-year materials. It has a tightly-focused aim which it achieves very well. Every activity offers a link to a bilingual dictionary, which is quite extensive. The author also provides links to several exceptional grammar tutorials on the web, e.g., Barbara Nelson's Spanish Grammar Exercises, Juan Ramon de Arana's Spanish Language Exercises and Alix Ingber's Grammar Lab Drills. The author is planning interactive audio exercises corresponding to the written responses. This feature will enhance the site greatly, by engaging the listening skill.
Although fields are provided for written responses, they are not processed in any way. Scoring or textual feedback might motivate the online learner to commit to an answer in anticipation of some assistance or reward.
Correct or suggested responses are easily accessed, which may tempt the student to click through the answers with little or no challenge to productive skills. However, in a teacher-controlled setting, with access to answers blocked or delayed, the impact and, in some cases, polyvalence of the visual prompts could make them a very versatile tool.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The site has great appeal to users of all ages as a tutorial to acquire basic first-year vocabulary and grammar. The learner is guided in his use of the site with simple and straightforward instructions, clearly visible on the page.
The site's strength lies in the variety of its practice drills, designed interactively to engage the student. With the abundance of tasks,
the site can effectively be used either as teacher-directed or as an independent study.
The richness of the visual cues could allow them to be adapted to extended activities in individual and group settings. Even their infrequent ambiguity could enable real negotiation for meaning. Rich images benefit the memory in vocabulary acquisition and also help the user to see the grammar in context. A complex sentence pattern can be more easily understood with an image conveying a "story", as is the case in the images on this site.
The explanations of the subjunctive constructions using noun, adverbial or adjectival clauses make the task easy to complete (see Leccion 10, Segunda parte). The addition of the audio component will truly facilitate learning with an interactive and multi-sensory format.
The ease with which the answers can be revealed is a two-edged sword. It is very good for the serious user who has actually generated his/her own response; for the less than serious user, the temptation to skip directly to the answer could subvert the productive process.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
For each lesson, continuity is provided by the common design elements on each page. Within each lesson, there are clear and simple instructions for completing the task. For example, the student reads a question or a command, responds in writing, and then checks for the answer in a pull-down window. If there is vocabulary that is not understood, a dictionary (Spanish/English Dictionary) is provided with links to common vocabulary for each letter of the alphabet.
Navigation to activities is clear and quick. There is a direct link to continue to the next section of each lesson and to other lessons. The user can also return to previous lessons,
or to the home page without difficulty.
Other Issues and Comments:
Author Gary Aitken's Comments:Your reviewer suggests that the student answers be processed. The obstacle that I see to this is that many of the visual contexts are so open-ended that multiple responses can be expected. I also believe that leaving the student reponses intact allows the users to make direct comparisons between their answers and my suggested ones. The processed pages that I have seen do not permit this, since the 'submit' feature replaces an incorrect student response with a correct one. Furthermore, my use of pull-down menus makes it possible to display some of these alternative responses, a feature which is especially important in such a visual environment where so much individual interpretation is at work.