'Deutschlern.net' is an interactive site professionally produced by native speakers with practice exercises for all language skills for learners at the early intermediate levels and above. Materials are drawn from all fields and include headline news events and links to Deutsche-Welle articles. A teachers page ('Lehrerseite') is available to track student visits. Free login is required for access and construction of a personal dictionary.
The site focuses primarily on reading and listening comprehension. The materials cover a wide variety of topics; they are not restricted to German-speaking countries or even Europe. Nevertheless, there is a lot of cultural material specific to German-speaking countries available.
There are some exercises specifically for grammar.
Target Student Population:
Although the site divides the material into three primary learning levels (short and easy, elementary, advanced), the site is best used with students who are at least at the intermediate level for two reasons. Even the short are easy texts are set at a level beyond most novices, and the entire site is in German, so novice students are likely to have trouble navigating site.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Intermediate Level in German.
Type of Material:
interactive materials in a variety of formats to practice all language skills. Immediate feedback with opportunity to try again is provided. Learners can take charge of their learning by creating their own personal dictionary/specialized glossaries. Teachers can also print PDF documents of exercises to use in a traditional classroom setting.
First, introduce your students to 'lern.net' during a class session in a computer lab to help them set their login and learn how to access and use the extensive materials. Have students improve their comfort level by assigning an exercise at the start of a class session in a computer lab so they can ask the instructor questions.
Learners can use the material by themselves, since the accompanying exercises are corrected. The material could also be used in class, but once students are familiar with the site, an instructor would most likely chose to assign material as homework to be monitored by the instructor and/or discussed in class. For most learners this would be the most effective way to use the material.
high-speed Internet access
Evaluation and Observation
The material covers a wide variety of topics and is organized by difficulty. The topics and their presentation are engaging and in a variety of media. New material is added frequently and in a timely fashion. For instance, an exercise describing the political goals of Barack Obama appeared 1-2 days after the presidential election.
A topic is often covered by a "lesson" that consists of a variety of material in a number of exercises.
The site offers instructors who register their classes statistics on student performance in a variety of formats (number of sessions, number of exercises) in summary or in detail. Instructors can also send and receive mail from students. I used both features and was pleased at the ease of the process.
The site also has a feedback mechanism that allows uses to rate exercises. A rating is given for each exercise.
Beginning students will be overwhelmed since there are no bilingual (English/German) entries to help with logging in and accessing exercises
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The material is very engaging. It incorporates a wide variety of media (image, video, audio, text, discussions). Students have come to me with material from the site and asked me to share it with the rest of the class, because they found it engaging, timely and informative.
Exercises are often organized into lessons on a single topic. This can effectively reinforce vocabulary and provide a variety of perspectives on the same material.
Some of the exercises demand a very sophisticated understanding of German. A student who is not prepared might become overwhelmed or discouraged quickly. For this reason, I would recommend that instructors select material for their students to use, at least initially.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The site is visually appealing, and easy to navigate and use. The ease of navigation is quite an achievement considering the amount and variety of the material.
The exercises are easy to use as well.
Other Issues and Comments:
Though at a glance the site appears to be suitable for rank beginners and beginners, it is intended for users at the intermediate and above levels.