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Teaching Tips 101

Discreetly integrative
Tech homework


It's Lefthanded Day on August 13th & in the Tip 'Lefthanded' there are some classroom ideas & materials at:

Another auspicious Day is August 6th, the anniversary of the web went worldwide. Here's an article from the BBC website:

How the web went world wide

By Mark Ward, Technology Correspondent, BBC News website, 6.8.06

In a few short years the web has become so familiar that it is hard to think of life without it.

Along with that familiarity with browsers and bookmarks goes a little knowledge about the web's history.

Many users know that Sir Tim Berners-Lee developed the web at the Cern physics laboratory near Geneva.

But few will know the details of the world wide web's growth - not least because the definitive history of how that happened has yet to be written.

Zero to hero

One key date is 6 August 1991 - the day on which links to the fledgling computer code for the www were put on the alt.hypertext discussion group so others could download it and play with it.

On that day the web went world wide.

Jeff Groff, who worked with Mr Berners-Lee on the early code, said a very simple idea was behind the web.

"The vision was that people should not have to deal with the technology stuff," he said.

The web was an overlay that tried to hide the underlying complexity of the data and documents proliferating on the internet.

Early on this commitment to simplicity meant that the now familiar addresses beginning http:// were never seen.

In the early 90s a single way to get at the information stored on many different computers was very attractive, said Paul Kunz, a staff scientist at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (Slac) who set up the first web server outside Europe in December 1991.

At that time, he said, computers were islands of information. A login only gave access to that machine's resources. Switching computers meant logging in again and probably using a different set of commands to find and retrieve data.

The web really caught Mr Kunz's interest after Tim Berners-Lee showed it querying a database of physics papers held on an IBM mainframe.

"I knew what the results should look like on the screen and the results looked identical in the web browser," said Mr Kunz.

The web server set up by Mr Kunz let physicists trawl through the 200,000 abstracts more easily than ever before.

This proved so useful that soon even Cern scientists were querying the database via the Slac webpage rather than using the copy on their network.

Audience share

But though physicists were being won over by the web's promise, in the early years few others grasped its potential.

This was because, said Mr Kunz, many other technologies existed that did a similar job. Many people got hold of key documents using the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and used Usenet as a means to express themselves.

Particularly popular was a technology known as Gopher developed at the University of Minnesota that also put a friendly face on the blooming complexity of the computers connected to the internet. It got the name partly because the college's sports team is called the Golden Gophers.

Gopher was released in Spring 1991 and for a few years statistics showed far more gopher traffic was passing across the net than web traffic.

During this time Mr Berners-Lee, Jeff Groff and colleagues involved in the world wide web project were evangelising their creation at conferences, meetings and online.

The whole project got a boost in April 1993 when the first PC web browser appeared. It was created by Marc Andreessen at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois rather than at Cern because, said Jeff Groff, the web team did not have the staff available to write browsers for PCs, Macs or Unix machines.

Mosaic was so successful that it established many of the conventions of web use still around today, said Mr Groff. For instance, he said, the original conception of the web had no place for bookmarks or favourites.

Also in 1993, the University of Minnesota began charging for Gopher which led many people to consider alternatives far more seriously.

Express yourself

Ed Vielmetti, a pioneering web user and now a research associate at the University of Michigan School of Information, said during these early years the technology really started to prove its usefulness to average net users.

Gopher and FTP systems were typically set up by companies or large institutions, he said. Also Usenet lacked any kind of persistence so anyone making a point had to re-post their opinions regularly.

Early on people started to use webpages as a way to express themselves in a way that other technologies simply did not allow. Mr Vielmetti said web code was very tolerant of mistakes and encouraged people to play around with it.

"Websites filled this unique little niche for you as a person, not as a corporate entity, and you can have the page sitting there and have it be yours," he said.

Every surge of interest in the web has been driven by the appearance of tools that make this expression, or a new type of it such as blogging, far easier than before.

The foresight of Mr Berners-Lee and the pioneering coders was such that, even today, many early webpages can still be viewed. That persistence can last decades.

"The killer application for the PC was the spreadsheet, for the Mac it was desktop publishing and for the internet it was the web," said Paul Kunz.

He added: "Tim Berners-Lee was working on a problem to solve in high-energy physics but in finding a solution he found a solution to problems that the general public did not know they had."

In late 1994 web traffic finally overtook gopher traffic and has never looked back. Now there are almost 100 million websites and many consider the web and the net indistinguishable.

But, said Mr Groff, only now is the web meeting the vision that the pioneers had for it.

The original conception was for a medium that people both read and contributed to. New tools such as photo-sharing sites, social networks, blogs, wikis and others are making good on that early promise, he said.

The web may be worldwide but it is only just getting started.

This would make a good focus for an upper intermediate, & above, reading, speaking & vocabulary lesson. Here are a few ideas:

1. Start by looking at the lexical set connected to the 'internet':

internet, web, http, email, address, browser, computer, messenger, wiki, etc....

Students could brainstorm the set & then they could build it up on the board, explaining to each other as the words go up.

2. Ask what the link between the internet & 6th August might be.

3. Give instructions for a very quick scan read - they find the significance of the date in the text as quickly as possible - a competition to see who finds it first - when they do they put their hands up. Handout the texts face down & when all have a text, give the starting order.

4. Students scan for the date & meaning.

5. Elicit the significance.

6. You could then ask the stds to skim the text for interesting information, tell them to do this quickly & not to get bogged down in any unknown vocabulary. The idea here is that they want to read for interest no, having sank them into the theme & given them a taster of the article with the first task. Explain that this is trying to help them speed up their reading ability. You might feel they need an extensive task, eg. some general questions, to give them more of a purpose for reading.

7. Students read.

8. In pairs they discuss any interesting information they found - they could discuss the chronological development >> general class feedback.

9. You might now have a comprehension task if you feel it is necessary. The students could write their own questions & swap them with their partners to answer.

10. You could look at some language at this stage - vocab or structure in the text - there's a lot there eg. from smaller areas such as 'Along with ......,goes....' - near the beginning of the text to an analysis of the discourse structure of the text.

11. Some follow up speaking activities:
- Students could discuss how they use the internet & how valuable it is for them. This would help you find out even more if they would be willing to do some online homework - see ideas for this in the Tip 'Tech homework':

- Advantages & disadvantages of the internet.

- For & against discussion on the internet being indispensable.

- Discussion on how the internet might evolve.

- When was the first time you used the internet? Among lots of other pages at the BBC site, to accompany the above article & the anniversary the BBC site has a page on opinions on the internet. There are short monologues from people. They start the page:

'Sunday 6 August marks the 15th anniversary of the publication of computer files credited as the start of the World Wide Web. The publication, by Tim Berners-Lee, began the spread of computer interaction that has lead to the web as we know it.

There are now 882 million people around the world online reading more than 100 million websites, and with each website offering potentially millions of pages of content.

To mark the birthday we've drawn together a panel of web-users from across the world, to give us their thoughts on the birth, the worst, and the future of the web.'

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Discreetly integrative

This week we turn our attention to an aspect of designing tests. We are testing our students all the time informally but we might design a progress test, during the course, or an achievement test, at the end of a course. Within these we can use objective & subjective tests; a grammar test in which there is one right answer as opposed to a free writing task. We can also make the distinction between discrete-item testing techniques, where one thing is being tested, & integrative testing techniques, where two or more things are being tested; a multiple-choice test would look at one item whereas a dictation would test vocab, spelling, grammar, listening etc.

Have a look at some discrete item techniques below & match them with their heading;

a. Matching
b. Function matching
c. Skeleton sentence
d. Multiple choice
e. Sentence completion

1. Write the following out into a complete sentence:


2. Match the sentence & the function:

It's a really good idea to read outside of class
If you don't study a bit more, you won't make it though the exam.


3. Complete the sentences:

Testing is a good idea because....
Objective tests are easier to......

4. Choose the correct word for the gap:

Regular _______ tests are always a good thing for all concerned.

a. swimming
b. progress
c. intelligence
d. clothes

5. Match the words in each group:

formal - objective - discrete item

integrative - subjective - informal

This is just a selection, there are many more types of discrete item techniques.

A very useful integrative technique is the cloze test. Try this cloze test on a definition of cloze tests from Wikipedia:

Cloze (from closure) is a ______ of examination technique, commonly but ______ limited to use on young ______ and students of English as ______ additional language to test writing ______ comprehension skills.

It is an ______ where the learner uses clues ______ the context to "fill-in-______-blanks" in a sentence or ______. Cloze activities test reading comprehension ______ language mastery levels.

It is ______ by a passage of text, ______ it be prepared beforehand, or ______ verbatim from the text to ______ examined, and with the removal ______ certain key words deleted and ______ with blanks. It is up ______ the student, then, to fill ______ the words, demonstrating an understanding ______ the text material.

This is a true cloze test where every nth word is omitted, here it is the 6th word. A text that the students have already seen & which contains examples of work covered can be very usefully used as a progress test.

A selective cloze would be a text where say, all the past simple verbs have been taken out. Which approach you take depends on your aim. True cloze tests are a very useful springboard for advanced level classes. The accuracy work can come from the problems encountered during the cloze test.

Some past Tips on testing:
Placement testing for large numbers of students
Diagnostic testing
A snail race
Friendly evaluation
Pigs can fly

Answers to the tasks above:

Discrete item techniques:
a - 5
b - 2
c - 1
d - 4
e - 3

Cloze test:

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Tech homework

Tech homework

This week we turn our attention to homework & how it can be made more motivating by tasking a technological slant. Here are a few ideas:

1. Set up a forum for your class. The most popular is the phpbb forum & is very easy to set up & operate. You do need to have some web space though - see later for this. You can easily configure it to be private with only your classes having access.

2. Use Skype for conference calls & have a class discussion all at once, computer to computer for free. Skype is very easy to set up & run. Download it from:

3. The same in a private chat room, set up just for your class.

4. Email the homework task to the students & they can email each other or back to you with the results.

5. Email chain story. Work out who is going to email who & get the students to exchange addresses, & then email the first student the start of a story who adds 100 words (plus the student's name), & then emails it to another student who adds another 100 words until all of the students have received & added a part to the story, the last student emailing it back to you. You read it out in the next class, & possibly pick up on language from the texts to look at together.

6. Set a task that the students need to search the internet to find answers to. This would involve lots of exposure to English. If a particular type of reading is involved, look at the skills they might need to incorporate beforehand.

7. Listenings & videos - assign students videos to view & they report back - & are very good sources.

8. Get the students to consolidate an area you have looked at in class by searching the net for explanations & exercises.

9. Song lyrics can be found easily at , , , among many. Get the students to choose a song, find the lyrics & then after listening to it in class, explain the song to all.

10. Go on a virtual trip to a museum. The students could all visit the same museum site or you could assign different ones. A discussion & appraisal then occurs in class. The same could apply to any 'set' of web sites.

11. The students take it in turns in looking up what happened on this day in history. At some point in the lesson - warmer, filler or cooler, the student explains to all. See: &

12. The students could write their learner diaries online for you to view & respond to. This is easily set up through the online learning system Moodle.

Clearly all of this requires that your students have access to the internet. If your students spend time online, then this is an easy extension & you may find homework production increasing as a result. Try a few of the ideas out & see.

If you would like to provide tools for your students to operate & develop their English online, our sister hosting site,, can help you out. We can set you up with a private Forum, private chat room or the Moodle software that provides both of these & a lot more besides. For more information have a look at the site at:
If you sign up in June, July or August you will receive a 20% discount!

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