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What are Electronic Materials?
When we refer to electronic materials creation and use in the context of this chapter, we are talking about information resources, exercises and activities that you create yourself and which your students use on a computer a web page or CD-ROM content, or even in printed form.
There are many reasons why you might want to create and use your own electronic materials in class. Firstly, you will be able to provide extra practice for weaker learners, and consolidation and review exercises for groups. Secondly, as you build up a collection of you own resources with your own learners needs in mind, you will start to generate a large bank of materials which can be use in class or for self- study at any point in the future.
A large school might event work electronic materials into a more collaborative projrct, building up a wide range of digital resources which are then shared between group members over a server.These may be adaptations of existingprint materials in some case, or completely new exercises. With the ready availability of web storage, these can be uploaded to a central repository, or a more robust storage platform such as a Virtual Learning Environment
- The A4ESL homepage features a wide variety of exercises in many different categories and in many different language combinations.
- A Sample intermediate multiple-choice grammar exercises from the site. The learner is given a gapped sentence and has three choices with which to fill it. Feedback is given after each question, and a score is kept.
- A Sample Intermediate vocabulary crossword on animals with clues down the right hand side of the quiz grid itself. Learners type one letter in each gap in the grid.
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Creating Electronic Materials online
Informational resources such as electronic materials are very useful for exercises and different activities that can be used in CD-ROM or online or even printed.
The are different ways in which we can achieve this:
- Working with external web pages
- Using web page design skills
- Using small programs designed for those purpose
- Exploiting more complex CD-ROM production software
How can we achieve this?
- Making adaptations to printed materials. Using tools that can help digitalize them. There are simple exercise generators that include word-searchers, true/false, multiple choice, unscramble setences
- Uploading exercises to a central repository or a cloud storage platform
- Using authoring tools, there are many authoring tools that can be used for free online. It is a matter of looking for them in a browser like google or in some CD-ROMs or DVDs that some editorials provide teachers with.
What is an Authoring Tool?
- An installable program that allows you to create materials in electronic format.
- Can be distributed an a CD-ROM, DVD,USB, via web page to your learners.
- authoring programs are used to make CD-ROM based refernce tools like microsoftencarta but also more simple resources like information leaflets, brochures, handouts and interactive exercises.
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Using Authoring Tools to Produce Materials
Perhaps the most famous authoring tool in our field is Hot Potatoes. This is a small Windows Or Mac Program that creates a variety of exercises and can be freely downloaded for educational purposes (http://hotpot.uvic.ca/). This program will install on your own computer and allow you to create web-based exercises of the following types :
- Multiple choice
- Short answer
- Jumbled sentence
It also allows you to include audio files in MP3 format and will even allow you to store your exercises on a central server so that they can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection. To get started, install the program and find it in your program folder. When you first start it up you will be presented with the following screen.
Now it’s time to actually create the quiz as web page. First make sure you save your quiz so that you can return to it later to make edits if you need to (File-Save). Now we will turn this into an interactive web page. Click on ‘File — Create Web page’and then choose the ‘Webpage for v6 Browsers’option. Give the filename and then save it. You should now be able to look at it in a web browser.
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If you want to delve deeper into things like formatting the output, changing colours, and so on, then you should look in the Options menu when you are creating a quiz, or investigate the ‘Help’ file that comes with the program.
This is utility accessed from the start page of the Hot Potatoes program which will guide you through linking a set of individual items into a small learning package, with full navigation betweeen the various elements.
Another area to explore in electronic materials, and a move away from straightforward test and practice exercises, is the creation stories where learners read scenarios and then make the choices to decide what they will do at certain key points.
You can see some examples of typical interactive stories (or reading mazes) here (http:www.halfbakedsoftware.com/quandary/version_2/examples/)
Each time a choice is made the story unfolds further. This dessert island scenario in particular is a familiar language practice tool, presented in a slightly different way. The examples below were made with a piece of software called Quandary.
You need to give your reading maze a title (Exercise Title) and the give the opening screen a title (Decision Point Title). Click on ‘+New Link’. Select ‘Create a new decision point’ and give it a relevant title.
Notice that the ‘Go Shopping’ option is now automatically link to Decision Point 2 and ‘Wait till tomorrow’ is linked to Decision Point 3. Use the forward arrow next to the Decision Point number to advance to Decison Point 2 and add the text for that option.
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Now you will have an opening screen with two options, each linked to another screen. When you have finished your small maze, save it (File – Save File) and then convert it to a verb –based activity for your learners.
Make sure that you brush up on your search skills from chapter 3 before venturing on to see what’s there. To get you started, here are a few more examples:
- Clarity Software (http://www.clarityenglish.com/)
- CreativeTechnology (http://www.cict.co.uk/software/textoys/index.htm)