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December 1997 - Issue No. #29 (p.14 - 15)

This article is based on a presentation given at the 1997 Korea TESOL conference in Kyoungju, Korea

Using the Internet to Promote Globalization

by John M Bellows

Inha University, Korea

In my university in Korea, I have designed a series of English language classes which use the Internet to practice English skills, critical thinking and global awareness.

In the first class, I pre-teach vocabulary, then pass out a news article to the class. I read the article aloud, have a student read it aloud, then ask individual students Wh-questions (but not How and Why). Then, we go online by computer to an ESL Internet news site, using an overhead projection system so the whole class can see the screen. We vote on an article to read, then repeat the same process as before - reading the article aloud, then doing Wh-questions. We finish with a quiz about the article (either on online quiz on the website or a quiz of my own). This all lasts 70 minutes.

The second class focusses on critical thinking skills. Again, we read news articles but this time I ask How and Why questions and require more free talk. Then, we go online to look at an Internet news site and discuss the how and why of other news stories. Finally, we do an online quiz again to finish.

The third class begins with some online "lurking" or watching Internet chat-rooms and simulated environments such as MOOs. We watch what's going on, look at the various "rooms" or sites available and vote on one to try. We enter, I log on as a guest and converse briefly with the other users, asking them to identify themselves and their countries. Finally, I choose a student to log on - one of the stronger ones in the class - and let the rest of the class direct him or her. In closing, I show them email pen pal sites and a graffiti page of posted mail, such as on Dave's ESL Cafe. I let the students read the messages, then open the class to free talk and ask individual students what they think about particularly interesting messages. This all lasts about 3 hours. Finally, I assign homework: to sign with an email pen pal and to participate in a MOO or chatroom; a print out of a message and an activity is to be given to me in a week.

The reason for this project is that my students, and much of Korea, are part of the world, yet are not. There is no real interaction. They bring in resources from other countries but do not share their ideas without. They visit other countries in carefully organized package tours but seldom travel alone or strike off on their own. Therefore, my project aims to generate interaction and communi-cation with other cultures. A trial course proved that a few students truly did not accept events that happened outside Korea and only believed what they read in the newspapers. They did not want to discuss where the truth may lie in the coverage of current events. But, eventually, through constant comparison and probing of when, what, where, how and why, they learned to judge for themselves what is going on in the world. This is when I assign them Internet chat room homework. And this is where their real education, interacting with people from elsewhere in the world, begins.

On the Internet, I have my Korean students create a secret identity when they go on-line. One student with halting English skills became "Sally - a tall, thin, beautiful girl who loves to ride horses" and went on to have a long exchange with "Rod" from Iraq in a simulated forum with students from around the world. "Sally" is neither tall nor thin and I have serious doubts she has ever ridden a horse. Still, she and "Rod" have a lot of fun exchanging jokes while making enormous strides in their communication skills and learning about each other's cultures. Struggling students like "Sally" may have difficulties in the classroom, but on the Internet, no-one knows who they are. They can present themselves as who they want to be while investing their true selves in language learning. They learn by doing which is the best teacher of all.

When I think of the Internet and EFL, I like to use the image of a mirror. In one sense, the computer screen is like the mirror in the story "Alice in Wonderland" through which students slip into a different world. Instead of slipping into a land of fantasy like Alice, however, students such as "Sally" find themselves in a world of reality larger and clearer than their own lives. There they talk with people from countries they have never seen, are exposed to ideas they have never thought and are presented with opinions they may at first staunchly refuse to address until they can open up and become aware of other opinions beside their own.

In the story Snow White, the Evil Queen asks the question "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest one of all?" and is surprised when the mirror truthfully answers "Snow White". In the same way, students who sit before the magic mirror of the computer screen expecting to see the familiar reflection of their unexamined values and beliefs are surprised to see the variety of faces, ideas and life experiences that comprise the true reality of our world today

Through the Internet, then, my Korean students cross international borders in bit-seconds and enrich their lives as they practice English. They become globally and socially aware, and are no longer ignorant individuals who believe only what they read in the local news. They listen to students from Beirut and Guatemala, realize that these people too have their problems and they empathize with them. Without being exposed to these far-away people, they would not have grasped the real world with all its pain and promise until much later in life - if ever.

On a practical level, this project improves students' English skills, increases their vocabulary and gives them communicative language practice. On a more fundamental level, they learn to look at the larger context of their lives and the endless possibilities offered. They learn critical thinking skills, a deeper awareness of the world and become socially aware. They learn the true meaning of globalization: participation in the world community not as a distant stranger but as a member of an intimate global family

Suggested Internet Sites

Online News
CNN offers bite-size news in low-level English and includes an ESL quiz:

Online Internet Courses
Athena University has an Online University which includes an ESL class:

FUN (Frizzy University Network) is a virtual university which has both
classes and chatrooms: http://the

Email Pen Pal Links
Write Around the World is for e-mail penpals:

ScMOOze U. is an Internet chat environment:

Chatrooms and MOOs
Dave's ESL Cafe is a teachers' and students' resource which has email and
chat information:

John M. Bellows


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Kip A. Cates, Tottori University, Koyama, Tottori City, JAPAN 680-8551
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