Introduction:

Initial use of computers in language teaching often centred around vocabulary games and grammar quizzes and tests. Technological developments of the late eighties, however, suddenly offered a growing range of further possibilities through the rise of CD-ROM and multimedia capabilities. Multimedia essentially refers to the ability to combine sound, images, video and text within a single program. A further essential ingredient is that the user can interact to a certain degree with this material, making choices about what pathways and options to use and in what order, deciding which aspects of the program support or make other elements easier to understand. While the scope and nature of such interactivity is determined to a large extent by the program design and interface, it is an important feature of multimedia software.

The potential of these multimedia qualities for language learning activities and programs were quickly explored. Brett (1998a:6) highlights how multimedia, through its varied input of text, sound, video and their combinations, can lead to learnerís senses being "highly aroused and stimulated" and thus "add to learnerís interest and motivation." This is achieved by the combination of different media sources, which provide a variety of means of dealing with language material and making it more easily assessible.

Eastment (1998:1) gives three reasons why this combination of sources and interactivity can be powerful and popular: because it is interactive, it reinforces and it provides context. The variety of material and sources, the combination of text, image and sound working together and the studentís freedom to move through the material, make the experience highly stimulating. The overall prospect for language learners is very promising and indeed appears to fulfil the potential of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) outlined by Pennington (1996:1): "The power of CALL in language learning and language teaching is to introduce new types of input, from both a quantitative and qualitative perspective. The added quantity of input leads to a richer language learning environment, while the unique quality of CALL input means different possibilities for accessing and developing information" .

Closely related to the potential of multimedia for language learning is the concept of learner autonomy defined by Little (1991:4): "Essentially, autonomy is a capacity Ė for detachment, critical reflection, decision-making and independent action." The range and freedom provided by multimedia materials appear to aid such autonomy with students given the power and encouragement to take an active role in the learning process. As a result, a large range of self study programs have been developed to take advantage of these possibilities.

Multimedia, however, like any technological development does not immediately provide a simple, quick or definitive method of language learning. Research by Brett (2000) indicates that some learners may even prefer more limited input sources rather than a full range of media. Furthermore, learner autonomy is something which is clearly developed over time rather than an automatic occurrence and learners may need guidance in exploring its potential as Dickinson (1992:1) points out: "Only a few people are spontaneously self-directed." with the consequential implication that: "A naive view of self-instruction is one in which the teacher is seen as redundant". Making the most of multimedia can thus be quite a complex task for designers of material, teachers guiding students through this material and students themselves.

While multimedia greatly increased the potential and range of CALL possibilities the nineties saw a further expansion of computers and language learning with the spread of the internet. The internet is a combination of many services which allow language students access to up to date information in their target language, outside the confines of a classroom, on a world wide scale, combined with the ability to communicate through email or chat with native speakers or fellow students. "By using the Internet and the World Wide Web (WWW), students can have almost instantaneous access to a range of foreign experiences in their target language. The computer then serves as a gateway to the virtual foreign world where Ďreal peopleí are using real language in Ďreal contextí". (Osuna and Meskill 1998:72)

There are a range of ways of using internet in language classrooms. Dudney (2000), Teeler and Gray (2000), Windeatt, Hardistry and Eastment (2000) all provide a variety of activities, the majority centred around using the WWW. Many of these suggestions are task based and often linked to projects and overall skills development centred around the information and interest generated by the internet activity itself. The internet can be a very effective tool in exposing students to real language while also stimulating production of the target language as a result of this exposure and interaction.

The WWW can be highly motivating but there are many factors which can also prove hindering, including the very scope of the material available and the quality of language found on the WWW and generated by interaction with it. As Warschauer, Shetzer and Meloni (2000:53) stress: "The unstructured nature of the web makes it an easy place to wander aimlessly and Ďsurfí with little direction or purpose." Uncontrolled use of the internet can easily become frustrating as a learner stumbles through an endless amount of material and hyperlinks with no focus. "In reality most of the material on the internet is electronic page-turning at the worst, or an electronic book with some of the random access search facilities and index attributes of a book." (Forsyth 1999:23) What is more, even worksheets written by teachers to provide guidance and focus can go out of date as content, addresses and links continually change, unlike the material on a CD-ROM which is fixed. Thus, while the WWW has potential, its use is not a question of plug and play, rather of carefully designed tasks taking into account a whole range of factors from pedagogical aims to technical implications.

Nevertheless, the potential of this tool is being rapidly increased as access and, more importantly, speed of access improves. One of the prime consequences of this is the increased range of multimedia materials on the internet. More and more web sites now feel freer to use not only images, text and hyperlinks but also a range of more advanced graphics from slide shows to Macromedia Flash "movies" and more frequent use of streaming audio and video feeds. The WWW is thus, increasingly becoming an multimedia based environment. This can be a powerful aid and incentive to language learners; rather than simply dealing with text and possibly images, a full range of multimedia features offers a richer environment. Judicial use of all these media together or combinations of them, can enhance the learning experience and increase the potential for "mindful engagement" as defined by Watts (1997:5). WWW material has the added advantage over CD-ROMs in that the information found on a website is not necessarily static but has the potential to be constantly updated and also linked to further sources or input.

Effective use of the WWW for language learners and instructors, however, implies serious reflection on the nature of the media, what it contains, how information can be found and most importantly how this input can be used effectively for language learning; in other words, learners and teachers need to develop the skills necessary for using the WWW as a language learning support. "Though the internet provides a valuable medium for helping bring classrooms alive, successful results depend on how the internet is used ... In the end, it is not the technology itself but the teaching that makes the differences." (Warschauer et al. 2000:8). It is essential for teachers to be aware and guide their students to an understanding of the potential and pitfalls of the WWW as a language learning tool. This implies the development of levels of learner autonomy similar to that required when using other multimedia material while realising that using WWW can be even more demanding: many CD-ROMs for language learners have been designed to include mechanisms which support and guide learners use of multimedia; authentic WWW sites, not specifically aimed at language learners, do not provide any such aid.

The following is a description of a website designed for a group of Spanish teenagers beginning to prepare for the Cambridge First Certificate (FCE) exam and an outline of how multimedia material on the WWW can be exploited to encourage and help students obtain the level of English and language skills required for this goal.

The context:

"The design of learning materials for any medium should always begin with the definition of objectives and analysis of student learning needs." (Laurillard 1993:181/2) which in turn implies an awareness of the overall context within which they study. Watts (1997) also argues for an analysis of learner needs, learner goals and learner situations, in other words the very specific context of a learner or a group of learners. English Language Institute (ELI) is a language academy in southern Spain offering private language tuition with native speakers to students after work or normal school hours. Most students start studying in the academy a the age of eight or nine and obtain the FCE between fifteen and seventeen, just before they start university. There is a one year specific FCE preparation course but students have to pass an exam to enter this course, an exam usually taken at the end of what is referred to as T7. Those students who fail continue to T8, in other words, they have another yearís study before attempting the exam again and, if successful, beginning the FCE preparation course.

A T8 class, therefore, tends to be comprised of students who may be weaker, may have worked less, or who, in many cases, will not have had the opportunity to travel to or study in an English speaking country. Two of their main problems are this lack of exposure to real English combined with a certain degree of frustration and occasionally low moral at their progress.

Most of these students have basic IT skills such as negotiating Windows 95/98 operating system, using a word processor and typing. Most have a computer at home although only about one in ten have access to internet. As they have progressed through ELI they will have used CD-ROM material and computers for word processing during normal class time, as kids for specific language practice but at higher levels for more general skills practice. This latter often implies using genuine material such as Encarta Encyclopaedia CD-ROM for research purposes or more normally, following a worksheet to answer set questions. Some T8 students will also have used WWW at ELI, again for researching material or following specific worksheets. It has been noticed, however, that these tasks focus primarily on text based sites and that students frequently struggle with the amount of language, itís difficulty, and as a result often directly copy sections of text which they frequently do not understand rather than take effective notes. This in turn leads to poor follow up later in class as students cannot adequately share or write up material which they have not fully comprehended in the first place: the original texts are thus not being adequately dealt with and the opportunities for skills practice later in class suffer as a consequence.

Clearly, studentsí ability to interact with extensive exposure to real English needs developing. Equally obvious is the fact that while the internet does motivate, if not used skilfully it can also frustrate. The essential skills of using it correctly need to be developed by the students themselves as Laurillard (1993:203) points out: "Control by the student is important because we cannot possibly predict the exact sequence and pacing that each individual needs."

Teachers also need training with regard to the potential of the WWW and particularly its multimedia elements. "Split between the responsibilities of vetting many hours of material on a CD-ROM, obtaining sufficient access to use the computers, and using CD-ROM technology effectively, the teacher is placed in a difficult position." (Russel 1994:43) and when faced with the enormity of the WWW these challenges are even more daunting. Yet, as mentioned earlier, effective use by the students will imply effective guidance by the teachers. At ELI teachers all teachers use CD-ROM material with their classes and most have email accounts so, overall, the core IT skills are in place although few would claim complete ease when using new technologies. As a result teachers prefer to rely on pre-designed lesson plans and material and thus, like their students, they are often learning about the potential of multimedia on the WWW as they work through these lessons.

Objectives:

Within the context described above it appears clear that the WWW may have the potential to provide T8 students with the motivation and experience of real language they need combined with the extended skills practice which is also essential to their goal of achieving FCE level. The aim of the site is to provide material, insights and support for both students and teachers as they discover ways of using the WWW and in the process begin to develop the skills necessary for effective and autonomous language learning.

In order to help achieve the above aims the site further aims at exploiting the increasing range of multimedia materials on the WWW so that student interaction moves from basic text analysis to a more motivating, stimulating and also more supportive framework where, a wider range of input means that text, graphics, video and audio can work together to improve overall understanding and language awareness. Effective use implies teachers and students becoming aware of how different media work together, what each can offer and what combinations individual learners may prefer when attempting to understand real language. Along with providing opportunities for skills practice it is equally important to guide students towards an analysis of these samples of real language, noticing and analysing the text types, vocabulary, collocations and grammatical structures, skills which are important as they prepare for FCE exam type tasks.

Using genuine WWW material, while potentially stimulating and motivating is not, however, always easy. "The problem with learning a language from live context is that context itself cannot be learned, it can only be experienced, or apprenticed in. Therefore in order for the context to be made learnable, especially in an academic setting, it has to be transformed into analysable text." (Kramsch and Anderson 1999:33). A well designed multimedia CD-ROM for language learners may specifically help students towards the above goals. Using websites designed for a general public requires the learner to develop this awareness without help from the site itself and thus implies that the tasks and support for the learner understand and aid such analysis, in other words that the T8 website itself attempts at encouraging learner awareness and ultimately autonomy through a discovery of how different media can be used to aid understanding and language ability. Chapelle (1998:26) points out that: "CALL developers need to consider how software can provide learners with opportunities believed to facilitate SLA. In other words, it is useful to view multimedia design from the perspective of the input it can provide to learners, the output it allows them to produce, the interactions they are able to engage in, and the L2 tasks it supports." The T8 website needs to encourage students and their teachers to consider these points when dealing with genuine target language websites and how to best use their multimedia features.

Overall, the T8 website and its features should fulfil the seven hypothesis outlined by Chapelle (1998) and firmly incorporate the work with multimedia material on the WWW into pedagogically sound practice, thus avoiding the dangers highlighted by Russell (1994:41-54) of technology falling "short of its capabilities" due to inadequate or inappropriate pedagogical approaches. The overall aim of the site should be to generate interactivity which as Watts (1997:5) says leads to "mindful engagement" with learners developing the skills to become "active contributors to their language learning".

The T8 website:

Kennedy and McNaught (1997) outline two general approaches to methodological design, an Instructionist primarily behaviourist approach and a Constructivist, more cognitive based approach. The former implies the provision of a task with exercises and feedback and sees the learner as the receiver of instruction. The latter, however, "... focuses on the internal mental constructions of the learner and attempts to provide learning opportunities for the student to address conceptual difficulties." This, naturally, implies a more involved learner with much more autonomy and control over the learning process.

Taking into account the context described earlier, the T8 website revolves around a mixture of both an instructional and a constructivist approach. The first area of the site relies on tasks related to the students course book. Through this, more controlled practice, students and teachers are guided through a series of lessons in which they are encouraged to explore and develop the skills and tools necessary to become more familiar with multimedia on the WWW and ultimately more autonomous learners. The second part of the T8 website contains links to sites which, using what can be learned from this earlier practice, provide opportunities for wider, more constructivionist orientated tasks. Users are encouraged to blend both approaches and aspects of the site. Linked together, the different parts of the website aim at providing what Gordon (1996:46) sees as the need for multimedia programs that support student centred learning, aiding learners awareness of their metacognitive processes and thus involving them in developing the following skills: planning, strategies, monitoring, evaluating and terminating when their goals have been accomplished.

Equally important to the design of the site is Hegelheimer and Chapelleís (2000) Interactionist SLA theory and the accompanying premises: linguistic input needs to become intake which is information the learner has "comprehended both semantically and syntactically"; we need to notice and analyse salient aspects of language in order for input to become intake. Brett (1998b:182) highlights the importance of this idea of noticing, that of paying attention to the form as well as the meaning of language and indicates that ultimately it is through comparing the learnerís own output in response to the original input and through making appropriate changes that learning may take place. The sections and tasks which form the T8 website are all accompanied by a series of TIPS aimed at scaffolding students learning, at providing hints as to how to make the most of the multimedia features available to increase comprehension, while also encouraging noticing and accompanying language analysis skills.

Crucial to the objectives outlined above and to the idea of noticing is that of interaction. "The word interactive, when used to describe computer based learning resources, has tended to imply better experiences, more active learning, enhanced interest and motivation." (Sims 1999:257) Through being actively involved with the material the learner can be guided to notice and analyse rather than simply surf through material unaware of the text characteristics, the salient language features. Sims (1999) identifies a number of features or types of interactivity from control, adaptation, participation, communication and ultimately interactivity as "meaningful learning". The tasks on the T8 website all encourage a range of interaction with the original language, the type of interaction depending on the original text source, potential and media being used. Right through the website, from the initial homepage onwards, the TIPS pages provide further hints as to how students can interact with the material from taking control over video sequences (silent watching, pausing etc) to sending in competition entries via email or focusing on an analysis of the texts and language themselves.

The overall design of the site thus attempts to promote the features Watts (1997:4) outlines: "A design model for interactive multimedia applications in the language learning domain should, then, incorporate these four important factors: learner autonomy, mindful engagement of learners, learning strategy development and provision for different learning styles and seek to empower learners to make optimum use of computer resources to control the pace and direction of their learning." This can be seen in more detail by analysing each section of the site separately.

- Your course book:

This section of the website consists of a number of lessons aimed at providing additional, genuine language material to complement themes and areas of language practice in the students course, very much in line with Warschauer (1997:28) who suggests that computer based activities should be "... well-integrated into the course curriculum as a whole." The sites were chosen because of their connection to topics in the student course book but also for their potential in exploring multimedia on the WWW. The exploitation of multimedia on these sites and worksheets varies quite a lot, from simple use of images and text as stimulus, to sites with extensive video / audio content.

Apart from clearly stating the lessonís goals at the top of the page, each lesson or task has in-build sections of Pre-, During and Post internet work. The Pre- work aims at aiding learner awareness of what can be achieved from the task, of predicting language and hopefully of aiding students notice language items while using the WWW and multimedia content to aid this process. The Post tasks provide time for reflection and analysis, but also exchange of ideas and further skills work, taking into account Anderson, McAteert, Tolmie and Demissie (1999:28) who point out that tasks built around computer work can lead to interesting group work and interaction. Salaberrry (2001:51) also stresses the importance of pre and post computer work: "The success of a technology-driven activity will likely depend as much or more on the successful accomplishment of pre- and post activities than on the technology activity itself."

Playing a crucial part in effective use of the multimedia elements on the websites chosen for exploitation are TIPS pages which are intended to highlight how the specific features of each media can be exploited to the full, both individually and together, for global understanding and accompanying skills work but also in terms of analysing real language. Each media, text, audio, video, images have their own TIPS on how they can be used most effectively. Many of these suggestions centre around highlighting the range of controls which allow learners some degree of control of multimedia input, from pausing, rewinding to silent viewing, combining with other available media and how all this in turn can aid comprehension and language analysis. Learners are also encouraged at all times to use online grammar and dictionaries for added information and gloss. There is a constant emphasis on repeated interaction with the original text, different ways of achieving this, and a progression from focus on meaning on initial contact to a progressive focus on form and ensuing analysis of the text type and accompanying language features.

While discussing video, Chung and Huang (1998:553) point out that: "... teachers still play a vital role in preparing students for the tapes and reviewing them before, during and after presentations" and this is equally important when using WWW in the tasks described above. While the tasks may have been devised earlier, individual teachers use of this material and how it is incorporated into each class is of vital importance. The teacher is very much involved in these lesson plans, guiding Pre- and Post computer based activities and providing support during the computer activities themselves. It must be remembered, however, that the teacher, like the students, is also learning about the multimedia capabilities and potential of internet material.

Another crucial role of the teacher is that of providing feedback. Laurillard (1993:121-122) draws attention to the fact that, although "Hypertext is controllable by the user and this is the mediumís real strength", hypermedia "...is not interactive in that there is no intrinsic feedback on the userís actions". The teacher thus plays an important role in guiding students towards awareness and analysis of language points, towards exploitation of multimedia, and providing positive feedback about use of media and the language conclusions students may make, while also helping with doubts and confusion.

These lesson plans are thus very much based around normal teaching procedures while taking into account that students working with the WWW are automatically more autonomous to a certain degree: they are working individually, with a large degree of freedom even within the specific framework of pre-designed tasks and support material. Overall, what is aimed at is the effective, creative and integrative use of internet materials suggested by Warschauer et al. (2000) providing stimulation, learner autonomy and increased access to, and awareness of, real samples of language.

 

 

 

 

 

- Freer Practice:

The second part of the site contains links to two WWW sites, CNN news and a section of the BBC site which provides material aimed at English language learners. Both of these web sites include a large number of multimedia resources, from animations, to audio, to text and video, all of which provide opportunities to explore samples of real English. As there are no specific language tasks for these sites their usage by students requires a higher degree of learner autonomy and indeed, they are offered primarily to encourage students to explore these sites at home or in self access time at ELI

Before tackling these sites and their multimedia features, students are recommended to use a special TIPS page aimed at highlighting self-study and learner development skills while also stressing once more the importance of TIPS pages which deal with using specific media. Indeed, the TIPS pages encourage students, if they havenít done so already, to use the more controlled course book based tasks first, as a guide as to how the multimedia material on the WWW can be exploited for language learning. The importance of such preparation cannot be underestimated as Oliver (1995 :12) points out, students may terminate an activity prematurely if not guided as to what to do and how to monitor their own progress; in other words, as Holmes (1995) summarises: "One of the realities of interactivity is that the user can choose to exit the program, leaving your presentation and message behind."

This is related to the question of overload. Dealing with genuine texts, a range of multimedia elements, TIPS etc. could lead to too much input for learners to effectively, comfortably or confidently control their learning with the ultimate result of potential cognitive overload. Chun and Plas (1997), Bricknell (1993) and Hedberg, Harper and Brown (1993) all point out the importance of careful navigation design in reducing cognitive load and encouraging effective learning. Bearing this in mind, simple, clear navigational elements are central to the T8 site. TIPS, for example, always appear in a new window so that the original site remains, while there are also clear indications for students as to how these hints can be either minimalised for easy accessing later or simply printed and kept available throughout the lesson. The progression from simpler activities to more complex and media intensive sites during the course book related tasks and the emphasis on trying these tasks before freer practice, also attempts to reduce the potential overload and a provide progression in difficulty and exploration rather than uncontrolled exposure.

Overall, Kennedy and McNaught (1997) suggest a framework of interactive multimedia design and use which incorporates recognition and development of the following areas: good teaching practice, emphasis on independence, clear goals, appropriate assessment and appropriate workload. The two sections of this web site, combined with the TIPS pages, attempt to fulfil these criteria within the given context described earlier.

Evaluation:

The following evaluation is based on trials using the course book section of the site with one T8 class. Initial observation and appraisal indicates that the incorporation of multimedia elements, combined with suitable support for the student of how to use these, aids overall motivation and involvement with corresponding improvements in terms of comprehension, interaction and ultimately skills practice and language gains. Students who had previously dealt primarily with text based material on the WWW, when offered the range of material, activities and support provided by the T8 website, were far more actively involved during the computer session. What is more, during post computer activities they demonstrated that using a combination of multimedia features had helped their global understanding of the language presented and the whole experience appeared to have been highly motivating, partly illustrated by animated feedback sessions. These post computer activities provided further skills work along with the opportunity to focus on a more analytical reflection of the language they had experienced on the WWW. Taking advantage of multimedia features of websites thus appears to improve students interaction with genuine language samples accompanied by the consequential benefits for both skills practice and language awareness.

One of the primary goals of the T8 website was to fulfil the seven hypotheses of conditions for second language acquisition which Chapelle (1998: 22-34) outlined for developing multimedia CALL material. The T8 website is evaluated in more detail below under each of these areas.

1. The linguistic characteristics of target language input need to be made salient:

Through tasks and TIPS Students are constantly encouraged to analyse text type and move from a focus on meaning to a focus on form and they are similarly guided to notice text types and specific language elements and to use different features and combinations of multimedia to achieve this. This use of different multimedia clearly aids overall understanding of meaning. In practice, students did realise they were being encouraged to focus on certain aspects of the target language but frequently were so motivated by having obtained global comprehension they were less interested in detailed language analysis unless encouraged by the teacher to make notes of what they had noticed, or questions they may have had. It was at the post computer stage that specific language points became more salient, often following teacher guidance, although it was clear that once it was brought to their attention students did have enough memory of the original language to understand and be interested in the language points being raised.

2. Learners should receive help in comprehending semantic and syntactic aspects of linguistic input:

The TIPS encouragement to use, and of how to use, the variety of media features available, appeared to greatly aid the students in achieving global understanding of texts. From using images to predict the information in texts, or combinations of video, images and texts to form a general picture, students access to different sources of input appeared to help semantic comprehension greatly. While this was motivating, it was noticeable that students often failed to apply a more formal syntactic analysis to the text unless urged by the teacher. This may indicate that it may take some time for students to move from the euphoria of initial understanding to a more rational stage of text analysis.

3. Learners need to have opportunities to produce target language output:

Stimulated by the initial tasks and use of multimedia students successfully produced a range of quality output, particularly in the post computer stages when reporting back orally or writing up their findings and experiences. It was often at this stage that they also developed their awareness of the language itself and, when encouraged, focused more on the syntactic characteristics of the language they had been exposed to.

4 / 5. Learners need to notice errors in their own output / Learners need to correct their linguistic output:

Within the T8 website outline these are two of the of the most difficult areas to develop without direct intervention of the teacher. Students are encouraged to compare their product with that they can see on the WWW but ultimately, moving from dependence on teacher guidance and feedback will require time and training. Interestingly, peer correction worked well in post computer feedback activities illustrating perhaps that there was a progressive move from focus on meaning at initial stages to a focus on form during the production stage and a certain awareness of possible errors in the resulting output.

6. Learners need to engage in target language interaction whose structures can be modified for negotiation of meaning:

Negotiation is important at both input and output stages. The use of different media certainly helped the negotiation of meaning at input level. Nagata (1998) points out, however, that output focused tasks can produce better results than input and comprehension exercises. Opportunities for output were found mainly at the post computer stage during feedback in class. At this stage output was successfully negotiated and modified, in groups or as a class. The success of this interaction was largely dependent on the initial WWW based input period: exposure and resulting motivation ultimately led to production, negotiation and modification. In other words, stimulating input stimulates effective output.

7. Learners should engage in L2 tasks designed to maximise opportunities for good interaction:

The T8 website fulfils this goal extremely well: the stimulus and input generated by the pre-computer and computer based activities generate genuine opportunities and motivation for interaction which, in turn, provide immense scope for further interaction during the post computer phase.

Overall, the T8 website works quite successfully at providing students the scope to develops skills practice combined with the ability to notice and explore specific language issues. Moreover, the website complies with Chapelleís (2001:55) five criteria for an overview of CALL task appropriateness: the material is designed specifically to comply with Learner Fit; the tasks and TIPS constantly attempt to encourage a Meaning Focus; the material and related tasks are highly Authentic; there was certainly Positive Impact on students who have used the site and in terms of the resources available at ELI use of material on the site is completely Practical.

A further aim of the site was to use multimedia materials on the WWW to encourage longer term learner autonomy including student use outside of classroom time. It has already been noted that such autonomous usage can take time and require training and guidance. While the majority of the students had to be stimulated in their initial use of the TIPS and what they offered in terms of understanding and controlling multimedia features, once these help pages appeared to be helpful in aiding comprehension, it was noticeable that students did return to them to refresh their memory of how to approach a certain multimedia input source or analyse language in more dept. On the other hand, equally noticeable was the fact that although the availability of online dictionaries and grammars was constantly pointed out, they were never used by the students. This may be a question of overload or simple reliance on the comforting and familiar presence of a teacher.

Hoven (1999:88) says that "Computers give learners freedom to work at their own pace and level, and to receive immediate and personalised feedback." Laurillard (1993:61) further emphasises the importance of feedback: "Action without feedback is completely unproductive for a learner." It is thus necessary to question how long it would take students using this site, outside of class time, to develop the skills necessarily to become more autonomous, to discover and explore other means of feedback, accessing online grammars, dictionaries, emailing teachers or other students etc. This progression implies self management, discipline and obviously requires time and frequent use of materials such as the T8 website. What does appear clear is that use of a range of multimedia materials enrich the environment and generate more language learning potential than purely text based websites and activities.

 

Conclusions:

The T8 website succeeds in many of its initial goals: expanding awareness, for both teachers and students, of multimedia materials on the WWW and their potential exploitation for language learning while simultaneously providing access to real English and encouraging active interaction with these sources. In general, students found the experiences motivating, especially in terms of their ability to successfully understand, on a global level, real samples of the target language. Such comprehension was greatly aided by making full use the multimedia features as highlighted by the TIPS pages. What is more, the tasks and the interaction they demanded and stimulated, generated a range of skills practice opportunities and, particularly when prompted by the teacher, an analysis of more specific syntactic and vocabulary elements also, all appropriate and necessary when developing language towards FCE level.

In the process of working with multimedia on the WWW students were automatically placed in a situation where they had a certain degree of freedom and control over the input available and were thus encouraged to become more autonomous learners. It is clear, however, that when working with real English websites, certain elements such as feedback or correction of errors remain difficult as the learner is dealing with sites not designed to provide any specific information on these areas. Students were therefore heavily supported by materials from the T8 site itself and teacher involvement. Ultimately, as learners become more autonomous, they will have to further develop skills such as noticing, comparing for errors, consulting fellow students or teachers online in order to compensate for the reduction of direct guidance. What will be interesting is to record how autonomous learning develops over more continuous usage and how it may expand into self-study where the physical presence of a teacher is not to be had and the Freer Use side of the T8 website is exploited more.

The T8 website is thus a stimulating pointer as to what the WWW can provide. Increased access to WWW multimedia material can be used to aid language students in terms of their access to, understanding of and analysis of real language. The importance of this cannot be underestimated in contexts where students have few opportunities for such genuine interaction. Equally clear is the fact that, while the impact of multimedia for language learning is great, exploitation of what is on offer requires time and guidance before the majority of students are ready to take full advantage of the potential for autonomous learning such materials encourage, provide and often require.

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