Website address: http://app.de.mingoville.com/
1. What does the application attempt to “teach”?
As we can see, the website is known as Mingoville as the characters in the website are flamingoes. When starting to enter the website, firstly we need to sign up before we can use the applications, and it’s actually free. Once we have registered, we can use the applications provided which include mobile fun, my book, dictionary, my profile and the most important part is the “mission” button. This “mission” button links the learners to 10 different themes such as The Family, Food and Shop, and Animals. As far as I evaluated the application, the activities and games are actually based on thematic learning. Learners will learn through specific themes, and then they can do the activities directly under their chosen themes. For example, they want to do exercise under topic Nature and Seasons, so learners can just click on the theme, then there are 13 activities provided for that theme. This is good because various activities were well planned under each theme that will increase learners focus in learning the language and also the content. This is because “Thematic instruction is based on the idea that people acquire knowledge best when learning in the context of a coherent “whole,” and when they can connect what they’re learning to the real world”( http://www.funderstanding.com/content/thematic-instruction).
From my evaluation, I can see that the website attempts to teach all skills in learning the language. It includes writing, reading, listening, and speaking skills in the activities provided. For example, learners need to spell words that have been said by the characters in the provided space. This trains the learners listening and writing skills all together. There are activities called “sing along” that provides music, lyrics, and danced characters that require learners to sing along besides dancing together with the character! This is actually a very interesting activity that promotes multiple intelligences among the learners. from my own evaluation, I could see that in this website, it equips all the activities with all 8 multiple intelligences; linguistic intelligence, logical-mathematical intelligence, spatial intelligence, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, musical intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence, naturalist intelligence. This combination of intelligence is very beneficial for the learners as Gardner, 1983 found that “…the traditional notion of intelligence, based on I.Q. testing, is far too limited”. Thus, he proposed this 8 multiple intelligence for a wide range development of child and adult in learning.
The objective of learning English can be obviously detected in this website. The activities prepared are all related to English language learning. The instruction is well projected; the language used is very clear, simple and direct for young learners. This website is suitable for young learners as the interactive, interesting interface, and the content itself are seemingly designed for young learners. The target group is not stated in the website but as far as I used the application, I believe that it is designed for young learners.
It’s good to see that there is a website designed including all 4 important basic language skills especially for young learners. The approaches used in the website are suitable because they use interesting animation and graphic to attract learners join doing the activities. The website gives chances for the learners to practice the language using their schemata, in which indirectly learners can learn by themselves.
2. What sorts of things is the application user expected to do with regards to learning the content?
The learners are expected to practice their 4 language skills by doing various activities provided under 10 different themes. Learners can sing by reading the lyrics, make a full sentence by dragging the scramble words after listening to the right sentence projected by the “flamingo”, identifying the right pictures with the right names, and playing Pac-man by eating the letters of given words. I can say that all of the activities are very superb because learners are not only learning the language, but they also learn the content of the themes. Thus, I can say that, this website is actually applying content-based approach in learning the language. For example, under the theme Time and Travel, under Time to Travel activity, learners will sing a song (lyrics are given). When I read the lyrics, the content is about “time to travel”, that tells the learners the time that they are going to travel, who they are going to travel with etc. This is a very authentic approach for young learners; learners are familiar with traveling, talking about grandfathers, departure time, eating ice cream served by mother. This is because according to Brown, Douglas, 1994 in their book, they found that “Content Based Learning is a study of both language acquisition and subject matter. Instead of teaching language in isolation, the target language becomes the medium in which important information can be learned. When the students are studying a content area of interest (i.e. snakes, the Holocaust, immigration, etc), they are more intrinsically motivated to learn both the content and the language simultaneously. The students are actually able to use their new language”.
Besides that, learners can create their own family pictures, but by using the flamingo’s family pictures and then send it to their friends. This is very exciting for young learners as they can share their activity with their friends. This will indirectly invite other young learners to join doing the activities in the website and learning English in a fun way. That is why when we open the website, we could see it states “English for Fun”. Yes, it is very appealing yet beneficial for the learners.
One of the activities provided is “illustrate the story”, where learners will listen to a story about the theme, and then, they need to illustrate the story by choosing their own pictures for that particular page. This encourages learners’ creativity in learning by manipulating the original illustrated pictures. Young learners are very creative and all they need is a chance and place for them to express and show it. That’s why I think for that particular activity, the website does not provide correct/wrong answers as it wants to explore learners’ creativity in thinking and manipulating ideas. This is a good start for young learners to become critical thinker in the future. They can draw on their imagination by doing this type of exercise.
3. What sort of computer skills is the application users expected to have in order to operate/access/use the application?
I can say that this application is a user-friendly type. The graphic user interface is very interesting and exciting for young learners. They are full of colors, characters, voices which make the website is very interactive and fun for English learning. I think, the application is easy to use because learners can see the pictures provided for each button. They can feel the excitement to continue clicking on the button to do the activities. Isn’t very remarkable for young learners? They love pictures, colors, wonderful intonation because they will become motivated once they see there are cartoons, colourful writings and pictures. Well, this website is actually a successful attention grabbing yet knowledgeable especially for young learners. This application only requires them to have basic skills such as clicking, moving the mouse, typing, dragging, and listening voice/music via speakers. But, there are 2 skills that probably require adults’ help, that are downloading extra activities and signing up to join the website. But, young learners nowadays are very advanced in technology. Most of them already know the 2 skills above as they learn faster. What I’m concern now is what if this application used for rural area learners who are not familiar with technology and internet. Probably, easier and much more user-friendly application should be provided for them without ignoring the content itself.
4. While you are “playing”/”accessing”/”assessing” the website(s), does it remind you of anything you do (or have done) in a classroom, or with a teacher, or with a fellow classmate, or in self study?
Yes. It’s about thematic learning used in the website. I actually just knew this type of learning when I went to Kiwanis Down Syndrome Centre, in Petaling Jaya. When I went there, to meet the teachers, asking about their teaching styles, one of the approaches used and newly designed in the program is Thematic Learning. The students there learn through given themes, planned by the teachers. for example, for this week, they are going to learn about “going to school”. So, the teachers will plan activities that encompass every single thing about “going to school”. For example, the transportation, food, weather, feeling etc. so, I can see that the learning process become more meaningful. Besides that, the teachers and students will have a focal attention during the teaching and learning process.
Another event is about “download extras” provided in the website. When I did my practicum, my friends and I were so busy cutting papers, drawing pictures as our materials for the students. But, when I found this website, I said to myself “why we had not found this website last semester????!!!” this is because, in “download extras” link, there are plenty of exercise which are good and beneficial for teachers. For example, for cut and paste activity, teacher can just print out the materials from the activity provided in the websites, entitled Style the House, and use it as a preposition exercise for students in class. Well, it is very helpful for teachers and also for learners who want to print out the activities as each of the activity can be printed out directly once they open it.
5. Can you pinpoint some theories of language learning and/or teaching underlying the application?
Other than thematic learning, content based approach used in this application, learner-centered instruction, and communicative language teaching are also used in the activities.
The first one is thematic learning. The activities are all based on 10 selected themes such as Colours and Clothes, The Body and Numbers and Letters. So, basically, the activities designed are related to the themes without ignoring the content of the topic. According to Mednick, 2006 “Thematic instruction is the organization of a curriculum around "themes." Thematic instruction integrates basic disciplines like reading, writing, math, and science with the exploration of a broad subject such as communities, rain forests, river basins, the use of energy, etc”. this is true because in the website, the activities also include numbers, letters, language, nature, seasons, food that are meaningful for the learners.
The second one is content based approach or instruction. According to Brown, 2001 “When language becomes the medium to convey informational content of interest and relevance to the learner, then learners are pointed toward matters of intrinsic concern. Language takes on its appropriate role as a vehicle for accomplishing a set of content goals”. Meaning that, language is a mediator to convey the content/meaning to learners and I can see that this occur in this application indirectly when learners are required to answer an interview session with one of the characters. The activity is under Sport and Media theme (Let us talk about sport activity), in which learners will have a conversation with the character/flamingo. The conversation is about sport. So, the content is conveyed through the activity that practicing authentic language that is practically useful for young learners.
The third one is learner-centered instruction. This application has activities that require the learners to create family pictures to be put in My Book application that can be shared with other learners, grade their own capabilities after doing each activity, and sing a song on their own to be recorded and shared with their friends. This is parallel with learner-centered instruction as proposed by Brown, 2001 “Learner-centered instruction includes…techniques that give some control to the student, techniques that allow for student creativity and innovation, and techniques that enhance a student’s sense of competence and self-worth”. This is supported by Bonk, King, 1998 they found that the goal of the learner-centered principle is “The successful learner, over time and with support and instructional guidance, can create meaningful, coherent representation of knowledge”.
6. How well is the constructivist theory of learning applied to the chosen website(s)?
According to Thanasoulas,n.d constructivist learning means “the accent is on the learner rather than the teacher. It is the learner who interacts with his or her environment and thus gains an understanding of its features and characteristics. The learner constructs his own conceptualisations and finds his own solutions to problems, mastering autonomy and independence. According to constructivism, learning is the result of individual mental construction, whereby the learner learns by dint of matching new against given information and establishing meaningful connections, rather than by internalising mere factoids to be regurgitated later on”. All of these have been applied in the activities because all of the themes provided are very authentic which leads to meaningful learning. Thus, young learners can understand better and directly can practice the language and content in their daily life. This is true because the activities combine learners’ cognitive and experiential learning. As a result, learners understand and know how to construct new knowledge from authentic experience. By doing the activities, learners select information, formulate hypotheses, and make decisions, by integrating new experiences into their existing mental constructs. This can obviously be seen in an activity called Give us Clue. Learners will listen to a description of a thing, and then they need to guess what it is. Thus, it is cognitive factor that provides meaning to experiences and allow learners to go beyond the boundaries of the information given.
All in all, this application helps learners to understand the real world together with learning the language. That’s what we really want, aren’t we? As Confucius said “Learning without thought is labor lost”.
7. In 1980s and early 1990s, there was a major debate on ‘whether the computer was “master” of or “slave” to the learning process (Higgins and Johns, 1984). In relation to your evaluation - is the computer a replacement for teachers, or merely an obedient servant to students?
Personally, I think that computer is very useful in education, especially in teaching language. There are many benefits using computer as a medium in teaching and learning process. But, I think no things can replace the role of teachers in teaching. Eventhough the use of computer is very high nowadays, but sometimes for weaker students, understanding hardly takes place. They still need teachers to assist and guide them to learn and understand better. Computers can’t provide us what teachers actually can do. Yes, using computer can make learning is fun, and interactive. But with the presence of dynamic and creative teachers, I believe learning process will be more momentous and meaningful.
I believe that teachers are the catalyst in teaching and learning process. But with computer existence, and its benefits, teachers and computer can be a good combination. In classroom, nothing can replace teachers in developing students’ education as teachers open the door for students to education whereas computer plays a second role helping students’ education technologically as a constructive device. Simply put, teachers have got a unique human brain that can perform teaching in a way that the computer, a mere artificial brain, cannot do.
8. Would you like to use the application yourself in your future work? Yes? Give reasons: No? Give reasons:
Yes, I would use this application in the future. If I’m teacher, I would wisely use this application to teach my students English in a fun way because this website provides authentic themes that are very close with the students’ life. Besides that, there are games such as Pac-man, memory, give us clue, and sing along that are excellent to attract students’ attention in learning. I won’t hesitate to use this application because the application applies Whole Language Education as according to Brown, 2001 he found that whole language education emphasized on “(a) the “wholeness” of the language as opposed to views that fragmented language into its bits and pieces of phonemes, graphemes, morphemes, and words; (b) the interaction and interconnections between oral language (listening and speaking) and written language (reading and writing); and (c) the importance, in literate societies, of the written code as natural and developmental, just as the oral code is”.
I can say that this application uses holistic practice in testing young learners in learning English. It also emphasizes on the integration of the basic four skills, use natural and authentic language, and student-centered learning. According to Edelsky (1993: 550-51) as cited by Brown, 2001 “it is an educational way of life. [It helps people to] build meaningful connections between everyday learning and school learning.”
If I’m a mother, I would also use this website as an exercise for my children with my guidance as young learners need extra explanation to understand the subject matter better. Young learners are curious to explore and know new things, so this website is in line with the needs of these young learners as it applies discovery learning.
It is no doubt that I will use this application in my future.
This website is marvelous, but there are some suggestion that I hope can be improvised to make the learning process works smoother. There are two activities that I think are not working very well and may lead to confusion among young learners. They are Color the Pictures, and Memory activity. When I did the first activity, I could not color the pictures! It seems that the activity is not working. This may frustrate the young learners to continue doing other activities because we know that they really like coloring things. So I hope, that activity can be improvised to avoid form demotivating young learners. As for Memory activity, I think the concept of playing the game is vague. This is because, at the beginning of the game, the pictures are not shown beforehand; instead learners must directly flip over the pictures to match with the right word/pictures. So, I am confused with this game as it’s called as “memory” game. Where is the concept of testing the memory? Because, once the learners try to flip over the picture with another picture (that is wrong), learners will keep getting WRONG match. So it is quite confusing and really really frustrated.Besides that, for young learners that try this at home, I hope there are adults who can help them to understand the concept better, especially for learners who are still new in learning English. I’m afraid they will get confused playing the games.
The last one is about learners can grade their own capabilities/achievements themselves. It’s good actually in self learning, but maybe there should be also grades that will be graded by the application itself. This can avoid learners from cheating and eventually lost their focus in learning English.
Overall, the website is a good application to learn English. It uses thematic and interactive approach in learning in which learners can gain knowledge in a fun way.
Nur Fadzliah bt. Azizam2005478813 (U8B)