MEC-guided tours of the virtual world30-Sep-2011
When I was a student, I would have loved to be able to use resources like the web projects in my English class. They’re great because they allow students to explore the internet beyond what’s on MEC, thus working with real-life texts in English and researching a huge variety of topics. At the same time, the web projects have always been a source of frustration for the editorial team as we don’t control the content of the web sites our web projects link out to. Web sites are closed down, are restructured, video and other content is removed and URLs change. Big corporations and organizations in particular seem to have a policy of restructuring their web sites on a regular basis – I have made changes to the Heathrow and the New York Stock Exchange web projects numerous times.
To solve this problem, we have established a six-monthly cycle of checking the web projects and updating them if necessary. Unfortunately, the external web sites don’t change according to our cycle and we’ve even had situations where a web site was changing again as we were applying the corrections to a web project.
Nevertheless, the changing nature of the internet is what adds to the excitement of working with web projects. As you can find a web site on just about anything, the web projects offer a wide variety of topics: you can take a trip to Bermuda or Vancouver in Canada, visit art galleries and museums, research radio stations and newspapers and learn about sport, transport, food or music as well as a variety of business-related topics, such as customer satisfaction surveys and the European Central Banks – there’s definitely something for everyone’s taste! The names of the web projects give a very good idea what they are about so why not have a look at what’s on offer? If you go to the Quick Search, you can select Web Project under Resource Type, which will give you a list of all the web projects we have on MEC. In the Result list, you can then filter on Level and find a web project that’s appropriate for your students. While lower-level students get to ‘visit’ the London Zoo, your advanced students get the opportunity to research Jorge Luis Borges’ life and works. The answer keys are available on our support site and are also updated regularly.
In addition to the general web projects, we also offer EAP web projects, some of which are a good source of practical advice, for example on using the university library catalogue, while others deal with topics such as ecotourism that students might have to do academic research on themselves. The EAP web projects also aim to educate students about the different sources of information on the internet and how to evaluate and use the information they find.
My favourite web project is Exploring Easter Island: every time I look at it, it makes me want to pack my bags and set off to see the Ahu and Moai myself! I’m sure you will find something among these web projects that your students are interested in too but you could also create your own web projects to extend your lessons and have your students do some additional research on topics you’ve discussed.
Have you used web projects with your students? How do you use them?