TESL Meta-Sites on the Internet: A Review
With the growing influence of the World Wide Web in all areas of modern life, it is not only inevitable but entirely expected that its reach should extend into all areas of academia as well. Websites have come into existence and grown around every possible academic discipline and topic, proliferating beyond the ability of most users to follow, especially given the speed with which websites often appear and disappear. Some guidance may be provided by search engines such as Alta Vista, which search the Web for keywords and attempt to organize the sites they find in various ways. A more manageable way to reach and work with the great number of websites focused on a topic is to find a good metasite.
A metasite may be most simply defined as a site which consists of (links to) other sites. Generally, they come into being when someone who is interested in certain topics decides to bring a little order out of the chaos that is the Internet by listing some favorite sites on their own homepage, and provides links to and, sometimes, escriptions of those sites. Finding a good metasite is akin to finding a helpful, personal librarian, and saves the user untold hours of "surfing" the Web in search of applicable websites. What makes a good metasite? At the minimum, it should be easy to maneuver through, with well-organized links divided into clearly labeled categories, and actively maintained or frequently updated to ensure timeliness of information posted and prevent "link rot" -- the continued listing of links which have become invalid due to a changing address or which no longer exist.
The TESL-related metasites reviewed here have been evaluated according to the criteria above, from page design and layout to ease of navigation, speed of loading, and a description of some links found on that site. Some have special features which make them more useful or interesting; these features have been noted separately. As web pages tend to use somewhat different conventions than most print media use, I have used the following format in citing the relevant information: title of site, maintainer (since few metasites can claim to have "authors" in the real sense), the Uniform Resource Locator or URL (a.k.a. Web address). [-1-]
The Applied Linguistics WWW Virtual Library. Maintained by Larry Selinker, Dept. of Applied Linguistics, Birkbeck College, University of London (UK).
This is a serious, academically-oriented site, as might be expected from its affiliation. The layout is simple, with only one graphic at the head of the page and a counter at the foot, which ensures fast loading even for those with slow modems. The pages are well-organized and navigating through the different pages and different categories is simple and logical.Dave's ESL Cafe. Maintained by Dave Sperling, Northridge, CA.
This "Virtual Library" includes links to online documents listing, among other things, Teaching and Research Institutions -- with those degree-granting institutions so marked and links to web pages for almost all of them, Electronically available papers, Electronic and Print Journals, and Other Resources (with links to such diverse sites as those on Chinese Linguistics in Singapore, various multi-media projects, language testing resources, and some language-related software). The most recent updates appear to be only in June of 1997, reducing the usefulness of certain Virtual Libraries -- such as Jobs (last updated 19 February 97) and Conferences and Seminars (last updated 5 May 1997) -- which are time-critical. However, each Virtual Library is clearly tagged with the date it was most recently modified, both at the main page index and at the top of each links page, which is helpful. In addition to Virtual Libraries, there is a section of links to other Virtual Libraries and indices, such as the Linguist List, the Vocabulary Acquisition Virtual Library, and the WWW Virtual Library Subject Catalogue.
Special features: There is an e-mail link for adding one's name to a mailing list that announces changes to this Virtual Library. This would save the user a great deal of time and effort in checking the web site and all its links for updates.
Fun, attractive layout with pale colored backgrounds, graphics, and creative organization of links make this a visually interesting site. The main links are listed near the top of the page, directly under the date; more links follow below in a somewhat alphabetical menu which is, however, not logically organized and might be difficult to follow in an orderly fashion. [-2-] The probable usefulness of this site may be gauged by its inclusion in the lists of most other metasites.TESL/TEFL/TESOL/ESL/EFL/ESOL Links: Links of Interest to Teachers of English as a Second Language. Maintained by The Internet TESL Journal.
There is a truly impressive number and variety of links here for both students and teachers. From chat rooms to job listings, there are also several helpful links to sites where messages can be posted to or questions asked of Dave himself or ESL/EFL teachers around the world. The Bookstore, where links are divided into "shelves" by topic, is a partner link to Amazon.com, the online "bookstore." Thus, any book on Dave's site may be ordered online via this site. It also has a link to "Pronunciation Power", a pronunciation software program available for Windows 3.11, Windows 95, and Macintosh platforms. Dave's ESL Quiz Center provides online quizzes in several areas, such as Geography, Grammar, Idioms & Slang, and Reading Comprehension.
This site is geared mostly towards the instructor, but also has a section of fair size for the student. In the former category is the section entitled Links for Professional Life, which consists of Associations & Organizations (each is linked to the homepage of the group in question, in at least one case including their online newsletter), Conferences (including some in 1998 and even one in 1999), Information about TESL etc. (currently listing only TEFL in Finland), Online and "Paper-based" Journals/Magazines/Publications (with a short [-3-] description of each), Teacher Training, Web-Based Discussions (including subscription instructions), and Newsgroups (web pages of, and subscription instructions, with brief descriptions). The Lesson Plans section lists links to approximately 100 online lesson plans, from general evaluations to those geared towards specific topics (such as the death of Princess Diana) and suitable from elementary to college level. Some are even designed to use the Internet. This section would be very useful to both new teachers and those wishing to expand their current lesson plans. Other sections look at issues such as bilingual education, English and linguistics in general, jobs, commercially available ESL materials, and a large selection of links intended for students as well as teachers.
Special features: claims to have over 1,700 links, which is believable. Additionally, the very first option on the list is titled "Links submitted since the last update" which should be useful for regular visitors, saving them the time and bother of searching all subdirectories in search of new links.
Kitao's homepage includes not only a brief statement of his areas of research and listing of his publications, but a number of useful links to TESL and ESL sites. There are no graphics, tables, or other elements which might slow loading of his page, and sections of interest for us are neatly labeled "For Teachers and Researchers" and "For EFL/ESL Students." Several of the sites linked here are authored by either Professor Kitao himself or S. Kathleen Kitao.Links to Other ESL Sites. Maintained by Auburn University, AL
Their Online Resources Guide begins with a link to a page entitled "How to Use this List Effectively," which they request the user read before proceeding further. This page includes information about the Web its importance for students, primarily graduate students. It also explains Kitao's choice of sites, as well as the site layout. They have included brief explanations of some electronic mailing lists to which students may subscribe, and a section entitled "Archives," as well as the background to this list. Their links not only include lists of potentially useful sites and lists, but suggestions on effective use of these resources and possible applications. Although this metasite may be of some use to ESL/EFL instructors, it would not be at all useful for their students. On the other hand, it is a very helpful resource for its intended audience: graduate and postgraduate [-4-] students in ESL/EFL, especially those who may have little experience using the World Wide Web.
. URL: http://www.auburn.edu/esl/links.html
This is a fairly simple site, with few graphics except for the large "bullets" which precede each link and the background wallpaper. The organization is also mildly confusing as the three main categories appear at the top of the page with no links directly beneath them, but then appear again below after a horizontal line, this time listing links. The categories are ESL Instruction, ESL Publications, ESL Organizations, and Other ESL Links. The site appears to be equally geared to students and teachers.Plans and Resources for ESL, Bilingual, and Foreign Language Teachers. Maintained by Marty Levine, California State University Northridge, CA.
The publications listed are online journals, among them CALICO, the Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium of Southwest Texas State University, Language Learning and Technology, TESL-EJ, the Internet TESL Journal, English Teachers' Electronic Newsletter, and a link to another site listing yet more journals. There are a fair number of links to ESL Organizations, including TESOL Online and Materials Development Association. The Other ESL Links include mailing lists, other metasites, and the Bilingual ESL Network.
Levine's page is simple, at first glance: the header is multicolored, followed by a box containing his picture and a short introduction, then a table with seven categories of links and a link to a survey he asks visitors to fill out, all against a mint-green background and finished off with his e- mail address and a counter. The header and his picture, both graphics, might load slowly for those with older modems, as will the tables, but since there is so little material on this page, this should not pose a serious problem. Each subordinate page is also headed by a graphic which slows loading, but does have a clear link back to the main page at the bottom as well. The seven categories of links are ESL Lesson Plans and [-5-] Resources, Bilingual Education, Foreign Language Study Abroad for Teachers, Foreign Language Lesson Plans and Resources, Employment Opportunities, Professional Associations, and Educational Standards and Frameworks. The page listing links applicable to the issue of bilingual education has a good gathering of such sites, both in English and Spanish, and also a summary by Stephen Krashen. The foreign language resources and lesson plans, though few in number, include some for Spanish, German, and French classes, and there are also a few links to museums and exhibits, some of which have non-English text available as well.
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