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Speaking & the Internet: an unlikely match?
by MJ. Auria, E. Lozano & M. Mansilla
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Abstract

In 2002-3 the English Department of the Official School of Languages 1 in Zaragoza, Spain, has, for the first time ever, run a course through the Internet However, it has not been a fully online course since oral sessions have been held in our School.


Three members of the teaching staff, including the online course tutor, have enthusiastically surfed the Net for some enlightenment into how the teaching of the "speaking" skill is tackled elsewhere, so that successful methods can be implemented in our School in future editions of the online course.


Having scrutinized scores of webpages, both institutional and individual, the authors of this article can honestly claim that it reflects the findings and conclusions of thorough research into the area of teaching oral skills through the Internet, and that ESL teachers will, no doubt, find it very useful as reference work prior to any study they want to do on teaching pronunciation and oral communication on the Net.

Scenario

The Genesis

Being in charge of teaching an online course to intermediate students of English and confronted with the problem of including the oral  skill within the course, one of the underwriting team members decided not to run the course fully online unless research into the field proved this a good idea.

Apprehension towards technicalities aside, online courses already available did not seem to have the "speaking" part resolved. Apparently, some courses that claimed to cater for speaking practice only provided video and/or audio exercises  which did not allow much interaction on the part of the student, and any interaction that did take place was not appropriately monitored.

Having said that, the team members agreed that the above statement was a mere intuition that did not deserve much credit until proper research was done, which was the starting point for this project, namely:

"Speaking and the Internet: An Unlikely Match?"

The Prospects

The fact that the "speaking" part of the ongoing online course is being carried out onsite was the challenging thorn that triggered the team's wish for some enlightenment into online teaching and the real possibilities of teaching oral skills through the Internet.

The future implementation of any advances and practical ideas into the online course currently run at the School was paramount in the genesis of the project.

The Team

Teachers of English at Zaragoza's oldest Official Language School:

Mª José Auría Labayen,

Esther Lozano Estopañán,

Marga Mansilla Olmos,

The three team members are enthusiastically into computer mediated language learning, are regular users of the School Computer Lab and are eager to incorporte further uses of the Internet into their daily teaching work.

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