Academic journal article Language, Learning & Technology

Integrating Internet-Based Reading Materials into the Foreign Language Curriculum: From Teacher- to Student-Centered Approaches

Academic journal article Language, Learning & Technology

Integrating Internet-Based Reading Materials into the Foreign Language Curriculum: From Teacher- to Student-Centered Approaches

Article excerpt


Whereas many educators enthusiastically embrace the use of Internet-based reading materials, little theoretical and empirical research exists that demonstrates how to make use of such practices in a sound pedagogical way. This article provides guidance to teachers and curriculum developers by describing three approaches to integrating Internet-based reading materials into a foreign language curriculum. The design of an Internet-based lesson is largely determined by a teacher's pedagogical approach, her/his technological expertise, and the students' language proficiency. In light of these factors, the approach to the pedagogical design of successful lessons falls along a continuum from being teacher-determined or teacher-facilitated to studentdetermined. In more detail, lesson designs may distinguish themselves in the following areas:

* the learning resources, that is, the topics and content, text type

* the scope of the learning environment, that is, the number of different sources (sites or links) to be integrated

* the learning tasks, that is, the ways in which the learners explore the reading materials, synthesize and assimilate what they have learned.

* the degree of teacher and learner involvement in determining the areas mentioned above

Based on concrete sample lessons, this article describes the strengths and challenges of each approach from a pedagogical, technological and designer's point of view.


In recent years, the use of the World Wide Web (WWW) as a resource for language learning materials has gained increasing popularity among language teachers. As the Internet keeps expanding, listserves, newsletters, and even journal articles keep listing and pointing out potential Web sites that can be used in language learning. Furthermore, the literature on Web-based instruction reveals numerous personal accounts, informally collected student surveys, or occasionally some pilot studies on students' experiences using Internet-based resources (Brandl, 2002; Lee 1998; Osuna & Meskill, 1998; Warshauer, 2000). What still remain rare, however, are models and guidelines that are based on theoretical or empirical research findings to guide teachers and teacher trainers towards pedagogically sound practices. As Chun and Plass (2000) point out, "the use of networked environment for learning in general, and for second language acquisition in particular, raises many questions regarding the design of these environments that differ from the traditional design of text-based and stand-alone systems" (p. 152).

This article focuses on the exploration of authentic materials as available on the WWW in primary visual and verbal/textual modes. I will concentrate on the interpretive mode of communication, or reading skills, as this is, besides writing, currently one of the two best suited to the Web. (1) In particular, I will present three different approaches to using Internet-based resources, discuss the rationale for each design based on empirical and theoretical research, and furthermore include a short description of technological skills involved. The article concludes with a list of guidelines to provide further guidance in the implementation of Internet-based lessons.


The Internet as a resource can enrich and expand language instruction. There are numerous reasons in favor of integrating the Internet into a language curriculum.

Chun and Plass (2000, p. 161) mention general capabilities of features of the WWW that have the potential to enhance language learning. These are a) the universal availability of authentic materials, b) the communication capabilities through networking, c) the multimedia capabilities, and d) the nonlinear (hypermedia) structure of the information. …

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