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Hosts

The first thing needed when you want to progress from using other people's EFL websites is your own webspace. If you are in a university environment you will probably be able to get university webspace. However, it might not give you as much freedom in terms of access as you would like. There are two well established free webspace providers that I have experience of. Geocities and Tripod. I will list some others later, but first some comparisons.

Geocities
Tripod
Pop up advertising
(causes an error in Internet Explorer)
Header and footer banner advertising.
15 MB storage space 20 MB storage space
3GB data transfer per month 1GB data transfer per month
Includes templates Includes templates
Includes web based Java WYSIWYG editor.
(more control, but might not work on all browsers)
Includes form based editor. (simpler)
20*single file upload only Single file upload and zipped file upload (quicker)
No FTP (file transfer protocol) Supports FTP (file transfer protocol)
Statistics and access details for each page Statistics for the whole site only
User name appended to the URL (www.geocities.com/beardie1066) User name starts the URL (beardie1066.tripod.com)
No server side technology. Supports PHP (for discussion boards etc.)
Guest books (very simple discussion boards) Guest books.
No blog facility. Simple blog where all users can leave messages without registering.
Online e-mail form. Many add ins available
- Online image editor and image bank
Pages remain indefinitely on the site Pages remain indefinitely on the site

I haven't used it much but Spaceports looks really good http://neptune.spaceports.com/. It has PHP and MYSQL databases. (it may even support moodle, a free fully featured course management system). There are extensive codes of conduct that need to be read though. It says that your website needs to generate a certain amount of traffic, and also a certain amount of traffic to their sponsors to remain on their server. It now costs $20 a year for a site.

The Virtual Language Centre in Hong Kong gives free web space especially for academics, it includes discussion boards and chat rooms. The address is http://www.edict.com.hk/pws/.

These can be used for posting resources for students, displaying students' writing or posting essential course information (assignment dates and topics etc.)

You might want to add extra features to your website, such as discussion boards and chat rooms. Bravenet supplies these features for free, except for the advertising they put on their site.

Another possibility is to use http://freezope.org/, again I'm currently testing it but it offers dynamic server capabilities, which are good for communication and collaborative learning. It takes a few days for them to assess whether you need a dynamic site as it is not an automatic registration process. Important: this is not a standard web host so it should not be used for static pages (texts, photos etc).


HTML editors

Both tripod and Geocities allow you to create webpages without having any software on your computer. The problem is that you have to be online and you don't have complete control. There are many HTML editors on the market but I'll mention a free one, and the one which many people will already have on their computer (Microsoft Word) first.

Remember, don't give files which are to be put on a webserver names with spaces, use _ instead, eg, my_holiday_2.html, my_picture2.gif

Netscape Composer is probably already on your computer if you have the Netscape browser. I would recommend it because it is very simple and doesn't tempt you to add too many design elements (animated buttons and icons). It creates very basic html code which should work anywhere and also help you understand the tags if you look at the code it generates. It has an FTP feature built in too.

Microsoft Word allows users to take a word document and save it as a webpage (file>save as>web page). If it is plain text then it produces a fairly accurate webpage (which is larger than a normal html page as it includes extra information used by Word). If you start introducing images, especially ones generated by Word, you may start getting layout and browser compatibility problems. In addition it automatically saves images in an extra folder, which makes them overly complicated to upload to Geocities or Tripod.

Microsoft Powerpoint and Access also allow you to save files as webpages. However, powerpoint pages in particular can have problems if users don't have Internet Explorer on their system. It does allow you to create multipage sites very easily though.

Microsoft Frontpage may also be on your computer if you are in an academic institution. It is OK, but uses some features that might cause problems on Netscape browsers (although Microsoft has pretty much won that competition!) In this case keep the design of the site simple and you shouldn't have any problems. Frontpage uses Java applets for most of its menu systems, it shouldn't cause problems but it's useful to know. You will also probably need an extra FTP program to upload your site too. If you have Windows ME on your computer you will have a copy of Microsoft Frontpage Express in your programs>accessories list. This is similar in functionality to Netscape Composer and simple to use.

Macromedia Dreamweaver is pretty much the industry standard and creates pages from HTML and Javascript (although the most common Javascript behaviour you would probably use is an image rollover for buttons). You don't necessarily need the latest version, 4 is fine and 3 probably is too(I haven't used it at all).


Exercise creating software

One of the best ways of adding more involvement to your site is to get students to make use of the chat and discussion boards. However, there are several sites which provide you with the ability to make interactive exercises which you can put on your site. The most common are probably clozes and drag and drop matching exercises. Here's a list of sites and software (many of which were suggested to me by Dr Michael Riccoli, visit his site to see examples in use).

Web based authoring systems, very quick to get started.

http://clear.msu.edu/dennie/matic/ (by Dennie Hoopingarner) This page has a range of exercises which are really simple to author. Basically you fill in a form and it automatically generates an exercise which you can try instantly. If the exercise is OK you can use file>save as to save a copy onto your computer. Then you can modify colours and instructions with an HTML editor, and upload it to your site.

http://lang.swarthmore.edu/makers/ This page also has a wide range of exercises which are created in the same way as Dennie Hoopingarner's. You fill in a form and then use file>save as to get a copy onto your own computer. It will also make an instantly online version on their server, that your class could use there and then. This copy is not secure though and some other user may write over it.
This site has a very interesting exercise which involves putting labels onto an image (called Place maker). It looks very useful.

http://www.er.uqam.ca/nobel/r21270/cgi-bin/clozerat/cloze_enter.html Again this makes an exercise by the user filling in a form. However, it only allows you to make a cloze based on every nth word (eg. every 7th word is removed). It has two interesting features, each cloze box gets a drop down list of the possible answers, and at the top of the page each possible answer appears as a hyperlink. This hyperlink opens a definition in the Collins dictionary.

http://www.edict.com.hk/ClozeMaker/jswiz/clozemaker.htm This clozemaker allows you to use particular word lists to create your exercises (articles, determiners, prepositions etc). It also allows you to use one of their own texts as the basis of the exercise. The exercise gets saved on their server, and you can copy it for your site too.

http://www.spellmaster.com This generates Flash files from a form. You can save them to your computer and then upload them to your server. As it is Flash it has a more sophisticated and attractive interface than the others, but it cannot be modified in an HTML editor.

Downloadable authoring software, more powerful but more complex.

http://l.georges.online.fr/logiciels.htm These are small downloadable programs that you can use from your own computer to make exercises. I have only tried the cloze generator which is interesting as it only removes parts of words, not the whole word. To be exact it removes half of every second word. The other exercises seemed to be geared towards translation practice.

http://languages.londonmet.ac.uk/CALL/call/home.htm London Metropolitan University's GISMO is a complete downloadable suite of Java exercises and the software to make them. It's an 11MB download so I haven't played with it yet. It looks very powerful though. You will need to log in with a working e-mail address to download it, but it's completely free. They only want you to register so they can keep track of who is using the software and can e-mail you if there are any updates.

http://www.halfbakedsoftware.com/index.php Finally there is the most popular exercise maker, Hot Potatoes. I have never used it as I make my own exercises with Flash, but the number of users is obvioulsy a good recommendation. It's free if you are making your site for public access.

For more sites on such software the the Internet TESOL Journal has a page on web authoring.

Discussion boards and mailing lists for CALL information

The best place to find information and help on CALL is the TESLCA-L list. To join this list you first need to join the TESL-L list (which is also very useful for teachers) and then join the TESLCA-L list. There is also the NETEACH-L list (less active).

The Guardian online has discussion boards for EFL and general education, including e-learning, while Dave's ESL Cafe has CALL specific boards.