There are many reasons for using the Internet in the teaching – learning process of the English language. One of them and, I think, the most important one is that English is the language used to communicate on the Internet, therefore, as Gordon Lewis (2004) explains, students must be educated to become “electronically literate”. This means not only to acquire some computer skills, but also to be trained to work by using the English language. The Internet in learning is “…a place where we can apply our existing knowledge of the world – even expand it”. (Lewis, 2004:4)
By using English when working on computer and using the Internet, students combine their language knowledge and computer skills in order to extract the information they need or to produce something that can be of real help in everyday life, such as reading mails and writing a mail in response, or making up a shopping list and then use the Internet to purchase those products.
This brings us to the second reason for using the Internet in teaching English and that is the fact that it stirs the students’ interest and motivation by its close connection to real situations, as Gutter (2013) rightfully observes. Because the majority of the information one can find while searching on the Internet is, generally, in English, students, says Fox (1998), begin to appreciate the usefulness of learning this language.
Victoria Muehleisen (1997) remarks that the Internet places English in an international context due to this abundance of information written in English. This is another factor that raises the students’ interest in learning this language. They notice that they need English when talking to people, writing or reading articles, recipes, or other materials they want to read. Therefore, their awareness of the importance of learning English grows.
The Internet also motivates students to learn because it is trendy. They are eager to use computers in class, instead of having lessons presented in the traditional way. Unfortunately, students use computers mainly during their Computer Science classes and, even then, they do not use the Internet as much as they would like to. Consequently, using it during other classes is certainly interesting.
Using the Internet is also interesting because its looks and sounds are also attractive. (Tillyer, 1997). Many sites have colourful backgrounds, animations, videos, pictures that are interesting and appealing, especially for younger learners, and which stir their attention and curiosity to explore more.
The Internet also exposes learners to authentic language, explains Meena Singhal (1997). The texts they encounter are written in various styles. These styles represent the personality, the culture, the education, the mentality, the age and the point of view of their writer. Students can observe and study the language problems and the vocabulary which are contextualised in authentic situations. They are also exposed to different information and get to understand the culture of the English language. Browsing on the Internet, says Singhal (1997), leads to incidental learning, as students come across various information they could use for other school subjects or simply to expand their general knowledge.
Using the Internet in class also makes students practise diverse language skills and learning strategies, explains the same author. Students practise reading and listening by reading articles or by listening or watching a video, for example. They also practise writing and speaking by discussing about what they have read or listened to, or by writing comments in response. They search for information. Once the information is obtained, the students use strategies such as skimming and scanning in order to fulfil their task.
The Internet also provides lots of language materials and activities, exercises and tests, so it is also a very useful resource that can be exploited by both teachers and students in the teaching – learning process of the English language. It is also an interactive way of acquiring language. There are many learning programmes that provide immediate feedback after solving a language task, or after completing a test. Therefore, students can instantly check their answers and correct their mistakes, if it is the case, or give the test again in order to obtain a suitable score. Some programmes even offer explanation on language problems that can help the students improve. These explanations are easily accessed. Students can go back and review what they have learned. They can even communicate with each other through incorporated messenger or chat applications. (Saad AlKahtani, 1999)
According to Ligia Durus (2004), the Internet is also useful in education because it can be used also outside the classroom. Almost all the students have computers that are connected to the Internet at home and which they can use to continue what they have learned at school. Thus, they can use the Internet to create projects which can incorporate slide-presentations, video clips and photos taken from the Internet. They combine language skills with computer skills in order to create a product of their own.
There are also other reasons to use the Internet in learning. Marinela and Ioan Guraliuc (2013) state that the Internet is a complex way of learning as it stimulates creativity in students and enhances their involvement in the lesson. By making a product of their own, students practise not only language and computer skills, but also their ability of working with the given information, their self-learning and their ability of self-evaluation. They learn by making, by using their previous knowledge and the new given information. The learning process focuses on them and not on the teacher anymore.
The Internet helps students to learn by discovering new things, by cooperating with the other students and by involving in the learning process. It motivates and continually stimulates students in the teaching – learning process of the English language.
1. AlKahtani, S. (1999). Teaching ESL Reading Using Computers, published in The Internet TESL Journal, vol. V, no. 11 (November, 1999), retrieved from iteslj.org/Techniques/AlKahtani-ComputerReading/ (28.11.2016)
2. Durus, L. (2004). Invatarea prin multimedia, Editura Maria Montessori, Baia Mare
3. Fox, G. (1998). The Internet: Making It Work in the ESL Classroom, published in The Internet TESL Journal, vol. IV, no. 9 (September, 1998), retrieved from iteslj.org/Articles/Fox-Internet.html (01.12.2016)
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6. Lewis, G. (2004). The Internet and Young Learners, Oxford University Press, Oxford
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9. Tillyer, A. (1997). The InfiNET Possibilities – English Teachers on the Internet, retrieved from Forum magazine, vol. 35, no. 1 (January, 1997), pp. 16 – 25