• by Laura Chris Green, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • May 2001
For bilingual and English as a second language (ESL) teachers, the World Wide Web can be a wonderful, exciting window to the world of people and knowledge. It can also be a confusing, time-wasting maze of irrelevant and inappropriate information. The Diversity Bookmarks Collection helps teachers explore the riches of the Internet and lessens the amount of time needed to use it.
Positive Aspects of the Internet
The Internet provides access to reams of printed information, photographs, illustrations, maps, and audio and video files. Renowned authors and experts – on a wide variety of topics – are also accessible on the Internet. The information available is often of high quality and reflects the most recent knowledge of the topic.
Every day more high quality web sites are added to the Internet. Their webmasters make great efforts to make sites interactive by encouraging users to engage in real-time or extended discussions and by using animation, game formats, and various feedback mechanisms to engage visitors more actively with the site’s content. The truly amazing thing is, most of this content, once one has Internet access and the right hardware, is totally free, available from anywhere in the world 24 hours a day, and constantly changing, usually for the better.
Challenges of the Internet
The web can be difficult to navigate, especially when one is looking for web sites that address the unique linguistic and cultural interest and needs of highly-diverse learners in bilingual classrooms. Because of its sheer size and its covering of every conceivable topic, all teachers can find the web intimidating and overwhelming.
If teachers try a web-wide search, they may come up with no “hits” or, more commonly, too many. Most of these hits are not for educational purposes and a few may contain adult content considered inappropriate, even offensive, for children.
In addition to this issue – experienced by all teachers – bilingual and ESL teachers need access to web sites in languages other than English, especially to sites in Spanish. They also need to find English-language sites in which the English is simple enough and the graphics are clear enough such that their students can comprehend the information provided.
Sites are also needed that address their students’ cultural heritages as well. Sites that originate in their students’ countries of origin or are created by others in their ethnic group, are also of great value. But such specialized sites are fewer in number and harder to locate than mainstream, more typical sites.
Why Have “The Diversity Bookmarks Collection?”
All teachers need time to find, preview, evaluate, and adapt web sites to their students’ needs and interests. Bilingual and ESL teachers will require additional time to locate and adapt web sites for their students. The Diversity Bookmarks Collection was created to help teachers by providing a list of more than 800 web site addresses already selected for educational, linguistic, and cultural value. An example is the Intercultural Development Research Association’s (IDRA) web site at www.idra.org, which provides online access to this newsletter and other IDRA resources of interest to bilingual educators.
Some of the web sites are mainstream sites designed for regular classroom teachers. They are included in the collection because they provide excellent educational resources that can be used as is or modified for usage in bilingual classrooms. Other sites are specially designed for ESL purposes, are in languages other than English, or have multicultural content.
Development of the Bookmarks
This list of bookmarks, or favorite web sites, was developed by The STAR Center – the comprehensive regional assistance center funded by the U.S. Department of Education to serve Texas by providing support and technical assistance services to the Texas Education Agency, regional service centers, and the local school districts in the state. This collection was developed over the course of three years and represents hundreds of hours of research and web surfing on the part of its author. Although this list is not exhaustive, it includes most of the major web addresses (URLs) that may be of special interest to bilingual and ESL educators and others interested in issues of educational equity and diversity.
Because bilingual and ESL educators must teach all subjects to students of all ages, they need access to the best mainstream and specialized web sites. Selected educational sites that will be of interest to mainstream educators are also included.
The majority of the sites listed are non-commercial, but a number of commercial sites of high quality, that offer free as well as paid-for products and services, have been included. Commercial sites all have the extension “.com” in their domain names.
Most of the listed web sites are sponsored by educational organizations such as universities and education agencies with the extension “.edu”; non-profit organizations such as professional associations and research centers with the extension “.org”; and government-funded organizations such as the U.S. Department of Education with the extension “.gov.”
The collection is organized into 13 categories with several subcategories in each. The broad topics covered by the bookmarks are:
- School subjects: Math, science, social studies, language arts, fine arts;
- Minority groups: Black, Latino, Native American, Asian, female;
- Special populations: Bilingual/ESL, migrant, special education, gifted;
- All ages: Early childhood, adult education, parents, K-12;
- Assistance centers: Training, technical assistance, research information, program models;
- Commercial resources: Publishers, software;
- Professional resources: Associations, journals, grants, libraries; and
- Technology resources: Clipart graphics, audio, video, plug-ins, non-commercial software, search engines, other major lists of links, and high tech educational projects.
There are more than 60 subcategories that include everything from ERIC databases to museums, from libraries to ESL student activities.
Location and Use
The collection is currently housed on the Texas Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Region II (Tex-TESOL II) web site, but will be available next month online on the IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity web site at http://www.idra.org/South_Central_Collaborative_for_Equity/.
Users can visit the page and click on the hypertext links to go directly to the web sites in the collection. Like the ever-changing web itself, an effort is made to keep the collection continuously updated by checking links to make sure that they are still active or have not changed and by adding new links.
As all who have surfed the web know, it rapidly changes. New sites are continually added, and old ones whither and die. As a result, some of the addresses may no longer work because the site has changed its address or has become non-existent. Sometimes URLs cannot be reached for a variety of complex electronic and technological reasons. The URL should be attempted several times or in the next few hours or days. If it continues to not work, it may have been moved or discontinued.
The Diversity Bookmarks Collection is an important tool to both experienced and new educators. It is frequently used in training teachers on how to integrate technology into their teaching. Educators and administrators are welcome to pass the sites along and use them in trainings.
Laura Chris Green, Ph.D., is a senior education associate in the IDRA Division of Professional Development. Comments and questions may be directed to her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©2001, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the May 2001 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]