Tokai University Foreign Language Education Center Journal. Vol. 15. (p. 83 - 88). Oct. 1995.
Online Resources for Language Teachers
by Tim Newfields
Many university libraries in Japan offer extensive Japanese language resources, but
their foreign language resources tend to be more limited. Fortunately, it is now possible to
access vast amounts of data from online sources. This article describes how language teachers
can utilize online services for research and classroom ideas.
"With a staggering volume of information now available, the importance of filtering out
extraneous messages is essential. Few ... online forums ... are monitored closely and
even good conferences have substantial clutter."
For many, "cyberspace" is a fuzzy concept. At the time of this writing,
only a few of the university teachers in Japan seem to using online resources. Technophobia and lack of information about
how to use online services are major obstacles.
This article outlines how online services: can offer the following three things
for language teachers: (1) access to electronic publications, (2) forums to discuss
language teaching topics, and (3) information about teaching events.
Each of these is considered in detail.
(1) Publications on the Digital Frontier
There are thousands of electronic publications available online. Four which might
be of interest to foreign language teachers are listed below.
- The TESL Electronic Journal comes out 2-3 times a year and features excellent articles on language issues and book reviews. Articles in this publication are somewhat longer than those in the TESOL Journal, but maintain excellent standards.
- The Education Policy Digest provides a valuable summary of events, policies, and innovations in North American education. Some of the ideas mentioned in this publication are relevant to language teaching in Japan.
- Edupage is a triweekly summary of information technology news. It features helpful snippets about computers in education and provides something of an overview of information industry trends.
- The Computer Underground Digest discusses issues pertaining to information access, some of which are germane to language education.
Details of how to subscribe to these publications appears below:
Table 1. Some Online ESL/EFL Publications
Computer Underground Digest (ISSN 1004-042X)
SUB CUDIGEST your-full-name-here
subscribe edupage your-full-name-here
Education Policy Digest
subscribe Edpol-D your-full-name-here
Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language: An Electronic Journal
subscribe TESLEJ-L your-full-name-here
Some of the publications in Table 1 can be retrieved by other means than
listservers. The TESL-L Electronic Journal, for example, can be
gophered from cunyvm.cuny. edu along this path:
CUNY's Gopher > Subject Specific Gophers > Teaching English as
a Second/Foreign Language > Teacher Training Resources > TESLEJ -
TESL Electronic Journal > Select the issue you want
This journal can also be viewed on the Web at this address:
For those who wish to avoid the hassle of having constant
mail come to your electronic mailbox, a website browse is more
convenient than a listserver subscription.
In addition, there are many bibliographic references available online.
A good source for English publications is the U.S.
Library of Congress. This can be accessed by via gopher at marvel.loc.gov,
port 70 or by listserv at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also ftp to "ftp.loc.gov",
log in as "anonymous" and provide your e-mail address as a password.
Another choice is to telnet to "marvel.loc.gov" and log
in as "marvel." Finally, you can reach this facility at
via the World Wide Web.
The ERIC database is another good resource. Features over
five thousand research abstracts, it can be accessed by telnetting to
carl.lib.asu.edu or HTTP-ing to http://www.edrs.com/ [Expired Link].
In many cases, if you phrase a bibliographic question politely on any
of the forums listed in Table 2, helpful answers will come. The Internet
is an outstanding place for peer mentoring and I have been amazed at the
courtesy of teachers around the globe in answering difficult questions
about bibliographic references or suggested articles to read.
(2) Language Teaching Forums
There are six language teaching forums in cyberspace that I am aware of.
The largest and most active is TESL-L. With nearly 5,200 (1995)
members from eighty countries, this forum has lively discussions on many aspects of
language teaching and valuable archives on over fifty topics. Sub-conferences
on K-12 education, adult education and literacy, material writing, whole
language, CALL, administration, and job hunting are also featured.
JALTCALL is a forum with nearly one thousand messages from over 100
contributors. Most of the discussions are on language education in Japan,
CALL, and career development.
NiftyServe's FENG forum is perhaps the oldest nationwide electronic
forum about English language teaching in Japan. Featuring discussions about
grammar, syntax, and translation, this forum is popular with many Japanese
teachers and hobbyists. Nifty's ETIC forum has some discussions about language
teaching. Since the JALTCALL forum has become popular, however, its traffic
has become light.
FidoNet, a worldwide system of amateur BBSes, also has a special forum
devoted to English language teaching. The E-JALT forum was established
in 1993 and averages about 5-10 messages a week. Announcements about upcoming
language teaching events and discussions regarding English usage appear
in this forum.
For those interested in a Christian perspective on language teaching,
the Christian TESL forum may be useful. Established in 1994, it has many
discussions about curriculum context and student relations.
Finally, many FirstClassTM One Net hosts carry a lively forum in which
ESOL teachers and students share their experience learning/teaching/using
the English language. 80% of the postings in this forum originate in the
United States. Its repartee makes it worthwhile.
Information on how to subscribe to these forums appears in Table 2.
Table 2. Some Online ESL/EFL Forums
Subscribe ctesl your-full-name-here
via any of the 30+ Fido-Net nodes in Japan
with any Fido-Net BBS in Japan, select "E-JALT"
ENGLISH - OneNet
via most FirstClassTM OneNet hosts around the world
none needed unless using an offline reader such as BulkRateTM
NIFTY FENG / NIFTY ETIC
via any NiftyServe node in Japan
for info: SDI00662@niftyserve.or.jp
"GO FENG" on Nifty SVC / "GO ETIC" on Nifty SVE
SUB TESL-L your-full-name-here
Table 2 does not mention any of the Internet NetNews groups that discuss English
language related topics. If you have a healthy tolerance for extraneous postings,
groups such as "misc.education.multimedia" or "misc.teaching.english" might be worth subscribing
to. Unless you have an offline mail reader with filters and high-speed
connection, however, many of these groups can contain a frustrating amount
of insignificant postings. With over 13,000 NetNews groups available, perhaps
the most productive use of NetNews groups is for students who wish to "chat"
with others around the world about favorite topics. Groups
such as "rec.music.funky" or "rec.food.drink.beer"
are apt to interest many college age EFL students. Japanese, French, Spanish,
Korean, Russian, and Chinese language NetNews groups also exist and can
be a valuable resource for those learning those languages.
(3) Conference/Event Information
Announcements about language teaching events appear in each of the forums mentioned in Table 2. The CUG.JALT forum on ASAHI Net,
for example, has a special conference announcing symposia and workshops
throughout Japan. Unlike journal announcements which are often dry, most
cyberspace announcements are two-way: the text is constantly changing and
any reader can express their opinion about a specific announcement or posting.
It is easy to get an idea of how worthwhile a specific event might be by
reading the responses to its posting.
The forums mentioned in this paper offer a chance to network with language
educators. Online forums provide opportunities to make "virtual" friends,
many of whom become real during later encounters.
This article has highlighted some of the online resources for foreign
language teachers. With a staggering volume of information now available,
the importance of filtering out extraneous messages is essential. Few of
the online forums mentioned here are monitored closely and even good
conferences have substantial clutter.
Learning how to a navigate many online services can be daunting. However,
I believe computer literacy is a skill worth achieving. Fortunately, it
is a skill which is becoming easier to achieve as software itself grows more intuitive.
Anyone with a computer, book, modem, and software can participate in an
online forum within an hour or less. To master the intricacies of the Internet,
however, takes extensive time.
In an age of global communication and more and more data is being transferred
from paper to memory chips and optical cables, any language teacher can
access valuable information about their profession if they are able to selectively
filter the megabytes of data online. There are many
outstanding resources available in cyberspace. This article has highlighted
Copyright (c) 1995 by Tim Newfields