The Teaching Children SIG Newsletter. Vol. 1, #2. June 1996. (p. 4-5)

ESOL Resources on the World Wide Web for Children

Tim Newfields

How useful is the Internet as a resource for language classrooms? What are the best children's Web sites? How realistic is it to get students net surfing? More and more teachers are asking these sort of questions. Ten years ago there were hardly any resources at all for language learning, much less for children, on the Internet. Today a growing number of resources have appeared, especially on the World Wide Web.
"The whole concept of "text" is gaining more fluidity due to the Internet."
Loosely defined, the World Wide Web is a part of the Internet where text, graphics, and sounds are combined so that readers can "jump" from one location to another. This offers readers unparalleled choices about how they proceed through a text; they can click on any topic (or word) that looks interesting to learn more about it. Some Web pages even allow viewers to switch between languages or degrees of textual difficulty. The whole concept of "text" is gaining more fluidity due to the Internet. Increasingly, text can be viewed as a non-linear, interactive display of information rather than fixed material on a printed media. This is good news for ESOL learners: instead of being stuck with printed material that may (or may not) be helpful, it is possible to move through a whole virtual library according to ones interests via a few key strokes and mouse clicks.
Four aspects of the World Wide Web make it a valuable educational tool. First, the graphic nature of many Web pages make them inviting. Second, it is easy to find relevant information about almost anything on the Web. Whether you are interested in pythons or Pythagoras, there is a place of the Web to learn more. A third reason the Web is a premiere educational tool is the global nature of this resource: viewers can "visit" cites from over 180 countries in seconds. Finally, the WWW promotes computer literacy. Achieving computer literacy may be as important in the 21st Century as traditional literacy was to children a generation ago.

What's Out There?

To offer a glimpse of the Web resources that are available, let's take a journey to a few Web cites. Most Web surfers start a cruise from a search engine, a place that conducts "key word" searches on topics of interest. The two most well known search engines are Yahoo and Lycos. Starting at the Lycos search engine and clicking on the "just for kids" heading near the top of the menu, 59 different children's cites will appear. One of those is the KID List, which contains even more extensive links for young Web surfers. Here are the first five entries from this homepage:

  1. Abwenzi African Studies provides an intriguing way to learn about Central Africa and meet pen-pals from the other side of the globe.

  2. Aha! offers a chance to visit digital creatures and jump to many other children's cites.

  3. Amanda's Toybox is a place where you can meet Pixy, Weasel, and Coug in an Internet story book.

  4. The Awesome Lists offers a springboard to nearly a hundred other cites for children.

  5. An Awesome Site for All Ages has lots of cyber greeting cards, cartoons, and tidbits for ages 5 -95.

One entry on this list is Uncle Bob's Kids' Page, a cite with a collection of links grouped into seven sections. Each day of the week you can explore a different part of the Internet from this URL (Web address). In Section 1, you can visit the Michael Jordon Page, the Global Show and Tell, Volcano World, the Ontario Science Center, and other cites.
Uncle Bob's Kids' homepage also provides links to The Children's Page – a cite with numerous cartoons, stories and games. From here, you can learn about volcanoes, frogs, owls, dinosaurs, or comets. It is also easy to jump to the Book Nook and read selections of books for kids (and by) kids.
Another nook on the Web worth checking out is Teaching Tools Inc., an URL designed by a former third grade school teacher that deSRCibes many K-8 thematic teaching activities. You can enjoy reading about the "Incredible Edible Math," a book graphically explaining mathematical concepts for youngsters.
Many places across the globe now have web cites and the Web is a good way for kids to learn more about distant cities. PROJECT L.I.S.T.E.N. coordinates e-mail pal requests and fosters international exchanges, as does the Global Schoolhouse. At Berit's Best Sites for Children you can also visit other kids on the net and enjoy fun crafts. The opportunities for discovery on the Web are almost endless.


For students seeking to discover authentic language materials and meet other people around the world, the Internet offers exciting opportunities. Today the World Wide Web is one of the easiest domains of cyberspace to access and even semi-literate youngsters can click through a Web browser and visit places that attract their interest. Interest is the fuel which spurs learners of all ages to achieve literacy.

Viewing a Web page may eventually become as commonplace as making a telephone call or watching a TV program. Will this unparalleled access to information help teachers make learning more effective? It will certainly offer new options regarding how text materials can be approached. However, education is more than a matter of hardware and a degree of supervision and interaction is essential to make the learning experience meaningful.
It should be noted that not all of the so-called children's sites on the Web are worth visiting. Some Web pages are blatantly commerical. Others are boring. Still others contain violent and/or sexually inappropriate material. For such reasons, many parents install "safety filters" to limit access to certain materials. Information about such products is available at these cites:

1. SafeSurf Home Page
2. The Internet Filter
3. Cyber Patrol

The World Wide Web is in its infancy and many aspects of this resource are changing almost day-by-day. Each day new Web pages for children pop up and disappear. Although the number of commercial ventures moving into the Web is rapidly increasing, there are also many non-profit educational resources worth looking at in cyberspace. For ESOL teachers and well as students alike, the Web is worth exploring.

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Copyright (c) 1996 by Tim Newfields