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Vol 18, No. 3 (May 2001)

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Using the Internet in Elementary College German

Michael Hager
Annika Rieper
Elisabeth Schmitt
Maya Shastri
Pennsylvania State University

This article explores the opportunities offered by the Internet for technology-based instruction in the beginning language classroom. We discuss CALL as it is relevant to our purpose and then introduce the main aspects of a task-based approach. Finally, we present our sample exercises which are based on a combination of these two aspects of teaching and learning.

Using the Internet in Elementary College German


Internet, Computer-Mediated Communication, Task-Based Approach, German


Technological revolutions have long played a central role in educational processes. The development of writing systems alone was a technological feat that allowed people to share knowledge across wide gaps of space and time. The invention of the printing press inspired a technological revolution that allowed communication to the masses, and, in the 20th century, communication has become even easier with telephones, mass use of audio and video players, photocopying, and computers. The Internet is the newest development in a long line of technological developments being hailed as a revolutionary advance in our society and in education. As computers become more prevalent in the classroom, and indeed in all aspects of daily life, we must ask ourselves: What is the best way to incorporate computer technology into improved learning and teaching? This


article explores this question as it pertains to beginning level college German teaching and learning.

Several models for using the computer in education are available. In the field of second language learning and teaching, these models reflect the current theoretical practices as well as the technological capabilities of computers. Warschauer (1996) defines the computer as a multifaceted tool that can act as a tutor, as a workhorse, or as a stimulus. The computer as tutor model poses the computer as instructor since the computer 'knows' the correct answers. Software packages that provide drill and practice routines are considered to follow this model. Drill and practice exercises were an important part of the Audio-Lingual method, which was based on behaviorist psychology. The computer as stimulus model posits exercises that encourage students in discussion, writing, and critical thinking, rather than discovering a right or wrong answer. This model was embraced by proponents of communicative methodology, which had its origins in cognitive psychology. The computer as a work horse model provides students with programs such as word processors, spelling checks, and grammar checks. These types of programs empower students to work on their own or at least with greater facility. (For more information, see Taylor, 1980; Taylor & Perez, 1989; Brierley & Kemble, 1991; Warschauer, 1996.)

We have combined computer technology with a task-based approach to create lessons that satisfy the fundamental requirements of the communicative approach. We provide first a review of Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) with an emphasis on the Web, then discuss the task-based approach, and finally demonstrate how to use the computer within the framework of the task-based approach in beginning level German classes.


CMC allows us to define computer use in language learning with the Internet in mind. Santoro (1995) defines CMC as "use of computer systems and networks for the transfer, storage, and retrieval of information among humans." This not only includes the computer conferencing capabilities of such computer applications as e-mail, chat groups, and so forth, but also the information retrieval functions of the Web.

The following characteristics of computer-based interaction (Salaberry, 1996) are relevant for our purpose in the classroom:

1) Learners should be encouraged to engage in contextualized learning.

This process is one in which students can construct knowledge by working from a problem to a solution. For example,


exercise III discussed below, poses the problem of furnishing an apartment on a limited budget in the context of student life and searching newspaper want ads for needed items.

2) Learners have access to a network of peers.

Exercises I and II below focus on peer networks. In exercise I, students are asked to communicate with their peers in other first semester classes, opening up the doors to the learner community. In exercise II, students search Web pages for e-mail pals who have interests similar to their own.

3) Both learners and teachers have increased access to cultural information and databases.

Our exercises are based on the premise that all German pages on the Web contain authentic cultural material.

4) Learners can easily communicate with experts and native speakers.

As mentioned above, exercise II provides a connection to native speakers via e-mail.

5) Students are free from time and location constraints

All information that we use for the exercises is available 24 hours a day.1

CMC is often split into three categories (Collins & Berge, 1995): conferencing (e.g., e-mail, interactive messaging, and small/large group discussions), informatics (e.g., on-line library catalogues, interactive access to remote databases, pictures, or movie archives), and Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI). The most recent applications of CAI include both of the other categories, and Warschauer (1996) calls the modern use of CAI integrative CALL.


Integrative CALL makes extensive use of the computer as a multimedia system. The first step in Integrative CALL has been extensive use of the Internet and the Web. Despite the advantages of the hypermedia components of today's computers, relatively few truly communicative multimedia language software programs exist because computers themselves are not capable of real communication. The computer, as a tutor, is incapable of determining the appropriateness of learners' utterances or directing them to the most beneficial solution to their communicative problems. Integrative CALL relies, at least for now, on the unique aspects of the Internet and the Web.



As previously mentioned, the Web facilitates the contexualization of language learning by increasing access to authentic documents. Before web sites were so easily accessible, authentic texts were difficult to obtain. How many language teachers have struggled with the problems of lugging boxes of magazines, newspapers, phone books, train schedules, and so on back to their students in the US? The Web is flooded with web pages about companies and their products, nonprofit organizations and their services, individuals and families, as well as information about places and culture. We wish to argue here that all this material can be used in the classroom in ways that encourage students to analyze such material in a critical fashion.

Besides the sheer mass of information that the Web has to offer, it has one other powerful appeal. It offers students and teachers the opportunity to write and publish their own material. In the classroom, this opportunity can be translated into specific learning activities in which students write with real purpose for a real audience, making for a communicative, collaborative, student-centered, and task-based classroom.

Although the multimedia component of the Web does not in and of itself make the Web interactive, Internet-based activities can be very interactive. The exercises described in this article encourage students to participate in groups, work collaboratively, do peer editing, and discuss Web-based exercises.


Instructors and students will undoubtedly encounter some problems using the Internet in class. First, institutions must bear the burden of the initial costs involved in purchasing equipment and connecting to the Internet and, since computers and software are continually being improved, can face high costs for upgrading. Despite the costs, colleges and universities are investing money and time in computer resources.2

Once educators have access to the technology, they must deal with other problems. Zhao (1996) discusses the numerous factors affecting multimedia documents on the Web. Multimedia cannot be realized without the proper server format, full-feature browsers, or proper plug-ins. The local computer must have enough memory to download multimedia documents and of course a color monitor for full visual effects.

The instructor's attitude can also affect the productivity of using the Internet in the classroom. Two components are necessary for training instructors to use the Internet in the classroom (Frizzler, 1995). Instructors must understand the mechanics of the Internet as an educational tool, but


they also must know how to incorporate the philosophies of how and why to teach with it. The unique properties of the Internet provide a natural setting for "collaborative, communicative and task-based classes (which are, of course, student-centered). Teachers who have been leading teacher-fronted, non-communicative classes will have to rethink their approaches" (Frizzler, 1995).

Finally, students and instructor alike must deal with the problem of Web addresses. Since the Web is constantly changing, a wonderful Web page available one day might be gone the next. Students and teachers who use a site extensively for an assignment should download or print it for fear of not being able to find it later (Walz, 1998). We have tried to keep in mind this difficulty in designing exercises. For the activities described below, not only have we listed more than one Web address where applicable, but we have also tried to design general exercises that are not site specific. Thus, sites similar to the ones we have chosen for our classes would be appropriate for other instructors and other classes.


Salaberry (1996) states that "One of the most important features that defines a technological tool is the increase in efficiency to perform a given task. Computer-based telecommunications offer language teachers a cost-effective medium to generate different types of interactions among students." E-mail, bulletin boards, and computer conferencing provide an outlet for communication with native speakers, students, or instructors, and the Web can provide students with authentic texts, pictures, audioclips, and videoclips from the target culture. Using the Web in the classroom provides real world access to students and instructors (Kearsley, 1996). Because of these features, CMC offers language learners a new tool for communicating with members of their learning community, multicultural community, and second language communities.

CMC can also help provide a more student-centered environment in the classroom. Warschauer (1997) notes that students are more expressive in CMC discussion groups than in written essays, where every word weighs heavily. Kern (1995) found that CMC allowed students greater opportunities to express their ideas than normal oral discussions because multiple and simultaneous comments are possible in CMC activities, which, in turn, led to larger amounts of target language production. Thus, CMC takes the focus away from the teacher-centered classroom and opens the door for student-centered interactions.



Higgins (1988) defines four types of CMC lessons based on differing learner roles. The first lesson type is the instructional lesson, which is computer centered and requires students to absorb the information being imparted (e.g., software that focuses on drill and practice routines). The second kind of lesson, the revelatory lesson, requires students to be experiencers. The computer presents a structured experience, such as a simulation, and the student role is that of an on-looker. The third lesson type is the conjectural lesson in which the program sets a series of tasks for learners to complete, thereby casting students into the role of explorer. The final lesson type is the emancipatory lesson, where students function as a practitioner in a real life activity. In such a lesson, the software provides students with only tools (e.g., on-line dictionaries and databases) necessary to complete a project. The instructional lesson and the revelatory lesson are the least effective types since the computer is in control and only passively involve the students. The emancipatory lesson generates situated learning activities but does not specify goals for students to complete. The conjectural lesson, which uses the task-based approach and poses problems for students to solve, offers a situated, contextualized learning experience. It is this conjectural lesson upon which we base Web activities for our classes. Before describing these activities in detail, the task-based approach to learning warrants some discussion.


One of the most influential teaching methods of the past few decades is the communicative approach, which focuses on negotiation of meaning rather than linguistic form.3 Two related methods have arisen from it, the natural approach (Krashen & Terrell, 1983) and the task-based approach.4 The latter has drawn increasing attention in the last years. Even though some problems with definition remain,5 there seems to be consensus that tasks involve communicative language use where the focus of the activity is placed on meaning rather than on linguistic structures. A task can be, but does not have to be, communicative, and it is sometimes hard to differentiate between noncommunicative and communicative tasks because they are interrelated (Nunan, 1989).

Long (1985) gives a relatively general definition of task by stating that a task is

a piece of work undertaken for oneself or for others, freely or for some reward. Thus, examples of tasks include painting a fence, dressing a child, filling out a form, ... In other words, by 'task' is


meant the hundred and one things people do in everyday life, at work, at play, and in between.

This description can vaguely be applied to the foreign language classroom. Obviously, students are, or should be, encouraged to complete their own self-generated tasks. However, our purpose here is to focus on tasks that are performed in a classroom or that are related to classroom instruction.

The definition of a task by Richards, Platt and Weber (1986) explicitly refers to language, even though their definition does not state whether actual language production has to take place. They define a task as an

activity or action which is carried out as the result of processing or understanding (i.e. as a response). For example, drawing a map while listening to a tape, listening to an instruction and performing a command, may be referred to as tasks. Tasks may or may not involve the production of language. A task usually requires the teacher to specify what will be regarded as successful completion of the task. The use of a variety of different kinds of tasks in language teaching is said to make language teaching more communicative ... since it provides a purpose for a classroom activity which goes beyond the practice of language for its own sake.

In this communicative atmosphere, the question arises as to which type of task Richards, et al. are referring to: "real-world" or "pedagogic?" Their tasks fit more in the category of pedagogic tasks than real world tasks, where pedagogic tasks refer to tasks which do not explicitly pursue the goal of preparing students for real world communication in the target language. According to Breen (1987) real-world tasks are items that involve problem solving and decision making situations (something likely to happen to a person in real life). Nunan (1989) maintains that the difference between these two types of tasks exists more in theory than in practice and that a task can still be meaning-focused without being real. Even some real world tasks are unlikely to occur in real life; consequently, real world material may have to be modified for use at lower levels of instruction in the classroom.

Nunan sees a link between these definitions involving communicative language use in which learners focus on meaning rather than linguistic forms. (See also Foster, 1999.) Willis (1996) supports this view in her definition of a task: "Tasks are always activities where the target language is used by the learner for a communicative purpose (goal) in order to achieve an outcome." However, she emphasizes that all tasks should have an outcome which can be expanded upon later in the task cycle. Nunan clarifies the notion of a task cycle by defining components of a task which


are essential in designing the task for instructional purposes. According to Nunan (1989), a "task is a piece of meaning-focused work involving learners in comprehending, producing and/or interacting in the target language, and ... tasks are analysed or categorised according to their goals, input data, activities, settings and roles." We have structured our exercises around Nunan's four components-goals, input data, activities, settings and roles.



A task is not limited to a single goal or outcome; teachers may direct students to reach several outcomes to accomplish while completing one particular task. Outcomes can be communicative, affective, or cognitive, and they can relate to one or more macroskills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. A task might address all macroskills, especially when the task is more complex and has a number of components. The outcomes may vary due to the fact that some classes have different kinds of goals from the very beginning. For example, a class might focus on language use in everyday life or in specialized areas like biology or business. Which skill(s) the teacher chooses to focus on can also make a difference. For example, the purpose of one lesson might be for students to develop all four skills evenly; in another lesson the purpose might draw more attention to reading or writing skills in particular (Nunan, 1989; Willis, 1996).

Input Data

Nunan (1989) provides a long list of sources for input material such as newspaper extracts, photographs, street maps, and bus timetables. This input data may need modification to transform authentic material to the appropriate language level as Nunan himself and others (e.g., Pica, Kanagy, & Falodun, 1993) have proposed. However, this type of editing is very impractical for Web sites. We have, therefore, included in our exercises items such as vocabulary help and grammar/cultural reviews to better prepare the students to use the designated web documents.


Activities are divided into three possible categories: rehearsal for the real world, skill use, and fluency/accuracy. Just as materials can be authentic, activities can be authentic, too. If teachers decide to use authentic


texts or other authentic sources, they should also assign authentic (real world) tasks rather than pedagogic ones.6

Once teachers have decided what kind of activity is going to be implemented in the classroom (e.g., an activity that promotes grammatical accuracy or facilitates acquisition of a new skill), they can think about what types of activity should be used. Pica, et al. (1993) divide activities into five different types from which we have drawn information gap activities, problem-solving activities and opinion exchange activities for implementation in our classes.7 In information gap activities, one participant has all information and the information flows in one direction (see exercises I, II, and V below). In problem solving activities, a single solution is expected (see exercises III and VI). In opinion exchange activities, no single outcome is expected, nor are requirements for the interaction given (included in all exercises below). Creative writing activities, as in exercises I and III, do not fall under any category described by Pica, et al. (1993).

Roles and Settings

The last component is settings and teacher/learner roles. Depending on the teaching approach, instructor and learner roles can vary significantly. In the communicative classroom, learners are expected to play an active, negotiating role. They have to be adaptable, creative, inventive, and independent. A problem can arise, however, when teacher and learner roles are perceived differently. Learners may sometimes expect the instructor to provide more material or to give more direction, while the instructor wants the students to be more independent and creative. To avoid this kind of conflict, it is important to match teacher and learner roles carefully. In the task-based approach, instructors function as facilitators; they are the ones who select topics and tasks designed to motivate learners, to present a suitable degree of intellectual and linguistic challenge, and to promote the students' language development as efficiently as possible (Willis, 1996). When the task is performed in the classroom, the teacher stays in control, even though the students work independently. The instructor introduces the tasks and makes sure the students understand what is expected of them. At the end of the task, the attention turns to language form, at which point the teacher functions as language guide (Willis, 1996).

Classroom settings also have an influence on roles. Classroom arrangements can vary from students working individually to working in pairs, in small groups, or with the whole class. Differences also exist in the environment. The traditional classroom is not the only imaginable setting; instruction can also take place in a self-access learning center or in a community class. Teachers currently have much more flexible arrangements and options available to them than in previous times.



The main use of CMC within the scope of the task-based approach has been for semester long, experimental projects. Barson, Frommer, and Schwartz (1993) examine the use of task-based learning through distance communication (e-mail) in which the end product was the collaborative publication of a newspaper. The study stresses four principal aspects of task-based learning as it applies to CMC: (a) a focus on authentic issues, (b) student-shaped curriculum, (c) redefinition of the teaching role (occasioned by emphasizing the students' control over their actions), and (d) the realignment of grammar study (grammar being taught implicitly with a caution against turning the real-life project into a grammar lesson). These main points can be found in a number of other studies (e.g., Zhao, 1996; Kern, 1995) which all describe long term projects focusing on a single end result. These kinds of projects have the potential to impart only a certain kind of knowledge to the students. For example, by concentrating on a newspaper format, students only learn the target language as it applies to newspapers. In our activities, we try to meet the need for task-based, student-centered Web activities that can be completed in a shorter time frame and that have a broader focus on multiple cultural topics.


Due to the use of technology and creative teaching techniques like the task-based approach, the realm of foreign language teaching possibilities has been greatly expanded. Our experience in combining technology and task-based teaching has proven to be very effective in beginning level German classes. In the following six examples, the first three (Student homepages, Brieffreunde 'penpal,' and Kleinanzeige 'want ad') are designed for first semester students, and the last three (The Frog and the Tigerduck, Hotel Adlon, and Relationships) for second semester students. The discussion of each exercise is divided into four categories according to the components: goal, input data, activity, and roles and setting. We first discuss the roles and settings for all the exercises here since they are similar and then the other three separately for each exercise.

Roles and Settings

In exercises II-VI, the students' roles are similar. They look for penpals in exercise II; pretend to be German students and "interior decorators" in exercise III; are readers, writers, and evaluators in exercise IV; take the role of tourists in exercise V; and are readers again in exercise VI. Exercise


I is somewhat different since the students are first of all publishers and creators of Web sites; later on they evaluate other students' work. For all of the exercises, the teacher initially functions as a source of information and facilitator to help the students complete the tasks and then assesses the students' work. In many exercises, the instructor also serves as the discussion leader for the subsequent opinion-sharing activities in class. Settings vary depending on the activity; each exercise includes individual and group work either inside or outside of the classroom.

Exercise I: Student Homepages


The goal of this activity is twofold. The pedagogical goal is to provide an easily accessible outlet for creative writing in the target language and peer review, and the 'real world' goal is to provide students with the opportunity and the skills to publish their own Web pages on the Internet. The homepage project also serves as an introduction to word processing in the target language, which has both pedagogical and real world applications.

Input Data

Before students can write essays, they must possess the computer and Web editing skills, as well as the basic language skills, that they learn throughout the semester. As the class proceeds from topic to topic (expressing who you are, where you are from, your hobbies, likes and dislikes, etc.) and from form to form (sentence structure, modal verbs, tenses, etc.), students add more to their homepages to reflect their evolving new knowledge. Updating the information throughout the course leads to a completed German homepages at the end of the project.


As the first semester students gain greater competency in the language, they add more information to their pages. In this way, the project reinforces students' development of vocabulary and grammar.

By the end of the semester, students have enough information on their homepages to begin the essay stage of the project. Students visit the page of one of their peers, and write an essay about that person. The essay includes information such as family background, likes and dislikes, pets, and hobbies. Towards the end of the first year, students use their homepages


as a forum to promote discussion on more complicated topics that have been discussed in class (e.g., family roles and foreigners). After completing the essays, the students send their commentary to their partner and teacher by e-mail. In class the same two students work together to discuss each wrote about the other homepage. This discussion is on the content of the Web page, not the grammar. The writer of the homepage can find out whether the reader has understood what the writer wanted to convey.

Exercise II: Brieffreunde

Figure 1

Brieffreunde Worksheet

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Figure 1a

Brieffreunde Web Site

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The pedagogical goal of this exercise is to practice vocabulary about hobbies and names of countries. The 'real world' goal is to learn about hobbies of German speaking people and compare them to those of young Americans.

Input Data

This activity can be done only after the students have learned the necessary vocabulary for hobbies and countries. The rather structured presentation of information about pen pals allows first semester students to understand the personal ads from an on-line youth magazine.



The exercise includes several types of tasks. The first question about native German pen pals is a reading comprehension assignment which is followed by a writing activity beginning with question two in part B. Examining the personal on-line ads found by clicking on the link in part B helps the students set up their own. The students then compare aspects of German culture to their own way of life. Finally, this exercise makes students aware of the number of students who learn German all over the world and how they try to communicate in this language.

Alternative Web Sites

Search the term "Brieffreunde" in any search engine such as MetaGer (

Exercise III: Kleinanzeige

Figure 2

Kleinanzeige Worksheet

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Figure 2a

Kleinanzeige Web Site

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The pedagogical goals are to have students practice modal verbs and review lexicon (furniture). Students examine German newspaper want ads to find furniture with which to furnish their room in a Wohngemein-schaft 'shared apartment.' The exercise has a 'real world' goal provided by the situation as well as an introduction to reading German newspapers.

Input Data

Before doing this exercise, it is necessary that students be familiar with want ads for furniture, otherwise abbreviations found in the ad could be dismaying to students. Additionally, students must be able to understand and work with modal verbs.



In the exercise, students are given the task of furnishing a room on a limited budget and explaining why they want to buy a particular item. After completing the exercise, students can draw a picture of their room with the items they have purchased (homework). In class, students use their pictures to describe to the whole class what their new room in the Wohngemeinschaft would look like. We have used an on-line message board for this exercise ( Any newspaper on a web site has want ads, for example,, www.morgen or

Exercise IV: The Frog and the Tigerduck

Figure 3

The Frog and the Tigerduck Worksheet

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Figure 3a

The Frog and the Tigerduck Web Site

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This second semester exercise is designed to enhance reading comprehension, review the simple past and prepositions, and provide an outlet for creative writing. The story is an introduction to a German author, Janosch, and a famous German fantasy animal, the "Tigerduck."


Input Data

Students should be already familiar with the simple past and prepositions and with the genre of fairy tales and children's picture books.


Students in the second semester read Der Frosch und die Tigerente 'The Frog and the Tigerduck' by Janosch on line at 79/janosch/#3. Then they complete the worksheet which includes reading comprehension questions and their own personal experiences and directs them to describe a picture (found on the web site) showing the room where the frog and the tigerduck live. To complete this activity, students have to use lexical items and grammar points learned in previous lessons (e.g., colors, furniture, and prepositions) to formulate their opinion in writing. Students then have the choice to write a new ending to the rather open ended tale or write the tigerduck's side of the story. The Web sites that contain this story change frequently. A search of the term Tigerente in MetaGer ( should yield accurate results.

Exercise V: Hotel Adlon

Figure 4

Hotel Adlon Worksheet

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Figure 4a

Hotel Adlon Web Site

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The pedagogic goals are for students to improve their reading comprehension, practice giving/receiving directions, and gain cultural and historical background knowledge. The 'real world' goal is to find out about hotel prices and special services of the Hotel Adlon. In addition, students learn about the hotel's surroundings in Berlin.

Input Data

In connection with talking about traveling, sight seeing, visiting foreign countries, and so forth, this exercise deals with the Hotel Adlon, the most famous hotel in Berlin, which was founded in the 1920s and recently reopened. Students need to be familiar with prepositions of location and giving directions.



The reading comprehension questions cover what is included in certain hotel services (arrangements). Students do not only receive information from the web site, but they also have to use their knowledge about giving/receiving directions: The Web site includes a small map with the surrounding area of the hotel. Students follow the directions on the worksheet to find out that, even today, different street names reflect the division of Berlin into an eastern and a western part. They must also give directions to the Reichstag. In class, the instructor shows pictures of the Reichstag, located next to the hotel, to illustrate the recent history of the new German capital. (These pictures can be found on one of the following web sites:, www.ber, and Students then work in groups and describe one of the pictures to the class. The whole class discusses historic events shown by the pictures. Many other hotels have similar web sites which can be found by searching for "Hotel" with a German search engine.

Exercise VI: What Relationship Type Are You?

Figure 5

What Relationship Type Are You? Worksheet

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Figure 5a

What Relationship Type Are You? Web Site

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The pedagogic goal is to review lexicon (relationships) and to promote creative writing and discussion. The real world goal is to become familiar with a popular German magazine.

Input Data

The exercise is designed to accompany the topic "family and personal relationships." Vocabulary about relationships is necessary to understand the questions of the test and evaluate the outcome. Students should be familiar with the construction um ... zu 'in order to' and the causal use of weil 'because,' and damit 'so that.'



Students fill out a psychological test from an on-line German magazine, discuss the results, and evaluate the usefulness of such tests in class. Students read the questions and are given certain set responses. They answer the questions by clicking the response that best suits their personality, and the computer tabulates the students' results. Students then print out their results and discuss them in a short written passage to answer the question: Is the outcome right or wrong? Do you think people can be categorized in such a test? Finally students are expected to justify their opinions about this kind of test in a class discussion of the usefulness of such questionnaires.

Alternative Sites

The easiest way to find such items is to search for "Psychotests" with a German search engine. We recommend MetaGer, the meta search engine of the University of Hannover which utilizes several search engines at the same time ( The on-line magazine Freundin ( has tests under "facts." Herzblatt ( is related to a German flirt show and has a relationship test.


In this article, we have reviewed several different forms of technology and its use in foreign language instruction. The discussion described several advantages and disadvantages that were of importance for the structure of our Internet exercises, including the structure of a standard task-based framework. Technology and the task-based approach then served as the basis for six exercises developed for beginning German instruction. These activities demonstrate that the use of technology can be used well in combination with the task-based approach. By implementing the task-based framework for these exercises, we were able to provide our students the chance to use authentic German Web sites that would have been otherwise too difficult for them because of their level of proficiency in German.



1 It should be noted that there are also indications of new discursive environments being created. For example, emotions are communicated with pictures (e.g., the typographical representation of the smiley face, :-)). In addition, students have fewer nonverbal cues and follow different turn-taking rules. These differences are important because students are more spontaneous about sharing ideas, and minority issues are better represented. Finally, students seem to be more highly motivated. They feel as though they are in a safer environment and can communicate without risk in an anonymous manner (Salaberry, 1996; Warschauer, 1997).

2 McArthur and Lewis (1998), perhaps somewhat optimistically, outline university use of computer technology in terms of its usefulness for reducing costs and increasing productivity as well as educational interest in distance learning and open universities.

3 For detailed discussions of this approach, see Larsen-Freeman, 1986; Brumfit and Johnson, 1979; Brumfit, 1986; Higgs and Clifton, 1982; Johnson and Morrow, 1981; Littlewood, 1979; Widdowson, 1979, 1990.

4 For discussions of the task-based syllabus, see Nunan, 1988; Long and Crookes, 1992; Sheen, 1994; Lee, 2000.

5 It still has not been agreed on what defines a task, especially since a task is not really the same as other communicative activities (Lee, 1995).

6 Widdowson (1979) is of a different opinion. He feels that pedagogic tasks can be beneficial without being realistic or authentic.

7 Pica et al. (1993) also mention a jigsaw activity, where a two-way flow of communication takes place and learners end up with one outcome and decision-making task. No specific solution is expected, but all participants have to agree on an outcome.


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Michael Hager has professional training in Second Language Acquisition and extensive work experience in the German business world. He lived in Berlin for almost 20 years, and completed his Dr. Phil. in Germanistik at the Free University of Berlin. His dissertation dealt with the pronunciation of ü and ö in German by American, Chinese, and Turkish speakers. He also worked for approximately 14 years at Siemens AG in Berlin teaching English to management and German as a Second Language to foreign businessmen and engineers. He is currently in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures at the Pennsylvania State University where he is responsible for Business German and organizes and coordinates the first two years of German language study.

Maya Shastri was a graduate student at the Pennsylvania State University. As a teaching assistant, she developed an intense interest in teaching methodology and second language acquisition. She has been involved in projects such as the Language 3 Initiative, which first brought computers into the language classroom, and the development of pedagogically sound web exercises for use in the language classroom.

Elisabeth Schmitt is a native German who completed her M.A. degree in German literature in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Literatures and Languages at the Pennsylvania State University where she taught first and second semester German classes. She is also interested in teaching literature as she did in fall 1999 for the Comparative Literature Department. In all her courses, she has used the facilities of the Web as important source of teaching material and makes use of computer technology in general. At present, she is completing her studies at an university in Augsburg, Germany.

Annika Rieper is a native German who was an exchange student in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Literatures and Languages at the Pennsylvania State University where she taught first and second semester German classes. She is interested in foreign language teaching methodology. She presently is studying Psychology at the University in Hannover, Germany.


Michael Hager, Maya Shastri, Elisabeth Schmitt, Annika Rieper

Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures

311 Burrowes Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-6203

Phone: 814/863-7487

Fax: 814/865-5482

E-mail: Michael Hager,; Annika Rieper,; Elisabeth Schmitt,; Maya Shastri,