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AMEP Research Centre

Issues in English 2

Issues in English 2
Produced by Protea Textware Pty Ltd

  This review looks at Issues in English 2 , International Version, released on September 30, 2004.

If you and your students loved the original Issues then you will find, as I did, that its companion, Issues in English 2, is a fantastic addition to the online resources. It is designed for learners aged 12 to adult, with over 700 hours of interactive vocabulary, grammar, comprehension, reading and writing activities, including all the same types of exercises as the original - plus some great new ones. I particularly like the new listening to identify errors activity which includes listening, recalling and writing in small achievable chunks. I prefer this to the longer dictation activity from the original. The design, layout and navigation are very user friendly and encourage good online learning habits.

The exercises are based on 32 video clips of conversations or interviews presenting opinions or information. They are grouped into eight topics of particular relevance and interest to adults: sport, wilderness, fame, media, technology, languages, immigration and education . The topics, while continuing to raise issues, are not all as heavy and possibly black and white as the original Issues.

The program is suitable both for integration within a class environment and for individual study. The 4 levels of activities available for each topic are designed for a similar language and literacy range as the original - from post beginner to advanced. The program gives help and feedback on the learner's input but also includes a Test Mode . Students can work through a topic level in the default Learn Mode with all the correction and feedback support and, when they feel ready, they can change to Test Mode.

I was greatly relieved to find the default for printing is locked. You can unlock printing if you want to print worksheets, answer sheets, test results, tutorials or combinations of these.

The manual is brief but covers all the basics and the personnel at Protea are, as always, very helpful. The program encourages the learner to think, question, research, and solve problems.

I am always looking for a degree of interaction with other learners in our online resources and this is not inbuilt in the program, but there is potential for classroom activities to be developed from the package and, if used as part of an integrated learning environment, opportunities could easily be created to include small group and pair work as part of using the program.

This version also includes a learner management system with the capacity to track and report on student use. Classes and students' access pins were easy to set up. Reports were easy to generate and understand. If this is an important feature for you, do check with your IT support and Protea that it will, in fact, function in your network environment.

While looking at network issues – the reality now for ESL computer labs, there are some great new features that encourage students to take their time to reflect and prepare quality written responses: an icon that opens Windows' Notepad program, and icons that open the c:drive and network drives to save to, or open, a saved document from. While excellent for a home user these will require special setups to work correctly on a network, without compromising the security of the network, for example; students could possibly access, open, save to and delete from, hidden drives on the server. They could save to the c: drive on a PC which will, depending on your network setup, be deleted automatically on a regular basis, or not be accessible to the student.

These are not negatives in the program – quite the opposite, but they do need special consideration and drawing to the attention of your IT support when setting up the program.

One last word on the original Issues - don't throw it away even if you need a change of Issue! It continues to be popular and effective with our students. Better to add Issues 2 as another great Australian online resource.

Reviewed by Dorothy Waterhouse, Project Teacher, NSW AMES 2005