The original ESL-Group Website and Pen-Friends site were created in 1997 on Geocities.Com free homepages and they were created to house my students' homepages. At that time I was teaching English to mainly Swiss, Korean, and Japanese students in Queensland, Australia. At the school where I was teaching they provided an English Activities Options Afternoon on Fridays and this I saw as an opportunity to experiment with "Internet as a learning tool".
A few points that I wish to mention:
- At that time there were many theories about learning and the WWW but very little evidence to support them (mainly rhetorical).
- There were relatively few quality EFL / ESL sites on the WWW.
- There were very few sites offering Free ESL / EFL learning materials, and
- Very few teachers were actually using the WWW for practical teaching and learning.
- Now we are perhaps more aware of the general issues associated with using the www for teaching and learning in the classroom.
The primary objectives of our activities were to encourage the students to participate in writing (homepage content) and to practice communicating in English via E-Mail. As a side benefit they learned how to build a homepage using HTML and some of them became technology enthusiasts.
I have long since left that school and moved to Indonesia, and consequently the site now serves mainly as a source of information and links to our Friends Groups and other Useful Websites. The main reasons for the change were that most of the links to my past student websites began to become inactive (not being updated) and also more recently Geocities itself closed down totally. There were also many new and excellent ESL websites developing by that time. I now about 70 active education sites to maintain, so time constraints are also a major issue.
However, because of my own difficulties sorting through the maze of ESL / EFL websites that are currently available (my bookmarks list is frightening), and with new sites coming online almost every day I decided to resurrect the site because I can now see a very import role for the ESL-Group website for both myself and my current and future students. The Pen-Friends site was created for students as a venue for finding friends and practicing English. I hope it still has a useful role as a source for establishing friendships and perhaps more. I now have five thematic Facebooks, but off-topic and junk inputs (mainly advertising) are constant issues.
For ESL / EFL students the site will provide an opportunity to promote their personal websites, access our Pen-friends links, and easily locate quality free learning resources from around the globe.
For ESL / EFL teachers the site will remain a resource (together with Teachers' Corner) for contacting other teachers, finding useful ESL / EFL links to resources, and a general medium for communication.
January 31, 2004 (updated May 16, 2012)