(reviewed Fall 2008)
Reviewer: Paul Williams
Recommendation: Recommended with Reservations
Karin’s ESL Party Land is an interactive independent Web site directed towards ESL students and teachers. The site provides resources to help students improve their reading, writing, and speaking skills. A quiz center, learning pages, discussion forums, student e-mail exchange, and educational links are the resources for students to take advantage of. Students can elect to focus their learning interests through the featured learning pages that highlight common social life themes pertaining to dating and relationships, food and dining, the internet, movies, music, travel, and the media. This establishes a foundation for ESL students to learn from basic, intermediate, and advance levels to improve conversational skills in public situations. Karin’s ESL Party Land was created by Karen Cintron in March of 1999 as she searched for easier ways for ESL students to have access to learning outside of the classroom. Cintron has taught ESL all over the world, but currently resides and teaches ESL in San Francisco, California. The Web site is updated and financed by Cintron’s family, friends, and colleagues, but she encourages and welcomes donations.
Although Karin’s ESL Party Land targets both ESL/EFL teachers and students, this evaluation will focus on the site’s materials for students. Karin’s ESL Party land is a fun and accessible Web site, but I recommend this site with reservations. Although the site promotes “easy access to learning English,” the content, themes, and learning modules lack an academic vision, and visitors should evaluate their learning needs in comparisons with the offerings that this site provides.
The importance of accessible learning is great in many forms, but the author neglects to inform her audience of her professional training and experience. Under the “Hostess” icon, in an informal introduction, Cintron indicates that she teaches ESL at a private language school in San Francisco, with no mention of the name of the school. Cintron also does not reveal her educational background, her degrees or certificates, which leaves users with no educational information on the educator. In a Web search to find possible indications of her educational background, nothing was found; even sending an e-mail to Cintron, as suggested on the site for additional questions and suggestions, failed to produce a response.
In reviewing the content and themes of this Web site, the title “ESL Party Land” connotes just that. Cintron’s approach to learning appears to be very playful and the chronologies in which the contents are organized seem to support this idea. The order of importance is aimed at the “party” aspects of learning, with an abundance of entertainment connections, with grammar and more academic exercises shadowed as sub-points rather than main points. Although Web site users have the choice in going to desired categories of interest, an overwhelming advertisement of entertainment themes are pronounced which can be distracting and perhaps can sway learners into areas that should be concentrated on at later stages in learning.
The “Quiz Center” section of the site was organized in a manner opposite to the suggested themes of entertainment and social life. There is a “Business English” section followed by “Grammar” “Reading” and “Useful expression.” These sections have levels ranging from easy to difficult, but lack an informative lecture and/or examples before users start the quiz. There are hints to help users along the way and immediate scores inform users of areas in which they need to review. The information is useful for ESL learners, but there are no variations with the quizzes, and updates do not seem regular.
The “Discussion Center” section allows ESL learners to discuss special topics of interests. There are categories such as extreme sports, news and currents events, and learning languages, Cintron poses questions in each section to help start the conversation for potential site users. This is a very interactive section of the site; anyone can engage in conversation and possibly make friendships and learn from others all over the world.
As a final note, the site directs students to more populated ESL Web sites for resources; however, some of the Web sites no longer exist. The last indicated update for this site was August 5, 2001, and many discussion topics, especially under current events, should be revised.
A few awards from associations such as Blue Web’n Library and Community Learning Network suggests that the site provides useful resources, but information about the awards was limited.
Overall, Karin’s ESL Party Land has fun and interactive resources for some of its users. However, for those looking to have access to a more organized academic learning Web site, this may not suit those needs.
Subject Headings: ESL students, social networking, community-based language learning