We all know that any product or software can have either positive, negative or both types of feedbacks. Whatever the case is we always welcome our users, parents, educators, or any other ESL expert to review Mingoville and give us the most honest comment.
When we find positive things mentioned about Mingoville (like this one), we gladly circulate the news across the Mingoville company. What we’ve recently found about Mingoville has blown our minds away. Here is the long story short …
It appears to us that some school or university in Malaysia has recently had a class assignment, the objective of which is to evaluate the Mingoville program as an online English learning course for children.
To be honest, we were very flattered to know that Mingoville has been the subject of such a review by the next generation of young English teachers.
Here are some of the links to the final assignment we’ve come across.
We particularly liked the evaluation by pief (Evaluation 1). You can read the complete evaluation below.
Clicking on the link is surely not a disappointment. The first impression it gives catches the attention of not only learners of English, but also teachers. Therefore, my curiosity brings my fingers into scrolling the cursor right on top of the button that says “SIGN UP NOW IT’s FREE!” I clicked on the link, registered myself, and these are the things that I’ve analyzed.
What does the application attempt to “teach”?
“Teaching” also carries the meaning of guidance, giving out knowledge, providing ideas, in order to improve one’s ability and competence. The website www.mingoville.com is one of the electronic applications which are concerned with a goal to provide young learners of English with interesting input for them to acquire the language effectively. The website focuses on the target users from the age of 5 to 12 years old children. As most people know, children are usually attracted to colorful graphics, animated pictures, music, and flash movies. These criteria are included in order to attract young learners into exploring the website. Gaining fascination from young learners into learning teaches them that learning is not restricted only to a boring teacher-talk. With enhanced attention, the website allows the learners to learn through tons of activities provided. In a traditional classroom, learning is usually dull and dreaded by students. By implementing the theme of “Flamingos”, which are called “Mingo” in the application, it helps the student to have a different view towards the website. The game-like website teaches children to learn English in a whole new way.
The interactive features and animation helps to improve learners in their listening and speaking skills, spelling, reading, and a number of activities to improve writing. Listening and speaking skills can be exercised throughout the whole way. The “Mingos” will interact with the learners at all times which will help to improve their listening skills. A dialogue box appears each time the “Mingos” is interacting with the learners. This helps the learners to understand what is being said by the “Mingo” by reading the provided text. There are also reading exercises included in the activities. Reading activities are put into practice in a form of a book. The reading texts are provided on the left side of the book and on the right side of the book is filled with colorful illustration. Learners can choose whether to read on their own or to repeat what is read by the “Mingo”. Other exercises and games also promote improvement of all the skills. The website is not designed to teach grammatical structures and rules to students. Its focus is for learners to enhance their skills through all sorts of interesting activities. Furthermore, the application included an interesting “Dictionary” feature where learners can refer to whenever they want to find a meaning of a word or how it is pronounced. This feature not only increases learners’ vocabulary and pronunciation, but also teaches learners dictionary skills.
In addition, learners are also able to increase their skills in computer literacy. With guidance from parents and teachers, young learners can discover that the internet can be used for educational purposes. In order to achieve the things that are mentioned, teachers and parents should be alert with what magnetize the interest of children and see E-learning as one of the alternatives of learning in the modern age.
What sorts of things is the application users expected to do with regards to learning the content?
Adapting to the new technology, teachers should have adequate skill in the use of information technology. Given that that the website is intended for young learners, teachers or parents should be able to guide the learners in using the internet and use it wisely. It is advisable that adults facilitate the learners along the learning process. The website requires uses to sign in before they are able to fully utilize the application. However, signing up is not a problem at all as there is no underlying cost and the process of registering takes only a few minutes. The application requires users to sign up so that they can create their own profile. This adds in another interesting aspect of the website. Learners are able to keep tracks of their progress and save their activities and exercises. After a complete sign up, learners can freely explore the website without worrying that they will only be able to use it for only a certain period of time. (This is due to the reason that some educational websites offers only free trials.) However, the users need to have a media Flash Player to be able to use the application. The computer used by the learners should also be well-equipped with a speaker. A microphone is not necessary as speaking can be practiced without the use of microphone.
Learners are advised to follow choose the content for them to explore according to the sequence of numbers. For example, the first topic, “The Family” provides learners with the most basic use of grammar which is the verb-to-be. The following topic after that will introduce another grammar feature which is one level higher. However, learners can choose the topics to exercise according to their preferences if they want to. Under each topic, there are more than 10 activities for learners to choose. These activities cover different skills for the children to develop. As an example, if a learner aims to improve their vocabulary, they can choose the “Transmogrifier” activity. Through the game of “Pacman”, the learners can practice their spelling ability. As young learners, there might be some words which they do not understand. This is where the role of the “Dictionary” takes place.
Users will not lose the activities they had done when they exited the application. They can always save their activities, homework, and portfolios in “My Book”.
What sorts of computer skills the application users expected to have in order to operate/access/use the application?
As mentioned in the above question, parents and teachers may conduct the learners in using the application. However, it is not a difficult task for children once they are connected to the internet. Teachers and parents can set a bookmark on the web page so that it is easier for children to navigate to the website. Nowadays, children above six years old are typically exposed to the use of computers. In order to be use the website application, they only need to have basic skills in using the computer. Most of the activities can be perform by moving the cursor and clicking the mouse. The navigation tabs are easy to control given that it blinks when the cursor runs on top of it. The pictures also help learners to be able to choose the topics they want. There are certain activities and games that require the learners to drag-and-drop words and pictures using the mouse. There are only few numbers of activities which demand learners to type in the answers. However, typing is another basic task which children can easily learn. For learners under the age of 7, it is advisable that the parent or teacher is there to facilitate the child.
While you are “playing”/”accessing”/assessing” the application, does it remind you of anything you do in a classroom, or with a teacher, or with a fellow classmate, or in self-study?
There are usually different methods used by teachers in order to inspire students in language learning. Language learning needed not only drills, but also activities which promotes the use of the language in speaking, ability to initiate in conversation, understanding the context, and having able to use the language in different situations. During my days in schools, there are teachers who put much effort in helping to students to excel in these areas of language use rather than just memorizing rules to score in exams. Sadly, only most kindergarten and primary school teachers use all sorts of activities such as in the application. The difference is that it does not involve the use of computers. (During my time in school, language e-learning is not yet famous in our education system.) However, the activities do have some related features as to the Mingoville. The activities such as matching words with pictures, singing songs, and listening to texts played by the radio, do stay in my beautiful memory as a school student.
What attracted me the most in the website is the sing-a-long section. I remembered using songs as one of me and my friends’ learning style. We memorized words and definitions through songs to make it more fun and less forgettable. It was quite an effective way.
I had never tried e-learning when I was a student in school. However, when I started becoming a teacher last semester, e-learning has been my most interest. My experience shows that students love experiencing something that is out of the traditional method of learning. Having the power to control their own learning process, it motivates and inspires them to use language more. Furthermore, this type of electronic application helps teachers to save costs in order to have interesting activities in the classroom. A wide range of activities provided by Mingoville are mostly applicable not only at home, but also in the classroom.
Can u pinpoint some theories of language learning and/or teaching underlying the application?
We see that there are many theories about the learning and teaching of languages have been proposed. Mingoville promotes the language learning method which agrees that language is acquired, not taught. Throughout the whole journey of the website, there is not even a single term or rules of grammar shown or explained. Chomsky postulated that all normal human beings are born with a Language Acquisition Device (LAD) which enables them to develop language from an innate set of principles which he called the Universal Grammar (UG). However, his theory is mainly focused on first language learners.
This leads to the term of “interlanguage” (IL) , where an intermediate system is created while the learner is trying to come to terms with the target language, Selinker (1972) who viewed learner errors as evidence of positive efforts by the student to learn the new language. This view of language learning allowed for the possibility of learners making deliberate attempts to control their own learning. This also explains the technique used by the Mingoville which clearly refuses the explanation of grammar rules but promote learners to repeatedly try to get the correct answers. Furthermore, the website promotes the natural way of learning the language but add in some exercises for the learners to provide learners with chances to use the language.
“Language acquisition does not require extensive use of conscious grammatical rules, and does not require tedious drill.” (Stephen Krashen). The wide input given through the speeches by the “Mingos” supports the Krashen’s theory of Input hypotheses. Krashen agrees that human learns a language through messages and “comprehensible input” which is supplied in low anxiety situations. This condition can be greatly found in the http://www.mingoville.com/ as it encourages students’ motivation in learning through the fun activities and fancy games rather than drills that requires memorization.
Bruner in 1961 contends learning through discovery is necessary for retention of knowledge. His theory is also applicable for Mingoville’s method of learning. Burner also argues that discovery is necessary for recall possession, of knowledge, that it has certain unique motivational advantages and organics knowledge effectively for later use and promotes long term retention. In the website, learners are required to learn by themselves without being taught by rules and explanation. This also relates to the constructivist theory of learning which is explained in the nest question.
How well is the constructivist theory of learning applied to the chosen website(s)?
The concept proposed by theorists such as Dewey, Piaget and Vygotsky, as cited in Brown (2000), imply that knowledge is constructed by ourselves as we learn. According to Dewey, Learning is an active process in which the learner uses sensory input and constructs meaning out of it. He came up with a term of an active learner where the learner engages in activities in order to achieve a particular knowledge. The huge amount of language activities available in the website highly supports this theory. The activities and games in the application inspire learners to construct their own meaning throughout the activity. The web also intimately associates the learner with a connection with their own lives. Children may not be able to learn when the facts and theories presented are not related to their previous knowledge. Sticking to what relate to the learners’ basic lives, the website is able to connect with the learners’ schemata and therefore create a meaningful learning. The topics presented in the website relates to what most children may have experienced in their social activity. This relates to Jean Piaget’s idea that through processes of accommodation and assimilation, individuals construct new knowledge from their experiences.
Furthermore, a well use of a constructivist theory in this website is shown through activities which engage the mind as well as the hands. Social constructivism emphasizes the importance of the learner being actively involved in the learning process, unlike previous educational belief where the responsibility rested with the teacher to teach and the learner played a passive, receptive role. This theory is successfully carried out by the website as learners are most encouraged to explore on their own and discover their own journey to gain knowledge.
According to constructivists approach, the instructor plays the role as the facilitator in conducting the learning process of the learners. This application has the least need for teachers to explain ideas and rules to the learners. Through exploration of the website, the learners will gain their own knowledge step by step. This kind of experience promotes to an intrinsic motivation for the learners when they are able to solve their own puzzle and mysteries.
In 1980s and early 1990s there was a major debate on whether the computer was “master” of or “slave” to the learning process (Higgins and Johns, 1984.) In relation to your evaluation – was the computer a replacement for teachers or merely an obedient servant to students?
The opportunities to pursue educational objectives through the use of the computer are emerging worldwide at a very rapid rate and in many different forms. They are variously described as e-courses, web courses, virtual learning, on-line courses, digital courses etc. The learners are attracted by their convenience and affordable cost to acquire additional knowledge and qualifications. Yet the process has not yet matured to the level of confidence seen in the conventional system of teaching and learning. Thus, computer is not a replacement for teachers. I extremely agree that the use of computer technology has become an obedient servant to students from what we can see now. It has not yet achieved the level where the technology can be a replacement for teachers. Even with the existence of vast technology that may provide students with knowledge an exercises, the role of a teacher is still needed to ensure a well production of our students. Yes, I’ve mentioned in the previous questions on how this application can give learners the chance to experience learning independently, but however, teachers play a central role in teaching and learning. Especially in the language learning, learners will need to have an interaction with a human being to be able to communicate effectively and accurately according to a situation. A computer wouldn’t be able to deliver an authentic firsthand experience for students to practice human communication.
Therefore, I strongly do not agree that computers can ever replace teachers. We are living in the real world where our needs do not only rely on something we can download from the internet. Learning process comes from different aspects in our lives. It includes experience, social relationship, adaptation of situation, and the opportunities to pursue educational objectives through e-learning are emerging worldwide at a very rapid rate and in many different forms. They are variously described as e-courses, web courses, virtual learning, on-line courses, digital courses etc. The learners are attracted by their convenience and affordable cost to acquire additional knowledge and qualifications. Yet the process has not yet matured to the level of confidence seen in the conventional system of teaching and learning, and consequences of mistakes done by a person. In the context of language learning, all of these aspects are also important for a leaner of a language to understand the whole concept of the language rather than just knowing the correct grammar in speaking the language.
Would you like to use the application yourself in your future work?
Absolutely, YES. The application owns a full package with a well-organized layout, fancy elements, and accurate content. The application can become a good supplementary authentic material in the classroom. Teachers should be concerned not only with “finding the best method or with getting the correct answer” but also with assisting a student in order to “enable him to learn on his own” (Rubin 1975, p.45). For that reason, I see this application as a useful website which may help my students in improving their language skills.
Teachers may conduct the activity in classroom by focusing on the topics to be learnt or easily select which activity should be used for covering a certain topic. It is not necessary for the teachers to follow the online given by the website in planning the lesson. Teachers have the power to pick and select what is useful for the learners. These factors attract me the most because some of the clips, songs, and pictures can be used for different objectives of a lesson based on the teachers’ own creativity. Plus, the application does not only generate games for young learners but also provide teachers with exercise worksheets that can be used in the classroom.
From my point of view, the website is simply almost perfect. But as people always say, nothing is perfect. The website has practically everything which include information for schools, guidance for the teachers and parents, live podcast, a blog, and the availability of the website in different other languages. Therefore, there is not much to suggest. Only that, I feel that other than the blog, Mingoville can also come up with a Forum section where teachers and parents can discuss and voice out their insights. This will not only give the website a room for improvement, but also allows teachers to share ideas in implementing the website in their language lessons.
Other than that, I would like to suggest our schools in Malaysia to see online E-learning as a new way in our modern education. It is not wrong to put an alternative which may help in improving the quality in our education. Schools are allowed to associate with Mingoville in order to produce a well-competent student in our globalized world. Teachers and student can easily use the application for an English lesson. However, it might not be applicable in some schools because the lack of access to the technology of computers and internet. The schools around urban areas may take E-learning into consideration as many students enjoy it. As for the rural schools, the government should give them the chance to explore such amusement in learning so they can participate in the technological growth.
This website can become a starting point for teachers to see how deliverance of knowledge can come in different ways. Following to that factor, i suggests that our teachers will step outside the box and starts having new ways in classroom instruction. Just believe that we are capable of anything.
1. Brown, H.D (2000). Principles of Language Learning and Teaching. New York: Longman.
2. Brown, H.D (2001). Teaching by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy. New York:
3. Yule, G. (2004). The study of Language. United Kingdom: Cambridge. “