Firstfind.info is a directory of websites that provides basic information on a number of topics. This site was produced by the Westchester Library System in New York. Although the website is American, a lot of the information provided is general enough to be useful to anyone. All of the websites have been reviewed by librarians for accuracy and ease of use. This site covers topics including Computers & Technology, Education, Family, The American System of Government, Health, History, Housing, US Immigration, Jobs & Job Training, Legal Issues, Magazines Online, Money Matters and Transportation & Travel Maps.
The topic of most interest for this review is the Computers & Technology section. There is a wealth of useful information here, broken down into the following areas: Finding A Computer Class in Your Community (only for Massachusetts and New York), Learning about Computers and Software Online, Connecting with the Internet, Buying a Computer and Computer Problems.
Also included with this site is a very useful HELP section. Clear screen captures help to explain the basics of the Internet to first time users. Easy to read explanations have been added to these graphics as labels, so the amount of reading required is quite limited. The Help section covers topics including the Internet, websites, home pages, links, search tools, common icons, changing print size, printing, scrolling, and basic troubleshooting. The creators have also included instructions on how to use this site and very useful information on how to use PDF files.
Other than the areas that are only of use to Americans, the only drawback to this site is that some of the texts may be too advanced for literacy learners. In general though, this is a valuable site that could provide the literacy learner with a lot of very easily accessible, useful and current information.
Randalls Listening Lab has a wealth of material that could be useful for literacy learners. Although this site is intended primarily for ESL learners to practise listening to authentic conversations, learners can improve their literacy skills by reading the text as they listen and doing the text completion quizzes.
The General Listening Quizzes are divided into three levels: Easy, Medium, and Difficult. Each level has a list of about 25 topics of everyday conversation. After selecting a topic, the learner can click on Play Audio, which accesses Real Player. The voices are clear and varied, with authentic background noise. A few of the listening quizzes have a Play Audio Captioned Version button. This scrolls through the text a few lines at a time as the conversation is spoken. Because the captioned lines move quickly, The Quiz Script button is probably more useful for reading practice, and is present in all of the topics. The script can be read while listening to the conversation, and key vocabulary words are highlighted in pink. When the cursor is placed on one of these words, a definition box pops up. Most of the topics also have text completion quizzes. These are cloze exercises to be filled in while listening to the conversations. The Listening Exercises contain multiple-choice questions which require reading and selecting the best answer. Pre- Listening and Post-Listening Exercises are intended for discussion, but they could be used as writing topics for a literacy class. Randalls is a large and well-maintained site with a variety of applications for literacy learning.
The Book of Changes is an online collection of stories from learners across Canada. It is a project of the Movement for Canadian Literacys (MCL) Learners Advisory Network. The stories were originally written for display at Literacy Action Day in October of 2001.
There are alphabetized links for each province and territory. Within these links the authors are listed alphabetically by first name. The stories vary widely in length and writing proficiency. Some are only two or three sentences, and have grammatical and spelling errors. Others are several paragraphs long and are written at an advanced level. They are all testimonials as to how the acquisition of literacy has enriched the lives of the authors.
This website is designed in a simple, user friendly manner. The text is clear and easy to read. These stories could be used for reading practice or as modeling for learners to write their own stories based on their literacy experiences.
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