In Craft (Companion for Reading Authentic Foreign Texts), a toolbar that remains open and accessible as students navigate from page to page gives instructors a way to provide them
with relevant linguistic information, such as vocabulary lists, translations of idioms, and explanations of syntactic constructions they may encounter when reading about a given topic (see Figure 1).
Lessons can include notes (which, when open, appear in the sidebar) as well as links to readings, exercises, and web-based tools. Students can choose to open ancillary web pages in a pop-up window, thus reserving the browser window for the reading assignment.
Craft is particularly useful for the study of a specialized topic. Background and contextual information about a given topic and links to online tools, search engines, or web sites that contain more information about the topic are also made available and easy to access (see Figure 2).
Providing this information in Craft means that instructors can guide students' independent use of the web as an information resource. For example, while most students know how to use a search engine or online database in their native language, doing so in a second language may present unexpected challenges. To help with these, instructors can provide links to credible sources and recommended starting points for searches, along with tips on how to search effectively in the second language (using diacritical marks, variations on traditional spellings, etc.). Finally, instructors can post review exercises or reading comprehension questions for their students to answer. Craft records the answers and provides instructors with a web-based tool for evaluating student responses and providing written feedback.
Instructors can use Craft to provide students with background context as well as linguistic explanations such as important vocabulary or explanations of idioms. Students can review this helpful information while keeping the reading assignment in the main browser window.
In addition to allowing students access to information supplied by their instructors, Craft includes tools for students as they read online materials. Students using the software have their own electronic notebooks for recording notes, useful vocabulary words, addresses of web sites they've found, or other text they want to remember for later. Since these online notebooks are stored on a server, students can view them from any networked computer (see Figure 3).
Students can record notes to themselves and web addresses in their own electronic notebooks within Craft. They can return to these notes later to help them with research or in understanding subsequent reading assignments.