Comet is the name of a set of templates that language teachers can use to create multimedia instructional materials in nearly any language. Developed by the Center for Language Study at Yale University, the Comet templates simplify the authoring of online materials by allowing instructors to focus more on pedagogical intent and foreign language content than on technical details of design and implementation. (The name COMET is an acronym for COurse Materials and Exercise Templates.)
Each Comet template is a web-based application in which an author (usually a language teacher or someone working with an experienced teacher) can create one or more activities. Typically an author will work on one activity at a time, such as the annotation of one story or the development of one online quiz. Templates that comprise Comet are:
Most of the Comet templates make use of media files, such as images, videos, or audio clips. These files are typically prepared in advanced and uploaded to a web server prior to authoring the activity in the template; this may be the same server that hosts the template applications, though it does not have to be, since the author simply supplies the templates with the addresses (URLs) of the media files. At Yale, most of these media files are kept on the same server the runs the templates, called comet.cls.yale.edu. This web server also hosts several other web-based applications and foreign language course materials, including a few that were not developed using the templates.
- ART - readings annotated with text, audio, and video
- VISION - video with vocabulary and quizzes
- CRAFT - a tool that facilitates reading of authentic texts found on the web
- Picture Dictionary - multimedia vocabulary lists, flashcards, and quizzes
- Exercises - multiple-choice, matching, fill-in the blank, and short answer questions
- Listening Options - a tool for comparing recordings of audio spoken more than one way
- Lecture Notes - note-taking practice for students in foreign language lectures
- Dictation - practice with listening and writing
- Grammar Concepts - searchable explanations of grammar points and other topics
Materials created with Comet templates may be designed for use in class, as course-related homework, or for independent study. Several templates are especially well suited for the study of language and culture in the context of a specific discipline or area of professional focus (e.g. Language for Special Purposes). Teachers who create activities with the Comet templates are encouraged to introduce the activities during class time, even if students will engage with them mostly as homework; tying online activities to in-class work and promote student commitment as well as give students an opportunity to understand their own learning process better and become better life-long learners.
Partial funding for the development of Comet was provided by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education's International Research and Studies program (IRS). Though this grant concluded at the end of March 2007, work on the Comet project will continue, as the Comet development team revisits each template to complete bug fixes, unimplemented features, and more detailed documentation. The first few templates written — Vision, Picture Dictionary, Craft, and the Grammar Reference Guide — were designed as independent applications, and each works somewhat differently from the others. Subsequent templates were designed with a more consistent look and feel and are more integrated with one another. Plans are in progress to update the original templates to improve performance, add new features, and integrate them with the user interface shared by the newer components of Comet. The Center for Language Study is also exploring ways to extend support for Comet to our colleagues at other higher ed institutions.