Monday, 9 June 2014

Video-making with ELT purposes

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In previous entries, I have reflected on the use of technology in ELT, from the different types of technology-enhanced learning, through the web itself, to specific applications and programs. All this focused on how these technologies help us improve the quality of our teaching and make our students’ learning more dynamic. Every day, new tools to deliver information are created and it is part of our development as teachers to learn how to use them or at least be aware of their potential for future projects where our learners are exposed to a larger amount of real material and also to more opportunities of interaction.

I mentioned recently how broadcasting technologies are a boom in ELT research. Every day, more and more tools are developed to record and store audio and video on the web, and more and more research is being carried out on how we can take the best out of these technologies to improve our students learning and give them, and us, more ways to use our knowledge and put into practice everything we learn. One of the less explored, but at the same time one that seems really promising, is the use of videos, screencasts and slideshares in the classroom. 

Teachers can use a variety of video editing programs such as Movie Maker to create educational videos either to use in class or to provide students with some extra practice outside the classroom. These videos can be uploaded to a host page such as YouTube, where our students would be able to access them anytime and anywhere. Nowadays, we have many programs that facilitate video-making, not only to install in our computers, but also web-based platforms. And with these programs we can create videos out of pictures and voice recording, but we can also record whatever we do in our computer!

Before I go any further, it is convenient to define this last type of video-recording: screencasting. It is basically the digital recording of whatever we do in our computer screen, which can and is usually accompanied by voiceover narration. We can screencast by using a Screen Capture Software (SCS), such as Screen-o-matic, Jing, Screenr, CamStudio, Tildee, all of which are free, and also paid software like Camtasia. This type of video has been used in a variety of fields so far, but pedagogically it seems to be more commonly used to create tutorials or to extend classroom lectures. Its use has been reported to be really successful when it comes to providing students with information and additional access to teaching and materials. The possibilities opened by this asynchronous access to learning materials, not only help us teachers whenever we need to make up for missed classes, but also to review materials given in class. 

Apart form this, screencasting has also proven to be useful to respond and give feedback to our students assignments, specifically those submitted in an electronic format such as a Word document, a Power Point presentation, a Web site or even a video. According to research, screencasting is a better vehicle for in depth explanatory feedback than traditional written comments: as you check your students work in your computer, you can record while you highlight and give on the spot comments or corrections to what your students have done; this material is later accessible to the students and can be watched over and over again if necessary and generate deeper reflections on the students’ own mistakes.

Overall, we could list a few of many uses for screencasting:

- To teach how to use a web tool by making a short tutorial. Here you’ll find an example of a tutorial I made on how to open a Wikispaces classroom, using Camtasia. 

- To give feedback to our students’ work.
- As video lecture.
- To make presentations.

Another useful tool is VoiceThread, a web platform where you can create your own slideshows, upload pictures, video and images; you can also add comments on these by adding your own voice.  These and many other tools I could count, but I prefer to focus on how these technologies are useful not only to make our classes more dynamic, give extra material or create a deeper connection with our students; our students can also use these tools on their own to carry out several types of activities, such as doing oral presentations, preparing projects such as making a short movie or tutorial, practise their use of the L2 and so on. 

If you’re interested in the use of screencasting in the ESL classroom I strongly recommend you to read this article by Riki Thompson and Meredith J. Lee, ‘Talking with Students Through Screencasting: Experimentation with Video Feedback to Improve Student Learning”. In this article, the authors reflect on how important it is to give constructive feedback to our students, particularly written work, and how screencasting is a potential tool to respond to assignments submitted in an electronic format.

I recommend you to have a look at this post by Deniz Atesok as well, ‘VoiceThread & Ways of Using it in EFL/ESL classes’. Here you may find some very good ideas and activities that can benefit from the use of a tool such as VoiceThread.

Deniz Atesok also gives us some tips and ideas on how to use YouTube videos in the post ‘Using YouTube to Teach Productive Skills’. Apart from learning how to make a video for our classroom, it is part of our development as teachers to learn how to use existent material, specially realia, that is available on the web for us to take as much advantage as we can of ICTs:
Finally, I found this video on YouTube about an ESL course whose project was to make a video. It is a sample of how students can practice their language through task-based learning, in a collaborative environment and using information and communication technologies:

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