Box of Tricks generally focuses on free-to-use web applications and software, however, on this occasion, and for the second guest post in the series Technology in Modern Foreign Languages, Isabelle Jones reviews some commercial desktop applications and their potential to support assessment for learning.
Pixetell is an “on-demand software that enables you to quickly add voice, screen recordings and video to email and other electronic documents”. The twist is that Pixetell supports visual communication but also allows collaboration through sharing multimedia messages -called pixetells- and allowing discussions to take place around them.
My vision of how it could be used relies on the need for teachers to develop a more structured approach to verbal feedback to students and links directly with assessment for learning. So, I decided to test it out giving feedback to a first year student-11 years old-on a PowerPoint she had produced to learn basic animal words in Spanish. After trying out different microphones, it seems that a headset produced the best result.
What struck me the most was how uncomfortable I felt at first giving feedback that way. We always respond to other people’s body language and look out for paralinguistic clues when we are giving feedback in order to assess its impact. In many respects, feedback given through a Pixetell can be seen as fairer but I suspect some training would be needed in order to ensure that it still feels personal. Saying the student’s name, using different turns of phrases for praising and offering positive and constructive criticism are all essential.
The structure of the feedback is roughly as follows:
- description of good points/ criteria for assessment
- suggestions for improvement
- next steps (target-setting)
Used at the end of a short project, applications such as Pixetell would be a way to ensure that due praise is given to all the students that have put in the effort. I also feel that the impact on the student’s self-image as a learner would also be stronger than a well done note on paper. In addition, the students who feel that they are “too cool to be praised” could still get their pat on the back in private.
For the specific purpose of teaching languages, the benefit of including audio in teacher feedback is obvious. Students then have a model that they can use and replicate if needed. It is also not an impersonal sound file that they have to listen to in its entirety before they reach the bit that applies to them, but it supports a personalised answer to their own work. Very powerful!
If used for feedback, Pixetell would work great with private student/ teacher platforms like Edmodo for responses to individual projects, but used tactfully, example of students’ work could also be presented on a class wiki/ VLE page with oral comments included. Examples of coursework at different grades from real or imaginary students could also be included for discussion.
Have a look at an example of feedback to a pupils given through Pixetell here.
You do not need Pixetell or to download any other software in order to access a pixetell. The standard version allows for 5 minutes worth of recording but there is no limit on the more expensive pro version. There are other tools like Jing , GoView or Camtasia who offer some of the features of Pixetell, so this very useful comparison chart helps the potential user to assess whether this is the right tool for them as well as to find free alternatives for specific features. I have also found the tutorial page very helpful.
Now waiting for an Education version…