I am a real fan of WordPress, which is, in my opinion, the most flexible and reliable of all self-hosted blogging platforms (hosted WordPress is also available). One of the reasons why WordPress is so flexible is that there are thousands of plug-ins offering additional functionality.
On this occasion I will be using a video shot with our Flip Camera HD and hosted at Vimeo and a plug in called Quizzin that allows you to create quizzes, that is to say, self-marking exercises within your blog posts.
Recording your own classroom videos can be an excellent way to assess your students at end of an unit if used in conjunction with a blog or VLE.
In this case, the video was recorded by Year 10 pupils (14 year olds) at the beginning of this Autumn Term with two aims in mind:
These Year 10 pupils only started learning Spanish last year, so recording something like this straight after the Summer holidays was a good way to recall previously learned language
I wanted to use this video in the assessing of Year 9 and Year 7 pupils ( 13 and 11 year olds respectively) who are starting Spanish ab initio
The Older Pupils Perspective
My Year 10 pupils were therefore tasked with the production of a video for the Department’s blog showcasing the series of questions and answers that beginner groups in Years 7 and 9 are required to learn by the end of our first unit of work.
The majority of my Year 10 pupils seized this opportunity to recap previous learning in a different, more creative and engaging way. Some pupils, however, were embarrassed by the prospect of appearing in a video. They opted not to be filmed but participated actively in both the scripting and filming of the piece.
The video was filmed with our little Flip Mino HD, which I thoroughly recommend for classroom use due to its quality and simplicity, and I then edited it using iMovie. A similar result can be achieved in Windows Movie Maker if you use a PC.
The whole process of devising and filming the video took around 20 minutes of a 40 minute lesson. The editing was done later on and took another 20 minutes or so.
Earlier this year, my Year 9 class and I embarked on a project that aimed to turn a really boring topic – classroom vocabulary – into something a little more memorable: the making of a short film.
What you need :
Basic film editing software
A classroom full of stars in the making
The drive to make lessons fun, interesting and engaging
The project only took two 40-minute lessons and this is how we did it:
Using a variety of teaching strategies ranging from the traditional repetition and kinaesthetic approach to interactive whiteboard based memory games and listening exercises, the class was introduced to the target classroom vocabulary and expressions such as stand up, sit down, I need a pen please, etc.
Once they had become familiar with the vocabulary I announced to great excitement that our next lesson would be dedicated to scripting the dialogue for a film which we would record and then publish on our departmental website.
It was great to see students arrive to our next lesson in very good spirits practising the vocabulary we learned in the previous lesson, eager to get started on the script and looking forward to filming.
During the first 20 minutes of the lesson, and with my only intervention being that of moderator and occasional adjudicator, the group (21 students) discussed what they would like to see happening in the film, drawing from the vocabulary and expressions they had learnt recently.
Boys would suggest expressions and scenes and then they would decide which to script in and in what order. Once agreement was reached all students would write down the same script.
The last 20 minutes were dedicated to actual filming using our Flip Video Mino digital video camera. My students had scripted their own film and they then took turns to act out, direct scenes and film. As you can see above, at this point I was simply another actor following the script the boys had written for me.
We used a Flip Video Mino Digital Camcorder, which is extremely easy to use for both students and teachers. One big red button to press to start recording – the same big red button to stop.
The Flip camera used for this filming was not high definition (HD). Our department has since acquired a Flip Mino HD and I have to say the little extra cost is perfectly justified given the fantastic quality of its output.
Only basic film editing software is required to achieve results such as the above. We used Apple’s iMovie on this occasion but PC users could just as easily use Windows Movie Maker.
I edited the film from the raw footage provided by my students. However, if you are not familiar with film editing software, you shouldn’t be discouraged from taking on a project like this one, as I am sure your students would gladly edit the film for you.
We will probably not win a Bafta or an Oscar for our efforts but we certainly succeeded in learning vocabulary and expressions from a topic which is otherwise dull and uninspiring in an imaginative, stimulating and creative way.
What do you think? Is this something you can see yourself trying?
Technology is like electricity: it’s pervasive, it’s everywhere… it’s useful. We ignore it at our peril. We wouldn’t expect our pupils to read by candlelight or to write on wax tablets. Equally, we should be encouraging them to use the tools they have available, the tools with which they are familiar if we are to ensure they remain engaged and motivated.
Xtranormal is a text-to-movie website which allows you and your students to create short films with your own scripts using very clever text-to speech technology. This means your students write a script and then feed it into Xtranormal to produce films with characters enacting it. The free version of Xtranormal allows for a maximum of two characters, so dialogues, which are much beloved by us language teachers, are not a problem.
Although some of my colleagues and I had used Xtranormal before as a starter in a lesson to introduce a topic and reinforce vocabulary, this time I decided to let my students do the work and produce their own scripts and films in Spanish as a means to elicit creative writing, which would then be assessed for quality of language. So how did we do it?
Setting the scene
My pupils, 16 – 17 year olds, were first introduced to Xtranormal, a web application with which they were not familiar, in one of our new Digital Language Suites – two ICT suites with specialist language software. This specialist software, incidentally, was not needed for this activity, we simply needed a word processor and an internet connection.
I projected a ready made sample film on the Interactive Whiteboard and quickly managed to engage my students’ attention: it soon transpired that this was an activity they really wanted to do.
Despite their unfamiliarity with this particular web application, I was counting on their familiarity with social networking sites and other web applications we had used in the past, such as Glogster, Go!Animate or Animoto) to quickly figure out how to use Xtranormal. I was not disappointed.
I allowed my students a few minutes to sign up (free) and explore the application before I set out the task to them: to produce a 1 – 2 minutes long film script based on a dialogue between two people on the topic of La Salud (Health), using appropriately complex vocabulary and grammatical constructions, which would then be turned into a short feature film using Xtranormal.
My pupils were then given the rest of the lesson, around 25 minutes, to start planning and writing their scripts, using a word processor. I was then able to monitor each individual’s work and intervene, advising, correcting and discussing my pupils’ scripts with them to ensure I was getting the best Spanish possible out of each one.
An additional 40 minute lesson was spent editing the script in this way, all the time reinforcing valuable grammatical constructions and eliciting creative use of the target language.
Once we were all satisfied the script was finished to the best of each pupil’s ability, they were then set the homework: sign on to your Xtranormal account, choose two characters, assign Spanish as your language and create your film. Once the film was finished they were to send the URL link to me using Edmodo or email (incidentally, they all opted to submit the work using Edmodo).
At this stage I would like to emphasise that I only possess a very nebulous understanding of how Xtranormal works, and that it was my pupils who, essentially, taught themselves how to operate the application to produce the films, an example of which you can see above.
The films have now been received and have been published, we would like to think, to a world audience in our departmental website, which you are most welcome to visit and view the other films our pupils have created. You may even wish leave a comment for them to see!
The plan is to use these pupil created films as a starter in our lessons after a two week long half-term holiday, allowing my pupils to revisit the vocabulary they had learned prior to the break and take advantage of such a wonderful opportunity to engage in peer assessment.
What do you think? How have you been using Xtranormal?
Stupeflix.com is a new web based application, currently in Beta testing and free, which allows you to combine images and audio in order to create impressive videos for use in the classroom or as video podcasts.
Video podcasting can be very intimidating, as it requires a fair bit of ICT knowledge as regards file formats and file conversion for example.
Stupeflix.com simplifies this process considerably with its intuitive upload, drag and drop interface and automated file conversion. Let me show you how to create a video podcast like the one above in minutes:
1 Upload pictures and audio
Choose pictures from your own collection or from Creative Commons repositories such as Flickr or Stock.XCHNG and then rearrange them and group them by simply dragging and dropping them in place. Look for the + icon to add text and sound either individually to each picture or to groups of pictures. See illustration below:
In the example above, I have attached a backing audio track to the video as well as an individual audio clip to each group of pictures depicting each item of vocabulary. I made these recordings using GarageBand, but you can make them just as easily using Audacity (with the Lame encoder).
2 Generate your video
Once you have added text, audio and arranged your content how want it simply chose the format you need, simply click the Generate Video button at the bottom of your screen. In this case I chose .mp4, as I intended to broadcast my video as a podcast. Rendering times, meaning the time it takes the service to generate your video, are really very fast.
Stupeflix has an intuitive drag and drop editor which will fulfil most users’ needs, but it also has a more advanced xml editor which allows you to tweak and fine tune your video, allowing you greater control over effects and transitions, durations, font colour and audio. For example, using the xml editor, below, I altered the font colour and eliminated the fading in and out of sound clips, as this was rendering some sections of the recording inaudible.
3 Podcast your video
As well as generating a unique URL for your video, Stupeflix allows you to download your video for off line viewing. However, in this case, I am making a true podcast, i.e. a recording which is available for download via syndication (RSS). This means that your students can subscribe to your podcast via iTunes, for example, allowing them to receive any future updates automatically without any further intervention from you.
In order to broadcast/podcast your video you will have to sign up to a podcast publishing service. I use Podomatic, as it supports both audio and video podcasts and it is free for the first 500 MB of storage. If you want to know more about true podcast and how to make your own, why don’t you watch this short video tutorial?
So, there you have it. A video podcast in minutes. What do you think? Can you see yourself making your own podcasts? Why not teach your students to make their own?