The last few years, I’ve been very focused on the role and possibility of video in the classroom. Thus, my recent work developing EnglishCentral and my focus on the potential of a “Flipped Classroom“.
I had an interesting skype discussion with Dan Soriano (@danhummsoriano ) at the BC in Mexico City. He’s thinking of adopting a Flipped Classroom model as an experiment. During our discussion I returned to a term I’ve used over the years, “Extensive Watching“. I’d like to outline this important concept for language learning here and get your own feedback, opinion, thoughts.
I’m a big fan of extensive reading. It works. If done properly, it allows students to acquire a lot of fluency quickly (so long as equal attention is paid to speaking). However, the rub these days is that many students don’t want to nor like reading. It’s just a fact that I’ve run across time and time again in the classroom. I think it has to do with;
a)Visuality being an ever present force and medium now – through the internet, TV, film etc…
b)Communication. Youth are so connected, never alone and a book entails the place and discipline to be alone with self. Today’s youth want shared experience, a social experience. A book is in their head, the images in their head – something is never shared. A film / video has an objective visual reference and is more shared/social.
As I’ve outlined before, the Gutenburg Galaxy is waining. The role of text is taking a back up role to the cool medium that is the visual realm. This entails a change on the part of teachers. We should now update Day and Bamford’s classic and call it “Extensive Watching“. I took down the book from my self and revisited it. It can simply be re-written for this new media focus.
Students “watch” at their own level and through this massive watching of video with language in context, can, do, will achieve rapid language acquisition. That’s where EnglishCentral is coming from but it could be any source of video that is at the appropriate level for the student and contains motivating, interesting content.
I looked at pages 7-8 of the book, “The Characteristics of Extensive Reading”. I hereby end and hand the torch to Extensive Watching by rewriting this to outline the characteristics of extensive watching (and in a future post, I’ll outline the differences, however obvious, with the “extensive listening” approach).
The Characteristics of Extensive Watching
1. Students WATCH as much as possible. (preferably outside of the classroom – following the flipped model of the language classroom)
2. A variety of videos/film is available in a variety of genres and topics so as to encourage watching for different reasons and in different ways.
3. Students select what they want to watch and have the freedom to stop watching when the video fails to interest them.
4. The purposes of watching are related to pleasure, information and general understanding. The purposes are determined by the nature of the videos and the interests of the students.
5. Watching is its own reward. There are few exercises after watching and only for quickly reinforcing the material.
6. The videos are well within the linguistic competence (level) of the student. Video gives context and allows for a “wider” leveling. Dictionaries are used after the viewing and rarely during the watching of the video. Subtitles in the L2 may or may not be used depending on the objectives of the learning.
7. Watching is both shared and individual. Videos if possible, to be discussed and used as scaffolding material into purposeful communication and speaking practice.
8. Watching speed is at the natural rate of the media’s speakers. Whole watching is the recommended practice rather than stopping and reviewing video.
9. Teacher’s orient students to the goals of the program (communicate the rationale), explain the methodology (how to) and track what students watch, and guide students to get the most out of the program.
10. The teacher is a role model and watcher. They participate and watch what students watch. The extensive watching classroom is a place of equality and a decreased power dynamic between teacher and learner.
To wit: Extensive Watching works and fosters student self learning and monitoring. It also has the added benefit of having pragmatic features of language (body language, postures, gestures etc…) that help the learner immensely (think of how a baby “makes meaning out of sound”).
My work over the years has brought me into thinking heavily about the role of video in language instruction. Even more so now with my work with EnglishCentral. I’m a big fan of video and have been from the get go. I saw its power as a university T.A. – tramping around the campus showing heavy “reels” of film to mesmerized classes. I wouldn’t go so far as Chris Anderson of TED who says we are in the midst of something as transformative as the Gutenberg revolution. But I will say, as a language teacher, it feels so! The world is now in our classroom!
We are using print less and the course book will take a less central role in the years to come. We are in a McCluhanesque way, returning to the older form through the newer media (one of his laws of media). Our brains are hard wired for pictures, the visual and language learning will benefit from this gigantic shift in the way humans learn (by video as opposed to books). I had a great chat with Vicki Hollett about this and she agreed, things will be changing. Video is the way forward. For a more learned read on the text / video debate – try The Gutenberg Elegies by Sven Birkerts
I’ll be speaking more about this at the Reform Symposium conference next month. Talking about the Flipped curriculum and how video is so important to this delivery method.
So I sat down and wrote some tips for using video in the classroom. Here it is. Comments appreciated, I’ll be refining this as I go along.
Video is a powerful tool in today’s classroom. It provides strong context through which to teach English. Meaning comes alive and it brings the outside world into the classroom and gives your teaching “reality”. Video also provides all the paralinguistic features of language that audio only can’t.
Nowadays, students are very much visual learners. Further, with the quick spread of broadband internet access, the use of video in the classroom is much more reliable. Video is a medium which is replacing print – it is changing both the way we learn and the way we interact with each other.
Without a doubt, video is the future for all of us involved in education. Gone are the days where it took a high degree of technical know how and hours of set up to bring video into the classroom. Now the classroom is wired and connected. It’s an exciting time to be both a teacher and a student. The world is our classroom.
1. Keep the Video Short (2-4 minutes)
- attention spans are limited when watching visual content. Chunk up and divide up videos with focused activities.
2. Watch the whole video first.
- students need to “have a try” first and watch to get the “big picture”. This provides students with the chance to deal with the “ambiguity” of language. Give students one simple task while watching the whole video – to keep them focused.
3. Always preview the video.
- Be sure to watch the whole video yourself before using it in class. You never know what content might be inappropriate or hurtful to your students. You, the teacher, know your students best. Best to be safe!
4. Make it available outside the classroom.
- provide students with a webpage or link so they can watch the video and practice outside of classroom time. Many students learn better independently and this is a great opportunity to foster student independence.
5. Use videos your students want.
- this may seem obvious but many teachers forget to survey their students and show video content they definitely know their students will be “into”. However, use your best judgement and find a balance between videos that highly motivate and those that are strongly educational. Many times you can do both!
In the flipped classroom, students study and learn independently (in groups or individually). The teacher sets up the content and learning environment and then consults with students as they learn the video content. Students could learn on a webpage/lab (for example EnglishCentral) and the teacher could use class time to review their progress, check and evaluate. Also consult with the students to make sure they are on task. Teachers set up the curriculum and show students how to access the video content. In a nutshell, a teacher becomes a facilitator. Teachers might also use print materials made specifically for the videos (like these EnglishCentral example books).
2. Blending video into the existing curriculum and course.
This option allows a teacher to choose video content that compliments the objectives of their course. Videos are chosen for each unit and they are used in conjunction with a course book. Thus, the teacher is blending the learning – combining traditional print (textbooks) with the power of video. Videos are blended into and part of the official course curriculum.
3. Using video as a supplement for engagement or re-inforcement.
Here, videos are used only at the beginning of a lesson (to provide context and prompt student schema/background knowledge) or as supplemental material for the lesson (either inclass or as homework). The teacher brings in video that will supplement the existing course curriculum and provide context and reinforce the learning objectives. However, the videos are not part of the official curriculum.
How To Use Video
Videos can be used in many ways other than just one student at a computer. They should also be used as a “shared experience” and an in class teaching aide. Teachers should play video in the classroom and share it, as you would a book or any print item.
Don’t be afraid to pause, rewind, fast forward the video. Use it as a tool for reference of language and study points. Think of the video as a malleable material, like any other classroom material for learning.
Generally video activities are divided into 3 main types or stages:
1. Pre-viewing. Activities done before watching the video. They help prompt student schema and background knowledge. Often a way for the teacher to assess student knowledge and interest.
2. Viewing: Students have a task while watching the video. They perform tasks and activities during the video, either with or without the teacher pausing the video.
3. Post Viewing: After watching the video, the students practice the language forms and vocabulary encountered in the video. Students might discuss, retell, roleplay or complete exercises during this stage.
Here are a list of practical ways to use EnglishCentral videos in class. Try some and find what works best with your own students and for your own teaching situation. Good luck! Your students will love it!
10 Recipes For Using Video In The Classroom
1. Discuss It. Give students some previewing questions for the topic of the video. Students discuss and prompt their background knowledge. Watch the video. Now, discuss again using some prepared questions. Surveys are a great addition also.
2. Just Do It. Students are given a viewing task. This can be some questions to answer. It can be a group of vocabulary items to find or some language to listen for. You might even make this interactive – give students some different tasks (ie. different vocabulary) and when they see/hear it, they stand up. Again, they sit down. Last one standing at the end wins!
3. Describe It. Always a fun activity but make sure to get your students to speak in a low voice. One student watches while others describe the action. Pause the video from time to time to allow students time to describe fully. Switch the student who is listening. Make sure to watch the ending of the video together.
4. Report It. Students are reporters. List the 5 Ws on the board. After watching the video, the students must answer the 5 W questions. This also can be an excellent writing lesson. Also, get students making up their own post viewing questions and quizzing each other!
5. Listen For It. A teacher favorite. Teachers prepare a cloze version of the transcript (words are missing). Students listen for the words. Watch the video again, pausing and checking the answers together. Another option is to provide students with a graphic organizer or chart. They watch the video and fill in the categories.
6. Repeat It. A very interactive way to focus on pronunciation and form. Turn off any subtitles. Pause the video after a line and have the students repeat the line. If the video is a dialogue, assign different roles for students. Challenge the students to repeat the lines by only listening to the video, not watching. Also practice the present perfect tense (has/have just) by pausing the video and asking students, “What has just happened?”
7. Re-tell It. A very powerful way to acquire language. Students in small groups re-tell the story or the action of the video. One student starts and others must continue to re-tell by adding a sentence. Perfect for practicing transitions (First, Next, Then, Finally). Re-ordering activities are also great. Students are given sentences or pictures and must put them back in the right sequence while re-telling the story. Perfect practice for the past tense.
8. Revise It. Students love to “change up” the video. Students can role play the video and add their own twist, create their own version. Commercials work well for this. Also, write their own version, changing characters. For lower level students, prepare a transcript with words missing – students can add their own words to personalize.
9. Predict It. Prediction is a great language prompt and can be used with any video. Simply pause the video at a point and ask the students, “What do you think will happen next?” Students discuss and give their own answers. Provide a prompt for the students like
I (don’t) think that ___________ (won’t) will ____________________.
Lastly, continue the video and see if the predictions were correct.
10. Teach It. Videos offer a great opportunity for specific language study. Choose a video that highlights and reinforces your lesson objective(s) (for culture, topics, functions, vocabulary or grammar points). Pause the video and use it to explain the language points. It provides real life context and examples of usage. Prepare worksheets and exercises to practice your language points. Here’s an example
This video opens the door into the actual practice of the flipped instructional model. (not a language classroom but think of what it would mean for one). A very interesting way to think of “teaching”. Basically, it means for ELT that the heavy lifting, the explanation and focusing on form is consigned to the language lab, to self directed learning, to homework (videos of the teacher/a teacher teaching stand and deliver style). The classroom becomes a place where time is spent using the language socially, testing, risking, trying …… This is a little different than the Flipped Model for content subjects.
I see the new nature of learning as following not just a blended model but a “Flipped” model. David Truss has written a real nice summary of this. Classrooms become laboratories and places of practice. Content delivery is outside the classroom in an either formal or informal environment. Teachers no longer teach in the classroom. They teach in the sense of arranging content, mixing/blending and then delivering it for student consumption outside of class. In class, students practice what was “digested”.
For ELT this means that classroom instruction just skips the “Prepare” and “Practice” stages (or “Engage” / “Study”.). The old instructional delivery models are wiped away and the classroom is about students coming together to practice and perform tasks based on their learning outside the classroom. The teacher deals with emergent language “in situ” and corrects/remediates as needed, on the spot.
The flipped classroom is perfect for those teachers already familiar with task and performance based curriculum. Much like “station” teaching also. However, more unstructured and when students come to the classroom – they are making the choices about what they will practice.
For many teachers though – it will entail a lot of “letting go”. Read this Ira Socol piece and wonder about your own classroom “design”. So too for publishers, who will have to provide books and online materials not tailored to the question 1,2,3 Speak / Grammar / Practice / Pronounce / Read / Write models they use.
This video – The 21st Century Learner is a must watch for any teacher trying to understand the direction and implications of new “disruptive” technologies. The classroom no longer has 4 walls and learning is taking place outside the classroom (informally) through social media and “connected” learning.