ESOL and participatory video. ESOL webinar 7th March


This month’s session was a creative one where we looked at using participatory video techniques in the ESOL classroom. Before the webinar we all watched a great video created by Genevieve White’s ESOL learners in Shetland and we asked everyone to write any ideas or comments down, here is the link and please do add your ideas.

In the actual session we started off with a quick poll asking participants if they had ever used video as a teaching and learning tool and the answer was a mix of sometimes and never. So Genevieve told us how she got into using video with her learners and how, through various projects,she developed strategies to improve the final output. One of the main challenges was the quality of the audio,something that I am sure we are all familiar with if we have ever filmed a role play or a job interview with our learners. Her easy, but effective, solution was to get learners to record monologues separately and once these were word perfect they were overlaid on the film,not only solving the audio problem but most importantly activating some really deep language learning.

The film ‘My special day (in the link above) started off, unintentionally,with a wedding photograph in a course book lesson on reported speech. This picture appeared to capture the learners’ imagination as they started wondering about the different characters and what they were thinking. As this seemed too good an opportunity to miss Genevieve got the learners to create monologues for their chosen character and record them; this gave them the space to really work on their pronunciation,linking speech as well as learning new lexis and colloquial expressions like’ yokel’ or ‘airing one’s dirty laundry’. Once that was done they then filmed the actual wedding scenes getting friends in to make up the scenes. From a language learning perspective Genevieve felt that this was a really valuable experience as the new language really embedded itself in the learners’ memory through the whole recording and filmmaking process. Genevieve also mentioned that she was pretty keen to get learners involved with the editing side of things so she got some help from a fellow teacher to help them use Microsoft Windows Movie maker. Microsoft  Windows Moviemaker is probably one of the easiest editing software to use though there are plenty of other ones such as iMovie or Camtasia. The output,I am sure you agree, is a very high standard of spoken English from these intermediate learners and understandably they are all extremely proud of the result.

At this point we felt it was time for another poll and the question we asked was what would be the challenge of using video with ESOL learners? The answer was not fear of the technology, which I suppose is not that surprising as mobile phone video technology is now so good and so nearly everyone has access to some sort of camera. What most people felt was the main challenge was lack of time….Genevieve did tell us that a simple project might not actually take up as much time as we would think.For instance, ‘My special day’ only took one hour or so to film,more time was actually taken up with the recording of the monologues yet this was so fundamental in developing the learners’ language skills. Genevieve did add that she would probably not do more than one filming project a year. Sara Asadullah from InsightShare, an organisation that facilitates participatory video techniques in different fields, also told us that one of their practices is to get participants to rotate the different roles in the filming process, as this is a great way of getting them to learn new skills in new ways. Furthermore, this would also help to develop all those collaborative and communication skills which are so vital for today’s job market. Another question for Genevieve was what would be good to start off with? A simple idea could be to use a picture and get learners to record inner monologues for it, something that could also be created using an application such as voicethread or a whiteboard app on a tablet maybe? Functional situations could also be explored using this approach. For example a  bad job interview, in this way tackling a serious issue in a bit of a subversive and comic way to spark off ideas and raise awareness.

If you do have any great videos or video ideas that you would like to share then the ESOL film Festival would be a good place to start with but it would also be great to hear from you in a future webinar.

Next, In this session we also, rather briefly, looked at the use of Skype. There does not appear to be much practice on using Skype as a learning and teaching tool in the classroom, though a lot of distant online teaching is going on out there. However, I managed to talk to a London based practitioner who teaches ‘how to use Skype’ classes with many,though not solely, ESOL learners.The general feedback was that these learners were pretty keen on using this technology as it is free and great for keeping in touch with friends and family abroad.Though there are always downsides such as not all learners have an email account in order to set up Skype. However, ideas for using Skype for teaching and learning could be getting learners to practise job interviews or phone calls while the teacher uses the chat pane to put prompts in or feedback. Another idea is getting other groups of learners or a guest speaker to speak to the class. This reminded me of something that I heard about in a presentation by Professor of Education Technology Sugata Mitra, who talked about the ‘Granny cloud’ project which involves getting volunteers to communicate with children in remote villages in India and other places through Skype.What he said proved to be most effective was the size of the screen as the children seemed to respond better if the person talking to them was on a human scale. So using a projector to show the Skype call rather than a P.C or tablet might be something worth keeping in mind If you are going to invite a guest speaker into your class.

There are lots of other conferencing tools, such as Google hangouts or FaceTime and as usual each of them have different pros and cons. With Google hangouts, for instance, you can watch YouTube videos at the same time whereas Facetime,which is the Apple’s version, is just so easy to use! I heard about one learner who got her tutor to use FaceTime with her so that she could remotely attend the lesson while she was in bed with a broken leg! A resource that may be useful to anyone thinking of using Skype, or other platforms, in their teaching and learning is this one produced by a South East independent specialist colleges group Supporting transition through communication technology. Though this resource was developed with a specific learner group in mind I think it is still useful in all learning contexts.  What is particularly nice about it is  that it is an infokit that has information for different groups in an organisation and what they need to know. So there is specific information for learners, teachers and even IT support have their own fact sheet all set out according to need.

Finally, if you have or  know anyone who has any experience of using video,Skype or similar technology in the ESOL classroom then we would really love to hear from you.

Link to webinar recording


Book now for next month’s webinar on April 4th on What can we do to support all ESOL learners, including those with additional needs?