Saturday, October 09, 2010

Flip Cameras in the Language Classroom

Shelly Terrell
I was invited by Shelly Terrel some weeks ago to participate in the 3rd Virtual Round Table Conference. I thought it was a great opportunity for me to have my first online presentation and a real honour to present along with people like Lindsey Clandfield , Russell Stunnard, Alexandra Francisco, Vicky Saummel, Doris Molero, Marisa Constantinides, Berni Wall, Mike Harrison,Guido Europaantje, Graham Stanley, Paul Maglione, Teresa Almeida d'Eca, Carla Arena, Erika Cruvinel, Daf Gonzalez, Vance Stevens and Jennifer Verschoo among others. So I decided to talk about, and also following Shelly's suggestion, using flips cameras in the language classroom inspired on the experience I have had recording videos for a sign language course in Venezuela.
Heike Philp
I have got to describe this experience as amazingly wonderful. Shelly helped me become familiar with the platform two days before the event (Thanks Shelly!). During my presentation, Heike Philp, the moderator, was really nice even though she was really busy multitasking with different presentations taking place all along. Even though, I had a small crowd, they were really great and supportive. Helen, Shumbles, Teadira (colleague & friend) and Valeria made several questions and comments and helped a lot to make this a nice, fun presentation. Shumbles went the extra mile and recorded a video using a flip camera during my presentation: Virtual Round Table online Conf #vrt10 best seat at conf. Here's the video and have fun!


Here's my presentation:

And here's the presentation in Adobe connect. Click on the image to have access to the room.

If you would like to visit the website created for hosting the videos for the Venezuelan Sing Language course, write to my e-mail and I'll send an invite to join this site.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Zach's Fundraiser

This is for Zachariah, an intelligent and resourceful Deaf student from Kenya, who deserves a helping hand in attending the English Lanuage Institute of Gallaudet University. He has been accepted but his tuition of $27,000, which will be paid directly from us to the English Lanuage Institute must be raised, and he needs money for expenses, such as air fare from Nairobi to Washington D.C.

The first 3 days of this campaign were good. Now a week later, and no more contributions are coming in. Please join us in this effort!

Here is the normal version of the 4 Zach Videos. First, my talking head provides context for this effort during the first 3 minutes, before you meet Zachariah, and Alice who interviews and interprets for us.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Flip it; Flip it good (How I used a Flip Video Camcorder for educational purposes)

Ok. I didn't use my Flip video camcorder for teaching or practising english. I use it for providing practise of a language we sometimes not consider it as such : Sign language. In our country, it is not still considered officially a language. It has been recognized by law its use among the deaf community, though (Art. 80. Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela).
In my previous post I wrote how I ended up using the Flip Video to recorder the signs we had already learned all along the course so far. Here I will tell you how I used it, the editing process and publishing the videos.
Just as brief reminder (in case you haven'r read my previous post) I'm currently coordinating and taking a Venezuelan Sign Language course offered by "Comisón de Apoyo al Estudiante con Discapacidad de la Escuela de Bibliotecología y Archivología" (CAEDEBA). In english, it'd be something like "Committe to Support Students with Discapacities in the School of Librairanship". This course has wonderful printed material designed by Aymara Hernández, our teacher. However, another more dynamic visual element was much needed: videos to practice during the week to remember how to make each sign. So I suggested this to Aymara and classmastes. They just loved the idea. Next step, I purchased a Flip Video and started planning how to record these videos.

Recording session

1.  Aymara Hernández and I chose a day to record the videos for each lesson. A day was more than enough to do so. So we scheduled a tuesday early afternoon to make the most of the natural light to record.
2. We chose a spot in the Faculty of Humanities and Education. Walls had a nice red background (red small tiles) surrounded by a small garden.  
3. We recorded all lessons from 1 to 7. Having recorded the segments this way made the editing process easier. For example, I knew the first videos were for the first lessons so if I didn't remember which sign Aymara was making for Lesson 2 I could always check the handouts and labelled the video for a sign appropriately..
4. It took about 2 hours to record all signs. I recorded about 56 videos.


A) Rotating videos recorded horizontally
This is a DON'T

I recorded some of the langauge signs holding the camcorder horizontally. Not such a good idea. How was I going to flip the videos vertically?  I didn't think about this during the recording sessions. But no panick. I decided to venture myself and search the net to see If I managed to find a software to flip the videos vertically. The first one I used was called: Free Video Clip and Rotate. It was really andy until it started to  send an error message everytime I tried to flip the video. I almost fainted! I was halfway the editing process!! However, I give it another tried and kept on searching on the net and found this: X2X Free Video Flip and Rotate. Easy to use, was able to flip videos and no error messages! The only problem when rotating the videos was its quality; not  as good as the ones I recorded vertically.

B) The Flip video software

1. Trimming the video was really easy. I used the Flipsahre software. I just chose the segment and trimmed by moving these two small sliders (Start and End sliders) below the main slider or Play head.
I had to trim the videos since I was isolating as much as I could each sign language. In one recorded video I coul d have up until five or six different signs.

C) Uploading the videos

Easy again, from the Flip Share program,  just chose "Share" and selected  Youtube and that was it. Now the one I had flipped using  X2X Free Video Flip and Rotate, was uploaded as any other regular video from a PC or laptop.

D) Details I forgot
While recording I forgot to press (-) to decrease the volumen to record a free-sound video. Yes, you might be saying it is sign language, so you can'r simply lower the volumen or not use headphones. However, I didn't want to run the risk of someone listening to the distracting sounds picked up by the microphone during the recording session. Of course, I could have created a video using the Flipshare software, chose "Music File" and in "Music options" chose "Play music only, without sound in the video". But guess what, I din't. But luck struck, and I started checking if It was possible to reduce or eliminate sound in YouTube. Good news is you can. How? Click on "Edit". Next, click on "Audio Swap". Choose a song and that's it. The only disadvantage is you cannot edit the sound so it abruptly cuts off at the end of the video.

Making the videos public

I created a wiki in PBworks to make the videos available only for those who are takign this course as requested by Ayamara.

Sample videos recorded with the Flipvideo camcorder:

(In Spanish: ¿Cómo deletreas tu nombre? / How do you spell your name?)

(In Spanish: ¿Cómo te sientes? / How do you feel today? or How are you feeling?)
Educational applications in EFL / ESL:
1. Telling stories
2. Acting out situations
3. Students' pecha kuchas
4. Dictations
5. Pronunciation

Monday, August 23, 2010

Flip it; Flipt it Good (the story first)

I had read about this tiny camcorders before... But I didn't think they were available for sale in my country so I let the thought of getting one fade in its own time.  This was last year.

Necessity is the mother of all things, though. A few months ago I started coordinating and taking a course on sign language in the school I teach at the university. At some point along the course, I realized something was missing. The teacher was great. The material she designed herself was amazing, but we needed something else to practice. A visual  reference, to put it some way, to practice each sign we learned in class. We started to notice as the vocabulary grow we could easily forget the signs from one week to another since it was a one-week-class session. We only had the handouts with pictures to review  the signs. It was easy when you were learning things like "mother", "father", "cat" , but when it came to learning the "numbers" (ordinals and cardinals) things got pretty tough!

So all of a sudden, I remembered my readings on this tiny camcorders and thought they would be really helpful to add this much needed visual element to our sign language course. 

Next thing  I told my teacher, Aymara Hernández, and classmates about it . They loved the idea!
I didn't give it much thought on brands since I had already read about the Flip video camcorder so I went for it. I visited their site; read reviews; checked if it was available in my country (luckily it was); watched video quality in some Youtube samples. By chance, Ian James had started tweeting his recordings with a Flip video camcorder making my decision final to purchase it.

To make this first part of my post short, after purchasing my Flip video I  instantly noticed  how easy and comfy it is to carry it everywhere as opposed to carrying a, say, handycam. Easy to plug into my  PC or laptop to download videos. It has got this "USB  arm" similar to a flash drive. For educational purposes, the quality of the videos is really good. The software is very easy to use. You can get snap shots from the videos (if your hand hadn't been that shaky). You can also easily upload videos to Youtube, Facebook, My Space and some other sites. Downsize? You need a decent light so the video won't come out dark (This one recorded by Ian doesn't look that bad, though) and never, ever record horizontally (If you have and don't know what to do some solutions in my next post). The screen might be bit small, but you can always zoom in. Btw, Ian James suggests using a tripod with telescopic legs. Great idea! This will help you avoid recording shaky images and ,of course, the result will be way much better. Next post: Flip it; Flipt it Good (recording and editing).

Here's my own sample. I recorded this about two weeks ago. It's my niece´s pet.

Here's a snapshot. The quality is also OK (if your hand is not that shaky):

Friday, June 25, 2010

Going digital

The Consultants e-community has been offering interesting live events for those who have attended their online courses.  The last one, streamed in Elluminate last June 25th, was about digital coursebooks. It was moderated by Ana Falcao and having as guest speaker Lindsay Clandfield talking about Flexible learning in a digital age
This presentation was about how the digital components of a coursebook should flexible to the needs and expectations students may have when learning a foreing language.
Lindsay said, at the beginning of his talk, that coursebooks and (their) workbooks are becoming digital each day around the world. This is in response to the access language learners have got not only to loads of materials online ranging from (free) websites offering students the possibility to practice a foreing languge as well as sofware and hardware (hand-held devices) to listen to audios or videos either offline or online. This hasn’t escaped the publishers’ eyes.  
During this presentation Lindsay talked about:

1) the traditional components of a paper-based book (Teacher’s book, student’s book and workbook)
2) digitized components: digital book for projection, teachers’ resource discs and website, e-workbook.

The digital coursebooks and interactive whiteboards.
It has to do with the possibilty of projecting digital material using an IWB. Shamelesly, in Venezuela we are lagging behind (and will be for a long time) when it comes to using IWBs and needles to say digital coursebooks to project in the classrooom using this kind of interactive display. As far as I know, the British Council here has got a IWB and some few private schools located in afluent areas in Caracas.

The teachers’ resource site/disc.
I find it quite appealing to have a teacher’s resource website. However, some colleagues might still hang on to the teacher’s paper based format. Why do I find it appealing? You can have access to the website anywhere. It can be improved and updated easily and if this done following teacher's feedback much better. Also you’ll never lose your material. Lessons or extra-material will always be available on the site.   

The e-workbook
It is a CD-ROM and students can carry it anywhere (this might be not such a good idea, though). Students can practice and repeat activities as many times as they want.
Before Lindsay showed us an example of a digital material, he said that it will be accesed from handheld devices in a very close future.

Global: the e-workbook and teacher’s resources site.

To illustrate all this, Lindsay Clandfield showed us, as lead writer, a good example of a digital material: Global and its e-workboook (the first of its kind I understand).
During the walkthrough, he showed us the different contents of the workbook. From its location and format  to how the student’s work was saved and shown in the markbook.

What did I like the most about this e-workbook?:

1) It is attached to the student’s book as a sort of User's Guide booklet having the CD-ROM inside.
2) It can be installed in the student’s PC or laptop.
3) Some exercises can be printed (PDF) and videos downloaded (MP3).
4) Captions can be removed from videos.
5) There are videos for practicing language and authentic videos (like BBC programs)
6) There’s a literary section for reading.
7) You can click on a word , phrase or sentence and listen to it several times (It reminds me of Speaker text).
8) There’s the markbook. It keeps track of what students have been doing so far and results can be exported as a PDF file.
9) Material is scormed compliant so it can be delivered to Moodle.
10) The layout is nice with sober colours. The desing is quite minimalistic to put it some way. That is, it's simple in design but elegantly and professionally executed.
What I’d like to see: interactive activities for videos.

The teacher’s site is also great. Teachers  can download lessons, read about some other people’s experiences using Global and there's even a sort of trial session. The blog is an excellent idea and texts are easy to read especially for a busy teacher. You can also keep updated about changes in this site following Global Twiter or Facebook. Apart from this, there's a teacher's book with a CD-ROM as well.

Musing about…

1)  There are still some teachers and students who do not have access to computers or even have access to Internet in some parts of the world. It is a pity wonderful materials like Global cannot be used for teaching and learning yet.

2) It is a bit expensive for an EFL teacher in Venezuela. Student’s book / CDROM + Teacher’s book / CDROM + Audio CD is about BF 537 (USD 125). Not to mention the Global Digital Beginner which can be used with IWBs (not an option here) and projectors (most schools & universities have got at least one here). It is USD 102 which is about BF 441. Because of the economic and political situation we are living in Venezuela, this might be affordable for some private schools and/ or universities. If I'd like to buy Global I won’t be able to buy any since we are only allowed USD 400 annually (unless I buy separate units per year - sad, isn't it?). And this is the raw price. I can’t image how much we would be charged if it is finally imported and sold in our country. Price doubles. That is if you want to have the whole package, it’d be about BF 2.000  (UDS 466).

It is always good to know wonderful people are doing wonderful stuff out there anyways. 

If you want to know more about this topic, I'd encourage you to join the SEETA course on digital books moderated by the very same Lindsay Clandfield. Although, the course has finished already you can still register and read the interesting posts about this issue.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Vale la pena leerlos! (It's worth reading these blogs)

Here are the blogs I think are worth reading (in my very humble opinion). Just click on the banners below to visit them.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

IATEFL Pre-Conference Event (April 2010)

Here's a series of shots taken from Second Life during the IATEFL LT SIG Pre-Conference event. It was held in the Avalon sim on April 7th and was organized by Graham Stanley (Baldric Commons). This pre-conference aimed at reflecting on where technology use is in the language classroom and where we are heading to. Three well-known and excellent speakers were invited: Mark Pegrum (Kane Illios), Scott Thornbury and Stephen Bax. Mark Pegrum started his talk on multiliteracies. Next up Scott Thornbury talked about teachers feeling threatened by technology since this bring about fundamental changes in teachers' roles. Last but not least, Stephen Bax and his presentation on the normalisation of technology.

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