Podcasting: 60 seconds to save the world

Outline of task

Above, the fourth of the tasks I suggested in my talk at the IH Barcelona ELT Conference on February 7th.

One of the ways in which I believe that we're getting technology wrong in language teaching is to fail to progress beyond our own use of technology as a word processor; and one of the simple ways we could start to get it right would be to have our learners turn their mobile phones on and start using them for productive language learning tasks.

This task requires them to do just that with Spreaker being an excellent little app to enable them to rehearse and record audio.

In groups of 3-4, they need to:

  • Brainstorm and come up with an idea that would make a difference to the environment and/or climate change, one that could actually be put into practice in your school
  • Rehearse exactly what they are going to say, in class, getting it down to exactly 58-60 seconds,  and not a second longer
  • Record it (and if necessary re-record it), something which is probably — because of the noise — best done somewhere quiet, outside class time
  • Post the finished recording where the rest of the class can listen to it (Edmodo or a class blog are great alternatives), again something which can be done outside class
  • Comment on the recordings made by the other groups (to get the most language out of the task, a vital stage, missing from my slide, above).

Note that, though you might want to try out the technology involved first for yourself, as the teacher your job is to provide the language, including helping with pronunciation and intonation, as well as vocabulary, not to provide technical support.

You want to do the former in class, which will reduce the amount of subsequent correction that will be required, and leave any technical help required up to the learners. Believe me, they will be able to provide it!

A nice simple alternative to Spreaker and audio would be to use PowerPoint (or Prezi) and Present.me, with a webcam, which would give your learners video, though I'd recommend keeping it to three slides, and insisting on that maximum of 60 seconds.

Acknowledgements The idea came from the excellent BBC podcast Forum: 60 Second Idea to Improve the World, one that is well worth both you and your learners subscribing to.

Thanks also to Kate who, as ever, was willing to try the idea out and to my PodcastHERs group, who had so much fun doing something along these lines as a long-term project.

All-time favourite listening comprehension activity

A few further comments on an idea I tweeted earlier today…

 

I've been doing this with classes since before the Internet (!!!), taking a radio (what?!) into class to play the BBC news bulletin to learners First Certificate (B2) and above.

A one-minute bulletin is great, especially great now that you can have it with video (and no static!) and the task involves learners (individually) first listening; then listening again and transcribing everything they can; then comparing notes with a partner; then listening again and attempting to fill in any gaps.

If you're lucky (and yes, it's a bit hit and miss!) there will be at least one news item that will then lead on to discussion and debate.

It works because it's topical; it's real and up-to-the-minute; it's materials and preparation "light" (I don't make a transcription) but language and interaction "rich"; and it satisfies the principal requirement of my one-man crusade against the photocopier: number of photocopies required — none.

Persuading your learners to listen and watch such things on their own every day (they don't have to transcribe, of course!) is also a good idea as it's such great, extra listening comprehension practice.

On Twitter (@Tom_IHBCN), I post only one thing a day (and quite frequently not even that), always and exclusively things I think will interest language teachers and/or their learners.

Another wonderful lesson plan from Film English

Here's one of the best things I took away from yesterday's Image Conference: a wonderful lesson plan to accompany the above video.

I highly, highly recommend Kieran Donaghy's Film English, which recently won an ELTON. It has great lesson plans based on short films, which are invariably wonderfully as films, which people then seem to respond to so well in class, possibly because what they're watching is so much more than just another piece of listening material.

Without having seen the video, a colleague (hi, Kate!) had a class of teens produce a series of motivational "quotes" on index cards which they then posted around her school (classroom and corridor noticeboards, mostly), hoping that people would respond to them in some way.

They in fact didn't do so very much, but they loved the idea!

50 ways to use music and song in the classroom

Just a quick link to a wonderful collection of great ideas on using music and song from David Deubel's excellent blog.

Heres' one of my personal favourites for using song, from the same source, though if I had to pick one idea for exploiting songs (and particularly YouTube video clips) I'd have to say using them as a starting point for writing collaborative stories — for example with Norah Jones or Bruce Springsteen.

Favourite Edmodo+song activity: when someone (preferably not the teacher) shares a song video and it generates a huge amount of unexpected discussion…

Five things to look for in YouTube clips

What YouTube clips are going to "work" with your learners? Here's one, which I've not used with a class of learners (yet!) but which seems to have a lot going for it…

With just about any YouTube video you use with learners you want:

  1. A short clip, under 3 minutes definitely, under 2 better, under 1 terrific!
  2. Clear sound
  3. Something that it will lead on to, perhaps discussion, definitely use of the language and interaction between the learners

This one I spotted today on The Guardian under the headline Brad Pitt's Chanel No 5 ad: the smell of disaster, which gives me (4) a related article or other text to read and get further language and discussion from; the latter might take place after class, outside class, via an Edmodo group. Note also the other ads linked to in the article.

All I need now is (5) a simple, meaningful listening task of some kind; I'm thinking along the lines of seeing if, in pairs, the learners can jot down what Mr Pitt says verbatim…

But perhaps someone can suggest a better listening task… or a sixth (or seventh thing!) to look for in clips?