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Hi, and welcome to our blog. This space is designed to share ideas and methodologies that we use to teach Turkish teenagers. In particular, there is a strong focus on ICT-ELT, which means if you like visual and technological support for your style of teaching, this blog is for you. My colleague, Brentson Ramsey, has been working alongside me for three years. He is also a big proponent of the ICT-ELT Paradigm, which means he will also be posting from his own teaching perspective on the blog.

2010 was the beginning of this new journey, and although there is no definitive ICT-ELT road map available for everyone to follow, it is exciting to explore the technological means to make teaching more fun and affective for students. Our main message is for teachers to ADOPT & ADAPT the paradigm shift for their own needs, and remember that

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Video Fridays on Blendspace

Showing videos in class has such a negative reputation in education. I recently watched the unbelievably awful film, Bad Teacher, with Cameron Diaz. In typical Hollywood fashion, Diaz shows up to school on the first day of the year hungover. She walks into the classroom and directly proceeds to turn on a film for the students to watch. She doesn't give any instructions or objective to the kids, just slumps on the teacher's desk and goes to sleep.

For certain, there have been numerous scenes in films showing bad teaching practices over the years. Ben Stein's scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off is an absolute classic. Nonetheless, we cannot blame Hollywood for tarnishing the video in class paradigm because, honestly, teachers do it themselves. Far too many times, I have seen students watching videos or films without any objective or outcomes besides the teacher getting some rest and relaxation.

This post is about how we can improve the reputation of short videos in the classroom through an activity that we call Video Fridays. In a nutshell, every Friday we show a short video to our students. These videos range from 30 seconds to a maximum of 5 minutes, and there is a different topic each week. Some of them include the reemergence of talent shows, greed, the environment, the negative aspects of technology, just to name a few. We generally find the videos on Youtube, and then we prepare a tutorial on Blendspace with a major focus on essential questions, or 'Why' questions.  We create questions about the video that will personalize it for our students and then lead them to think more critically about the message. When class time arrives, we simply open the tutorial, and the video and questions are all in one place. We watch the video, have a discussion, and finally the students write about the video and essential questions over the weekend on Penzu.

While to some, this activity may seem like an escape from the normal curriculum of grammar and novels, we can assure you it is not. There are several educational benefits behind it. The first is that you can explore different themes and topics than the readers that you are using in your program. You could show short videos about what is going on in the world today, so that your students will be aware of current events, especially ones that might have an affect on them.  Secondly, the short videos will without doubt lead to a lively conversation in the classroom.  As long as the rules of respect are set out beforehand, your students will greatly benefit from voicing their own opinions, as well as listening to others.  Furthermore, as the leader and facilitator of the classroom, your prepared essential, or 'Why', questions will lead your students to think more critically about what's happening in the videos.  Finally, if, like us, you choose to give a writing assignment over the weekend about the video, it will, of course, lead to an improvement in your students' writing skills.  The picture to the left shows an actual student's writing at the beginning of the year compared to the progress she made by the end.


The following steps explain how we go about preparing the videos for the classroom.  It begins with how we choose videos to how we introduce them to the students.

Step 1: Find a video on Youtube or any other source, such as Vimeo, that provides a message or controversial topic to talk about.  Again, the video should never be any longer than 5 minutes, or your students might begin to see the activity as just 'watching a video'.  The video should just be a springboard to get the conversation and critical thinking going.

Step 2: Make a video tutorial Blendspace, which is an extremely easy-to-use website that allows you to create video tutorials in a snap.  Once you register for a free account, click on the large blue button on your home screen.  You will see that Blendspace tutorials are divided into boxes.  

Our suggestion for creating a video tutorial is as follows:

In box 1, we include an engaging image to give our students an idea of what the video is about.  Images are not absolutely necessary, but it makes your video tutorial more attractive and engaging for your audience. Plus, on Blendspace, it only take a few seconds as there is a Google Images and Flickr tabs on the right side of the screen.  Simply type in your topic in the search field, and drag your chosen picture into one of the boxes.

Then in box 2, we provide a short introduction to the video.   

In box 3, we include the video.  Again, by using the Youtube tab on the right side of the screen, search for a video, and just drag it over into the box.

In box 4, we write up some comprehension, or 'surface' questions to help the students follow along. These questions typically focus on the setting, characters, and what is happening in the video.

Then in box 5 we include another image, and in box 6, arguably the most important part, we come up essential questions that try to lead the students to understanding the message of the video. These questions are going to be the basis for the class discussion and weekend writing homework for the students.  These questions should always be open-ended as you want the students to form an opinion and their own comments about the video.  You should always shy away from 'Yes/No' questions.

Step 3: When class time arrives, open your video tutorial, and introduce the topic to your students.  You can certainly have a short discussion at this point about what the students think the video is about.  Next, watch the video, and, if needed, help students along by stopping the video and asking questions about what's going on.  After that, have a class discussion and make notes on the IWB of what is talked about. Take a picture of these notes and upload them to your PLN, such as Edmodo, if available.

Step 4: In addition, post the Blendspace tutorial to your PLN, so that the students can watch the video again over the weekend, as well as review the questions for they need to answer in their writing.

Below is the PowerPoint video that we show to our students to introduce the concept of Video Fridays at the beginning of the academic year.

Video Fridays, in all honesty, have been a real success in our ESL program.  We purposely choose videos that we know will be engaging and thought-provoking for the students, as well as giving them something new and different to write about each week.  For instance, at the end of the year, our students present us with their three favorite aspects of the program, and one of the most-talked about items was Video Fridays.  It truly showed us that if you place and consistently adhere to a structure, that showing short videos in the classroom can be a huge benefit for any program.

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