TESOL Video News

TESOL Video News, Volume 18:1 (March 2007)

by User Not Found | 11/01/2011
In This Issue...
Leadership Updates Editorial Note

Kenneth Chi, Fu Jen Catholic University, Taipei, Taiwan, kennethchyi@gmail.com

Happy Chinese New Year! Welcome to the March issue of TESOL Video News. This is also the first issue of 2007.

The TESOL Video and Digital Media Interest Section is proud to celebrate its 20th birthday in 2007. For the past 20 years, TESOL VDMIS has been exploring and contributing to the field of using video and incorporating media into language courses. In those days, video or other media were hard to get, but now video and media have become indispensable elements of many language courses and textbooks. We are so glad to see this, and we hope that video/media lessons will continue to thrive and evolve.  

First, in this issue, our chair Donna Tatsuki gives us a preview of TESOL 2007, at Seattle. Then it's my honor to have the opportunity to interview Susan Stempleski, founder of TESOL VDMIS (originally called the Video Interest Section) and pioneer of using videos in language teaching. In this interview, she recalls the process of founding this section and shares lots of insights regarding using videos in language teaching. Last we have an article from Dr. Deborah Osborne, who gives some tips on using student-produced videos. 

The Video IS is soliciting articles for future issues of TESOL Video News. Submit articles or announcements to kennethchyi@gmail.com. You may also send opinions and suggestions at any time to the leaders (see the bottom of this issue for contact information) or to the e-list. We look forward to hearing from you.

Note From the Chair

Donna Tatsuki, Kobe City University of Foreign Studies, Kobe, Japan

Greetings everyone!

The conference in Seattle is coming fast, and for those of you who will be attending, there is an impressive list of VDMIS-sponsored events:

  • a cutting-edge InterSection entitled "Digital technologies and the future of multilingualism" featuring the following dynamic speakers and topics:

    Lance Knowles (DynEd International) explains how cognitive science informs the best practices of digital and interactive video/CALL technologies. Karen Price (Ann Dow Associates), as the devil's advocate, considers whether technological advances might discourage language learning. Michael Stinson (Rochester Institute of Technology) discusses real-time displays of spoken discourse and their implications for language development in deaf students and uses in bilingual contexts.
  • A "State of the Art" Academic Session entitled "Video Production and Use in Past, Present and Emerging Practices" with Kenneth Chi, Kathleen Eilers-Crandall, Elizabeth Hanson-Smith, and Barbara Morris
  • Nine Discussion Groups hosted by video and digital media veterans
  • A blockbuster lineup of creative offerings in Video Theater
  • Plus many other exciting sessions

For your convenience I have compiled the times, locations, titles, and presenter information for a selection of sessions of potential interest to VDMIS members in the two tables following this report.

After returning to Japan from Tampa last year I began preparations for our InterSection and for Discussion Groups almost immediately to meet the July deadlines as well as supervised the vetting of proposals and Video Theater. I want to send a big thanks to all of you who served as proposal readers! Chair-Elect David Smith put together the proposal for what is sure to be a memorable Academic Session.

It is never too early to start planning for the future. I encourage any and all of you to share your ideas and suggestions for advance planning of TESOL 2008 in New York. Come to the VDMIS business meeting on Wednesday, March 21, 5:00-6:45 p.m., at the Washington State Conference Center, Room 205. And remember to come to the MWIS-VDMIS Reception on March 23, 6:00-8:00 p.m., at the Washington State Conference Center, Room 609, for refreshments and networking opportunities. A healthy organization thrives on the inclusion and welcoming of new faces and new ideas. You matter! We need you!!

VDMIS-Endorsed Sessions

Sessions of Interest to VDMIS Members

Note From the Chair-Elect

David L. Smith, Columbus Public Schools and The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

These are exciting times for the Video and Digital Media Interest Section and I couldn't be more thrilled and honored to be involved. Not only do we have so much to look forward to at this year's conference in Seattle, but the world itself seems to be transforming before our eyes.

Where once the use of DVD players and VHS camcorders seemed exotic in our teaching and learning situations, they are now ubiquitous. In our teaching and learning settings we may find that  DVDs are more accessible and their creation easier every year. Camcorders can now use be had with convenient mini-DV tapes or direct-to-burn DVDs, and some even record straight  to  hard drive nearly eliminating that time-consuming importing process to your computer.

As our computer processing power increases, Internet bandwidths get wider and more widely distributed, graphics cards improve, and storage capacities increase, video and digital media will be ever more widespread in English language teaching. Whether streamed from the Web, downloaded from a popular site, presented as a teacher- or student-created DVD, or rented from your favorite video store, video and digital media are finding an increasingly important role in language teaching and learning.

In the 10 years that I have been a high school English language teacher, currently in a newcomer program in Columbus, Ohio, I have seen tremendous change and growth in the aforementioned technologies as well as the ways in which we approach these technologies in the classroom. As our skills and creativity increase and as more powerful tools become easier to use, we can shift the focus to the classroom with much greater ease. Authentic video, student-created video, and video and digital media created for purposes of professional development and edification are here to stay.

Now it is our calling to explore these new technologies and to and help illuminate best practices in our field. As an Adobe Education Leader, a doctoral candidate at the Ohio State University, and a technophile, I strive to be well versed in the latest technologies and their pedagogical implications in order to be a resource for our members who may be interested in how video and digital media can serve English Language Learners around the globe. 

Articles and Information Interview With Susan Stempleski

Kenneth Chi, Fu Jen Catholic University, Taipei, Taiwan, kennethchyi@gmail.com

Susan Stempleski of Columbia University Teachers College and Hunter College of the City University of New York was the founding chair of TESOL VDMIS Interest Section (originally called the Video Interest Section). She has trained teachers in more than 40 countries to use video in language teaching and is the author of numerous articles, resource books, and video-based courses. Her most recent video-related publication is the World Link Video Course (Thomson, 2006).

CHI: What started you using videos in language teaching? Can you talk about your history of using video in language teaching?
STEMPLESKI: When I moved to New York City from France in 1981 and started teaching at the Hunter College IELI (International English Language Institute), videotape recorders/players and video cassettes had only recently become widely available in the United States. At that time, my only experience with video had been a brief, highly unsatisfactory experiment with reel-to-reel video recording tape at Harvard University in the mid-70s. I was curious about the new videocassette format and eager to keep up my French language skills, so I rented a video of a French film and watched it on a VCR (also rented). I was amazed at how helpful the technology was! Compared with the digital technologies available now, VCRs seem old-fashioned, but in 1981 they were revolutionary. Functions such as the pause/freeze frame button were totally new to me. I immediately saw how useful they could be for language learning and decided to try using video in my EFL classes. I found out that the IELI had not only a VCR but also an ELT video course, Suzanne Griffin's Follow Me to San Francisco (Longman, 1981), which IELI Director Pamela McPartland-Fairman encouraged me to use. After a semester or two of using that course, I decided to create and use my own lesson materials based on the feature film Breaking Away. Student response was overwhelmingly positive. Enrollment in the elective course was always full, and the students consistently reported that their comprehension and speaking skills improved as a result of the course. I continued experimenting with video in the classroom and sharing my ideas with teachers around the world via TESOL and other educational conferences and as an academic specialist for the U.S. State Department. In 1990 Barry Tomalin and I published Video in Action, a collection of classroom techniques and resources for using video in the language classroom, and since then I have written and published numerous video-related articles, as well as ELT video courses.

CHI: What are the best, the worst, the funniest, the most unforgettable experiences in using videos in class?  
STEMPLESKI: I've had so many good or funny moments using video in class that it's hard to name just one as the best. The funny ones have usually involved things the students have said or done in response to watching a video, whether it's a video the students created as project work or a role play they did based on famous movie scenes (e.g., the supermarket scene in You've Got Mail). The worst (and they were sometimes funny, too) have all had to do with equipment malfunctions, or presentations in which the video controls were in another location than the actual classroom I was using (e.g., an adjacent room or booth) and I had to either send hand signals to a technician or rely on an intermediary to transfer directions to him or her.   

CHI: What gave you the idea of founding the TESOL Video Interest Section? How was the process? Was it difficult? 
STEMPLESKI: The idea of founding a Video Interest Section was suggested to me by Joe Hambrook and Barry Tomalin at the 1987 TESOL Convention in Miami. I placed a notice on a message board and in the Convention Daily inviting anyone interested in forming a Video IS to attend a meeting at the convention. About 30 people, all very enthusiastic, showed up. After the convention, the real work of organizing the group started. And it was a lot of work! We didn't have e-mail or the Internet then, so all communication was by snail mail or telephone, mostly by mail, as the interested teachers were from all over the world. Fortunately, I had a lot of help and support—from my boss at Hunter; from colleagues such as Paul Arcario, Tracey Forrest, and Paul Arcario; and from some ELT publishers. Soon after the convention, a video steering committee met in New York. We outlined plans for an international video colloquium at TESOL '88 in Chicago, the circulation of a petition to have the VIS recognized by TESOL, and the publication of a video newsletter. By December 2007, we had more than 100 signatures on the petition—more than enough, we thought, to gain IS status. But we were wrong! At TESOL '88, the IS Council voted against our petition. But that didn't stop us! And the TESOL board of directors must have seen some merit in the petition because they appointed me director of an ad hoc committee to report on the role of video in TESOL. We prepared the report and continued to circulate the petition and publish our little newsletter. In 1989 we resubmitted our petition (which by then had more than 250 signatures) at the TESOL convention in San Antonio. That time we were successful. The Video IS was finally approved by TESOL! I was appointed chair and Paul Arcario was appointed associate chair. And in the fall of 1989, the first issue of the official newsletter, TESOL Video News, edited by R. Marshall Burgamy and Tracey Forrest, was published by TESOL.

CHI: Would you please talk about what the Video Interest Section was like in the early days? What were the best or worst experiences of being the leader of the Video Interest Section? 
STEMPLESKI: The best part was working with all the wonderful people who helped make the VIS such a vibrant and fun group. We were very aware of being pioneers in using the medium for language teaching and of the need to take video seriously as a teaching tool and to promote pedagogically sound practice with video. But at the same time we had a lot of fun trying out new techniques, experimenting with different materials, and celebrating our various successes and milestones. I can't say I had any really bad experiences as leader of the Video Interest Section. Honestly, it was a lot of hard work, but it was always enjoyable.

CHI: Would you please give some suggestions to those who want to try to use videos in their teaching? And what about those old hands?
STEMPLESKI: I'd advise teachers who are new to using video in teaching to have a look at some of the Web sites, articles, and books on using video that have been written by experienced users, and then try experimenting with techniques and activities that those authors suggest. Video is a powerful language teaching tool, but what matters most is how the video is used. We need to use the medium in ways that promote active rather than passive viewing, in ways not usually associated with going to the movies or watching TV. To teach effectively with video, teachers need to plan well and be prepared. There's no room to get into specifics here, but interested newcomers will find a lot of help in books such as Jane Sherman's Using Authentic Video in the Language Classroom (Cambridge University Press, 2003) and the resource book I wrote with Barry Tomalin: Film (Oxford University Press, 2001). I urge old hands to share their ideas and experiences with colleagues on the Internet, via the VDMIS and other groups and any other useful means.

CHI: We are celebrating the 20th birthday of the VDMIS Interest Section. Do you have something to say to our members?  
STEMPLESKI: Happy birthday and congratulations to everyone in the VDMIS! The section has come a long way, and with the creativity, energy, and dedication of its members, along with the new developments in video/digital technology, I think the work of the IS is more important than ever, and I wish you all continued inspiration and success! And thank you for inviting me to participate in this anniversary edition of the newsletter.

Pointers for Student-Produced Videos

Deborah Osborne, Park University, deborah.osborne@park.edu

A few semesters ago, as part of a unit on media, I took an impromptu survey of my students' TV-viewing habits. Most of them had a favorite show—for example, "Friends," which they loved to watch, even in reruns—but a significant percentage also watched music videos. Music videos also comprised a good proportion of what they did when they were online, because sites such as Yahoo! now include memberships to music pages, where users can watch videos, access song lyrics, and so on, for free. Pondering the results of the survey, I began to think about the possibility of producing student music videos. My rationale ran as follows:

  • Music videos are representative of American (or Western) culture. The song itself, the lyrics, and the interpretation of the lyrics, like any piece of art, all come from a cultural matrix, and either reflect or reject that culture. Some may shock, but that reaction, too, is cultural.
  • Because just about everyone likes some kind of music, the intrinsic interest level is high.
  • Acting in a video encourages and empowers those with visual or concrete learning styles, whose strongest "intelligence" (as expressed in Howard Gardiner's theory of multiple intelligences) is not necessarily verbal.
  • Reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills can all be incorporated into the video itself and the work leading up to it.
  • Depending on what kind of video one chose to do, the activity could be adapted to fit individuals or groups, different ages, and different levels.
  • At the end, students have the "reward" of seeing themselves and possessing a permanent record.

With the above in mind, I designed a unit for my Advanced Integrated Skills class that centered on feelings and emotions and made the music video the crowning project.

My experience, up until that semester, had consisted of helping produce a program video on Maui for a visiting group of Japanese students. Although there was music in it, it was not what one would call a music video per se: It mainly was composed of shots of the students doing various activities such as hula lessons, canoeing, and so on. So I was perhaps a bit optimistic in taking on this project, but since the Integrated Skills class had only six students in it, I considered it worth a try.

Before we began to plan or shoot the videos, we viewed examples of several different genres. For a story video, which takes the lyrics of a song and acts out the events described, we watched "Mockingbird," by Eminem. For a feeling or interpretation video, which portrays the emotions of a song, we saw John Mayer's "Clarity"; for a political video, we watched "Diamonds Are Forever," by Kanye West; and for a performance video, which consists of the artist(s) singing the song, we saw Stevie Nicks doing "Landslide." Of course, many videos are difficult to classify, or they comprise more than one genre. Students in my class also suggested videos that they liked to watch, and we spent a class period watching, classifying, and discussing videos. I then asked them to consider how they themselves would interpret the song they chose. They were given absolute artistic license as to what they wanted to do, and how they wanted to portray themselves and the song.

For equipment, we used a Sony DCR-DVD92 Handycam, with tripod (very important for stable shots). The type of camcorder—whether it records to a disk or tape—is not important, because you are going to be downloading to a computer if you are using editing software. We did not use an external microphone; however, next time I will use one to improve the sound quality. When shooting the mandatory parts of each student's video—the introduction and explanation of why he or she had chosen that particular song—the person who was holding the camera could be heard clearly, but the student's voice tended to be muffled. To add the music track and transitions to the tape we used Pinnacle Studio 9 Plus software. This full-function audio/video editing suite is relatively inexpensive (approximately $90) and, according to our sound technicians, does the same thing as a much more expensive software package such as Adobe Premiere Pro. Unfortunately, having sat with our technician for hours working with this program, I began to suspect that you get what you pay for. Pinnacle is fairly tricky to work with: The sound tracks—one for the sound on the video, and one for the added music—have to be manipulated using the mouse. Adding opening titles or transitions sometimes tends to make a mess of the music tracks, quite capriciously. Undoubtedly the more practice I get working with this software, the better I will get: I certainly hope so, as the editing process for the first videos took nearly 4 hours to complete. It should be noted, too, that these programs take up a considerable amount of memory. Loading them on an ordinary personal computer is not recommended. 

As a result of this first attempt, I have the following advice to offer. First, make sure students schedule time for shooting. Many of our students are athletes as well as full-time students; some work as well. All these activities wreaked havoc with our carefully planned timeline. Having students submit a week's schedule with practice, game, work, and homework times blocked out would help avoid this problem. Make sure that there is a fallback time in case of uncooperative weather for outdoor shoots, as well. Finally, allow for a lot of time for editing, then double your estimate, just in case. If a student is already familiar with an editing program, it helps (I certainly was not).

Have the students write an informal screenplay for their videos. After the first video we shot, which was unscripted, I had students bring the lyrics to their song to class; they had to work out what they would be doing at a given point in the song, and when exactly that was. Meticulous, second-by-second choreography was not required (in fact, I emphasized the "keep it simple" credo), but some signs of definite planning were required. At that time they also chose when they wished to do their introduction—of themselves, the song, and the artist(s)—whether before, during, or after the song, or some combination of the above. These requirements put the responsibility of directorship effectively in the hands of the students, and vastly improve the quality of the videos.

Show the videos in class, as each one is completed. Everyone enjoys them, and it helps generate enthusiasm (and the spirit of competition!). Some students will be more embarrassed and self-conscious than will others; watching their classmates puts them more at ease. It is also advisable to allow the students to choose their own cameraperson. I shot the first few videos we did, but again, allowing students to choose their own photographer confers to them a higher degree of ownership, and in some cases makes them less nervous.

As is the case with many worthwhile projects, having students produce their own videos is time-consuming, challenging, and demands commitment on the part of both the teacher and the student. I found it also to be immensely rewarding. I would certainly do it again.