TESOL Video News

TESOL Video News, volume 16:3 (November 2005)

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

Kenneth Chi, chyipin128@gmail.com

Welcome to the October issue of TESOL Video News. First of all, I have to apologize for the delay of this issue. To be honest, it is not really easy to collect articles. But anyway, we have an issue now.

In this issue there is a message from our new VDMIS chair, Daniel Walsh. Then there are two articles based on presentations at the Video Sessions in San Antonio, TX, in March 2005: Johanna Katchen’s “Innovative Uses of Video and Digital Media” and Ron Belisle and Anita Aden’s “Storytelling, Structured Long Turns, and DVD Movie Scenes.”

If you were not able to make it to TESOL 2005, don’t feel bad. Now you can read about the presentations. I personally went to many sessions and was really impressed by many presenters who successfully integrated video and digital media into their teaching. I invited them to write articles for us, and they were all happy to do so. So please do not miss any of our newsletters.

The Video IS is soliciting articles for future issues of TESOL Video News. Submit articles or announcements to chyipin128@gmail.com. You may also send opinions and suggestions at any time to the leaders (see the last page of this issue for contact information) or to the e-list. We look forward to hearing from you.

Note From the Chair

Daniel M. Walsh, Hagoromo University of International Studies, Sakai, Osaka, Japan, walsh@hagoromo.ac.jp

It’s summertime, but the living ain’t easy—anyone above ground here, deep in the heart of Japan, will tell you that! Are you ready for balmier weather, too? How about Tampa in March? Your Video and Digital Media Interest Section officers and vettors are already mentally in that space as we plan sessions for the 40th Annual TESOL Convention in 2006.

As chair, at this very moment, I’m in the midst of setting up the slate of concurrent presentations, having collated scores from a jury of far-flung vettors located across the United States and also in Japan, Taiwan, and Micronesia. I shall be sending each of them a note of deep appreciation.

Chair-Elect Donna Tatsuki, based in nearby Kobe, has certainly given us her best effort to enrich the VDMIS program at next year’s convention. First of all, Donna has organized our Academic Session entitled “Dare to Go Digital” in line with the theme of TESOL 2006, “Daring to Lead.” This instructive panel presentation will help “technologically challenged” teachers like me get started with digital media.

Beyond this, Donna has liaised with program planners of other interest sections to bring us not one but two InterSections. One is a joint presentation with Applied Linguistics IS and the other is with International Teaching Assistants IS. Let’s give Donna a well-deserved round of applause!

And there is more—VDMIS will be involved in a third InterSection panel sponsored by Intercultural Communication IS, thanks to the always ardent efforts of Johanna Katchen.

Well, the swelter of August is just about to come down upon us. That signals the arrival of a large parcel of videotapes on my doorstep—the submissions for Video Theatre. It seems my work will last all summer long. Donna has offered to review the tapes with me. But, she wants me to lug that big box up into the chilly alpine mountains of Nagano (remember the 1998 Winter Olympics?) where the Tatsuki family will be in residence at their lakeside villa! I’ve been told not to forget my swimsuit, but with my full figure, hmmmm...

So, it’s summertime, but for the VDMIS chair, do you think the living is easy? Tell me when you see me at the TESOL Convention in Tampa next March 14-18. And do enjoy your summer holidays.

Articles and Information Producing Digital Audio

Johanna E. Katchen, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan, katchen@mx.nthu.edu.tw

If you have been teaching for many years, you probably have some teaching materials on audiotape. Perhaps it is a precious memory-a recording from a class performance or birthday party, or material that has gone out of print and is simply not available in any other format, but you still find it useful. However, you know that it's hard to find tape players for purchase today, and none of them have counters, a necessary feature for a teacher. Furthermore, your tapes are deteriorating. How can you save this valuable material? You can save it by turning it into a digital format compatible with today's technological teaching tools-computers and CD players.

Hardware. First you need an input source, most likely a tape player with headphone jack. You also need a computer with a sound card; all computers produced in the past few years have one. Then you need to locate the line in or microphone input, but instead of a microphone, you will connect another cable from the tape player's headphone jack to the computer's line in or microphone jack. Computer shops have these cables; they are cheap and the input jack is the same size on both ends. You also need a CD burner if you plan to save to a CD.

Software. Windows comes with a sound recorder; you can find it by going into Programs, Accessories, and Entertainment. If you plan to use it a lot, you can put a shortcut on your desktop. It does have some limitations: It records only up to 60 seconds each time, although you can manually lengthen this by going into Effects and choosing Increase Speed. Nevertheless, it's troublesome to record longer files. Windows Sound Recorder records in WAV format, which is high quality but makes a very large file; an option allows you to convert to MP3, a much more compressed and smaller file.

Other software is available and some of it is free, such as Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net). There is no limit on length of recording, and you can convert your file to WAV format. If you want to use MP3 or other formats, you will need to search for other free software. I have been using Cool Edit Pro 2.0 (Syntrillium Software, now Adobe Audition), which is a bit expensive and has more features than you need for ordinary conversion of analog audio to digital but is excellent for editing live music recording, as I do sometimes. It, too, imposes no limits on length of recording and files can be saved in many formats, including MP3. Both Audacity and Cool Edit Pro 2.0 also provide various filters to remove noise and improve the output, although the result will never be better than the quality of the original analog recording.

The Process. The process of converting analog audio to digital is relatively easy. First, connect your equipment (connect a cable from the tape player's line out or headphone jack to the microphone or line-in input of your computer), then open your recording software and press RECORD. Play your tape for about 10 seconds. Note that the procedure is exactly the same for recording your own voice except that instead of a cable from the tape player you will connect a microphone into your computer.

After the 10-second test, turn off the tape player, stop the recording, and play it back. At this point, you will probably have to adjust VOLUME at both ends-on the tape player and on the computer. To access the computer volume, open Volume Controls. If there is no shortcut on your desktop, you can find it by opening Programs, Accessories, and Entertainment. If you hear no sound on playback, check the setting for the microphone and make sure it is not set to MUTE. If there is still no sound at all, check whether there is an Advanced Setting under your microphone setting. Open this to find whether you have more than one microphone jack on your computer; on my desktop there is one on the back and another on the front. You can choose which is primary and then plug your wire or microphone into the primary one. Keep testing and adjusting the volume until you are happy with the result.

If you are recording a whole audiotape, you can record one side of a tape at a time and segment it later into separate files. Start your recording a little before the sound begins and stop the recording after your desired material has played. It's better to have an extra few seconds at the beginning and end so that you do not miss any part of it. It's easy to trim off the unwanted portions during editing.

After recording, you need to edit and save. If you want to edit the recording later, save it in WAV format, which is the highest quality but takes up more computer space; you can decide later whether to compress it, that is, save it in a format that takes up less computer space in order to, for example, upload it to the Internet or send it to a friend as an e-mail attachment. When you are editing the recording, the first thing to do is to trim unwanted portions from beginning and end, and then to segment the recording into several parts if you want. How and whether you segment depends on how you will use the material. For example, if your tape contains several songs or lessons, you would want to save each song or lesson separately because you would probably be using each one separately. If you were making a test, you might want to select individual sentences or prompts to put into your test. You could take sentences from several sources and put them together in one file (such as for a test) or make separate files for easier individual access, such as to allow students to click on an individual sentence from an Internet file in order to hear the sentence in spoken form. Note that once you have digitized your tape, you can work with that file in the same way you can edit materials from an audio CD or from a recording of your own voice into your computer (for example, giving test directions).

If your purpose is to archive your precious materials, then you should save in WAV, the highest quality, on either a hard drive or CD. WAV files are rather large, so if you have a lot of them to save on the computer, you might consider saving them on a portable external hard drive rather than taking up too much of your computer's memory.

If you plan to put this material on the Internet or even to send some portions via email, then save in MP3 format. MP3 format is also good for taking small files to a class where there are computer facilities, when you don't want to burn a CD for one lesson or song. Most new computers should have software installed that can play MP3 files. There is also an advantage to playing the file on the computer-both Windows Media Player and Real Player have a counter, so you can easily locate the exact spot within a file and replay short portions. This feature is also convenient for transcribing the text or for giving students a listening fill-in-the-blank exercise.

Applications. Advances in technology have made it possible to convert our deteriorating audiotapes and even old records to CDs for our own pleasure. This technology can help us archive and revive materials from old teaching tapes as well as to make lively teaching materials. The software allows us to, for example, make a listening test by combining our own voice recorded through the computer microphone with individual prompts from various audio files. We can make PowerPoint presentations with embedded sound files, or include sound files on our Web site. For example, when I teach about the varieties of English around the world, students can read the text (which I have transcribed) with highlighted linguistic features while they listen to the audio file-in class or after class on the Internet.

I used to ask students to read on audiotape and submit the tape so I could evaluate their speaking and pronunciation. Now they send me MP3 files via e-mail attachment, and I send my oral comments back to them the same way. Now we can ask students to submit speaking journals instead of written ones. And the next time a friend on the other side of the world has a birthday, instead of sending an e-card, sing "Happy Birthday" into your computer, save it in MP3, and e-mail your wish as an attachment. I guarantee your friend will be surprised.

Johanna Katchen presented this VDMIS Academic Session entitled "Innovative Uses of Video and Digital Media" at TESOL 2005 in San Antonio, TX. Visit her Web site at http://mx.nthu.edu.tw/~katchen.

Storytelling, Structured Long Turns, and DVD Movie Scenes

Ron Belisle (ronb@mfwi.org) and Anita Aden (anitaa@mfwi.org)

Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute, Spokane, WA, USA

Narration and storytelling are common to all ages, places, and societies. Good storytellers set the background and introduce events, plot, and resolution, all of which are intended to engage the listeners, inviting them to enter the story. To be in charge of telling a story means that the speaker has to think ahead to structure the next few moves. The speaker has to create order, linking causes and results in a meaningful chain of events. We learn to do this as young children in our first language just by participating in a speech community. Once this way of creating order in a second language is learned, one can transfer this skill and knowledge to creating and processing other kinds of extended discourse. Creating opportunities for learners to structure longer chunks of discourse is not easy in language teaching, but with narration opportunities, production can be paced within a natural real-time context.

Short interactive conversations and longer production by one speaker require different skills. When students are limited to short conversations, their ability to produce only short bursts of language is reinforced. By contrast, longer opportunities for production are marked by discourse skills that the speaker uses to organize his or her speech acts over a sustained period. These longer discourse opportunities for communication are sometimes referred to as structured long turns. They are simply opportunities for the speaker to practice sustained dialogue, to have the floor for a prolonged period.

Storytelling is a natural context in which structured long turns can be applied. In these situations, speakers are compelled to explain relevant framework to help the listener construct the context of the situation. Conversely, there is generally an inherent interest on the part of listener to enter the story and understand what is being said. By providing students with opportunities to tell stories in the classroom-that is, to produce structured long turns-the teacher can teach students how to take "responsibility for creating a structured sequence of utterances which must help the listener create a coherent mental representation of what he is trying to say" (Brown & Yule, 1983, 17).

When students have opportunities to practice structured long turns in the classroom through storytelling, important conversation skills, such as giving and asking for opinions, agreeing, disagreeing, contrasting, classifying, clarifying, and checking for understanding, can also be taught. Moreover, listeners as well can be reminded to practice active listening by using follow-up and focus questions and rejoinders, interrupting when necessary, and using active listening cues. All of these skills let the storyteller know that his or her message is being received with an adequate level of comprehension. When students have clear long-turn models and receive feedback on their efforts, they gain more confidence to produce structured long turns (Brown & Yule, 1983).

The teacher should realize that simply training the students to produce short turns will not automatically yield a student who can perform satisfactorily in long turns . . . students who are only capable of producing in short turns . . . are very far indeed from the expressed aim of many courses which is to permit the students to 'express themselves' in the foreign language. (Brown & Yule, 1983, 19-20)

We use short scenes from popular American movies in our classroom to give students the opportunity to retell a story. Our students are 19- and 20-year-old English majors from a Japanese university. After seeing these short scenes, students have the opportunity to explain characters, conflicts, causes, and surprise endings and are compelled to establish where and when events happen within the framework of a story set in time and reality. Popular movies typically use contemporary language, and their visual and audio qualities are of high interest to the students. Chosen scenes are action oriented and often express clear historical, personal, religious, and cultural values in a way that makes sense to the viewer. And most important, good movie scenes tell a story, often with conflict and resolution that can be retold by the student, which makes for a natural opportunity for a structured long turn.

DVD media provide the highest audio and visual quality for maintaining the interest of the student. There is no degradation of quality when reusing the media. Also, navigation from one scene to another or from one place to another is refreshingly simple. There is no rewinding or fast forwarding using clumsy VHS tapes. Commercial DVDs are organized by chapter, and some DVD players even have bookmark capabilities in which the user can mark specific locations for quick future reference. In addition, when the scene on a DVD is paused, which is sometimes necessary in the classroom, there is no distortion as is the case with traditional VHS tape.

Good scene selection is important for this activity. A scene needs to have a lot of action and be primarily nonverbal. It needs to be a simple story that can be understood and followed by the student. A scene with conflict and resolution is very important. Finally, it should be short and appealing to the students to keep their attention.

The activity can be done with various size groups, from two students to 30 or more students. It is best when two teachers work together. The class is divided into two groups. One group watches the short scene while the other group reviews listening skills, such as using follow-up and focus questions and rejoinders, interrupting when necessary, and using active listening cues. The group watches the short scene, typically 3-7 minutes long, and the teacher has the option of reviewing important vocabulary and transitional words for telling a story, such as then, after that, next, finally, and others. The teacher can build as much schema as possible. Then the group that watches the scene meets with the group that did not watch it. Students then retell the scene to other students.

There are several variations of the classroom plan. One is for students to simply retell the scene in the past tense to another student (or to other students) right after watching it. This provides opportunities for the students to use the past progressive and past tense verb forms. Another variation is for students to report to others what they see as they are watching it. This involves the use of present progressive and present tense. In such a case, one student is watching while the listener has his or her back to the screen with the sound turned off. This latter option compels students to produce in real time because the story unfolds quickly. For example, if a man is getting into a car at the beginning of the scene and then drives away, to provide adequate context the student is compelled first to explain that the man got into the car before he or she explains that the man started to drive away.

Many appropriate movie scenes are available. We have used scenes from the following movies: A River Runs Through It, Cheaper by the Dozen with Steve Martin, Lord of the Rings, Monsters, Inc., The Basket, The Parent Trap (modern version), and A Long Walk Home. All of these movies provide scenes that are primarily nonverbal and easy to understand, are short, action oriented, and have clear conflict and resolution. They also use contemporary American English, and have good video and audio appeal. Many of the scenes also express American historical, personal, religious, and cultural values, which is valuable for our students.

Different debriefing activities have been successful for us. One is having the students summarize the scene in writing either with a partner or as one large group. If the activity done by one large group, the teacher can elicit (and guide) the retelling of the story with the use of a computer and projector. The teacher types as the students volunteer answers as to what happened. The students have a written summary of the scene that they can see on the screen. Another debriefing method is the use of a cloze activity in which students work with a partner and fill in the blanks of a teacher-prepared narrative of the scene. Another variation for writing practice involves the use of wiki web pages. Students practice writing the narrative of the scene using a teacher designed wiki web page. Students write the narrative for a specified amount of time, perhaps for 4-5 minutes, save their page, then transfer to another wiki page to add more information and edit the existing information of the former student. Students can continue this process several times. All of these debriefing activities provide the students with opportunities to practice important skills.

In summary, using short DVD scenes from popular movies provides students with opportunities to practice structured long turns. Students have valuable chances for sustained dialogue within the natural context of retelling a story that they have seen. This activity provides the teacher with opportunities to teach important conversation skills to both the speaker and listener within a context that is enjoyable and engaging to all learners.


Brown, G., & Yule, G. (1983). Teaching the spoken language. Cambridge University Press.

Landa, M. (2004, March). Story Nets, developing fluency with digital technology [Notes]. TESOL Conference, Long Beach, CA.

Sherman, J. (2003). Using authentic video in the language classroom. Cambridge University Press.

Anita Aden has enjoyed teaching ESL and EFL for almost 8 years in Canada, Korea, Nepal, and the United States. She currently teaches at Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute in Spokane, WA. She has presented at ESL conferences in Spokane and at the main campus in Nishinomiya, Japan, on the topic of reading. Her first national TESOL presentation was in 2005 on the topic of sustained conversation strategies.

Ron Belisle has been teaching ESL for since 1983 both in Japan and in the United States. He is currently at Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute in Spokane, WA, which is the branch campus of Mukogawa Women's University. He specializes in technology-related education and has presented at eight TESOL conferences and numerous state and regional ESL conferences.

Convention Updates 2005 TESOL Convention Highlight

A TESOL official presents an award to the immediate chair, Jonathan Gourlay, at the VDMIS business meeting at TESOL 2005 in San Antonio, TX.