When I hear the phrase interactive videos, I think of people covered in florescent mocap pingpong balls or choppy, Choose Your Own Adventure-style stories like Dragon’s Lair. And there are those. But, it seems that some creative tinkerers have pushed the envelope with some of YouTube’s interactive features and come up with some interesting results.
How can they be used with ESL and EFL students? Well, in addition to viewing and interacting with the videos and then discussing or reporting on the experience, students could be challenged to determine how the videos were made. For the more ambitious, students could make their own videos using the same techniques. Some of them, like the Oscars find the difference photo challenge would be relatively easy to remake.
I originally intended this post to be about an article I came across on creativity, but as I looked around What Makes Them Click.net, I found that the whole site deserves a mention.
Susan Weinschenk, who writes this blog, draws on her 30+ years of experience applying her PhD in Psychology to the workplace. She identifies interesting research articles and then summarizes them in a way that makes them very easy to apply to the workplace, including the classroom. Some examples are below.
Evidently, there are four types of creativity, each a combination of cognitive / emotional and deliberate / spontaneous. Thomas Edison, who is said to have gone through thousands of failed experiments before inventing something, is classified as cognitive and deliberate. In contrast, artists and musicians tend to be spontaneous and emotional in their creativity. Each type has different requirements in order to be successful. For example, the Thomas Edisons need lots of knowledge and time whereas require skill to create based on a spontaneous impulse. So, there may not be a one-size-fits-all way to facilitate creativity in the classroom.
Your brain craves surprises. This is, ironically, not a surprise to any good language teacher who fills lesson plans with a variety of activities to hold students’ interest. This summary is based on a study which demonstrated that people find surprises more pleasurable than things they like. How do they know? The squirted fruit juice in people’s mouths. Seriously.
This study looked at what strategies older and younger adults used when encountering an error when trying to use a new electronic device. Some interesting differences: the older group didn’t receive meaningful hints from their actions or use their past knowledge as much as the younger group did. These results may be particularly useful for teachers who integrate technology into their classrooms. Common sense would have us believe that older adults would have different difficulties navigating a content management system for the first time. Perhaps this study can help teachers to better anticipate these problems.
There are lots of other interesting studies summarized on this site. Take a look around and if you find others that are particularly applicable to ESL teachers, leave a link in the comments.
How did he do that? Is that the first question you asked when you looked at this picture? Look again. Notice all of the people in the picture (and in the picture in the picture) are the same person. Notice, too, that the person in the foreground is holding the picture being taken in the background. To really blow your mind, scroll down to the bottom of this post to see the picture taken by the photographer in the background. Click on either picture to link to larger versions for closer examination.
Impressed? I was. There are lots of examples of photoshopped dopplegangers on flickr, but few are this intricate. With most others, it’s easy to see how how multiple images could be merged into one because the different images don’t interact and sometimes don’t even overlap. When I look at these two pictures, I’m intrigued by how they were made. Which image was taken first? How many images were included? These questions got me to thinking: I bet ESL students would have the same questions. And it would be linguistically challenging to analyze these two photos (possibly by first priming them with something simpler) in the target language.
Next time you want to generate some discussion in your class, consider showing your students these images. (They’re licensed under the Creative Commons, which virtually eliminates any copyright concerns.) The discussion could lead to students planning their own doppleganger photos. Even if they don’t have the photo editing skills or resources to pull it off, planning out the scene and even taking some of the photos required to make their own composite image could be a very interesting exercise.
About a year and a half ago, I posted some links to online resources for royalty-free photos. Lately, I’ve been reading Presentation Zen (an excellent book and blog for improving your presentation skills) and thought I’d share some additional resources found therein. If you need photos for your website, newsletter, or classroom, you can use these resources to find lots of images you can use without fear of violating copyright law. (Of course, I’m not a lawyer, so read the fine print.)
When I first heard about MIT’s Scratch programming language, I thought it was interesting because it seemed like a simple but powerful way for kids to create games. Scratch is an object-oriented, event-driven, visual programming environment. All of these terms are explained in detail in an article in the current issue of Make Magazine, but the gist is Scratch uses draggable blocks to create programs, rather than lines of code, which simplifies the process of creating a game (or presentation, animation, etc.). In fact, it was reading the Make article that got me thinking about another video game class.
A year ago, I taught a course in Second Life with mixed results. This virtual environment is rich with detail and almost infinitely customizable, but the learning curve was steep and students found it difficult to collaborate within Second Life. Scratch, by contrast, is very simple — there are collections of games created by kids posted online. Once games are posted, they can be downloaded, edited, and mashed up as part of the learning process.
So, would Scratch make a good foundation for an elective class in an intensive ESL program? In a four-week class, the first week could be exploring scratch projects and learning some of the basics, the second week could be devoted to a small animation project, and the final two weeks could be devoted to a final game project. I would be inclined to get students working in pairs so there would be more interaction (it would be an ESL class, after all). I don’t have any experience with this programming language or project management in game development, but if the students were enthusiastic enough, and I learned some of the basics before the class, I think we could all learn as we go along and wind up with some interesting projects that students would be proud to share online.
Will I offer this class? Not sure. I’m going to try to track down some students who would like to give it a test-drive to see if it could work. If things go smoothly, maybe it’s something I would try in the summer. Stay tuned.
Lorrie and Matt over in the Knowlton School of Architecture introduced TED Talks to me and they’re a great way to spend a few minutes at lunchtime. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. Basically, a bunch of cutting edge people get together periodically to share what they’ve come up with. Great stuff. Highly recommended. You never know what you’ll find, or where the ideas will take you.