Thursday, 5 November 2009

Online videos in the Classroom: Bringing Languages to Life

The use of authentic online videos inside as well as outside the languages classroom can be very motivating for students. It brings languages to life and can also motivate through the originality and variety of the contents available.

There are many reasons why online videos should be considered as a powerful pedagogical tool.
First, these videos are readily available online and will cost schools nothing to be integrated in lessons. A majority of the videos will come from the Target Language countries and will provide appropriate exposure to the language as it is spoken by native speakers. An added benefit will be that the videos will give direct access to languages as they are spoken in different countries and will help students to listen for different accents and intonations, which represents listening skills of the highest order.

Second, the wide range of videos available means that it is easier to find materials that will appeal to all students. The videos are also constantly updated, following every trends in the popular culture of the Target Language countries. This constant updating of resources can also be done painlessly by opening an account to video-sharing sites like youtube and subscribing to different channels.

Amongst other resources songs, cartoons, adverts, film trailers, news item, language lessons and mini-documentaries are probably the most useful for language classes.
Many sites offer useful resources for the languages classroom but the vast majority of the videos can be found on large video-sharing siteslike YouTube or Daily Motion. It is also worth using video search engines that cover a range of video-sharing sites like or .

How can online videos be prepared for classroom use?
There are a number of issues to bear in mind while preparing the materials.
Video-sharing sites such as YouTube are blocked in many schools. When they are not blocked, the school network sometimes limits the viewing performance by slowing down to unacceptable levels. Another issue can be the quality of the picture and/ or sound as it can deteriorate sharply while being projected. A large number of videos are also regularly taken off the site for a variety of reasons. If the resource has been downloaded, it will remain available for classroom use regardless. Last but not least, some teachers feel nervous about going live on sites like YouTube and showing unsuitable videos/ sites being advertised.
There are now many sites enabling online videos to be downloaded and although this can be time-consuming, it is an effective way to avoid all these issues. It is worth noting that downloaders will not always work with every online video from every site, which is another reason to check larger sites like YouTube and Daily Motion first to maximize the chances of downloading success.

Videos can be prepared for classroom use as follows:
With the sound off, or using videos with very little dialogue-like some cartoons, for instance. Using a converter like Zamzar, the video can be saved as a .wav sound file and be first presented as a sound file or be shown as a video first, to let students use para-linguistic clues to concentrate afterwards on the audio without the distraction of the pictures. As another possibility, when the video makes use of captions in the target language, memorization techniques can be developed with the support of both the video and audio file.
Follow-up activities usually include spot the cognate, fill in the gap exercises, answering open-ended questions, multiple choice quizzes, finding the meaning of specific key words

Viewing for pleasure. It is a good idea to include viewing for pleasure slots in lessons, possibly at the end in order to maintain the image of languages as a subject that is alive and constantly evolving.
Cultural briefing. There are a number of videos that will help introducing the culture of a specific French-speaking country. Those videos can be more about the history, geography or touristic landmarks of the country. Although they will be more accessible in English than in the Target-Language, they may link to other activities in the lesson that will revisit in French what was presented in the video in English.
Focus on pronunciation and independence. A number of videos can be posted to a blog, wiki or VLE to encourage students’ independent language practice. A Youtube channel like Imagier (for French) is ideal for this as it concentrates on the pronunciation and grammar practice of specific items of vocabulary and structures.
Hook into a topic. Some videos can be used as an interesting way into a topic, they should feature unexpected pictures/ information to make student think of the link between the video and the likely content of the lesson. They also encourage students to make the link between different curriculum areas therefore consolidating learning and transfer of knowledge and skills.

What next?
More and more online tools are being developed to enable the transcription and translation of online videos in a foreign language. This process is still not as straight-forward as it could be but the multiplication of available tools will no doubt ease the process in the future.
The transcription of videos designed for native speakers is a great way to adapt challenging materials and make them more easily accessible for non-natives. Translation can also help making otherwise very linguistically challenging materials accessible to beginners and immersing them in the country’s culture.

The other area for development is to make full use of the video-sharing sites social networking tools to find out about more videos from a wide range of Target-Language countries as sites like YouTube are now truly global.


simonhowells said...

Great post! This has given me lots of ideas. We have to download out videos at home. Can be agreat way to bring real atmosphere into lessons though... I did one on the "Pilou Pilou" chant of Toulon Rugby Club recently! :)

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