Sunday, 28 October 2012

The video camera

Something that really revolutionized my English teaching was when I got a new BFF called ”JVC GZ-E15”.  It’s a small and very handy digital video camera. I use it to record my pupils when they read, talk, act and present stuff in English. We watch the films together in small groups or just me and one pupil and give response to the performance. This has really helped my pupils to discover their learning and their development. 

Picture from the JVC website
The camera
The camera is called “JVC GZ-E15” and you can read more about it on the JVC website
I really like that I don’t need any tapes to transfer the recordings from the camera to the computer. It really makes it easy.

The program
To view the films you only need Windows media player, VLC media player or something similar. This part is not difficult at all. You simply connect the camera to the computer with a cord or insert the memory card in the computer – and voila! There are the films!
      I use the program called “Windows moviemaker” to edit the films. For now we do not edit the films much. A few times I have cut clips and put together many short clips to a longer film. This is something that I want the pupils to learn and do on their own films.

The teacher
I use the films to give my pupils feedback on their presentations and “feedforward” on their language development.  The films are also a great basis for grades and other assessments. In development dialogues between teacher, pupil and parents the films make a good starting point for discussions about goals in the pupil’s personal development plan.

The pupils
At first about half of my pupils didn’t like the camera at all. They felt uncomfortable and nervous. I let the pupils play with the camera a few times before we started to record their learning. They did music videos and talk shows and stand-up comedy and so on. This actually gave me some really good ideas for future lessons. This was approximately six months ago and now most of them feel so comfortable with the camera that they seem to forget about it. Sometimes the pupils even ask me if they can borrow the camera!
      The pupils use the camera to record themselves when they rehearse their presentations or speeches or other things like that. A few times the pupils have used the camera to record a discussion about a book that they have read, in order to compare their thoughts from one time to another.
      Some pupils have started to record themselves at home when they do their homework. I didn’t think about that to begin with but it’s of course a really great win!

The parents
I wrote a letter where I told the parents about the filming in advanced, but I guess everyone doesn’t read everything we send home from school. Some parents got angry (and scared I think) and wondered why on earth I wanted to record their children. But as it usually is with parents they calmed down when I explained the reasons.

The considerations
Before you start recording your pupils write a letter (or e-mail) to the parents and explain what you are going to do, how you are going to use it and mainly why you are going to do this!
      You need to be prepared for the time issue. Video making takes a lot of time and sometimes a lot of patience. I do – however – promise you that it will get better. When you and the pupils get more comfortable with the technology and the idea of being recorded it will take almost no time at all.
      Sometimes the pupils want to publish their films on YouTube. I like the idea; they are proud of what they have accomplished and want to tell the world about it. And if we lived in the best of worlds it would be natural. Unfortunately we live in a world when it’s not safe to publish videos of kids in the open on the Internet. In the area where I work we are not allowed to publish any pupil featured videos in the public parts of the Internet. I heard about YouTube for schools, maybe that’s an option? Anyone who knows anything about it?

The wish
I wish that I had at least four more cameras so that many pupils could be recorded at the same time. They do handle the camera quite well, digital natives as they are, and it would really be more effective if we could do five recordings at the time.
      I also wish that we had a CMS that worked and where we could publish our films, for our (teacher, pupils, parents) eyes only. We have a CMS today that is more wrong than right for my purposes. I want the pupils to be able to upload and download stuff on their own instead of waiting for the teacher to do it for them.


  1. Hi!
    I think it is good idea to use a camera to improve the pupil’s English skills. Was it something specific that made you choose this JVC GZ-E15? I agree that both you and your pupils will learn much about their skills in English. I wonder how you manage to get the time to see all their movies (how many pupils do you have?) and to talk about progress in their skills? How much time do you spend watching these movies a week? I suppose that you choose some movies to see and judge. I can understand that the pupils did not like to record themselves, who likes that? One time when I used a webcam, I recorded myself and showed it to the pupils. They laughed and probably did not think that it could be worse if they record themselves :) Have you tried that?
    I think it´s great that you had the patience to make videos and to deal with the problems that showed off (I assume that it was a couple of them).
    Did you have any parents that refuse to let you use recording of their children? In a parents meeting, I believe it is a good idea to bring this sort of issue up; it is difficult to argue with someone by letter or email.
    Of course, all of them should be able to record when they want to, not wait until the video camera is available. If you have webcams, you can use them (but I suppose you do not).

    Regards Martin

  2. Hi!
    Thank you for your comment. I didn't actually choose the camera myself, it was the one we had at the school…

    I do not watch all of their movies, I teach 75 pupils in English… They choose what they want me to see or sometimes I tell them what I want to see. I try to watch their films during the lessons, when the others are working with some reading comprehension or making their own recordings. We do not use the camera every week so I can’t say how much time it takes a week… But I guess one hour or so, outside of the lessons… Fortunately the films are often quite short.

    None of the parents refused to let me record their children. Quite a few, however, don’t want the films to be published on the internet – and I think that it is understandable. I agree with you that a parent meeting is a great time to bring this up. We talked about it in the parent meeting this fall (but we started recording during the spring term) and then they were all positive.

    We do have a few webcams, but they only work when 2-3 people are sitting at a table talking. When we act or do music videos they are too limited. Sometimes we have used my or the pupils smartphones and they also work quite well.
    Thank you for your comment. I didn't acctually