Like a kid on Christmas, I was intensely excited to open up my box of goodies from Go Pro today! I'm participating in a pilot run by Common Sense Media and Go Pro to check out the educational implications of ubiquitous video. Here are my thoughts on how I'm going to use it. Stay tuned for some post-pilot reflections.
The language classroom is perfect for a GoPro. My students record many speaking activities, from presentations to small group interpersonal exchanges, for me to assess later. While this increases my efficiency, I often see students agonize over small mistakes, refilming again and again to be perfect. As a language teacher, I want to assess authentic communicative abilities, not a rehearsed script. The beauty of the GoPro is that it reinforces the importance of the journey over the destination, an idea that has profound resonance in education. I envision the GoPro as a way to facilitate authentic competency based assessment. Student wear the GoPro for a class period, recording all interactions and language use. At home they review the footage, reflecting on their skills and behaviors in the classroom, and pick out clips which document how they fulfilled learning objectives and add it to their portfolio.
I've got a couple of art teachers jazzed to try out the GoPro. Often times, the creative decisions and artistic challenges that happen along the way get lost as the audience views the finished product. Strapping on the GoPro and capturing the process through a series of time lapse photos would add fascinating depth to the final work. Imagine the deep reflection that would be possible if, as part of the critique, the student artist also had to select, show, and discuss one or two linchpin moments- either where the work began to take form or when they had to overcome a particular obstacle. I would love to use augmented reality to overlay an edited down process video over the finished product- more to come on that soon!
I've got a group of students participating in a technology fabrication lab. Using design thinking, student groups are creating some tech-enabled device that solves a school problem. We'll be bringing the students to MakerFaire in May where they will display their finished product. Using a GoPro to capture the making process seems like a no-brainer to me!
The Urban School has fantastic service learning and outdoor ed departments. Student backpacking, rafting, and backcountry skiing trips can now be captured as well as our student service can be documented and shared with the rest of the student body. The yearbook and our communications literature can include dynamic action shots instead of the just the tired posed group shot.
As part of the program, I'll be required to produce a 6-8 minute video and a written reflection on how the GoPro was used at the Urban School over the next few months. I'm excited to test it out and share the successes, failures, and ideas that we encounter along the way!
The question of language labs recently came up on an independent school listserv, and as a French teacher/Director of Edtech, I felt compelled to respond. I strongly believe that language labs are a waste of precious resources, both in terms of budgets and facilities. Here's why:
Integrate, not isolate
The idea of a separate lab runs counter to the idea of integrating tech into the everyday curriculum. Just as we've abandoned the isolated computer lab for more ubiquitous 1:1 or BYOD models, having to book a language lab and manage the hassle of getting students there and setting up/breaking down will limit the number of speaking/listening activities that teachers undertake. This is a bad idea for a communicative based language program. Speaking and listening activities need to take place as much as possible, both in school as well as home for homework. It is extremely counterintuitive for speaking activities to be recorded one way at school and then through another program at home. I'd suggest headsets for students paired with one of the options in #2 below. We keep our headsets in the classrooms in a cabinet. Students know where they are and how to set them up, creating an efficient workflow transitioning into and out of listening/speaking activities.
There are so many amazing options for recording and sharing sound files that are a fraction of the financial and facilities cost of a language lab. Dedicating an entire room to equipment that is occasionally used is a waste of space. Most textbooks now have an online component that allow students to listen and record their voice, as well as having voice based discussion boards. I used VHL and it was fantastic. If not the text, then your LMS will probably have excellent recording capabilities. At my former school Moodle had this functionality, and in my current one, Canvas has an even better and easier system. If neither text nor LMS, then there are great free Web 2.0 tools to check out. Audacity has been mentioned already, if you're a Mac school, Garage Band comes standard. Google Drive has voice recorder apps that are decent and easy to use. Finally, a free ridiculously easy cloud option is Vocaroo. Pushing video content to students is also easy with the plethora of options, including Youtube, Vimeo, Teachertube, etc.
The synchronous/asynchronous argument is a moot point. If your listening file is embedded into a website/discussion prompt/voiceboard, the activity and subsequent student responses will be as synchronous as a traditional listening lab. A good headset with mic isolates the students' voices so that only their response is recorded. If the idea of teacher synchronous listening is the issue, having the teacher walk around and listen to individual students performs the same function. (Protest: Having the teacher next to the student makes them nervous, anonymous listening is better! Response: Get over it! Our job is to prepare students for authentic communicative situations. Having a speaker next to them is much more authentic than being isolated in a booth!)
Overcoming resistance to change
Changing from a system where the teacher has all of the control and students are neatly organized into tidy booths to a classroom-based anytime system can be intimidating. That's where good edtech coaching and leadership comes in. As technology administrators it is our job to set up the systems as best as we can so that they are as easy as possible for our teachers to use. We also need to logically explain the benefits to teaching and learning that will result from abandoning an archaic methodology such as a language lab. But sometimes we also need to console, reassure, and cheer on our colleagues as they take coerced leaps of faith into the unknown.