Friday 11 January 2008

Video debating website

I’ve been having a look at a new website (still in beta) which I think has some great educational / language learning potential. It's called

The site is designed to create debate and get people thinking about some of the big issues in life. It contains video clips from a very large and broad range of experts giving their opinions on various issues. users then have the opportunity to vote on whether they agree, respond to the questions raised or rate the speaker.

The site also provides people with there opportunity to upload their own questions or statements via video, audio, slideshows or text.
These are some really good examples
I set up a free profile and even added my own question, only to find (rather embarrassingly that I couldn’t delete it, so here it is, direct from my office in Second Life.
Here’s a tutorial created by the site owners that I have embed into this page. It tells you a little about how to use the site.
How to use big think:

At the time I started to write this there were 2897 ‘ideas’ added to the site so there’s plenty there for students to look at.

If you decide to post your own idea, you can do this in either the form of a statement or a question (statements give users a chance to vote - agree - disagree and add a comment, questions allow users to respond)

How to use this with students:
Here are some suggestion for how you could use this site with your students. Be aware though that this is authentic material and the language level in some of the expert videos is quite high.
  • Discuss some of the questions or statement in class then check with the expert on the site
  • Get the experts opinion then discuss in class and see whether your students agree
  • Get your students to prepare their own opinions and video them for their own class Big Think (could add it to the site or just use Big Think as a model for a classroom activity)
  • Get students to watch some of the videos and rate for how interesting they are
  • Ask students to find the expert they most agree with
  • Ask students to find one that they disagree with and prepare a response (then respond on the site or in class)
  • Ask students to summarise an opinion they have viewed
  • Ask students to view an opinion and then defend that opinion in a class debate (even if they don’t agree with it)
  • As the teacher you could set up some questions that you would like your students to respond to, or you could get your students to set up questions that they would like you or their fellow student to respond to
  • Get students to create a big think question to add to the site. (Review later and see if there are any answers to your question)

What I liked about it
There's certainly plenty to like about this site even though it's still in beta at time of writing
  • It’s free
  • These are real experts many of them well known which should be pretty motivating for students
  • The site is well designed and has a pretty clear and easy to use interface. Creating and adding your own question or statement is pretty quick and easy once you’ve created your profile (just three steps)
  • You can choose your form of media, so even if your students don’t have any kind of digital recording equipment, they can still contribute to the site using text.
  • If you click on the small email envelope icon on the video player you can send a link, get code to embed in a webpage (look at this earlier tutorial to see how this is done), or add it to your Delicious, Facebook or Digg accounts.
What I wasn’t so keen on
  • It takes a while to get registered. The process itself is quite quick, but you need to click a confirmation link which is sent to your email address and this took a good hour to arrive, so it’s best to get yourself and / or your students registered well in advance.
  • I’m not sure whether there is any editing or censorship before comments and opinions go live. The potential for abuse and misuse is huge. The site is very serious and if user don’t take the site seriously it could easily be swamped by rather uninteresting and poorly thought out opinions. With most Web 2.0 sites the vast majority of what is on them is rubbish, but the remaining 5% is pure gold.
  • I also noticed with my own question, that once you add one you can’t get rid of it or edit it (which I would now like to be able to do). Adding this feature might help to ensure higher quality through self censorship.
Despite these slight drawbacks I think this is definitely a useful site and it has loads of potential. Do drop me a line if you use it with your class.




Dan said...

Great find Nik. I'm just checking it out now. Looks like it has real potential.

I'll add one more use with students. My students tend to be a little timid in English, so having them develop and write up consensus responses would work well. This would also work well for contexts where there are burdensome registrations and/or lack of access to computers/Internet.


Patrick Jackson said...

Hello Nik,
Here are two more in a similar vein that I have found stimulating. I'm sure that you are aware of both of them. Best Wishes from Japan.

Maryanne said...

Thanks for alerting me to this site. I teach pre-service teachers about incorporating Internet tools into their teaching and I will definitely include BigThink as one they can explore.

Nik Peachey said...

Thanks All for the comments. Dan yes I agree, that is a really good point. I think also the point that sites like this give students the chance to think and to prepare a good response is also very important. In a real debate in English you wouldn't have that time, but our learners need that time.

Patrick. Thanks for the additional links. I'm familiar with the Ted Talks. I really enjoyed a recent one from the creator of Spore, a new computer game that will be released this year. I had also seen 6Billion others, though it has changed enormously since I last saw it and I might spend a bit more time on it again, so thanks for that.

Maryanne, thanks to for your comments. I hope your trainees find this useful and great to hear that the web is playing a larger part in pre-service training these days. That certainly offers some hope for thee future. I checked out your very useful blog too and posted a comment.



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