Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Using Product Reviews

Product review sites are becoming ever more popular on the internet, and why not after all? If you are going to spend money buying something, it's always a good idea to see what other people who bought that same product think of it.

ExpoTV is just that kind of site. It has a collection of, mostly home made, video clips made by ordinary people, mostly from North America, talking about the products they have bought. There is a huge collection of material here on a whole range of products from computer accessories to clothing, make up, cars, video games, children's toys and even trucks!

Here's an example product review. This one is of one of my favourite products, Apple's i-pod touch

What I liked about the site
  • The clips are reasonably short and download quite quickly.
  • It's free and you don't have to register unless you want to add comments or upload your own video.
  • The site is rich with the kinds of language and vocabulary that students find quite useful in their 'real lives' especially if they do have to buy things from websites or while traveling in an English speaking country.
  • The videos are made by real people so the material is very authentic with a wide variety of voices and accents.
  • The site is well designed with a good search facility, so it's easy to find the kinds of products you are looking for.
  • There is a brief guideline on how to make a good product review here which students can use as a guide. Also some how to video clips that are handy.
  • There is a great potential here for real tasks as registered users can submit their own video reviews and even make money from them!! (I would be very careful about advising students to do this)
  • There's an embed code for each video so if you don't want students wandering around the site, or if you want to use only specific clips you can grab the embed code ( as I have above) and just add the clip to a blog, web page or word processing document.

How should we use this with students?
  • Get students to watch videos of a type of product and decide which one they would buy and why / which ones they wouldn't want to buy.
  • Get students to create their own product video and include all the relevant information (this could be done very easily using anything they have with them in class from shoes to stationary, phones bags etc.) If your students don't have access to a video camera, you could still get them to do this for each other in class as a kind of short presentation. You could even make it competitive and see who can best convince the class to buy their shoes or phone etc.
  • Get the students to watch 3 or 4 clips and make notes of key information about each product. They could then share this information in small groups and decide on the best product.
  • Give pairs or small groups of students a budget and a shopping list and ask them to select the best collection of products within their budget. They should then use the product information to justify their choices.
  • Ask the students to make notes of key word or phrases / sentence structures used when describing products
  • Get some pictures of products and get students to watch / listen to one clip and decide which product was being described.
  • Prepare a list of product features from a selection of videos, then get the students to watch the videos and match the features to the product.
  • Give students a selection of clips to watch and ask them to decide which was the best made clip. Ask them to decide why. (This is a good activity to start with if you intend to get students to make their own clips or presentations)
  • Have a class discussion about product review websites. Here's some possible discussion questions.
    • Have you ever used a site like this before?
    • Do you think the sites are useful?
    • Do you know of any good sites like this (in English or other languages)?
    • Are the reviews unbiased?
    • How much confidence do they have in such sites?
    • Why do people add videos to sites like these?
    • How do the sites make their money?
    • Why do they pay people to make video clips?
    • Would you make a review of a bad product? Why / Why not?
What I wasn't so sure about
  • Students can submit their own videos and get paid for them, but I would be very wary of encouraging this especially for younger students. Be sure to protect your students privacy and personal information and check on any terms of use before letting them register on this or any other website.
  • The site carries a lot of advertising so be wary of letting students click round all over the place. It may well be better to create your own page that only uses the clips you have selected embedded into the page (especially for younger students).
  • Students should be aware of the fact that not all the information given in the video is necessarily correct. These are just amateur video makers giving their opinion.

On the whole I think that sites like this are a really useful source of authentic materials, real language use and authentic real life tasks that can be useful to students beyond the classroom.

there are some things to be wary of when using them, but on the whole I think making students aware of the possible dangers, traps and pitfalls, is a valuable part of their education in itself, so I don't see this a reason not to use these sites.

Well I hope you find these tips useful, and please do add a comment if you have any other ideas for using product review websites, or if you have used them with your students.

Here's the URL of the site in case you missed it: http://www.expotv.com


Nik Peachey


Eric Roth said...

Thank you for sharing this new (to me) website of consumer product reviews.

As somebody who has taught product reviews for over a decade with university and adult students, I share your enthusiasm for this authentic assignment. Many students hold strong, sometimes passionate, views on consumer products - and clearly embrace a "we are what we own" ethos. The assignment also allows English teachers to build vocabulary, emphasize the need to support opinions, and often cite sources. You can require, for instance, that students provide factual information (cost? size?) and consider competing products and disadvantages.) You can also teach the phrase "according to" and underline the importance of providing a clear recommendation.

While Amazon provides a more familiar format for print reviews and Rotten Tomatoes for movie reviews, this site seems to offer a wide range of products. I'm adding it to my resource list. Thanks for sharing it.

Eric Roth said...

Here's the simple product review form that I often use in my high intermediate and advanced oral skills classes.