Friday 20 February 2009

Getting Video Tasks Online

I've been aware of 280Slides for some time now, but haven't really tried to use it much as I'm a very keen user of Keynote on my MAC, but this week I was looking around for ways to get video type lessons online and discovered what an incredibly easy and useful tool 280Slides is for this.

Basically 280Slides is an online tool for creating presentations. It works in a very simple way and has a very intuitive interface which is very quick to understand. It has a few basic themes and layouts and you can do all the usual things like adding text, shapes and images to your presentations.

The two key areas though that I like about 280Slides are:

1. It's really easy to import and embed video into you presentation. Just click on the 'Movies' icon add a search term. Find your video and double click it and there it is in the the presentation.

2. It's really easy to share the presentations online. Just click on the 'Share' icon and you get the options to publish to Slideshare, email as a PowerPoint or (and this is the one I like best) get an embed code for your blog or direct URL.

This is a quick easy lesson I created and you can compare the two last options below.

This is the embed version, just click the bottom right icon to see it full screen.

This is the direct link version: Led Zeppelin or the Beatles

How about using this with students
Well as you can see this is a great easy way create materials that exploit video.
  • You can create listening tasks with questions and comprehension questions.
  • You can get students to create their own video related projects by getting them to import video into the slides and write about them.
  • Great for digital narrative which combines video images and text
  • You could get students to import significant news clips and respond to them.
  • You can combine video into grammar presentations with videos that demonstrate grammar points
  • You could just use it to make your presentations and get them online
What I like about 280 Slides
  • Really quick easy to understand interface.
  • Works in the browser so no software to download or install.
  • Great way to make YouTube videos accessible without sending students to the site.
  • Easy enough for students to use.
  • Free and no sign of advertising.
  • The only information they ask for is email address.
  • Really quick way to get materials online without having to illegally download video or have server / web hosting space.
  • Really professional looking results.
  • Embedding the videos into sides with tasks might discourage students from wandering off to look at other YouTube videos.
  • Great to have an embed code for blogs.

What to watch out for
  • It's still in Beta and free and I can't see how anyone makes a living from the site, so they may start charging or advertising, but until then ...
  • If YouTube is blocked in your school, this probably won't solve the problem, though you can get students to access your video activities from home.
  • It doesn't have all the powers of a commercial product like PowerPoint, but how many people use those powers anyway?
Hope you find 280Slides useful.

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Nik Peachey

Friday 13 February 2009

Can Music Aid Memory of Text?

This is a really interesting site that I spotted a little while back. The site was inspired by the late great John Cage, one of the most revolutionary composers of the last century.

The site is called P22 Music Text Composition Generator and you can find it at:
What the site does is to convert a written text into musical notation with a midi music file to play the notation.

It's quite simple to do. You just copy and paste your text into the field, give it a file name (with no spaces or punctuation) choose the speed and instrumentation, then just click to generate the notation and midi file.
Then you get a printable copy of your notation and a midi music file that you can download and play.

I copied and pasted this blog text in and generated this music file with it.
Well I can hear people thinking; "What's this got to do with language teaching?" and that's a really good question, so here's how this 'might' work.

How to use this with students
  • You could produce a music file to play as background while students read the text used to create it. This could build up associations between the music and text and might help them to revise and review elements of the text. You just play the music file a week or so later and see what they can remember from the text (vocabulary, main points).
  • It could also be interesting to build up a music text library and see if your students can remember which text went with each composition. Just play a music file and see which text they think it is.
  • Students could produce musical versions of dialogues and see if listening to the music can help them to remember the dialogue.
  • You can produce the musical accompaniment to stories or plays and use it as background to reading the words.
  • Get your students to play with the speed and instrumentation and produce the best accompaniment to a text. They could listen to each other's composition and choose the most appropriate one and try to explain why it works best for that text.
  • For students who like creative writing such as stories or poems it might be nice for them to also have their own musical version of the text.
  • You or your students could create short musical versions of example sentences that show how vocabulary or grammar points are used.
  • Students could write a text about themselves and then generate their own personal music.
  • If you have any musical students you get them to try to play the notation.
Well I know these ideas are certainly on the borders of ELT methodology and I'm not convinced that they will all work for all or any of your students, but I would be really interested to hear how you get on if you try them.

What I like about the site
  • It's free, quick and easy to use.
  • It produces something that to my knowledge is quite unique
  • The midi files it produces are very small and could be emailed (The one I produced 0f this text is 30 mins long, but still less than 30K)
  • I like the musical angle and the appeal to different learning styles
  • Nice to see anything that promotes the ideas and musical concepts of John Cage

What I'm not so sure about
  • Would be great to have an embed code for the midi file so that you could upload to a blog more easily (I hyper linked to mine, but might put it on my own server space then link to it as it might not stay on te website server for very long)
  • Would be great to be able to select more than one instrument
  • Good idea to select either a short text or a fast speed as the compositions can be quite long
Anyway. I hope you enjoy trying out some of these ideas with your students and please let me know how they go.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

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