eXtensions - Friday 14 April 2017

Student Videos: Lively Alternative for English Classes

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers

Video inputs


This week I have a break from the classroom which will give me a chance to catch up on some reading and writing, maybe make a video (or two) and also mark student work. With my classes for engineering students, I try to take an approach that reduces the amount of traditional (formal) English teaching, especially grammar, and has an emphasis on real world communication.

Their high school courses teach the rules over and over again, but few students remember these; nor do they have the vocabulary to express themselves. I allow them to make mistakes: no one speaks English perfectly, including me. I hope this gives them more confidence and I extend this latitude to presentations where there are no marks for English. After all, when we attend international conferences, no one is checking grammar: content is more important.

As well as presentations (2), I include the writing of résumés and letters of application, before moving on to writing (2 projects). Again, I take a gradual approach, building on skills that may be dormant and showing the importance of editing. With Year 2 students, who do not use English on a day-to-day basis, I do not expect sophisticated reports., but instead show them how short sentences - better in technical writing anyway - will reduce errors from translation and make it easier to control the grammar: Rome was not built in a day.

EGME video project

Movie Project

As part of this multi-skills approach, the students also make a video of around 7 minutes in length. They do this in groups of three and each student should appear in the videos. The students come up with their own subjects, under my guidance, and (from experience) I will veto some suggestions. In most cases they appear to enjoy the task (always useful) and learn how to use the content (clips), the software, and how to organise their ideas.

EGME video project

As I use Macs, I require the output to be in .MP4 (or .MOV) format, saving me any conversion work. In class, the files are transferred to my computer and I show a few minutes of each. With much laughter, they are their own best critics. In this class session, I am usually able to pick out a couple that have good potential and this year one in particular stands out with its clever use of short clips.

I am not usually able to put any of these videos online (e.g. YouTube) for copyright reasons. The students tend to borrow their favourite music, although one choice was so enjoyable (Night Visions, Imagine Dragons), I bought it from iTunes.

EGME video project


These projects are quite easy to put together, although I must allow time to view them properly. With 26 videos this year from my Year 2 Mechanical Engineers, that is a little over 3 hours at minimum. I tend to veto projects that involve food reviews, cooking and visits to some museums (static). I am also aware of safety: a group once tested an electrical device in unsafe ways; and I would not agree to videos on risky pursuits, such as bungee jumping.

EGME video project

I will watch these videos on my 13" MacBook Pro and on my television, using AppleTV and AirPlay. While the students learn things while they are making these videos - not only about the mechanics of movie-making but personal interactions while they are filming - I am always humbled by what I can learn about my students as I view their best efforts.

EGME video project

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



Made on Mac

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