Presented at the Chubu Junior and Senior High School Seminar 2010

First of all, a guide to the five kinds of digital camera I discussed. The ‘traditional’ camcorder, the pocket camcorder, the mobile phone, the digital camera, and the webcam.

A Field Guide to Digital Video from darren elliott on Vimeo.

Then a digital video checklist of things to consider when choosing a camera for a job.



Transcriptions can be a simple way of noticing errors, reflecting on strategies, checking gaps in knowledge and reviewing language. Here is an example video transcription worksheet to give you an idea. Students can transcribe conversations, role plays or even monologues, although I think they should be unscripted initially. Research suggests (see Lynch, below) that transcription can be beneficial as part of a task process.

You may prefer to put the students behind the camera too, in which case you will need to train them in the use of equipment. If all your students have video facilities on their mobile phones, you could have them record short videos over the weekend to discuss in class on Monday – playback through the phones themselves makes this a fairly simple job for the teacher. These could be project or topic related, or you could give the students free reign to express themselves.

If you would like to be even more ambitious, you could release the students to make and edit documentaries, interviews, skits or commercials. You could exchange video messages with students in other countries, remake scenes from movies shot for shot, make news reports or create weekly soap operas. With the tools and the time, let your imagination run wild!

Recording and watching your own classes, or those of colleagues, can also be useful. Check Ruth Wajnryb’s excellent ‘Classroom Observation Tasks’ for ideas.


Vimeo is the video hosting service I use. The pro service is cheap, has a massive 5GB weekly upload limit, can be password protected, and looks great. It is also free of the awful commentary one comes across on youtube, with a great community of artists, animators and film makers. Students can visit the site directly and watch the video just by typing in a pre-agreed password. No registration or log-in required.

Dropbox provides free online storage, back-up, and synching between computers. Premium services are available, but if you can get your friends to sign up to the free package you get free bonus storage. Your students don’t have to sign up to anything, you can upload video files and send students a download link by email. Very simple.

WordPress is a great blogging platform (this blog is a wordpress blog) to which you can directly upload video, as long as it not too large. Some services allow you to post by email. Each of the four student blogs I am administrating this semester has a unique email address. I give this email out to the students and they can post text, photos or videos to the communal blog to share. A great way to collaborate on projects, and to stay in touch over the long summer holiday.

There are absolutely hundreds of digital video formats available, some rare, some very common. This list helps you figure them out, and free software like Any Video Converter will help you convert them if necessary.

I have bookmarked a lot of stuff which turned up during online research here at diigo … have a look around!

Further Reading

Allan, M. (1985). Teaching English with Video. Harlow, UK: Longman

Geddes, M. & Sturtridge, G. (Eds.) (1982). Video in the Language Classroom. London: Heinemann.

McGovern, J. (Ed.)(1983). Video Applications in English Language Teaching. Oxford: Pergamon.

(Three fantastic books. Not only are many of the ideas and activities still relevant today, but issues such as format incompatibility and teacher techno-fear seem to have quite a history….)

Brewster, M. (2009). Lights, Camera, Action. English Teaching Professional, 64 (September), 59 – 62.

(Some really great practical activities, highly recommended)

Shrosbree, M. (2008). Digital Video in the Language Classroom. The JALT CALL Journal, 4/1, 75 – 84.

(Slightly more technical, also practical)

Grayson, K. (2010). Flippin’ Out. Technological Horizons in Education Journal, March, 35 – 38.

(Useful overview of a number of handheld ‘pocket’ camcorders, although already dating fast!)

Lynch, T. (2007). Learning from the transcripts of an oral communication task. English Language Teaching Journal, 61/4, 311 – 319

Stillwell. C., Curabba, B., Alexander, K., Kidd, A., Kim, E., Stone, P. & Wyle, C. (2010). Students transcribing tasks: noticing fluency, accuracy, and complexity. English Language Teaching Journal, 64/4, 445 – 455.

(Two of many articles exploring the value of transcription)

If you were at the event on Sunday and are coming to look for the supplements on my presentation about digital video, please hold tight! I’m hoping to upload the checklist, some activities, worksheets, link, videos and a bibliography in the next couple of days. While you are here, if this is your first visit, have a look around! This might be a good place to start ; D

In the meantime, I just want to say what a pleasure it was to attend such a great little conference, and the evening pecha kuchas were amzing – the first session in the world to be held in a karaoke box? It’s great to see people getting together and organising these events (I wish I’d been able to attend the equinox too, which appears to have been a series of absolute belters)

Big shouts to @chucksandy @lesleyito @GifuStocks @m_yam @StevenHerder @barbsaka and all the other great non-tweeters who will hopefully become tweeters soon!

I’m not talking about how to get a laugh (although it’s always a pleasure). No, but I’ve been listening to some great interviews with comedians recently, and what struck me was the way in which they talk about honing their craft, succeeding, failing and getting better. They could easily be talking about teaching. I particularly recommend this series of interviews from Marsha Shandur.

A few quotes.

“It takes ages to learn how to do stand-up, because you can only practice on stage…you can try to imagine it, and write it, but the business of getting your stage legs takes ages.”

Dan Antolpolksi

“You can’t fake talent, but you can gain experience. You just can’t fake those first thousand gigs. You have to do ’em. ….and then after that you start to become more like you are off-stage than on ”

Russell Kane

This came up time and again, through all the interviews, along with the idea that the first few gigs were great and then things suddenly came crashing down. We can find exactly the same ideas in the literature surrounding teachers’ career pathways; expertise is transitory, one can reach a plateau, or start to go backwards. Like teachers, most of the comedians talk about their work as a craft, something which needs to be polished and developed through practice, yet the craft can only be practised through the act itself… something which takes a thick skin and enormous self-confidence.

“If I’m playing the wrong crowd now I can go to absolute silence, whereas other times… a sort of hysteria is created in the room.”

Stuart Lee

Even an acclaimed, successful and talented comedian can fall flat on his face from time to time – and it might not even be his fault. He may simply have taken the wrong gig. Teachers, too, may occasionally come up against a class with which they can do nothing right.

Another common theme is diversification. Comedians seem to come to comedy from all over the place, and once they get there take on any number of roles to make a living. I get the sense that, as with EFL teachers, comedians change things up because they have to and because they like to. In my own research I found many instances of teachers who had chucked it all in to move to a new school, a new country, a new ‘gig’… to keep things fresh. Clearly ELT is an unstable career, change is often forced upon teachers who have to follow the work with the students and the seasons. I wish that there were more security, and I could plan my life with a little more certainty. But I think many of us secretly like it that unpredictability too.

So, what we can learn from stand-up comedians is that professional development is not unique to teaching. That those professionals who reach a level of succcess in their careers (and I am not talking about the superstars, but just those who make a decent living, do what they do well, and find happiness – my definition of professional success), have something in common. Confidence in their own ability, resilience in the face of knockbacks, flexibility, and a love of the job.

A final word from Dan Antolposki….

Well, after the last post it turns out I did absolutely nothing all summer… at least, nothing related to work. I had a lot of fun though, and thoroughly recharged my batteries with friends and family in England. I haven’t blogged or tweeted anything of note in all that time, and I am straining at the leash to catch up! Now I’m back in Japan in the office for the first time in over a month (albeit in shorts and a t-shirt) sitting at my desk and making lists about all the things I need to do before the new semester starts in just over two weeks.

One of the things I need to do is get ready for the Chubu Junior and Senior High School Teachers’ Seminar 2010 on the 26th of this month, at which I will be presenting. If you know anyone who might be interested, pass it on, and keep an eye on the blog for a write up nearer the time. The theme is ‘Collaborate to Motivate’ and it should be a great event, with Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto and Chuck Sandy amongst the headliners. As a fitting nudge back into the world of work, the flier for the seminar popped up on my ipod on the penultimate day of August, courtesy of Helsinki airport’s free wi-fi, as I broke the long haul flight between London and Nagoya. 

This month marks a year since I started this blog, so expect to see a few more posts as I get back on the horse. Hope you missed me!