Student Video Fellowship: Creating student video using web cams and VoiceThread to improve listening, comprehension and speaking skills in language learning

Project Summary:

During the 2008-2009 academic year, Sandra Valnes Quammen, Senior Lecturing Fellow in the department of Romance Studies, participated in CIT’s Student Video Fellows Program.  This Fellows track offered a group of faculty from a range of disciplines the opportunity to investigate how to effectively design student video assignments, assess video work in the courses, and provided access to technology and support options available at Duke for them and their students.

Valnes Quammen integrated her fellowship into her third-semester French 63 course to develop a video journal assignment in which students engaged with authentic French-language source materials, which included video clips of news reports, newspaper articles, and blogs related to specific themes.  Students then honed their listening, comprehension and oral expression skills to record a series of unscripted short video responses to these materials, based on specific discussion questions posed by the instructor.  As part of their assignment, students then also recorded video responses to each other’s work.

The project took place in three installments over the course of the semester and revolved around three themes: school and education, transportation, and cinema and television. During each phase, students created video responses through the use of webcams and VoiceThread, a web collaboration tool that allows users to create image and video presentations, and then invite other users to create embedded audio and video commentary on these presentations.

Valnes Quammen wanted her students to have an easy-to-use video and audio interaction technology which would allow them to be exposed to authentic French-language source materials, and would improve their listening, comprehension and oral skills in a real authentic way outside of the class period.  She felt this was accomplished with VoiceThread.  While the students embraced and adopted the technology with enthusiasm, the emphasis of the course was focused on the pedagogical development of French comprehension and speaking skills, rather than technology skills.

Upon reviewing the series of video responses from each student over the course of the semester, Valnes Quammen noted that there was a marked improvement in the clarity of the ideas expressed by the students, a higher accuracy and complexity of spoken French and more natural and fluid speech.  In end-of-semester surveys, the students themselves reported being very satisfied with the work they were able to do, and with the improvements they were able to see with both, their comprehension and their speaking skills.  As for the technology, students reported having very few technical problems with the web cams and the VoiceThread tool.  As a result, Valnes Quammen plans to continue to implement the same model in later semesters of French 63, and possibly in her other French courses.

The first thing to think about is whether or not video adds to the course in a meaningful way or whether video is simply a fun thing to do.  And if video allows you to do a project that you otherwise would not be able to do, then it’s a very good use of the technology.  The other thing that I would suggest is really researching your options far ahead of time so you know exactly what is and what isn’t available to you, and you can get an idea of potential problems that you might run into before you even start working with the students.

Click on the video player to hear Valnes Quammen’s thoughts and recommendations on the use of video technologies for a course.