A Summary of Russell Stannard’s talk at the British Council Mumbai

Russel StannardRarely do ELT celebs grace us back-of-beyonders with their presence and rarer still is a visit by someone who’s been making a difference in the lives of educators for yonks and not charging a dime for it. Although Russell Stannard’s talk titled ‘Tools that can really impact our teaching and learning’ at the British Council Mumbai was scheduled right in the middle of a weekday, I just knew I had to attend.

The audience seemed to (comme d’habitude) mostly comprise school teachers.  I tried to take some pictures but that is definitely not one of my strengths. Also Russell likes to dance while he’s talking; while it’s endearing, it didn’t make it any easier to get clear images. He spoke about three free tools: myBrainshark, Jing and Present.me.

I’m familiar with all three and use the first one extensively but Russell shared some nifty ideas for tweaking how you approach and use these tools. Here is a summary of his talk from earlier today:

1. myBrainshark

This is versatile tool that allows you to add audio narrations to documents. You upload your presentation and for each slide, record narration. So, you could ask Ss to record their voices as narration for their own slides and send it to the instructor or peers for feedback. This could be a good way for them to prepare for an important presentation. Teachers could also use myBrainshark for blended learning by getting Ss to go through concepts at home and using class time for processing.

The document that you upload could also be a picture. For example, you upload an image that’s connected to you in some way and then introduce yourself to your peers by recording the audio as a voice over for the image. Then share the brainshark with everyone before the course begins. You may need to demo how to use the tool in class. Alternatively, you can create a brainshark showing Ss how to use it.

For large classes, you can get Ss to create brainsharks in teams and as a part of group activities. It’s particularly useful for developing oral skills because you can get Ss to do the speaking activity at home in a way that enables you to give them feedback. Russell has used myBrainshark for teaching practice too, getting trainee teachers to reflect on lessons they have delivered. He suggested that oral reflections are often stronger than written ones. For example, in a teaching practice activity, Ss use some form of technology (his illustration used the erstwhile Wallwisher). The instructor then sends a presentation to them – each slide contains a reflection question. Ss then upload the deck to myBrainshark and record their responses to the questions on the slide.  Apparently, you can get a lot more information from Ss on their experiences working with the group or the activity.

The site is free but restricts users to 15 minute videos. You’ll need to sign up and it’s possible to limit access so only your Ss see their peers’ brainsharks. Russell also said that the tool is reliable and works effectively on slow connections as well.

2. Jing

This is a screen capture application that records what happens on your computer screen along with narration i.e. whatever you’re saying while you move your mouse around, click, highlight, type etc.

You can use it for video feedback or screen capture feedback i.e. a video of the teacher correcting the learner’s work. Russell initially did this with distance education Ss who would send him essays. He would then use Jing to create a video of his screen as he corrects the essay and provides feedback.

The feedback is both visual and aural  and it allows you to provider far richer feedback because writing as fast as you speak is next to impossible. You could also do video feedback with a blog. So you open up the URL and then highlight sections as you provide feedback.

Another useful application involves using Jing to do error correction and give the class collective feedback. During a lesson, you notice a pattern of errors and you make a note of it. You open up an MsWord document and write & talk about a grammar point while recording it on Jing. Then share it with Ss. It could also be used to give feedback on pronunciation. You list some words in an MsWord document, record yourself saying the words while marking stress.

These are teacher-led uses of Jing but you could also get Ss to use the application. For example, you give out an assignment which involves using Jing to talk about a famous person while their photo is up on the screen.  So you can do a lot of practice in class but then get Ss to go home and do their recordings.  Other Ss-led activities on Jing include:

  • Talking about a timeline
  • Discussing a website
  • Creating some training
  • Reflection
  • Talking about a picture
  • Commentary on a video
  • Telling a story

The completed screen capture video gets uploaded to the cloud (screencast.com). This is a Jing server in the US which has an upper limit of 2GB per user. Each video can’t be longer than 5 minutes which is alright because people can’t really listen to more than 5 minutes at a time.

3. Present.me 

This site lets you upload a presentation and then add your webcam so your video appears alongside the presentation, sort of like the video lectures in Coursera. This could be used with all the techniques discussed under myBrainshark except that you also have the additional video element; two students could interview each other based on questions in a presentation or the teacher records the lesson and posts it online.  You can’t download the videos and the site can sometimes be quite slow.

Here’s a link to Russell’s goldmine of a site.Russel Stannard 2



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