Exploring Digital Solutions for Providing Effective Speaking Activities in EFL Class

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Background

English as a foreign language refers to “learning and using English as an additional language in a non-English speaking country” (British Council, n.d.). Delivering a speaking activity in the EFL class could be ineffective when students come to the course with little readiness. Moreover, for the students who do not have the language environment, the skill of expressing themselves eloquently in English is not easily retained.

 

I’m going to explore two potential digital solutions to solve this problem. I will introduce one pedagogical approach, two digital tools, and my rubric to identify a tool’s suitability with a final recommendation.

 

The Flipped Classroom

According to Educause (2012), “The flipped classroom is a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed.” In other words, students watch instructional videos outside the class and communicate with peers and teachers through online tools (KNEWTON, n.d.). For instance, in the EFL class, students study key grammar and vocabulary via online lectures prepared by teachers before attending the class. It prepares students for prospective speaking activities; consequently, speaking activities would be more effective than traditional ones. Furthermore, if the online discussion is assigned to students after class, they can practice their speaking skills. With the concept of the flipped classroom, two potential tools meet my needs.

 

Two digital tools

#1 Flipgrid

The first digital solution is Flipgrid. Flipgrid is a free video discussion platform developed by Microsoft. It targets to help educators interact with students in video discussion posted in the “grids.” Generally, educators can post a video with specific questions for students, and students can answer the questions by creating a short response video.

 

A short introduction from Microsoft.

Video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFEPp368Mzg

 

Type of Technology

Flipgrid is known as a social learning platform or web conferencing tool. It could help me implement a flipped classroom that meets my needs, as I could post instructional videos on Flipgrid before class and invite students to participate in an online discussion.

Instructional Benefits

Flipgrid corresponds to some of the standards of Tony Bates’ (2015) SECTIONS model for evaluating digital media and applications.

  • Students: it is available for educators and students from PreK to Ph.D. (flipgripd.com, n.d.).(it’s available for all educators and students.)
  • Ease of use: it is easy to navigate, and many beginner tutorials are available. Students can even use stickers on their video covers.
  • Cost: it is completely free for schools now though the service fee was $1000 a year per school (Business insider, 2018).
  • Teaching functions: engaging short videos are presented in user-paced segments, which enhance the learning experience.
  • Interaction: it includes student-student interaction, student-teacher interaction, and student-content interaction.
  • Security and privacy: it has a feature like topic moderations to set videos only seen by teachers, and creators own the content.

Key Technical Considerations

  • Digital literacy: basic digital literacy is required as students need to create digital content.
  • First-time users: some students could feel frustrated when encountering instructional difficulties. The instruction needs to be done in class to prevent unnecessary misunderstandings.
  • Personal traits: some students might feel uncomfortable to record a video in front of a camera. Teachers need to consider it when assigning a topic and use topic moderators to make student videos and comments private to educators.

 

#2 Edpuzzle

The second digital solution is Edpuzzle. It is a teaching tool that enables teachers to place interactive content into instructional videos with numerous video sources from TED or YouTube. It is free only with their basic plans, including 20 video storage. What is impressive about Edpuzzle is that it transforms instructional videos into an interactive activity. Educators can set questions either with multiple choice or open questions in the video. When students watch the video, the question will pop up for them to answer.

 

How to create an interactive video in Edpuzzle.

video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GzcRrSR8Ak

 

Type of Technology

Edpuzzle is a digital tool and platform for creating interactive videos. By utilizing it, I can share my videos or other sources in my class on Edpuzzle. Students can study intuitive videos, which can help divide the learning process into small steps, thus enhance the online learning experience. Additionally, delivering speaking activities could be effective in Edpuzzle. For example, a video of English communication could be divided by pre-set questions that allow students to practice what they have just learned in the video.

Instructional Benefits

  • Edpuzzle matches some considerations of Tony Bates’ (2015) SECTIONS model for evaluating digital media and applications.
  • Students: it is easy to access; for all levels of school.
  • Ease of use: it is available on the web, smartphone, and tablet. It might be complicated for teachers when designing interactive questions for the first time.
  • Cost: it is free for students, and with free basic plans, each teacher can store 20 videos.
  • Teaching functions: it makes the online class more engaging; the teacher can monitor student progress and “prevent skipping” features.
  • Interaction: it could contain student-teacher interaction and student-content interaction. (Intuitive video editor includes both teachers and students’ ability to add voice-overs, comments, resources, and quizzes to existing online videos.)
  • Security and privacy: Only the students with inviting code have access to the classroom.

Key Technical Considerations 

  • Digital literacy: Edpuzzle requires high digital skills for teachers. Teachers need to find reliable sources and edit them into appropriate teaching content.
  • Outsourced video concern: Some video sources from YouTube contain advertisements; teachers need to be aware of this pitfall.
  • Storage limitation: 20 video storage might be insufficient for some teachers, so it might be needed to upgrade to the Pro Teacher plan ($11.50 per month) with unlimited storage.

 

My Rubric for Evaluation

I would refer to the Learning outcomes and technology tools matrix (University of New South Wales, 2018) for deciding which type of tools to choose by asking the following questions:

  • What is the expected learning outcome?
  • Why does the outcome matter?
  • How could it be addressed by relevant activities?

After deciding which tool to use, I would consider the following rubric based on Bates’ (2015) SECTIONS model to evaluate the digital tools’ appropriateness.

 

Student

Does it fit most of my students?

Will my student have difficulty accessing it?

Ease of use

Will it take much time to learn how to use this technology?

Are there any other invisible requirements for me and my students?

Technic help availability

Is there an explicit instruction on where to turn for help when a technical problem happens?

Costs

Is this technology affordable for my students and me?

Is there an additional cost involved?

Functionality

Is there any functional difference between different systems (android and iOS) and devices (e.g., smartphone, tablet, and website)?

Security and privacy

Who owns the content created by the tool?

Is there any third party who would have access to student data?

Is there any option for users to be anonymous?

 

Summary

Both digital tools meet the analytical framework of CSAM (Power, 2013), which refers to collaborative, situated, active, and mobile. They can be accessed by different devices and free students from the traditional classroom. Ultimately, they could also be beneficial to both educators and students.

In the EFL context, Edpuzzle allows us to create unique teaching content. Teachers can easily monitor the video assignment and progress; besides, students can view the teacher’s comments and respond. For teachers in the same school, they can choose to co-create teaching content and share resources. The potential problem for Edpuzzle is that, although intuitive videos are integrated, there is a limitation of student’s communication and collaboration.

However, Flipgrip is more potent regarding the EFL teaching context. The interaction is essential in language learning, lack of which leads to concerns for online language learning. The Flipgrip provides many functions to assist that issue. By trimming and rearranging video clips, students can create satisfying videos or upload videos from their devices. Emoji and text can be used as stickers on the video overlaying photo, making the process exciting and engaging. Microsoft Azure can even automatically transcribe those videos.

With the support of Flipgrid, delivering a flipped classroom for EFL students to increase speaking activities’ effectiveness and provide more chances for practice is possible. As the above mentioned analysis and comparison of two potential solutions, I will use Flipgrid to solve my instructional problem.

 


References

Bates, A. W. (2015). Chapter 8: Choosing and using media in education: the SECTIONS model. In Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for teaching and learning. Tony Bates Associates Ltd.

British Council. (n.d.). Efl. TeachingEnglish | British Council | BBC. https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/efl

Hill, A. (2018, August 25). EDpuzzle: More features and possibilities. Mr. Hill’s Musings. https://mrhillmusings.com/2017/10/22/edpuzzle-more-features-and-possibilities/

Merrill, J. (2018). Flipgrid – A social learning platform. The Techie Teacher®. https://www.thetechieteacher.net/2018/07/flipgrid-social-learning-platform.html

Power, R. (2013). Collaborative situated active mobile (CSAM) learning strategies: A new perspective on effective mobile learning. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: Gulf Perspectives10(2). https://doi.org/10.18538/lthe.v10.n2.137

Weinberger, M. (2018, June 18). Microsoft buys a classroom video startup with 20 million users as it pushes against Google. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/microsoft-flipgrid-education-video-2018-6


 

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10 Comments

  1. Hello Junxiang,

    Great presentation and blog! I like how you explained the concept of the flipped classroom. It was easy to comprehend. The flipped classroom concept allows your EFL students to prepare in advance and it personalizes the learning (MediaCore, 2012). As an educator, you would be able to spend effective time with you students.

    FlipGrid is a powerful digital solution. I was not familiar with this application, but after the past school year, my children use FlipGrid for presentations. Students and parents can watch video recordings of other students. As I reflect on this application, mastery of concepts can be achieved as video playback can be performed.

    Thank you for sharing,

    Rolly

    References

    MediaCore. (2012, December 21). Flipping the classroom: Explained [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/iQWvc6qhTds

    • Hi Rolly,

      Thank you for your comments. Both applications would stimulate a student’s interest in learning by providing more flexibility than traditional teaching methods. Students who already preview the course content can quickly go over the knowledge and practice. The above-mentioned advantages are especially important in language classes.

      Junxiang

  2. Junxiang, great presentation! Between viewing yours and Rolly’s PowToon videos, I am now pretty enamoured with it as an application. The graphics look so good; I’ll have to try out making my own PowToon video someday.

    I like both of your tool choices and I can see the benefits as you explained them to both (though ultimately I agree that Flipgrid is a better choice for your purpose). Actually, your introduction to Edpuzzle is new to me, and I find myself wondering if there is any circumstance that I could use such a interactive feature in my context.

    • Thanks for your comments, Eilidh. I think Edpuzzle could be useful in your context, as it could help divide the video content into small steps with some questions. It should be more engaging than just watching the whole video.

  3. Hi Junxiang,
    I enjoyed your presentation and will be looking at using both Flipgrid and Edpuzzle in my ESL classroom. I agree that a flipped classroom is definitely of value in second language learning. I find that students really need the extra practice and introducing concepts before class is beneficial. It is also great for them to have a reference to come back to later to review grammar and vocabulary that they do not fully understand.
    Thanks for the thorough description of both applications. I am interested in using both in my future lessons.

    • Thanks for your comments, Corrie. Both tools could help create a flipped classroom that enhancing the learning experience. I am glad that you find them useful.

  4. Chloe Bowra

    Hi Junxiang, I can’t believe how professional this video you created looks! Powtoon is awesome and I hope to use it in the future. The video format and graphics of your project made it really engaging!

    Chloe

    • Hi Chloe, Powtoon is a powerful tool to create animation videos. You can try to use it. Besides, the process of making an animation video is also interesting. When you are using the Powtoon, you might need to pay attention to the length limitation because each slide is only allowed to be 20-second-long. Thanks for your comments.

  5. Hi Junxiang

    I’ll echo the others in saying how great your presentation is! While I a, very familiar with Flipgrid, I am now very interested in Edpuzzle and will definitely be integrating it into my classroom.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Jennifer

    • Thanks for the comments, Jennifer. I am pleased to see that you are interested in trying it. I believe both tools could be beneficial in your classroom.

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