Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Screencasting & language learning

I've been checking out Capture Fox - a Firefox add-on that I originally came across thanks to the the Ed Tech Crew Podcast. Capture Fox allows you to very easily make a screencast in Mozilla (though only in Windows XP & Vista). Once installed, you're only a couple of clicks away from recording (with voice if you choose) what you are doing in the firefox screen or in the whole window - at this stage you can't reduce the size of the area. The only problem I've found so far is the size of the screencast files, though you can choose to lower the quality and reduce the size.

Anyway, today's brainwave centred around using the add-on to help engage my students in a bit of language learning through some "Virtual ordering at a restaurant". The plan at this stage goes a little like this ...

After installing the add-on in firefox and learning how to use it we will:

  1. Go to the McDonalds website in Japan to have a look at the menu - practising some katakana script while we are there.
    • On second thoughts, I will use 3 or 4 different restaurant / food outlet sites rather than all using the same site. My personal favourite Mister Donuts will no doubt make it onto the list.
  2. Students will write down what they'd like to order, again ensuring they use the correct script. They will need to order more than 1 of each item to practice using the correct counter (our latest grammar point).
  3. Finally students will use capture fox to create a screencast of themselves ordering their chosen food and drink (in Japanese of course). We will then share our creations.
I may need to refine the plan a little but it's a start. Could screencasts like this one day constitute a speaking assessment, or am I taking things too far with that idea? Short of skyping a restaurant in Japan (hmmm... maybe one day), this seems to be the next best thing. On face value it seems like a reasonable attempt to make Japanese more relevant to the students by showing them how they can use their knowledge to order food from a real menu, but we shall see...

Check out my attempt at the task below:

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Opening doors through language learning

Languages open the door is a new website (funded by the Australian Government) which aims to:

"highlight the intercultural, intellectual and vocational benefits of learning languages to a range of key stakeholders;

reinforce existing positive attitudes to languages education and assist in culture change in schools and school communities where there are negative attitudes; and

provide education authorities, schools and teachers with effective promotion and communication materials and products which can be used for a variety of purposes."
This is a positive step in the promotion of language learning in Australia. Too many students, and indeed parents, see languages as irrelevant and as somehow getting in the way of learning our own native language. Nothing could be further from the truth and hopefully this website can not only provide language teachers with some extra resources but also help young people see the value that languages add to their lives.

There are some useful parts of the website in terms of promotional materials. In particular, the Languages Champions section of the website has some bios of Australians who have been able to open up their career paths through being able to communicate in other languages.

Check it out and remember - Languages Matter!