Things You Can Do With Your WebCam 1

I'm beginning to think that besides the actual computer itself, a WebCam is one of the most fundamentally useful tools we can possibly have to help us teach and learn a language and of course what's great about WebCams is that they are getting very cheap and many laptop computer come with one ready installed for free!

Beware of bad hair days!!!!

So I've decide to start a mini series of postings on 'Things you can do with a WebCam' - Even if you don't have an Internet connection.

Create fictional characters for narrative and photo stories
Most WebCams can be used to create and record both still and moving images and come with their own software which can be used to add backgrounds or to change and distort the images. You can get your students to dress up, disguise themselves and then create images that they can build into a picture story.

  • Here are some images of characters that I created with my daughter as the basis for a story.
  • I then embedded these into a document and added some speech and captions. This is a great tool for getting your students to create their own picture stories and practice dialogue and narrative.
  • I used Photo Booth to create these images and then imported them into Comic Life on my MAC, but you can do the same thing on a PC by using free software such as ManyCam to create the images and then just inserting them into a Word document and adding 'Call outs' for the captions and speech bubbles. (See a review of the ManyCam software here: Great WebCam Software)

Record your own stories
Story telling is a great way to develop students listening and speaking, but why loose all those wonderful story telling moments. You can use a WebCam to record stories for your students to watch and get your students to record their own stories to share.
  • Telling a story to a WebCam on a computer can be much less intimidating than facing a live audience, so this can reduce your students' anxiety levels. It also gives them the opportunity to watch and listen to themselves telling the story so that they can evaluate their own performance and record and re-record and improve their performance if they feel it's necessary.
  • Your students can also store these recordings as part of an E-Portfolio which they can look back on later and, if you have younger learners, you can share these with their parents.
  • You can also create the stories collaboratively, by recording your own beginning and getting your students to add a sentence each so that they develop the story in their own way.
Here's an example beginning that I created using an online tool called 12 Seconds TV, but you can do the same thing with your WebCam and just store it on your hard drive.

  • The stories that you record don't have to be created by the students or even improvised. You could get your students to record readings from books and work on making them entertaining. I remember as a child watching a TV show called Jackanory which featured popular celebrities reading stories and have often enjoyed reading stories to my daughter.
  • The ability to make your reading entertaining and dramatic with different voice to do the parts of the dialogue is quite a skill and requires a good understanding of the text. Asking students to use a text to develop these skills can be a really good way of focusing them, not only on their understanding of the text, but can also help the students to 'explore' the tonal ranges of their voice in English and to work on their pronunciation. If you try this though be sure to leave plenty of time for rehearsal.
Here's an example from Jackanory of Rik Mayall reading Georgie's Marvellous Medicine

Editing your videos
Once you have a number of stories recorded you might want pull these together into a short 'show' and start editing them together, adding effects and inserting images into the narrative - You could even use the still images of the characters that you created.

  • Again, if you have a MAC you can use i-Movie to do this, but don't worry if you have PC, there are also some great free tools that you can use with your students to do this. These include VideoSpin by Pinnacle (See my review: Free Video Editing Software ) or Virtual Dub which is a simple free program (You can see a review and tutorial here Merge Multiple Video Files With Virtual Dub )
  • Once again, remember that it doesn't have to be you who does thee editing. You can get students to edit their own videos and add effects too. having a polished finished product from their learning can help to motivate the students and give them pride in their accomplishment, which will ultimately encourage them to enjoy and improve the level of their English.

Well that's the theory. Hope it works out for you and if it does then look out for part 2 of things you can do with your WebCam.

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Nik Peachey

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