One of the great things about mobile devices such as tablets, iPads and phones is that most modern devices have good quality cameras and microphones built in. This opens up a really wide range of potential for communication and speaking practice that used to be such a struggle to organise on older laptops and desktop computers.
App developers have also been quick to exploit the potential of this powerful tool and in this post I’d like to look at some of the tools that have been created and how they can be used for language development.
Mailvu has been a long time favourite of mine, mainly because the web based version is so easy to use and doesn’t require any downloads. You just point your browser at: http://mailvu.com/ and as long as you have the Flash plugin installed on your computer you can start recording immediately. Mailvu also provides mobile apps for iOS, Android an Blackberry. These are easy to use and it allows you to send short spoken messages which don’t require the viewer to have any specific software or to download large video files. They just click a link and watch your message. This kind of cross platform compatibility is really important if you are working in a BYOD environment where students could be coming to class with a wide range of devices.
EyeReport puts an interesting twist on the video communication genre by adding the ability to record video on video. By this I mean that students can upload or record a video on their mobile device and then add a video commentary over the top explaining or commenting on what they see in the original video. This opens up a whole range of potential activities that we can get students doing. They could add commentary to sporting clips, give guided tours of places they have visited, explain processes or even make their own documentaries. Once students have completed their recording these can be shared to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or emailed directly from within the app.
CoachesEye is a similar app to EyeReport (though this one is no longer free) but is much more feature rich. Like EyeReport you can record video commentary over video, but with CoachesEye you can also add annotations and you can stop and control where you insert your comments into the video. This app was designed for coaches to give detailed feedback to athletes on their physical movements, but it’s a great app to get students creating and talking about their own videos, and also a useful tool to use when observing teachers for training purposes.
Storytime is another app which puts a new Twist on the video communication genre. It combines video conferencing with reading stories out loud. The app was designed to enable parents to read to their children from a distance and it contains a number of books you can choose to read and while you read you can discuss the books, ask questions and point to things on the page whilst chatting with the video window at the top. This is great for doing online tutoring with younger learners. There is quite a range of books from very basic and up and they are nicely illustrated.
Teleprompter is an app that I wrote about a while back when it was still free (iPhone for Speaking Homework ). The app is what it says, it allows you to import text and then it scrolls through the text while creating a video of you reading it. This is great to get students doing controlled speaking practice and then watching and improving their speaking. You can set texts which include a range of sounds which they find difficult and then watch them together and help them to understand what elements of their pronunciation are causing problems.
Keek mixes web with mobile in the form of video journals. Users can post short messages of up to 35 seconds from their mobile or computer and these are published to the web or can be browsed through the app. This would be a great tool to use as a daily learning journal, but it’s probably best used by adults or more responsible teens. It seems to be a very popular tool with teens in the USA and there is a wide range of content that students can browse through, some of which is not best suited to educational purposes, but as a concept this is quite a good app. If you prefer your students to be sheltered from this kind of popular culture app, then you can still take up the idea of the video learning journal and just get them to use their built in video camera app and post the messages to a Dropbox site.
Six3 is similar to MailVu and also compatible with most platforms, but it gives you the choice of recording private or public message and has an additional filter feature which can help to improve your appearance on the video. It’s called Six3 because you have 63 seconds of recording time in each message. Like Mailvu, the messages are also sent via links through your email, but they can also be posted directly to Twitter or Facebook from within the app.
Skype has been around for a good while and was one of the first video based communication tools to break into the mainstream. It’s being used by many online schools to deliver live online lesson from teachers to all parts of the globe. One of the great things about Skype, apart from the reliability, is that it keeps developing and adding new features. The recent addition of video messages that enable it to be used as an asynchronous tool will really help to widen its scope for use as a language development tool.
Built in camera app
With all these apps and the possibilities they offer, it can be easy to overlook the obvious. Most modern mobile device come with a built in video camera application and you can always use this to record and send video message. This has the advantage that messages are very safe from third party app providers and any possible security breaches, but sending the video clips to someone else often involves sending the whole clip via email which can be slow and require good connectivity.
For more ideas and activities for using video and webcams to develop languages see my posting 20 WebCam Activities for EFL ESL Students
Why use video communication?
I hope you enjoy these apps and that they help to get your students speaking. Please leave a comment if you have any favourite video communication apps that you use to get your students speaking.