Blog Post

04. Foreign Language Vine Video Festival

Language teachers have always understood that recording devices empower their students to be creative in the way they use a new language and present it to their peers. Students are often very enthusiastic about doing projects where they create videos, but often they do not have the linguistic skills necessary to use the complex discourse that is required to express the ideas they have. More importantly, since making a video of five to ten minutes is a fairly difficult task, these assignments are usually given as large group projects at the end of a semester. Since they require so much work, it's only natural for teachers to assign a large grade to the project. But in reality, students don't actually learn very much if we're thinking in terms of their ability to retain language for future use.

That where Vines come in. 

These six-second videos are perfect for allowing students to use what little language they know in a creative way. They can be less concerned about sentence-structure and grammar and focus more on using language as a tool for communication. These videos are simple and easy to make, so there's no need to assign groups or group grades, meaning each individual can worry about their own work regardless of a classmates lack of enthusiasm. And perhaps the most important, it's not hard to make a Vine interesting, meaning that watching them with classmates is kind of fun, which encourages everyone to pay attention to each others' work, giving the language being used more significance.

Currently, students from nine beginning and intermediate Spanish classes (about 150 total) were assigned the task of making Vine videos using Spanish. Their only limit is that they must use Spanish in some way. The grade assigned was relatively minor (the equivalent of a weekly pop quiz). To give students further incentive, each video will be automatically submitted to a campus-wide competition judged by upper-division Spanish students. The top video will be shown at a festival next week, with the top five finalists being announced and put to a voice vote. The winner takes home the coveted prize of a $30 Jimmy John's gift card, generously donated by our department chair. Video submissions will be due Friday, Feb. 14 and I'll update this post with a compilation video of the best Vines. In the meantime, you can be the first to see my own entry, although I'll exclude myself from prize contention.


While this is an ongoing project, two things have already stood out to me. First, students were genuinely excited about the project. One student who rarely asks questions in class and has never come to see me during office hours has already engaged me three times about his video ideas. Second, not a single students complained about the difficulty or asked how to make a Vine. Although my colleagues were reticent about this point, I assured them that the only instructions we needed to give students about how to create a Vine was to look it up on Google. This project took very little planning and effort on my part, and I think it has the potential of being a fun annual event that help students engage in language learning in a new way and raise the profile of our department on campus.

 

UPDATE:

The results are in. The students enjoy the project quite a bit, and a colleague even overheard a group of students talking about someone's video. It's a great experience and our department is definitely going to repeat the assignment in the future. You can watch a compilation of some of the best videos on Vimeo here. You can also see the assgnment instructions here, so you get an idea of how easy the setup was. Enjoy!

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7 comments

Thanks for sharing this idea, Cory! I must confess that, although I had heard of Vine, I was not familiar with the details until you shared this post. I agree completely with your argument that Vine videos can take the stress out of preparing a video and encourage students to practice their Spanish in a creative and relevant way.

However, I need to ask the obvious question: is six seconds a sufficient amount of time for students to show what they can do with the language? What kind of content do you expect students to produce?

I'm looking forward to hearing about the results!

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Thanks, Steve. What I like about this assignment is that students are learning that communiating in a foreign language is more than just memorizing words. I think the assignment will help students realize how many creative things they can do with the limited vocabulary they have. But that's also why I like that this is, in terms of a grade, a very minor assignment (maybe .05% of the final grade). And I think that because these are fun and creative, the learning will actually come more from students sharing with each other than from creating the video, if that makes sense.

Once I post the results, it will be good to get your feedback on how you think it worked.

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I'd also say that I'm hoping students learn from the process, not just the product. So I actual only gave them two guidlines on content: 1) it must use Spanish, 2) it must have an entertainment value. 

This activity arose out of another assignment I gave my students reading Lazarillo de Tormes. I asked them to do a Vine of what they thought was the most important scene, not so much because I wanted them to do the video, but because I wanted them to decide which scene was the most important. in class, we discussed why they chose those scenes and it worked well.

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The collaborative and communicative component of this assignment is my favorite part. I can see why students would have fun making these videos! I also like your connection to Spanish literature, as it brings it to life for the students and also highlights, completely correctly, the humor of the source text.

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First, the idea of a contest using multimedia, and particularly multilingual, assignments is excellent and has a lot more going for it than you've exploited. You may or may not be able to take it to any of the next levels, but the kids might - by themselves.

Second, depending on your community, this could be a rich vehicle to engage businesses (particularly restaurants) and potential jobs for teenagers. If a merchant wants to contribute a prize, that merchant should guarantee to post some (or many, depending) of the Vines mini-documents on a VCR and video player in their restaurant. If they don't that's fine, but encouraging access is always useful in any way, so they could post the website, and you could make voting available on that website.

Third, this needn't be a one-time-a-year nor an end-of-the-year "assignment." Frankly, it is a superb assignment for pre-college kids to create documents that demonstrate how much they know, and how they know it. There are a wide range of metrics that could be used - google "Verified Resume" or SCANS for plenty, and then choose, or, better yet, get them to choose, or, best, get their parents or their restaurant sponsors to choose what matters most....

Fourth, infusing the entire curriculum with this kind of low-risk, high benefit, easily collaborative, self-assessment process only improves products at every stage. It also breaks the formula of "seat time," since much of the work is less "assigned to" than "intened by" students who get involved because they see benefits to knowing "stuff" beyond a grade, a class, or a course. That, after all, is the point of all teaching and it gets lost most of the time.

Congratulations on discovering a rich tool which could be used in many productive ways.

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First, the idea of a contest using multimedia, and particularly multilingual, assignments is excellent and has a lot more going for it than you've exploited. You may or may not be able to take it to any of the next levels, but the kids might - by themselves.

Second, depending on your community, this could be a rich vehicle to engage businesses (particularly restaurants) and potential jobs for teenagers. If a merchant wants to contribute a prize, that merchant should guarantee to post some (or many, depending) of the Vines mini-documents on a VCR and video player in their restaurant. If they don't that's fine, but encouraging access is always useful in any way, so they could post the website, and you could make voting available on that website.

Third, this needn't be a one-time-a-year nor an end-of-the-year "assignment." Frankly, it is a superb assignment for pre-college kids to create documents that demonstrate how much they know, and how they know it. There are a wide range of metrics that could be used - google "Verified Resume" or SCANS for plenty, and then choose, or, better yet, get them to choose, or, best, get their parents or their restaurant sponsors to choose what matters most....

Fourth, infusing the entire curriculum with this kind of low-risk, high benefit, easily collaborative, self-assessment process only improves products at every stage. It also breaks the formula of "seat time," since much of the work is less "assigned to" than "intened by" students who get involved because they see benefits to knowing "stuff" beyond a grade, a class, or a course. That, after all, is the point of all teaching and it gets lost most of the time.

Congratulations on discovering a rich tool which could be used in many productive ways.

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Hi Joe,

You're right, some of the students really went above and beyond to make something enjoyable, and there is a lot of potential to expand redevelop the assignment. It was a great experience, and most importantly, the effort to set up and complete the assignment was minimal in comparison to the learning potential.

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