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.
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!