June 3, 2011

Trying Voxopop with Students

I first tried voxopop while attending “Becoming a Webhead“ course, one of the courses TESOL offers every winter. It's a tool that allows people to create a profile, form a talkgroup and invite other people to discuss a topic. The tool is free and the registration easy. The process of recording a message is very simple and intuitive..
When guests or members visit the talkgroup, they can listen to all or some messages and add their own, if they want to add to the discussion.
This is an example of a Webheads talkgroup
I immediately liked the idea of using it with students: students can practice speaking and listening, the learning situation is authentic and it seems to make learners become more responsible for their language production.

Last year I tried to use it with my students for making introductory messages:
Hello from Croatia:
It wasn't a great success. The group had only 5 members. Even if it wasn't a very successful use of a tool, I noticed a lot of advantages:

• Ss tried hard and were motivated to listen carefully and pay attention to their own pronunciation.
• They were immediately aware of every mistake they made and wanted to correct it. It was quite OK for me to correct, they were very cooperative.
• They were interested in correcting other students' mistakes and didn't see it as a threat or a sign their friends were not loyal to them for talking about mistakes when I could hear.

There were also a lot of disadvantages:

• Ss complained that although it looked easy to record a message, it happened a few times that something went wrong and they felt discouraged after a few tries and stopped trying, logged out without saving a message
• Shy students did not even try; they listened and promised to record their own messages but never did.
• It was difficult to organize the recording in class because everyone wanted all the others to be quiet and it became time-consuming to record more messages at school.

This month I am trying to use the tool again and possibly better.

My new task, Village Life in Croatia, is a part of our presentation of Croatian culture on our Talking Cultures Wiki.

I prepared everything to help my students. Now they are all members of our talkgroup. I thought of their usernames and passwords so I am sure they can't forget them.
We are going to record the messages in class, but this time everyone with a limited time to record his or her message.
We have already prepared the messages. We talked about the topic and after the discussion I let them write their thoughts on a piece of paper. I checked the sentences. All the messages now wait for our next lesson.

I am going to give my students some time to practice saying their prepared sentences before it's their time to record. I'm going to encourage them to combine reading and speaking. I know that some of the students will need their paper only to remind them what they originally wanted to say, while some will stick to reading. I'll say it's OK to read. It's their first recording for most of them and they have plenty of time to improve.