Video feedback on written work

For a while I’ve been meaning to ‘show and tell’ an experiment I did with my students’ written work.  Then a suggestion for this week’s #ELTChat reminded me I still hadn’t done it!  So here we go…

From eltpics, by @aClilToClimb

A few months back, I had an evening class of low-ish intermediate students who wanted to work on writing CVs and covering letters.  They all worked during the day (hence attending lessons in the evenings) and some were looking for new jobs (hence the desire to write cover letters!).

In class that week, we looked at jobs, discussed the personality traits required by certain jobs, role-played job interviews, read and created job listings, etc.  Then we looked at an example covering letter and analysed the format, the style, some typical expressions, etc.

Homework was to choose one of the [albeit slightly off-the-wall] job listings they’d created in-class and write a cover letter, applying for an interview for that post.  As these tend to be typed, they had to word-process their letters and email them to me.

Before long, I received this email from my student Virginia (who has kindly agreed to let me reproduce her work and my feedback on it in this blog post):

Hi Laura!!!
Please, find attached my cover letter. In the cover letter I am a superstar haha.
See you on wednesday!!
Have a nice day.
Virginia.

Her cover letter, applying for this “superstar” post, was attached to the email, and here’s how it looked:

In normal circumstances, I would select 3 ‘best bits’ and 3 ‘things to work on’ (rather than picking up on every single little detail, which might be too overwhelming for both of us!) and email these back to the student, which I did:

Hi Virginia,

Here’s your feedback: http://screencast.com/t/VJYHq2QT

And here’s a written summary of my suggestions:

Good things
1. Starting and finishing (Dear Miss Garcia — Yours sincerely) – just remember to spell it right! 🙂
2. Paragraphing and organisation of information, especially the last paragraph
3. Use of common phrases in cover letters like “I am writing in response to…”, “I am available to start immediately” and “I look forward to hearing from you soon”

Things to revise
1. You could use relative clauses and participle clauses to combine sentences and make the grammar more complex:
e.g. I am highly experienced, having been involved in the music world for over ten years. (participle clause)
e.g. I have five discs, three of which were number ones in England. (relative clause)

Here’s some information on relative clauses: http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/learnit/learnitv286.shtml

And here’s some on participle clauses: http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/learnit/learnitv305.shtml

(Note: this is more advanced grammar! Your letter was very good for your level. These are just suggestions for improvement.)

2. Be aware of collocations like “difficult situations” and abbreviations that are different when translated, e.g. “NGOs” instead of “ONGs”

3. You might get an interview with this letter, but remember to proof-read (read again, checking for mistakes) your letter before sending it so you avoid little mistakes with spelling, etc.

Overall, good work! See you in the lesson tonight.

Laura

But of course this time, I was experimenting. So you may have noticed that link I gave her at the start of my email – it’s a link to video feedback. In other words, as well as this email, I recorded my feedback on her letter. That is, I typed directly into her letter and used Jing to record both my computer screen as I was typing, plus my accompanying voice commentary.

And, without further ado, you can watch the video feedback here.
(Aside: please excuse the horns and sirens in the background… this is what happens when you record things in London!!)

When I sent her the above email, I didn’t include my amended version of her letter. To improve it, she would need to work through it herself, following my tips or doing whatever else she saw fit.

What I liked about about the video feedback:

  • I was able to highlight her strengths visually, just as I would highlight/underline them if I were using a pen on her handwritten work.
  • I was also able to demonstrate how to make the changes I was suggesting.
  • I also showed her some other resources she could consult if she wanted to study and improve on the areas of weakness I’d pointed out.
  • It brings the suggestions to life – much better for people who need to see, hear and interact with new information, not just get feedback via one of these media.  So good for combining different learning styles/strategies.
  • It’s easy to save and refer back to at a later date, to compare other work with and review progress.
  • Last, but certainly not least – my student loved it.
Now to be fair, there is one arguably not-so-good thing about this: you need to be comfortable with the technology involved.  But I really think the beauty of this system is that it’s not actually that hard once you’ve tried it out once or twice.   If you have a computer with webcam and microphone, all you need is Jing (software for recording your screen – in part or whole – with audio from your microphone).

OK, so tell me how you do it!! (I hear you say.)

Jing is very simple to operate. What’s more, the free version times you out after 5 minutes so you’re forced to keep your feedback short and to-the-point!  And that really ought to be more than enough time taken up in our busy schedules for marking each student’s written work from a typical class of 12-16 students.

You just need to:

1. have open and ready the things you want to record (in this case, I had my student’s writing open in Word so I could edit it, plus the two weblinks I was going to share with her, so I could show her what they looked like and explain briefly which bits she should refer to).

2. then open Jing (obviously).

3. select “capture” from the Jing menu. A little crosshairs will appear, allowing you to select the part of your screen you want to record (you can see in my example that I only show the Microsoft Word window, not the rest of my computer screen).

4. click in the bottom left on the little button with a picture of a film strip on it (“Capture a video”). Jing will count down from 3 and tell you when to start speaking. As you speak and do stuff on your screen, it will just discreetly record everything.

5. click the stop button (“finish”) in the bottom left when you’re done. Jing will process what it just recorded (it’s quite quick) and open up a video window in which you can play it back before sharing the final product.

6. give your video a name (again, type in the little box in the bottom left) and choose whether you want to save the video (by clicking on the little disk icon – you know where to find it) or upload it to the web (by clicking on the little icon featuring 3 arrows, called “Share via screencast.com”).

I’d recommend sending your video to a web link (in which case Jing will tell you what that link is when it’s done processing – it does it all automatically). You can always get the raw video file from Jing later if you want it, but it saves as a big Flash file, which isn’t ideal for sharing.

Oh, and one caveat at this point – watching the videos back on iPads or iPhones is a no-go (since Apple hates all things Flash). But you can watch them fine on computers.

So that’s it!  Happy experimenting… leave a comment below if you have any questions or thoughts.

P.S. Incidentally, in this experimental video I also was playing around a bit with a spotlight tool called Mouseposé (for Mac – not sure what’s available for PCs), so that’s not a part of Jing and to be honest, probably not really necessary. I’d just downloaded it and was just trying it out.

UPDATE, 13/7/12: Just discovered an interesting recent article about using Jing for feedback like this.  Thanks to @teacherphili for sharing it with me (and to @russell1955 for having shared it with him!).  Thanks also to @russell1955 for sharing another article (of his) from 2006 on this same topic.

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About Laura Patsko

Senior ELT Research Manager for a major publisher. Alter egos: English language teacher, language learner, teacher trainer, linguist. Not necessarily in that order.

4 comments

  1. Hi Laura, this is Kelsey from the Teacher Education module at King's. Just wanted to comment and say what a cool way of giving feedback! Thanks also for the suggestions of blogs to follow.

  2. Hey Kelsey, nice to see you here. Glad you liked the post.Am actually just working on my Teacher Ed essay now… glad your comment came along and distracted me momentarily. I definitely need to take a break!!See you Thursday,Laura

  3. Hi Laura. Actually I think the Nordic article is this year. Russell was the one who pointed it out to me, or rather the world, on Twitter the other day. Good to acknowledge him, btw.

  4. Oops, you're quite right! Got the years of the two articles the wrong way round. Will amend it now! 🙂

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