Students` multimedia projects: teaching and assessing a diverse MA

Beyond the essay
Students’ multimedia projects:
teaching and assessing
a diverse MA group
Cornelia Tschichold
Applied Linguistics
Excellence in Learning and Teaching Conference
Swansea University
2 June 2009
The context
• module on CALL
• group of about 20 students
– taken mainly by students on the MA TEFL
– a few MA Translation students
• diversity on several levels
– nationality, ethnicity, religion, gender (China,
Taiwan, Poland, UK, Saudi Arabia, France, Iran, India,
Greece, Italy, Oman)
– level of English (ranging from IELTS 6.5 to
native speaker)
– ICT knowledge and experience
One student’s view of IT:
A personal nightmare
I shuddered at every thought of the CALL module ever since I realised what
this abbreviation meant. In hindsight I should have unscrambled that it was
‘Computer-Assisted Language Learning’ before I applied for the TEFL course.
Over the whole high school period I was persistently avoiding IT classes as my
technological abilities were always rather poor. This time, however, it looked
like there was no escape from any computer-based work as the CALL module
was obligatory and worth as much as 20 credits. Information in the academic
handbook about CALL seemed really daunting to me. It was clearly stated that
the work throughout the module would involve dealing with ‘word-processors,
CD-ROM-based material, HTML’ and many other things that I had no idea
The CALL module
• theoretical and practical aspects
• overview of software and tools for
language learning and teaching
CD-ROM-based material
internet, search engines, HTML basics
discussion forum, wikis (Blackboard)
electronic dictionaries, corpora, concordancing
authoring (HotPotatoes)
audio (Audacity), podcasts
CALL assignment
• assignment consists of
– a CALL project
– a presentation
– a written report
describing the project
done in groups of 3
done individually
• designed to give students the opportunity
to create their own multimedia teaching
• allows them to put some more theoretical
aspects into practice
Major steps in the project
• collect material for the individual words
– dictionaries
– concordancers
– audio and visual material
• create exercises
• create structure for presentation and
• implementation using mostly
– PowerPoint
– Hot Potatoes for the exercises
– Audacity for audio elements
• testing and revising
Previous projects
Forming groups
• Before term starts
– ICT questionnaire
– self-evaluation via a short questionnaire on
• at the beginning of term
– mixed groups formed (no self-selection)
– as far as possible, each group has one expert
for English, one for ICT and one for theory
• rest of term
– live with cases of drop-outs and/or groups
splitting up
Instructions to students
• For the CALL project, you will be given a set of 10
words, to which you add 10 words of your choice.
• The aim is to develop a multimedia project
containing all the material to teach your set of
words to learners of English and to provide them
with practice material.
• In the report, you describe
– your work
– why you have chosen to teach the words in the way it is
– the pedagogic rationale behind the method chosen
– how you expect learners to work with your material
– what your individual contribution to the pair project was
Project: marking criteria
• Content
• Didactic approach
– sufficient presentation, repetition,
• Use of multimedia
– audio, pictures, animations, etc.
• User friendliness
– easy to follow, creative, innovative
25% each
– grammatically, semantically,
stylistically correct?
Report: marking criteria
• Is the description correct and coherent?
• Does the report show evidence of the
student’s involvement in the project?
• Are plausible reasons given for the
decisions that were taken in terms of …
didactic approach
user friendliness ?
• Are these reasons supported by relevant
A simplistic example
According to Author-Ity
(2009) the background
colour chosen for the
slides is conducive to
learning on screen.
The background colour
was chosen because of
its good contrast with
the focus items.
We chose the colour
scheme because it was
Christmas time.
[sample screen]
I chose the background
colour because I like it.
 Advantages
 Disadvantages
• student involvement
generally high
• possible group
• creativity is
• proportion of time
spent on group
project not reflected
in the 40-60 split of
the mark
• students learn from
each other
• more interesting to
mark than essays
• generates ideas that
help to keep the
module up-to-date
• more complex to
mark than essays
An extract from a project
• group of three students
– Chinese, Italian, Polish
– all female
• software
– PPT 2007, HotPotatoes, Voice Recorder
– more than 250 files
• target words embedded in a story
– all marked in red
Play the Movie
Scenes Selection
Loch Ness–
Student’s report
• “The plot is constructed in a way that not only allows the learner to
identify with the main character – in this case a foreign individual
within a primarily English-speaking country – but also revealing some
strategies other learners use while travelling abroad. For example, the
learner can observe methods to ask for help, request repetition and
negotiate meaning. Another important factor supporting the idea of
creating a non-native speaker character is the fact that, thanks to his
foreign status, he can naturally ask for explanations, clarifications and
characteristics of particular vocabulary items.
Thanks to this procedure, presentation of new words is twofold; first it
occurs in conversations, then it is repeated in separate definition
slides. Given the need for vocabulary recycling, this strategy has been
applied throughout the story. As Nation (2001) noted: ‘Repetition is
essential for vocabulary learning because there is so much to know
about each word that one meeting with it is not sufficient’ (2001; 74).”
slightly edited/shortened by CT
To be rude in an amusing or an annoying way.
Giving Hilary a cheeky smile, he asked his mother,
“Can I go down to the village?”
He tried talking but the teachers wouldn't listen and thought he was
repeating words like a parrot or just being cheeky.
Synonyms : mischievous and bold.
Antonym : respectful.
One student’s view of IT:
A personal nightmare, cont.
• However, shortly after the lectures started all my initial fears
were alleviated. [...] I was incrementally equipped with extensive
knowledge on how to incorporate power point presentations with
hot potatoes software to the best benefit of a learner. I believe
that over time I have become a confident computer user as the
module provided a great number of practical exercises in addition
to theory. Now I am absolutely sure that in the near future I can
blend the multimedia elements into the standard classroom
teaching. Undoubtedly, my students will be grateful for keeping
them entertained. After all, it is such an entertaining supplement
to conventional lessons.
 Advantages
 Disadvantages
• student involvement
generally high
• possible group
• creativity is
• proportion of time
spent on group
project not reflected
in the 40-60 split of
the mark
• students learn from
each other
• more interesting to
mark than essays
• generates ideas that
help to keep the
module up-to-date
• more complex to
mark than essays