Thursday, December 6, 2007

Making a video with Animoto

With Animoto it's easy to produce slick videos.

Here are the instructions I gave to one of my group of students:
  • Go to FlickrStorm
  • Think of a topic that interests you and write it in the search box
  • Click on advanced and the option Search creative commons photos
  • Download the photos you like (you need 12 - 15) to the class folder on the computer
  • When you save your photos, give them a name you'll be able to recognise them by
  • Now go to Animoto
  • Click on Sign up to create a new account - quick and easy to do
  • Now click on Create video
  • Select Animoto short
  • Click on Upload
  • Find the folder where you downloaded the photos you saved earlier and select them
  • Once your photos have uploaded, think of some text to add and click on add text
  • Drag and drop your text to where you want it in the video then click on Continue
  • In Get your music, choose Select from our collection and select something you like
  • Give your video a title and click on Create video
  • When your movie is complete (which takes a time), view it
  • Now click on the option Enbed/Post online (the pin icon) and then on Blogger
  • When prompted, fill in the email address you use for signing into Blogger and your password - the title of this blog should appear in the pop up menu
  • For Title of post put the title of your video.
  • Click on OK and Animoto should advise you that your video has been posted on the blog
In the next session they took it in turns to interview each other about their videos
using an MP3 recorder.

Below are the steps I followed to add their interviews to the class blog:
  • Open your sound files a freeware program like Audacity with the LAME MP3 encoder and save them as MP3
  • Open an account with Podomatic
  • Click on My Podcast then Create an Episode
  • Give your podcast a title, and then click on Import.
  • Find your sound file on your computer
  • Click on Post Episode
  • Click on the episode you interested in (if you've already created more than one)
  • Copy the link and add it to you blog post so that you can access your podcast recording directly from there

Listen to an interview with the video maker

Using VoiceThread

VoiceThread is particularly useful for preparing students for the speaking part of the Cambridge Suite of exams (KET to Proficiency), in the section where candidates are asked to describe/compare photographs.

If you let students to choose the photos they like best for the task, they are much more likely to be enthusiastic about what they have to say: an important learning experience that they can carry forward to the exam.

Here's an example of a VoiceThread from a post FCE student:

You can also use VoiceThread with your students for making presentations, storytelling, anecdotes and giving directions.

VoiceThread is very teacher-friendly. It has privacy controls, comment moderation, and a system of identities that allows all students in a class to work within one account.

Again you'll need a microphone attached to the computer(s) that you're going to use.

Creating an account with VoiceThread
  • Fill in your details and click on register.
  • VoiceThread offers you a series of tutorials to help you out.
  • As a teacher, you have the option to register for a special K-12 educator's account which gives you all the features of a paid Pro account. If you're interested, click on Go Pro! at the top of the page.
  • Now click on K-12 Educators click here.
  • Fill in your school's details and VoiceThread will send you an email confirming your Educator's account.
  • When you want your students to use VoiceThread, get them to sign in using your account login (see creating separate identities for them below).

Configuring your account

  • On your My Account page, you can add a picture
  • And add a new identity for each of your students to use when they create a new VoiceThread.

Creating a VoiceThread

1. Selecting and uploading photos
  • When you or your students want to start a new VoiceThread, click on Create
  • You and them can upload photos, videos or documents from an individual computer or from Flickr (if you already have an account there containing photos).
  • The method I prefer is to use FlickrStorm which searches through all the photos on Flickr. (You can also use Google Image Search but the quality of the photos often isn't so good.)
  • Open FlickrStorm and write the topic of the photos you want to search for in the box provided .
  • Click on Advanced and select Search Creative Commons photos - which means that the photos you find will be of free copyright (as long as you are not going to use them for commercial purposes).
  • Now click on search, and after a few seconds you will get results like these.
  • Click on the photos you like and then Add To Tray.
  • Your students will only need to select 2 when practising for the Cambridge speaking exams.
  • Now click on the Download & link to your tray button.
  • This will take you to a page like this. Save it using the Save as option on your web browser's menu.
  • The photos will be downloaded to your computer in a folder and each will be in .jpg format. It's a good idea to change their titles to something comprehensible.
  • Now you're ready to upload them to VoiceThread. Click on Upload From My Computer.
  • First select the folder where your photos are, then each of the photos and finally, click on Select.
  • Give your VoiceThread a description.

2. Recording a comment
  • Click on Comment
  • If you have created separate identities for your students, you and them can switch between them when recording a comment by clicking on the icon below the photo.
  • Click on record and this dialogue box will appear. Click on Allow.
  • As soon as you've clicked on Allow, recording begins, so make sure you're ready!
  • When you click on Stop, your recording is automatically replayed to you so you can decide whether to Save or Cancel it.
  • To continue recording your comment on the same photo, just click on record again.
  • If at any time you decide you don't like what you've said, you can delete the entire comment by clicking on the bin icon.
  • Another interesting feature of VoiceThread, that's particularly useful for presentations, is the doodling tool. Click on the series of coloured circles that are visible when you are recording and you can signal what you're focussing on.

3. Sharing your VoiceThread
  • You have complete control over who can see and comment on your VoiceThread. You can make it public or private and decide to allow all comments or to moderate them.

  • To include your VoiceThread on your class blog, copy the code that's displayed when you click on the Embed button (at the bottoma of the page).
  • Paste to code into your blog posting (remember to click first on the Edit Html tag).

Here are the results that you can expect.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Creating Voki characters

Vokis are great for practising pronunciation, particularly sentence stress and intonation, plus all question forms.

Creating an animated character is real fun to do and gives both you and your students the opportunity to unashamedly exaggerate what your character has to say.

To create a Voki, you will need a microphone attached to the computer(s) that you're going to use. (I use a very cheap one that comes with my headphone set).

Creating an account
Create an account with Voki beforehand and get your students to use your login or, if you have time, they can create a new account for themselves.

Instructions for your students:
1. Creating a voki character
  • Click on Create

  • Now Customize your character
  • You can change character, change his/her hair, clothes and accessories
  • When you like your character, click on DONE
2. Recording your character's voice
  • Now you're ready to Give It A Voice. Click on the microphone

  • When this dialogue box appears, check Permit and then click on Close

  • Click on RECORD and now record what you want to say
  • If you like your recording, click on SAVE. If you don't like it, just record again.

  • Give your audio a title (very important)
3. The final touches
  • Choose a Background

  • Choose a Player

  • Now click on PUBLISH and give your scene a title (very important)
4. Embedding your voki character in your class blog
  • Now create a new post on your class blog. Give it a title
  • Back on the Voki site, select and copy the code that's displayed

  • Back on your class blog posting, click on the Edit Html tab and paste the code you copied from Voki

  • And enjoy the results!
Get a Voki now!

Voki tasks for your classes
  • A simple, initial first step is for your students to introduce their characters using a model like this :
"My name is ... (student thinks of a name).
They call me .... because ... (
student thinks of a reason).
I love ... (
student thinks of something their character loves doing).
I hate ... (
student thinks of something their character hates doing)."
Once your students have presented their characters, they can pair up and conduct a question and answer session.(Important: to do this they will need to remember the settings they used when they created their character):
  • First, they listen to their partner's character's introduction
  • Then they think of one or two good questions to ask him/her
  • Now they take turns in recording their characters' questions and answers
  • Finally, they create a new posting on the class blog blog and paste the code for the questions and answers in the same posting so that they form a conversation
Here are some examples from a PET level group of students.
Conversation - Hilary + Wonder

Conversation - Michael + Yogi

While your students are working tasks like these, take the opportunity to listen with them each individually to their recordings. Being able to stop and start the sound is a great aid for focussing on any particular problems they may be having with individual sounds, word/sentence stress or intonation.

Moreover, if your students publish their vokis regularly on their class blog, you will have a handy record of their speaking capabilities and be able to measure their advances during the course.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Some summer lesson ideas for you and your students

  • Some fun pronunciation work. Can you keep up with Fergie and her rap?
Here are the lyrics to help you.

Fergie Lyrics
(for teenagers and older: at CEF B1 level upwards)


What do you think? Use the video as a memory game or as a starting-off point for a class discussion.

(for teenagers and older: at CEF B1 level upwards)

  • Can you write a story to go with the animation?
(for any age and level)

  • Are you feeling in need of inspiration? If the answer is yes, and can cope with English humour, watch this video.
(for teachers especially: at CEF C1 and C2 levels)

  • Watch this comic sketch by Rowan Atkinson with your students and discuss with them what they think makes a good or a bad teacher.
(for teenagers and older: at CEF C1 level upwards)

(for teenagers and older: at CEF B1 level upwards)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Adding knobs and whistles

Once you are comfortable with blogging and podcasting,
you can start to experiment and branch out

Add a feed (I mentioned these earlier in Keeping track).
You can do this with FeedBurner.

Insert the URL of your blog. Choose Publicize.

Add a Chicklet.

Copy the html code provided.

Go to
your blog's Template and click on Add a Page Element.
Select HTML/Java script.

And in the window that opens up,
paste the html code you copied earlier.

Now you have a feed on your blog that visitors can easily subscribe to.

Add a link to an audio channel using

Or Vaestro

Add a map using CommunityWalk or MapKit

your photos and add them using flickr

When you've accumulated a number of blogs,
stick them together with Suprglu

Now you're ready to take on the world. So why not try these?


and FlashMeeting

And if you've got as far as this, consider yourself a
fully-participating member of the world of open web publishing!

English with the Finglies

The web site for my CD-ROM designed for primary children learning English

The British Council in Bilbao

The web site gives you information, amongst other things, about our Talks for teachers