May 2012
TESOL HOME Convention Jobs Book Store TESOL Community

ARTICLES
PODCASTING MICROTEACHING PRESENTATIONS
Stephen Looney, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA

As could be seen at TESOL 2012 in Philadelphia, using technology and self-reflection in international teaching assistant (ITA) training and assessment is popular nationwide. At the University of Georgia (UGA), we use podcasting to record and share our ITA microteaching presentations. This article describes how to podcast and discusses the benefits of podcasting. I begin by describing our ITA program before moving to the methods for collecting and uploading ITA microteaching presentations in podcasts. I touch upon the evaluation of podcasts then conclude with comments on the benefits and adaptability of this methodology.

To begin, the UGA ITA program is a two-semester program composed of a one-semester pronunciation seminar and a one-semester teaching seminar. ITAs are placed in the program based on their TOEFL iBT scores. Students scoring below 24 on the speaking section must take both courses; students scoring 24 or 25 on the speaking section are required to take only the teaching seminar. In each course, students deliver three 10- to 12-minute microteaching presentations, which are recorded, podcasted, and used as objects for reflection, focused feedback, and assessment. Students are encouraged to present material from their field or from the course that they will teach and to use PowerPoint, SmartBoards, dry erase boards, and any other presentation materials they use in their own teaching in hopes of making the microteaching more teaching than presentation.

MATERIALS AND METHOD FOR PODCASTING MICROTEACHING PRESENTATIONS

Materials and In-Class Procedure

Most ITAs take to PowerPoint quickly because they are already familiar with using the application. Though often a beneficial teaching supplement, projection screen images are challenging to capture on video due to lighting and the position of the screen in relation to the ITA. A freeware application, ScreenFlow, resolves this by including a screen shot of what the ITA is presenting in a split-screen video. Using the program requires a computer in the classroom; at UGA, we have a podcast cart (see Figure 1), which contains a rotating mounted digital camcorder, a Mac computer with ScreenFlow, and a wireless microphone running through a preamp into the Mac. Though it sounds and looks burdensome, using these tools together is simple and convenient. They are already assembled, on wheels, and need only to be plugged in. Before class, I start the computer and make sure the Internet browser is operating. Students then copy their PowerPoint presentations from a flash drive or e-mail to the computer’s desktop.


Figure 1. The Podcast Cart in the College of Education at UGA
Photo credit: Stephen Looney

Once all the presentations are on the desktop, I start recording in ScreenFlow, which captures video from the external camera and the desktop of the computer in a single split-screen file. ScreenFlow also allows users to upload podcasts in real time directly to a podcast channel. I do not use this feature because it opens users up to pitfalls like a failed Internet connection and requires the instructor to stop and restart recording of presentations. I actually leave ScreenFlow running continuously until the last presenter in a session has presented; I clip out unwanted video between presentations later. As each student presents, I have his or her PowerPoint slide show open on the desktop. This requires me to click through the presentation on the desktop as the student gives his or her presentation while also operating the camera. This becomes simple with minimal practice. After the last presenter has presented, I stop recording in ScreenFlow and save the file to the computer’s desktop. Now, all the ITA presentations for the day are in one file waiting to be edited and clipped into individual .mov files.

Out-of-Class Procedure

Because I do not directly upload student presentations to the podcast channel, I must upload the presentations and share the links after class. First, I edit and export the files. When I say “edit,” I mean adjust the split screen. The default setting for ScreenFlow is the live video in a small picture-within-a-picture format and the screen shot is the larger frame. The user can adjust the size and position of the two frames by clicking on the frame and using the drag boxes outlining the frame. I typically have the two frames side-by-side with the screen shot on the same side of the presenter as the projector screen is in the room. Once the split screen has been adjusted for the first presentation, it is adjusted for all the presentations in that file. I then mark the in and out points for the first presentation using the Edit menu and export the selection to the desktop using the File menu. I repeat this process of marking in and out points then exporting for each presentation in the file. The files can be quickly uploaded from the desktop to a podcasting channel that you create and might even be available at your university. Finally, I copy the links for the podcasts from the podcast channel page and paste them into a document and spreadsheet labeled with the ITAs’ names. Now, the podcasts are easy to share with students, departmental graduate coordinators, and administrators across campus. A sample excerpt from a sample spreadsheet is shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Sample Excerpt From Podcast-Sharing Form

Semester

Student Name

Department

Course

Podcast Link

Sp 2012

Kim, Jaeyoung

Physical Ed.

7769

1. www.podcastlink.com

Sp 2012



7769

2. www.podcastlink2.com

Sp 2012



7769

3. www.podcastlink3.com

Immediately after podcasts have been uploaded, I share the links with the students so they may complete a self-reflection. In addition, each ITA receives an evaluation with focused feedback from the teacher. All reflection and evaluation is based on the same rubric. For the final presentation, two graders evaluate each final, average the two scores for each final, and provide feedback. The final evaluation determines the student’s ability to advance in or exit the course sequence. Each department receives a formal letter prepared by the ITA program with specific comments and suggestions regarding an ITA’s pronunciation and preparedness to teach or conduct office hour sessions at the university.

BENEFITS AND ADAPTABILITY

Benefits

Podcasting ITA microteaching presentations has proven beneficial for storing and sharing files between administrators, graduate coordinators, teachers, and students. This was the original motivation for podcasting at UGA. As anyone who works with high-definition (HD) video files knows, they are gargantuan and inconvenient to share. Podcasting resolves this problem by allowing students, teachers, and administrators to access presentations by clicking on a link in a document or spreadsheet. Using these links, individual departments can quickly view their students’ microteaching presentations and compare them to the written evaluations and recommendations the ITA program prepared for each ITA’s department at the end of each semester. Podcasting and storing the podcast links in a spreadsheet also gives microteaching presentations a permanence that doesn’t take up gigabytes of space on a hard drive and allows students and teachers to access microteaching presentations and compare an ITA’s pronunciation and presentation skills over a one- or two-semester period. One of the simplest and unforeseen but most useful benefits of podcasting is the time scroll bar at the bottom of the podcast. This feature makes it easy for teachers to provide specific feedback and students to pinpoint their own difficulties in written reflections and evaluations. Or in my teaching cohort’s case, it helps when meeting with students individually to look at the podcasts and to give focused feedback on presentation and teaching skills without sitting through entire presentations. This is another unanticipated but practical benefit of using podcasts: flexibility.

Adaptability

Most of what I have described is my own procedure within the framework that I am provided with by my superiors. At any time, there are two ITA program instructors at UGA. My current colleague, Daniel Gilhooly, is also required to use podcasting and has developed his own similar methodology. He edits and exports his microteaching files using iMovie and records his ITA presentations with a camcorder and tripod only. He prefers not using a split screen and feels like the camera and tripod are easier to manage inside and outside the classroom than is the podcast cart. I admit, mobility is an issue with the podcast cart; it is practical for use in only one building with elevators. Simply using a camcorder and tripod frees the recorder to travel anywhere on campus. An added plus is that using a camcorder and tripod does not necessarily exclude the use of ScreenFlow for those looking to skip the step of moving the video files from the camcorder to the computer for uploading, or for those looking to podcast directly in real time. ScreenFlow can be downloaded and used on laptops too. Just make sure that you have the appropriate wires for connecting your camcorder to the laptop.

In conclusion, this methodology is not only for the ITA training classroom. The university-wide TA training program at UGA recently adopted and adapted our podcasting methodology for their purposes. Podcasting could even be a tool to use for reflection on one’s own teaching.


Stephen Looney is a PhD candidate at the University of Georgia. In addition to ITA preparation, Stephen is interested in conversation analysis and second language acquisition.

« Previous Newsletter Home Print Article Next »
Post a CommentView Comments
 Rate This Article
Share LinkedIn Twitter Facebook
In This Issue
Leadership Updates
ARTICLES
Meet an ITA Member
About This Community
Tools
Search Back Issues
Forward to a Friend
Print Issue
RSS Feed
Poll
Did you attend this year's TESOL Conference in Philadelphia?
Yes, I try to attend as often as possible.
Yes, this was my first TESOL Conference.
No, unfortunately I couldn't make it.
No, and I never will attend a TESOL Conference.