Interactive videodisc Japanese language courseware initially developed for Nebraska Scale level 3 applications has been repurposed for level 1 barcode control to accompany teacher and student workbooks and to be used as a secondary school classroom teaching resource. This paper describes the development of the Japanese language barcode project, outlining the ways in which the material was designed to be used in and out of the classroom as a teaching resource. Results of various trials in schools across Australia and in Denmark will be discussed noting teacher and student perceptions of the value of the material and the accompanying technology. The finished product will be demonstrated.
During demonstrations of the program in various states in Australia, secondary school teachers of Japanese expressed interest in the video footage. While the content of the video did not directly match the schools' syllabi, teachers made it clear that the material would appeal to their students and would make a very useful resource. All video sequences include interactions between native and non-native speakers of Japanese in an Australian setting and most interactions occur between young people with whom secondary school students can readily identify.
However, the teachers stated that the cost of the interactive videodisc program, incorporating the computer would make the package too expensive and they wanted to use the video footage in a more flexible way than was possible with the exercises and activities incorporated in the computer component. Moreover, they wanted to use the video footage in a way which was more suited to secondary school Japanese teaching contexts.
During the first IMM Symposium in Perth, Looms (1992) outlined trends regarding the use of multimedia and the obstacles that needed to be overcome before their use in education became more widespread. Looms' research had revealed that in Europe and the USA, 75% of the videodisc players in use were used with a remote control or a barcode light pen and that most videodiscs were sold without a computer component. He demonstrated how barcodes could be used to access the various audiovisual resources on the videodisc and how teachers could create their own lessons by photocopying, cutting and pasting previously prepared barcodes to create activities for students to work through on their own or in groups or for teachers to use to, for example, introduce language items.
In March, 1992, the Western Australian Distance Education Consortium was successful in acquiring a grant from the Innovative Languages Other Than English In Schools program, (MOTES) to repurpose the videodisc for use in secondary schools. The aims of the project were to produce a package made up of the videodisc and supporting print study materials that would provide a relatively "low cost, flexible teaching resource for teachers of Japanese in schools throughout Australia" (WADEC, 1992).
A team of four began working on the project in September 1992, pooling their individual areas of expertise. Christy Pinfold, who is a Japanese specialist and a teacher of the language, had the difficult task of coordinating the team and drawing together the language content, pedagogic considerations and the technology into one cohesive published package on time and within budget. Mariko Suzuki provided expertise in the area of language teaching and, as a native speaker she was able to provide advice on the Japanese language content of the package. Bob Fox was the Instructional Designer for the project. Peter Looms, who came over from Denmark twice during the development of the project was the expert in videodisc technology and barcode applications in the school context.
During the year it took to develop the materials a National Advisory Committee, made up of Japanese language teachers and education administrators from all over Australia, met through an audio conferencing facility to monitor the appropriateness of materials for secondary school level and to offer advice and direction to the project team. In Perth, the team organised several workshops, inviting teachers of Japanese to look at and offer feedback on the effectiveness of materials being produced and the teaching strategies being adopted. The workshops also provided the team with an opportunity to introduce teachers to the potential of the relatively new medium and the totally new barcode technology in the field of teaching Japanese. A similar workshop held in Sydney was attended by teachers and members of the National Advisory Committee from New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT. The Sydney workshop also drew a number of participants without a Japanese language background whose interest was purely in the technology.
The language covered in the video is organised according to the concept of language functions, defined by Brumfit and Roberts (1983) as "the purpose for which a certain form of language is used; a category of purposive use of language." Figure 1 provides an outline of the unit and segment titles representing the situations to be encountered in each video sequence within Video Japanese.
The 15 units on the videodisc vary from 1 to 3 minutes in length. Each unit is constructed around a theme, such as Meeting and Making Friends or Chatting at the Office and has continuity of characterisation, setting and dialogue. Each unit is divided into three to seven segments, each focusing on one or two particular language functions such as exchanging personal information, choosing food and drink, talking about activities, saying goodbye etc. The units can be viewed in their entirety, or broken into segments and worked through as discrete areas of study. Many language functions recur throughout the 73 segments that make up the 15 units, thereby building in a language review.
The exercises are preceded by a word or a phrase written in bold. These are cues to the exercise type which will follow. The various cues are Question, View, Task, Complete, Who Said What, Name the Characters, And True Or False.
Most exercises are accompanied by a barcode which give access to the particular frame, segment or unit relating to the exercise. The user scans the barcode with the barcode reader and the video player will instantly go to the right point on the videodisc. Some exercises have a Help barcode. However students are encouraged to attempt the task before seeking Help.
The language content becomes sequentially more complex however teachers and students are encouraged to use the materials according to their needs. Materials from the Student Workbook can be photocopied, cut and pasted to encourage maximum flexibility. Teachers and students can adapt the course to suit their own requirements.
Another technique often utilised at the previewing stage is prediction. Prediction simply means encouraging students to make guesses about the activities, characters and/or language they are about to see and hear during the video sequence. Prediction activities help students to improve their listening skills and can be used to highlight new language or focus on or revise language items already taught.
The freeze frame barcode at the beginning of each video segment in Video Japanese is designed to generate previewing and prediction activities. Students will be able to see and analyse the very first frame of the sequence. The teacher can guide the students towards an accurate assessment of the contents of the segment by asking appropriate leading questions. The freeze frame control can be used at any point during the video sequence to elicit further hypotheses about what is going to happen next, what she is going to say next, etc.
Jigsaw listening and viewing is another way of engaging students in active participation. This involves using various techniques so that half the class is viewing the video and the other half is not (this can usually be achieved simply by asking half the class to turn their backs to the screen.) A short clip from the video can then be shown to the viewing students either silently or with volume. The students who can see the screen can then provide a running commentary on what they are seeing for their partner's benefit or, at the end of the clip they can retell the events. To be fair, students then swap roles.
It is possible to use the video as a basin for language drilling, but only after the whole segment has been fully exploited to improve the students listening skills first.
Although drilling may not be the most exciting part of language teaching for teachers, it is an essential feature of language learning for students, and it can be fun as long as drilling is kept meaningful, realistic and snappy.
The dialogues in Video Japanese contain useful functional language which students can use on a daily basis in the Japanese speaking world. It is thus worthwhile allowing students to practise some of the dialogues. This can be done either with reference to the tapescripts which are included in the Teacher's Guide, or by listening to short meaningful phrases or parts of a dialogue on the video, then using the freeze frame control and eliciting and practising the phrases as a whole class in pairs across the classroom and in closed pairs.
Students may also be required to write notes or complete tables, graphs, charts etc while viewing. However if students are required to write then 'pause points' (Allan, 1986) should be built into the tack sheet so that students are able to focus on the written task while not missing any of the video sequence. The barcode facility makes this easy to do.
Typical post-viewing activities would be role playing, simulations, carrying out surveys, retelling activities, games, etc.
When discussing new technologies, it is easy to get carried away with what are seemingly endless possibilities. Barcode controlled videodisc is a new technology for education but it is a 'down to earth' technology. The opportunities it provides for the language classroom are real and they are practical. Rivers (1992, p.7) offers some sensible guidance for language teachers who are looking at new technologies:
The entry on the scene of computers and laser disc leads to great expectations and great opportunities. If the expectations are too high to be realised we may miss out on the opportunities....The aim of this section of this paper could be seen in similar terms, ie, to point out the opportunities of barcode controlled videodisc without raising teacher and student expectations beyond the potential of the technology.
So, what can a language teacher do with barcode controlled videodisc that cannot be done without it? S/he can access any frame on the videodisc within two seconds and hold it indefinitely on screen. A segment of video with fixed start and end points can be accessed and played by striking a single barcode and can be played as often as necessary using the repeat function on the barcode reader. This segment could be an entire video sequence or a single language phrase. In effect, teachers no longer need struggle with counter numbers when trying to find the right spot on the video. The repeat function allows classroom drilling to proceed rapidly and with meaning.
As well as increasing the efficiency of classroom practise, this technology makes possible an activity that could not be performed using video tape. ' The usefulness of prediction as a strategy at the previewing stage was highlighted above. Traditionally, prediction activities were centred on the visual elements with students being required to predict the language. With videodisc it is also possible to carry out predictive listening activities. Predictive listening means playing a portion of the video without vision. Students focus on what they hear and are asked questions that require them to predict something about the setting or about the characters. It is necessary to choose carefully the video segment chosen for this activity, as it must be capable of sending a clear message to students on the basis of the audio component alone. Keys to the setting in term of audio can be elements such as background noise, cues such as a doorbell, or highly contextualised language phrases. One example of predictive listening from Video Japanese has the students listen to a sound which is in fact a doorbell but which can easily be mistaken for a bicycle bell or a cash register. Students make their prediction about the setting and are then asked to listen again, this time to a slightly longer section of video which contains the same sound followed by the Japanese expression gomen kudasai. Students may now wish to confirm or amend their initial prediction based on their interpretation of this language phrase. The final stage of the activity replays the second video segment this time with vision, thus allowing students to check their predictions.
Barcodes are also used to perform two other specific functions. Firstly, they perform perfectly the task of defining the "pause points referred to above, which allow students to fill in sections of a worksheet during a video lesson. Secondly, they enable the teacher or materials developer to build in a form of feedback to student responses in student worksheets or in teacher lesson plans. Again using Video Japanese as an example, in an exercise where students are asked to answer a set of comprehension questions based on a video sequence, "Help" barcodes are provided beside the questions. It is recommended to students that they don't use these barcodes until after they have attempted to answer the questions. Of course in a situation where the video materials are being controlled by the teacher this would not be an issue, but the materials have been designed in a way that permits a significant amount of student control. The help barcodes access a shorter section of the video sequence, in fact the section in which the answer can be found. In most cases this narrowing down of the video focus should be enough to suggest the correct answer to students. Samples from the Student Workbook of Video Japanese showing the use of barcodes as pause points and as feedback are located in the appendix.
On a purely practical level, barcodes can be photocopied many times and still be readable. They can even be faxed, if the paper is completely upright. The appearance of easy to use barcode software for Apple Macintosh, Microsoft Windows and DOS PCs allows teachers and their students to make their own barcoded worksheets and reports.
Trials of the materials were restricted by the numbers of videodisc players with barcode readers we could borrow, then loan to schools. Pioneer was helpful in lending us machines in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria over key trial periods.
The main feedback from teachers came in early, mid and late stages of materials development. During the early stages of development, materials were trailed in Padbury School in Perth over a four week period. A videodisc player with barcode reader and limited print materials were supplied to the teachers to review and trial with their classes. Feedback from the three teachers indicated that a major area of concern was more to do with difficulties in using the technology than with the teaching resource materials developed. Unlike Europe, where SCART or Euroconnector sockets on monitors have simplified setting up video cassette recorders and videodisc players, Australia still has several different video and audio sockets on television monitors. Difficulties with correctly setting up the videodisc player and barcode reader with the school's TV monitor and actually getting the equipment to the classroom brought to our attention the need to a) devote time to helping teachers use the technology and b) develop the materials to such an extent that the teacher if she wished would need the minimum lesson preparation time. During Peter Looms' first visit to Perth, we therefore organised a workshop with Japanese teachers aimed to break the ice with the technology; to introduce the advantages of using the videodisc and barcode in the language classroom and to gather teachers views regarding the development of materials for Video Japanese.
Two-thirds of the way through the project, a nearly completed Teacher's Guide and Student Workbook were sent out to teachers for comment. This was followed by a more formal request on the final trial version of Video Japanese using a questionnaire as the main instrument. The main comments from teachers in WA, NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Denmark reflected a general satisfaction with the teaching materials and the videodisc and barcode technology. However, two points were frequently raised by the Australian teachers: that the videodisc player and barcode reader is expensive, and no other relevant titles are known to be available for schools. Teachers, therefore felt their school would be unlikely to purchase either Video Japanese or a videodisc player.
The issue of hardware cost is a legitimate one: a videodisc player and barcode reader costs between twice and three times as much as a conventional VHS recorder, and is comparable in price with a CD-I player with digital video cartridge. The matter is further complicated by discussions regarding the relative merits of competing optical disc formats, LaserDisc being the competitor of CD-I. But both the question of hardware cost and the availability of disc titles of relevance to education is part of the chicken and egg paradox. No-one wants to buy a player unless there are titles of relevance, and no producers Will invest funds in developing titles unless there is a market for those titles.
The chicken and egg issue was raised in October 1992. At that time it was suggested that either additional titles of relevance to Japanese classes should be identified or the use of videodisc players should be broadened to include, say, other foreign languages at the same school, or other school subjects. In other countries such as Denmark, it has been necessary to establish a collaborative venture to ensure that funding is made available not only for, Danish productions but also to adapt the support materials for relevant non-Danish titles. In this way, the number of titles of educational relevance can be increased at a lower cost than by following a strategy involving domestic productions only. Unfortunately, issues of this kind were outside the remit of WADEC. Subsequent contacts with overseas videodisc producers have improved the likelihood of videodisc adoption in states such as Victoria.
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|Authors: Christie Pinfold, Lecturer, Western Australian Distance Education Consortium, Curtin University of Technology, GPO Box U1987, Perth WA 6001.|
Robert Fox, Senior Lecturer, Teaching Learning Group, University of Technology, GPO Box U1987, Perth WA 6001.
Peter Looms, Planning and Evaluation Officer, Danish Broadcasting Corporation, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Please cite as: Pinfold, C., Fox, R. and Looms, P. (1994). Barcoding a Japanese language videodisc for secondary schools. In C. McBeath and R. Atkinson (Eds), Proceedings of the Second International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 436-442. Perth, Western Australia, 23-28 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1994/np/pinfold.html