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Barcoding a Japanese language videodisc for secondary schools

Christie Pinfold and Robert Fox
Curtin University of Technology, Western Australia
Peter Looms
Danish Broadcasting Corporation
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.


In 1990, an interactive videodisc program was initiated to teach Japanese, primarily to first year university students. The program included a videodisc controlled by a computer and incorporated a variety of exercises and activities for students to complete. The program aimed to offer two semesters of study and was designed to provide a stimulating and comprehensive introduction to the Japanese language and culture. Temple et al (1992) details the development and content of this interactive videodisc program.

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.

Description of Video Japanese

The project resulted in the development of a teaching resource called Video Japanese, which consists of a videodisc, a Teacher's Guide and a Student Workbook.

The videodisc

Video Japanese has over 45 minutes of video and 250 colour slides. The 15 units and 73 segments which make up the video component correspond to the units and segments in the associated texts.

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.

Unit 1. Meeting and making friends
Meeting people
Choosing food and drink
Leisure activities
Saying good bye

Unit 2. Meeting business acquaintances
An overseas visitor
Greeting business associates
Exchanging business cards

Unit 3. Visiting a Japanese home
Welcoming guests to your home
Offering food and drink
Asking about objects
Farewelling guests

Unit 4. Organising an outing
Telephoning an invitation
Making small talk
Describing a location

Unit 5. Sightseeing
Handing out tickets
Locating places on a map
Talking about travel time
Losing a possession
Saying thank you
Giving out souvenirs

Unit 6. Chatting at the office
Daily routine: work
Checking arrangements
Making arrangements

Unit 7. An international telephone call
Telephoning overseas
Making a business call
Chatting with colleagues
Chatting with an overseas visitor

Unit 8. At university
Meeting friends
Talking about studies I
Talking about studies II
Talking about yesterday's events

Unit 9. Discussing holiday plans
An informal invitation
Describing holiday plans I
Describing holiday plans II
Talking about buying souvenirs

Unit 10. A game of golf
Making polite conversation
Taking photos
Making an offer
Planning to go sightseeing
Returning from an outing

Unit 11. Chatting about Japan
Talking about countries visited
Talking about Japanese food
Talking about cooking
Planning an outing
Asking to use the phone
Borrowing things

Unit 12. At a Japanese restaurant
Deciding what to order
Starting a meal
Having a second helping
Choosing dessert
Leaving the restaurant

Unit 13. Buying souvenirs
Last minute buying
Selecting items I
Selecting items II
Trying things on
Saying farewells

Unit 14. A cooking lesson
Giving a gift
Getting started
Cooking rice
Preparing vegetables
Making sushi
Adding the finishing touches
Taking food home

Unit 15. Meeting the characters
Miki        Mrs Kimura
Tomoji      Mr. Okada
Sonia       Mr. Carter

Figure 1: Video Japanese - Table of contents

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 Student Workbook

The Student Workbook includes exercises for each video segment. Figure 2 shows some of the tasks which appear in the Workbook. Editorial Note: Figure 2 was not printed in the original.

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.

Teacher's Guide

The Teacher's Guide is divided into three main sections: Introduction, Videoscripts and Slide Index. The Introduction introduces the technology, includes hints for teaching with the videodisc and offers a sample lesson plan which takes a step by step approach to teaching a unit of Video Japanese. The videoscripts detail the language used and include complete transcripts of the dialogue for each unit and segment along with a description of the key language, linguistic and cultural points covered. Barcodes are included with the videoscripts allowing instant access to relevant video sequences. The Slide Index lists and barcodes the 250 photographs which also allows instant access to each slide.

Using Video Japanese

When designing materials for Video Japanese the project team took into account previously tried and proven ways of using video in the language classroom. Many successful strategies for using video come from the field of teaching and learning English as a foreign language. McGovern (1983) offers excellent practical advice to work from. 11m integration of skills, identified by Jane Willis (1983) as essential for effective use of video in the classroom, is one of the fundamentals in teaching English as a foreign language. Research in this field shows that in order to make the best use of video teachers and students need to work through three stages, all of which require a combination of language skills. The three stages can be termed previewing, viewing and post-viewing.


Previewing means 'setting the scene' for the listening and viewing task, encouraging students to focus on the situation in which a given video sequence occurs. Previewing tasks help students to 'narrow down' the field of possibilities in terms of setting language and behaviour thus allowing them to begin to predict the type of language and activities they can expect to hear and see. In this way the listening and viewing task is made slightly easier and students are more likely to complete the required activities successfully.

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.


There are many strategies for encouraging active viewing. Silent viewing is an effective tactic for encouraging students to make guesses about the verbal component of the video. This strategy involves having the sound off and encouraging students to focus on what they see. Following silent viewing students can be asked to retell the sequence of events. This technique can also be used to generate language prediction activities. Students seem to really enjoy the challenge of getting into groups to guess the dialogue and then having their guesses confirmed when they finally view the video with sound.

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.


The nature of follow up or extension activities is quite without limits. In most elementary language courses where the focus tends to lie on achieving communicative competence, this is the time for having students extend their use of the language beyond that context introduced in the video. The post-viewing stage is also the time for personalising the language presented on the video; students should now have an opportunity for using the language learnt to talk about themselves or topics of direct interest to themselves. Follow up activities may also include written tasks and assignments at the individual, pair, group or whole class level.

Typical post-viewing activities would be role playing, simulations, carrying out surveys, retelling activities, games, etc.

The advantages of using the barcode

When video footage is pressed onto a videodisc, the amount of control over accessing the footage is increased dramatically. Think of how long it takes to search through a forty minute video tape. A videodisc, containing around forty minutes of video footage, can be scanned from beginning to end in just over a minute. Other advantages for an educational environment are the durability of the medium, and related to this, the ability of holding a frozen image on screen for as long as it is required without any damage to the videodisc. But the real advantages for language teaching come from the external methods of control available for operating videodisc. (For a description of these options see Looms, 1990). Generally speaking, videodiscs can be controlled by means ranging from sophisticated computer systems to a simple remote control. The barcode reader lies somewhere towards the simple end of that scale. Looms (1990, p 4) describes the barcode reader as a "low cost solution" and indeed, when compared with the computer control options, it is just that. According to Wright (in press, p.1), barcode technology is "simple, but effective". These three terms successfully sum up this technology: simple, low cost, and most of all, effective.

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.


Evaluation of materials occurred throughout the development stages of the materials, through dialogue, meetings and workshops with teachers in Perth and through the contacts established in the eastern states via the National Advisory Committee.

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.


Allan, M. (1985). Teaching English with video. Great Britain: Longman.

Brumfit & Roberts, J. T. (1983). An introduction to language and language teaching. London: Batsford.

Looms, P. O. (1992). Interactive multimedia in education. In Promaco Conventions (Ed.), Proceedings of the International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 419-427. Perth, Western Australia, 27-31 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1992/looms.html

Looms, P. O. (1990). The use of interactive media in foreign language learning. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 6(1), 12-19. http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet6/looms.html

McGovern, J. (Ed). (1983). Video applications in English language teaching. London: Pergamon Press.

Pinfold, C. (1993). Video Japanese, Teacher's Guide. (Available from the Western Australian Distance Education Consortium, Murdoch University).

Pinfold, C. (1993). Video Japanese, Student Workbook. (Available from the Western Australian Distance Education Consortium, Murdoch University).

Rivers, W. (1992). Interaction and communication in an age of technology. Babel, 27(3).

Temple, A., Pinfold, C., Latchem, C. and Fox, R. (1992). Language Partner Japanese 1: A case study in cooperative multimedia courseware development. In Promaco Conventions (Ed.), Proceedings of the International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 157-167. Perth, Western Australia, 27-31 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1992/temple2.html

Western Australian Distance Education Consortium. (1992, March). Japanese language video disc resources. Submission to the Innovative Languages Other Than English In Schools Program (ILOTES).

Willis, D. (1983). The potential and limitations of video. In J. McGovern (Ed), Video applications in English language teaching. London: Pergamon Press.

Willis, J. (1983). 101 Ways to use video. In J. McGovern (Ed), Video applications in English language teaching. London: Pergamon Press.

Wright, B. (1993). Simple, but effective. (Available from Bruce Wright, Interactive Technologies Courseware, Riverview, 3 The Drive, Bishopsteignton, Devon, TQ14 9SD, UK).

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

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