Making movies with the PSP in the English Language classroom

As part of a Molenet UK project I was asked to use some PSPs including add on cameras with a group of ESOL learners – lucky for me. With a tiny camera that screws into the USB connector port at the top of the PSP, you can start to shoot video straight away. The wide screen makes it easy to see and playback what you have recorded and, when connected to a PC you can watch what you have made straight away.

In fact the PSP camera is so easy to use, I decided to make a small spelling video that I could show my students if I had to pop out of the classroom for a few minutes – click here to watch it.

So, students have got a video camera? What now?

Making videos might seem like a fun and interesting activity with the chance for learners to use their creative talents to produce something tangible. However, without strict instructions and guidelines, it can quickly become de-motivating and students will lose interest as they don’t know what to shoot. It’s worth remembering that this is not a media studies class and most students are not as creative as Steven Spielberg.

I put students into groups of three where the main language had to be English and gave each group a PSP with a camera attachment. In two minutes, students had figured out how to shoot and record video footage, I helped some groups and techie students helped less techie students. I then gave the tiny worksheet below to each group and had us all read it together.

**********************************************************************************************************

Make a movie to promote [where you teach]

Make a short film about [where you teach]. This will be an advert of what is there and why it is good.

In your film you should include

–          the library

–          the computers in the library

–          something else that is interesting

You should also interview at least one member of your group on the camera. Here are some of the questions you could ask:

  1. What’s your name? Where do you come from? How old are you?
  2. When did you come to [Where you teach]?
  3. Tell me about your first day.
  4. What are the good things about where you learn English?
  5. Have you had any problems here?
  6. Have you got any advice for anyone learning English? Is there anything they should do or shouldn’t do?

You can also ask any other questions you like!

*****************************************************************************************************

Students then had half an hour to shoot a film following the instructions above, which they did with varying degrees of success. 

When the students came back I plugged each PSP into our interactive whiteboard, and by selecting each media file by number, was able to show the student’s complete films, unedited and in the order they shot them.

Impact on teaching and learning

–         We’ve only just scratched the surface with this and the possibilities are really endless in terms of practising speaking and listening by working together as well as editing which would involve team work and literacy skills.

Learners’ reactions

–         Some learners really liked this and really got into the spirit of making a film. But other students found it more difficult to come up with idea – chatty and creative students need to be mixed with those who are less so.

–         Students loved watching their own and each other’s videos and were genuinely motivated by watching and laughing at each others work.

Teachers’ reactions

–         I was proud of what some students had achieved, others hadn’t tried very hard however. Mix the groups up so that stronger students are with weak students.

Lessons learned

–         mix ability and creativity in groups

–         Some people do not want to be filmed – this is fine, give them the opportunity to be the camera person. In this task, those shy students often asked the questions to the person they were interviewing. Some even found out that they were not shy at all and ended up on the video.


Using a PSP to teach English – Flash Games

Putting Flash Games onto the PSP

To get flash games onto a PSP you need to somehow rip the .swf files from the websites that host the games. I used firefox to download the games and capture the them. More gifted and tecnically minded wizards explain this better than I can here http://www.lancelhoff.com/how-to-download-embedded-swf-files-using-firefox/

Using Flash Games on the PSP

Although playing flash games is a lot of fun (depending on the game of course); exploiting them for language learning is more difficult. I’ve blogged about using them before, but for really creative ways of using flash games in the classroom look no further than Digital Play http://digitalplay.info/blog/ where there are ideas on using individual games and wider links to education through video games. Digital Play has had  a real influence on my ideas and teaching.

The Lesson

I used this lesson with a group of intermediate students from various parts of the world.  Students were given one PSP between two and each PSP had a flash game pre-loaded onto the memory card ‘Who killed Angela Spelling?’ from the fantastic www.bbc.co.uk/skillswise

Students had to play the flash game together and fill in the worksheet which I also downloaded and printed off one between two – you can download it here

So, why not use a normal computer or laptop to do this activity?

– With a bunch of PSPs you can do these activities without an expensive IT suite.  Just pass out the PSPs and you can start.

– Students really focused in on their PSP and becaue they had to work together to see the tiny screen, it helped them work together on completing the tasks.

Problems and pains in the neck.

– Putting the same file onto twelve PSP memory cards is a hassle. Charging them up is even worse. This lesson took too long to think about for  simple  flash game.