Saturday, September 25, 2010

TED talks

This semester I'm teaching a level-eight class in our eight-level EAP program. These folks are less than two months away from entering college and they need practice listening to lectures and taking notes.

There are lots of materials available from ELT publishers, but the canned lectures are boring, contrived, and short, rarely exceeding six minutes. Not only that, but they're mostly available only on CDs, and they're bloody expensive.

So this semester, I've turned to TED lectures. Now, these are not going to be useful for low-level language learners, but for my students, they're great. Not only are they a good length, sure, not as long as a two-hour class, but certainly long enough to have structure and substance, but they've interesting--these conferences sell out months in advance even though they cost thousands of dollars per seat, and the videos have been viewed more than 319 million times. They've available free online, so my students can listen as many times as they want, that is they can practice (too many listening classes are just tests rather than learning opportunities).

These are all great features for everyone, but the thing that makes these so great for language learning is the subtitles. These allow students to focus, improve processing by matching across modalities, reinforce previous knowledge, and analyze language. They also come in a variety of other languages, depending on what's been contributed, allowing students to confirm guesses and identify misunderstandings.

Also available are interactive transcripts, again in English and various other languages. These are interactive in the sense that clicking on any sentence takes you to that sentence in the video. This allows students to easily replay short sections in which they're having trouble processing the spoken word.

My students have responded very positively to the following two lectures about choice:
Finally, if you want a copy of the transcript, you'll need to extract it from the page source. Select 'view source' from your web browser's menu then search for "Click on any phrase to play the video from that point". The transcript will follow, but it will be full of html markup. Copy it to BBEdit or some other program that allows searching with regular expressions and search for <[^>]*>. Leave the 'replace' box blank and select 'replace all'. That should strip out all the html.


Chris said...

Great idea! BTW, I highly recommend Erin McKean's 2007 talk on redefining dictionaries. This could be a great one for English learners. You can find it here:

Q Higuchi said...

That's a great tip (for extracting the transcript, I mean)! - I am going to use TED talks in my classes more. If the students do not enjoy them that much, well, I will.

TED really is a wonderful source. There are talks that can be useful for (relatively) low-level classes, such as 'Derek Sivers: Weird, or just different?'.

John said...

They are great, aren't they? I have been using them for several years for my communication class which seems about the same as your level 8 and find to challenge my thinking and that of my students. I send the students off to listen to them as much as they can.