Listening Activities in Moodle 1.9: Part 1

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Engaging online language learning activities using the Moodle platform

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by Jeff Stanford | October 2009 | Moodle Open Source

Listening is often a challenging activity for language learners. This could be because they have to deal with a range of accents and speeds or because the content may be difficult to follow. Sometimes background noise on the recording makes it more difficult to understand. In natural speech it is normal to interrupt, use ellipsis, or leave sentences unfinished. So recordings based on natural speech are also likely to be difficult.

Using Moodle, students can listen repeatedly to recordings until they feel more comfortable with them. We can also help students understand by using a recording program like Audacity to manipulate recordings, providing slower and faster versions of the same text. Certain Moodle modules, like Quiz and Lesson, can be used effectively to help students notice important features of texts, after which they are likely to understand the whole recording better.

The communicative language teaching classroom often focuses on activities that take place before, during, and after listening. This two-part article by Jeff Stanford follows the same pattern.

 

Before activities aim at motivating students to listen and getting them to anticipate texts and focus on key vocabulary in advance. Forum and Mindmap are two modules which enable us to do this.

During activities focus on the detail of the text and include listening and matching, gap-fill, ordering tasks, identifying attitude, and summarizing tasks. Quiz and Lesson modules are well suited to this.

After activities get students to review and evaluate texts they have listened to. Forum and Questionnaire are good for this purpose.

The article is organized as follows:

Activity and ease of setup

Focus

Module

Description

1  *

Before listening

Forum and Mediacenter

Students discuss recordings they would like to hear.

2  *

 

Mindmap

Students brainstorm ideas or vocabulary.

3  ***

During listening

Quiz

Students answer gist and detailed questions about recordings.

4  ***

 

Lesson

Students predict text in recordings.

5  *

After listening

Choice

Students vote on recordings.

6  ***

 

Questionnaire

Students review and evaluate the content of recordings

7  *

 

Forum

Students discuss recordings.

Since there are various ways we can use Moodle to help students, the introduction to this article looks in detail at the types of players we can use. There is also some guidance on the range of sources of listening material available on the Internet. The final section in the introduction demonstrates how we can show and hide text on Moodle pages while students listen.

Players

This article offers four main ways of presenting listening material.

  • Built-in Flash player: Recordings have to be made on an external recording program, such as Audacity. You need to do some simple editing of the HTML code on your pages, but it doesn't require any add-on modules and the player fits neatly into the page:

    Listening Activities in Moodle 1.9: Part 1

    The player usefully includes a pause facility.

  • Mediacenter: This podcast player requires the add-on Inwicast module. It allows you to include high-quality recordings whose length is limited only by the maximum upload settings as set in the administration panel. The player is again simple and attractive:

    Listening Activities in Moodle 1.9: Part 1

    Mediacenter helps you organize recordings in one place. Recordings can be used in a variety of formats, such as Flash-FLV, MP4 and MOV, WMV and MP3. If your recording equipment records in another format, such as WAV, for example, you can use tools like Audacity to convert the audio format if necessary. You might find it useful to convert from WAV to MP3 format, which works in Mediacenter. Mediacenter also allows you to link to remote files on other websites.

  • NanoGong player: This requires the add-on NanoGong module. It's well worth including in your Moodle setup, as it allows simple recording and playback on most HTML pages within Moodle.

    Listening Activities in Moodle 1.9: Part 1

    The major constraints as far as Moodle is concerned are the time limit of 2 minutes per recording and the lower recording quality. However, for ease of use and convenience, it's suitable for many of the activities.

  • Embedded flash video players: You can embed Flash video players in Moodle HTML pages by pasting embed code from the source site on your page. Embed, here, means insert it into the page.

    You must check that there are no copyright issues when you embed video. Some sites allow it, some don't. Some request that you seek permission first. Since the video is sourced from another website, you are using its bandwidth as well as its content. So it is doubly right that you seek permission.

Sources of listening material

It's worth considering the range of sources of listening materials available. The following are the typical sources:

  • You
  • Your students
  • Your colleagues
  • Local interviewees, such as friends and professionals. You could approach representatives of local services, such as the police or tourist services, and ask if you can make short interviews.
  • Recordings of local announcements from railway stations or airports
  • Internet recordings
  • Websites, such as Woices (http://woices.com) and voicethread (http://voicethread.com/), which combine audio with maps and images

Activity 1 has an extended list of listening sources.

Recording speed

One of the many useful features of Audacity is that it allows us to reproduce recordings at different speeds without the pitch changing. It's well worth including slower recordings if you think your students will benefit from it. Presentations could include two recordings: the first one at a slower speed; the second at a faster, more natural speed. Alternatively, you could start with a recording at a natural speed and make slower speed versions available for students who need remedial help.

You can use Audacity to record from the Internet (also known as grabbing).

Showing the text before listening

In many of the activities, you might want to create a facility for allowing students to see text before and/or after they hear it. Here is a simple way of doing that using ALT tags (Computer-speak for Alternative text).

First, prepare a small GIF image that students will hover their mouse cursor over to see the text.

In case you don't know, GIF is one of the formats you can save an image in. Other formats you may have heard of are JPG and PNG.

You can do that using a simple graphic program like Paint. Alternatively, you can copy this pink square image from http://moodleforlanguages.co.uk/images/pinksquare.gif. To do that, right-click (or Ctrl+click on a Mac) on the image and select Save Image As.... Then, in the HTML area on your Moodle activity, upload the image, and write the text you want to show in the ALT area.

Listening Activities in Moodle 1.9: Part 1

The HTML page will now look like this. The text you write in the Alternate text box will appear in a separate box on the screen when you hover the mouse cursor over the pink square.

Listening Activities in Moodle 1.9: Part 1

Web conferencingIf you have the add-on module Dimdim, you could also create live listening sessions.

Activity 1: Using Forum to motivate students

Aim: Help motivate students by discussing what recordings to listen to

Moodle modules: Forum

Extra programs: Mediacenter (optional)

Ease of setup: *

As with many language-learning activities, it's important to try to motivate students at the outset. In this activity, students discuss what recordings to listen to. The choice of recordings will depend on the age, interests, and language level of the students. There are thousands of sources on the Internet, many of which you can find through good search engines. Here are some examples:

Source

Ideas

News sites

You could also consider getting students to listen to and compare news from different countries. The open directory project is a good place to look: http://www.dmoz.org/News/.

Media repositories

Sites like YouTube and Google Video are good sources of songs, presentations, TV clips, stories, and many other recordings. Sound archives are also good places to look. Some useful sources are:

 

Poetry sites

Many of these include recordings:

 

Story sites

More and more audio books are now available on the Internet often free, as with project Gutenberg:

http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Gutenberg:The_Audio_Books_Project

Discussions

Public broadcast stations like DW, BBC, CBC and CNN are good sources:

 

Film trailers

Several websites are devoted to film trailers. For example:

http://www.imdb.com/Sections/Trailers/

Soap operas

A search for "podcast soap opera" should provide a good catch.

Documentaries

Again, public broadcast stations ofter an increasingly wide range of documentaries, which you can link to via your Moodle Mediacenter: http://tinyurl.com/publicbroadcast

Lectures

These can be made by you, your students, or sourced from websites such as http://www.ted.com/.

A search for "online lectures" will yield many more sites.

Advertisements

Try http://www.google.com/Top/Arts/Television/Commercials/ for a directory of advertisements.

Moodle 1.9 for Second Language Teaching Engaging online language learning activities using the Moodle platform
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There is also a database of sites with recordings at http://teachereducation.org.uk/moodle/mod/glossary/view.php. Search for "listening".

Do remember to check copyright if you plan on copying audio content. Direct links to audio material require no special permission, though YouTube users have the ability to block access to videos that they uploaded. So before you set students work on a YouTube activity, check that the video link is still working.

Also, schools may censor some of the above sites. If necessary, you can download recordings.

In our example, we'll set up links to the TED website: http://www.ted.com/. All the recordings we want students to consider and research are on the same website. There's a wide range of topics for students to browse. We will ask them to choose a recording they want their classmates to listen to. They will then start forum discussions saying why they think their choice is a good one. N.B. We can also use the Mediacenter as a central directory of recordings.

After a given period, students go on to Activity 2 of this article and vote for the recording they want the class to listen to and discuss. They come back to the forum to discuss the recording.

Here's how to do it

Set up a forum activity. We will cover the following steps here.

Complete the introductory page. Pay attention to the following in particular

Settings

Details

Forum name

Let's call it Your suggestions for listening this month.

Forum type

Decide what type of forum you want. Let's choose Standard forum for general use. That's useful if we want students to be able to start new discussion threads on the forum.

Forum introduction

Here we explain what the purpose of the forum is. To create a link to the TED website, highlight the word you want to link, click on the hyperlink icon in the editor menu , and add the URL (that's the web address) of the target site.

 

We could write something like the following:

Listening choice

This month we're going to explore the TED website: http://ted.com.
Here's what you need to do:

1 Browse the website looking for recordings you think would be interesting for the class to listen to and discuss.

2 Choose your top choice and write a Forum posting saying what it is and why you chose it.

3 Read each other's posts, ask questions and give opinions.

4 On Friday I will set up a poll and you will vote on which recording you want to listen to. N.B. You can't vote for the one you recommended.

5 Once we have the result, I'll post the winner on this Forum.

6 Listen to the recording and answer the following questions which I'll post in the forum: What new words did you learn? Do you think they're useful? What do you agree/disagree with? Why? Name at least one point.

Write your answers in the Forum.

* If you have problems understanding the recording, post a message on the Forum so that everyone can benefit from the answer.

  • Save the settings by clicking on Save and display. The forum is now ready to be used. This is what the instruction page will look like
  • Listening Activities in Moodle 1.9: Part 1

    It's also possible to embed the TED website in the forum introduction so that students can access the forum and the website from the same screen.

    If you have a class of more than ten students, consider creating two or more groups so that it is easier for students to participate.

    Activity 2: Using Mindmap to anticipate content of a recording

    Aim: Help students think of likely content of a recording they are about to hear

    Moodle modules: None

    Extra programs: Mindmap

    Ease of setup: *

    It's helpful to focus students on the content of a listening text and get them to anticipate ideas and vocabulary. Mindmap is a good way of doing this. Using Mindmap activity, students can do this individually (groups of one), in small groups, or as a whole class. The following screenshot shows the sort of Mindmap that students might produce if you tell them they're going to listen to a recording about The Olympic Games and ask them to predict what themes and vocabulary might be mentioned.

    Listening Activities in Moodle 1.9: Part 1

     

    >> Continue Reading Listening Activities in Moodle 1.9: Part 2

     

    Moodle 1.9 for Second Language Teaching Engaging online language learning activities using the Moodle platform
    Published: October 2009
    eBook Price: $29.99
    Book Price: $49.99
    See more
    Select your format and quantity:

    About the Author :


    Jeff Stanford

    Jeff Stanford is from London, UK, and has worked in over 20 different countries. He has more than 20 years experience as a language teacher and teacher trainer, which he has applied with abundant enthusiasm to ICT for the last ten years. He is a portfolio worker and each of the strands of his professional life have contributed to this book: as an associate tutor on the MA TEFL course at Leicester University; as a communication skills tutor; as a web site designer; and as a teacher trainer. Since doing a diploma in Interactive Multimedia in 2002 he's been particularly keen on demystifying technology, and helping teachers make the most of the rich world of internet language learning applications. He has been working with Moodle for the last 5 years, setting up Moodle installations for schools and companies and advising on best practice for administrators and teachers. You can visit his free Moodle try-out site at http://moodleflair.com.

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