On-cam and Confident: How to Increase Confidence Levels in ELT Students through Digital Media

On-cam and Confident: How to Increase Confidence Levels in ELT Students through Digital Media

MaryDaphne Kostakopoulos, Turkey

MaryDaphne Kostakopoulos is an English-language instructor and Promotional Project designer-creator at Bahçeşehir University, one of Turkey’s preeminent private universities, where she is also currently pursuing her masters in English Language Teaching. MaryDaphne studied classical ballet for 16 years and performed in numerous productions of the Manhattan Ballet Company. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Hamilton College as a Communications and French Honors double-major. At Hamilton College, she received many honors, including the Fulbright Award. After graduation, MaryDaphne moved to Turkey as a part of the United States State Department and Turkish Fulbright Commission as an ETA.
E-mail: MaryDaphne@aol.com

“Bir Dil Bir İnsan, İki Dil İki İnsan”
(One language, one person, two languages, two people)
– Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of Modern Turkey

Learning a new language can be a daunting experience – but it does not have to be. The most important aspect of language learning is also a simple one – confidence. As a multilingual person, I, too, have toiled long and hard to not only learn a foreign language, but to master it. My students knew this fact about me and entrusted me with their faith that I would teach them English to the best of my ability. The truth is, there is no easy way to language learning. During my Fulbright year at OndokuzMayıs University, located in the conservative town of Samsun, the Northern Black Sea region, I discovered some techniques to make the language learning process less grueling and more results-driven. To be successful in any venture, the audience must be held in high esteem; in this case, my students had to be the focus. Young learners in this generation have grown up with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and have seamlessly integrated online video-sharing into their daily lives. It occurred to me that somehow incorporating visual media into the classroom as a confidence-building tool would yield wondrous results.

My students were familiar with watching and sharing other people’s videos, but my goal was to place them in front of the camera themselves. In order to guide my students, I shared with them the cultural programs that I had written and produced entirely on my own to encourage them to embrace their own creativity. This assignment was the antithesis of their teachers’ lectures that held a position of clout in their high school and college curricula. To effectively learn a language, one needs to break free of insecurities and simultaneously transgress one’s comfort zones. The cultural segments painted vivid portraits of everyday aspects of Mediterranean culture told from an American’s perspective. My amateur videos were encouraging, rather than off-putting. They saw that I, too, left my comfort zone when I hosted the show in French or Turkish – languages I acquired later in life through determination and perseverance. These students were going to be funny and creative on-camera and in their foreign language – English. It may sound simple, but the final outcome wouldn’t show until the end of the school year. The first step was getting them acclimated to the presence of the camera.

Upon introducing the video camera to my students, they experienced a degree of hesitation and communication apprehension. Even though my students were used to performing in the classroom – I instructed them to act out scripted and impromptu sketches – there was something about the looming presence of the video camera that caused them distress. I explained to them my reasoning behind what some would deem unorthodox methods; essentially, performing on camera would ultimately enable them to overcome their fear of speaking in a foreign language. Our first attempt at working with the video camera went better than expected when I introduced the camera in the classroom, but kept it turned off. I wanted students to get used to it being in the room with them, but more at ease, since the red recording light was not on. Students were instructed to perform their sketch as they would regularly, in front of their peers and me, ignoring the presence of the camera. When they ignored the presence of the camera and focused on their craft, results began to surface much sooner than fathomed. The video camera made its second appearance at the request of the students, and this time the red button had a function, too. After the second trial, students were asking for the video camera without me insisting.

Our confidence building activities grew incrementally and steadily because students could measure their own progress; it was that palpable. During our one-on-one and group feedback sessions, students received the opportunity to watch their own performances and comment on their strengths and weaknesses. The exercises’ self-critiquing element was instrumental in producing better results because it came from the students themselves, not from an authority figure. In order to build increased levels of confidence, I assigned them more challenging speaking tasks where language skills, creativity and delivery were all taken into account. Endowing students with a creative outlet, which manifested itself in writing original scripts, proved to work in our favor because they received a sense of ownership in working on their material and performing it to the entire class, as well as on camera.

The ultimate show of the year’s worth of confidence building exercises through creative activities and digital media culminated into the end of the year performance. Students wrote their own short plays in English, and together, we worked on staging and directing. The outcome was an incontestable success because they proved to themselves that overcoming language barriers is possible when we allow ourselves to make mistakes, have the courage to speak and engage our creative minds.

The bottom line is, we learn better when we enjoy what we’re doing. My students were receptive to performing on camera in a language they had yet to master, because it altered the way they viewed learning. It remained a difficult (though not a Sisyphean task), but since there was an element of spontaneity, fun and excitement in every performance, students raised the bar every week with each new performance outshining the last. Language learning will always be a challenge, both as a teacher and as a student, but implementing technology as a tool will allow it to be less of a task and more of a game. Social media and digital media can work in tandem to become the classroom of the future, and be accessible to students. Language instructors can adapt my activity to best fit their own teaching styles and curriculum, but adding an element of media, performance and art to a traditional classroom setting cajoles quiet caterpillars into bursting out of their cocoons. Over the course of one short school year, my once shy, reserved and frightened students learned how to relax, be creative, and add comedy to performances. Confidence is not just a necessity in the ESL classroom, but on life’s grand stage. My students transcended expectations enforced by traditional academic society and proved to themselves what I knew to be true of them all along: Anything is possible with a little bit of faith and confidence.

Note: Sample videos shown to my students as well as the end of the year performance mentioned in this article may be found at: www.vimeo.com/marydaphne

Categories: Aleatorii

Write a Comment

Your e-mail address will not be published.
Required fields are marked*