TEFL teaching materials

teaching professional people english

Easy online content – ‘facial recognition’ listening

One of my favourite sites for teaching material is the Voice of America website whose homepage can be found at : http://www.voanews.com.  By clicking on the ‘classroom’ link at the top of the page you can acces all manner of goodies.  VOA provides a collection of radio news items in audio and transcript form, each supporting a series of brilliant interactive activities.   Interactive is good in a language-lab context or for homework but it doesn’t strike me as being a good use of teacher face-time.  However, I have found that most of the articles can be used in class to great effect with very little preparation. The characteristic dead-pan delivery is much more accessible for low-level students than say, bbc presentation – which means that instead of focussing on how difficult the clip is to understand, they can concentrate on what is being said and whether or not they agree.  Here’s one I made earlier …

Living in a World with Facial Recognition 

  • Equipment  You will need to download the MP3 recording of the article, and check that it can be read by your computer equipment.  here  I also cut-and-paste the transcript into my machine, but I don’t aim to distribute it on paper.  I make sure that I have accurate details of the source site for students so that they can check it out for themselves afterwards.
  • Lesson preparation   As always, the first step is to identify potential difficulties in the text.  These are generally not the words flagged up by the site – that goes for just about any site of this kind.  The person designing the web page and activities will pick out a few useful language items, which is fine for the student working alone but for the teacher who wants to move on to classroom conversation these are not usually the words which need attention.  What I’m looking for at this stage is the key vocabulary which will enable students to ‘get’ the ideas being discussed.  They may well know most or all of them, but a quick refreshing of their memory will aid comprehension.  Here is my suggested list for this item;

Facial recognition system/program/software,  To recognise faces/profile pictures/images/pictures,  To find dates of birth/names/locations/ personal interests,  Cloud computing, social networks, google, dating websites, ‘online’, ‘search’, ‘tag’, privacy, identity, identify, accuracy, improve, affect, threaten, protect, violate (privacy).

  • Elicitation  An easy way to make sure that the class knows and understands these key words is to elcit them in conversation.  (For example, if you want to check that they know the term ‘social networking’, just ask them ‘Do you have an online profile?  Which networking sites do you use?  Do you network for social or professional reasons?’)  There is absolutely no need for students to have a list of questions in front of them.  In fact, such a document would probably impede rather than assist your aims.  I like to have a check list for myself, and cross things off as we go along, but his is a listening and conversation lesson.   Here are some suggestions of questions;

Do you worry about identity theft?  Do you shred your documents?  Are there things you don’t put in the recycling?  What information makes a document sensitive?  When you send a document via e-mail these days, it is stored in the ‘cloud’ … does that worry you, or reassure you?  Are you concerned that ‘big brother’ may be watching you, for example through certain apps in your smart phone?  What if you were famous, would you worry then?  Would you be happy to have your location visible on-line?  Do you use facebook?  What do you think about the privacy settings?  How do they work?  (tell me)  Does it bother you that information about your personal interests and other sensitive details may be sold to advertisers?  In your opinion, is that a violation of your privacy?  If facebook went off-line for some reason, how would it affect your social life?  Which online search engines do you use if you are doing research?  What have you searched for online recently?  What tags did you use?  Do you think that search engines have improved their accuracy over the years?  Do you know anyone who has used a dating website?  Why do people not necessarily want to talk about it?  How do these sites help people to protect their privacy?  What advice would you give a friend who was thinking about signing up to such a service?

At this point, I haven’t mentioned ‘facial recognition’.  I’ll do this when I tell them what the subject of the article is, and ask them what they know about it.

  • Simple listening task  Pick out between five and ten of the vocabulary items you have worked on – make sure that they actually occur in the text.  Write them out of sequence on the board.  Ask the students to listen to the text once, and decide in which order they hear them.
  • Involved listening task  Ask the students to listen again and take notes on the main ideas in the article.  What arguments are presented?  After listening I have a quick group feedback session on the information they have recorded.  Often, a group member will write the proposed items on the board.  This is my chance to check understanding.  If I disagree with their interpretation of what was said I may have them listen again.  In cases of real difficulty I will provide a transcript, but I aim to make this unnecessary.
  • Post-listening debate  We have already aired our own opinions, so there is little point in trying to have a general discussion.  Instead, I like to split the class into sub-groups and assign to each a point of view.  in this case, I might decide that one group represents the ‘Civil Liberties Defence League’ – a radical pressure group who will stop at nothing to protect society frop the evils of on-line espionnage.  A second group can be the media giant ‘Big Brother solutions’ who currently hold patents on all kinds of facial recognition technology, and are busy developing markets for their systems.  A third can be the cross-party back-bench working group which is preparing recommendations for govornment on this very subject.  What should the law be?  Private investigators, journalists, celebrities, .. the list of possibilities goes on.  I split them up to prepare their arguments and then allow them to conduct a debate, preferably an animated and unreasonable one.  If I can avoid participating I will take notes of any language mistakes, and give feedback at the end of the lesson.
  • homework  If possible, to visit the VOA website and play, ahem work, with the interactive ressources.  Other possibilities would be to write a short text giving their opinion (a blog article, a contribution to a forum ..?) or an imaginary letter to their MP (a concept that needs to be explained to people not resident in Britain)

About Catherine Kennedy

Second year undergrad (super-mature) at Sheffield Uni doing single honours Religion, Theology, and the Bible. (Formerly TEFL teacher in France)

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February 2012
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