The constantly evolving ways in which we conduct our work and consume and share information has resulted in a recent emphasis on aligning classroom environments and teaching with 21st century skills (Johnson, 2009). This involves creating pedagogies which help foster the learning and innovation skills, career and life skills, and technology and information literacies that students will need to engage with modern life (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2009) Alongside this, the prominence of English within the global research community has necessitated educators to provide greater opportunities for students to connect their subject area content with English communication skills.
Driven by these goals, we trialed a project in which students used 360° cameras to create informative videos based on specialized subject area topics (Smith & Townsend, 2020). In this article, we seek to outline some of the language benefits we observed as well as benefits specifically related to 21st Century skill development. In addition, drawing from this experience, we will present some general considerations regarding editing and a more streamlined sequence of potential learning activities to assist other teachers interested in pursuing a similar idea.
Language Use and Discussion Benefits
At a surface level, the only language deemed to be a distinct result of using the 360 technology over conventional means was the directional language to guide the viewers’ attention. However, not only did the activity processes incentivize students to research and apply content-area language, but opportunities for language development also included using English to exchange ideas and opinions, explain procedures, and research and explore the meaning and use of language patterns. These processes created an authentic need to apply English collaboratively to accomplish tasks as a community of learners. As such, much like the way communication is conceptualized within the 4Cs of CLIL (Coyle, 2007), the project created a dynamic forum for students to develop language “for,” “of,” and “through” learning.
21st Century Skills Benefits
The nature of the project required students to utilize a number of skillsets found within the Partnership for 21st Century skills framework (Johnson, 2009). Students actively communicated in English, collaborated on project goals and made decisions reflective of their own ability level and background knowledge. In particular, due to the unfamiliarity of the technology, students began demonstrating skills in the following areas: (a) problem solving; (b) adapting ideas and flexibility; (c) assessing progress and performance at various recording stages; and (d) time management and prioritizing of tasks.
In terms of developing technology literacy, students participated in technical discussions and performed internet research to troubleshoot problems, helping them to master a variety of processes for camera usage, video and audio editing, and uploading. Using the cameras became a practical way for students to become involved in a specialized community of learners, with opportunities to utilize technological and information skills to contribute to a cooperative environment, albeit one which did not always run smoothly.
Editing Issues and Time Constraints
By far the biggest hiccup in the course was editing. The cameras themselves were relatively easy for students to operate. However, the workflow to transfer and edit footage in the appropriate format using a MacBook and iMovie was clunky and presented pitfalls for students. In addition, computer availability issues resulted in many students either waiting around or feeling pressed for time. Instead, we recommend having students use smartphone apps to edit videos. There are many 360-degree video editing apps that are intuitive and maintain footage in the necessary format for 360-degree spherical viewing on YouTube. For example, the app VeeR can easily splice, shorten and share correctly formatted videos with simple drag and drop movements. Additionally, students can easily add filters, music and text to help elevate the viewing experience.
Using student smartphones to edit videos would also avoid both availability and time constraint issues as students can explore editing techniques easily outside of class. They do, however, require reliable WIFI and, in the case of VeeR, audio files will have to be recorded separately. We would nonetheless still deem individual smartphones to be more suitable than desktops in a large class.
A Potential Process—Before Recording—Building Awareness
Having students research and purchase their own viewers for the course serves the pragmatic purpose of ensuring that the students have the necessary tools, but it also helps to provide an early forum for the scaffolding of language to evaluate and express opinions.
Providing students examples of both effective and ineffective 360 videos to watch on their viewers helps build up an understanding of what makes an ideal project video and highlights what should be avoided (Bonner & Lege, 2018). A co-created vocabulary list used to describe videos can become a keystone text for students to revisit later in order to assist in peer-feedback processes, and this could be further reinforced through a written appraisal.
Allocate class time to provide some technical training in how to use the cameras and to experiment with editing software.
To help ensure all groups are competent in editing footage, it would be advantageous to allow students time to record some basic 360-degree footage and transfer it onto their smartphones, along with time to experiment with editing software at home. This could be followed up with an editing skills swap meet where students make a standardized can-do list for basic editing skills and also exchange any other “flashy” technical skills they have discovered.
We found that having students create a conventional 2D video draft was ineffective, as problems with focus, movement, and lighting in the 360-degree format were not brought to the students’ attention until it was too late. This could be improved by a formative peer review session where students can show partially completed videos and compare their work with others to receive feedback.
Allowing for a final viewing day so that all groups watch each other’s films would be one way for students to showcase their final product. Teachers wishing to draw explicit attention to 21st century skills could also use this opportunity to guide students’ metacognitive reflection on the task, their learning, and other transferrable skills.
We conclude from our experiences that having students create 360-degree videos is a challenging but rewarding and novel way to invite content area English into the classroom. Although the resultant language can be achieved through other means, video creation can be a unique learning experience which promotes the modern-day skills that students will be able to draw on in the rest of their studies, and for the rest of their lives.
Bonner, E., & Lege, R. (2018). 360 Videos in the Classroom: A How-to Guide. The Language Teacher, 42(29). Retrieved from https://jalt-publications.org/sites/default/files/pdf-article/42.5tlt-wired.pdf
Coyle, D. (2007). Content and language integrated learning: Towards a connected research agenda for CLIL pedagogies. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 10(5), 543–562. https://doi.org/10.2167/beb459.0
Johnson, P. (2009). The 21st century skills movement. Educational Leadership, 67(1), 11–11. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept09/vol67/num01/The-21st-Century-Skills-Movement.aspx
Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2009). A framework for 21st century learning. Tucson: AZ: p. 21. Retrieved from http://static.battelleforkids.org/documents/p21/P21_Framework_Brief.pdf
Smith, H., & Townsend, S. D. C. (2020) Investigating the efficacy of utilizing 360° camera technology as a language teaching and learning tool in a science content based EFL classroom. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching. https://doi.org/10.1080/17501229.2019.1710515