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Peer Review

Ashcombe: German Video Resources



Overall Numeric Rating:

5 stars
Content Quality: 5 stars
Effectiveness: 5 stars
Ease of Use: 5 stars
Reviewed: Oct 21, 2004 by World Languages Editorial Board
Overview: As part of an ambitious project undertaken in a number of languages at the Ashcombe School (UK), this collection of 23 German videos features topics typically taught in beginning courses--school, sports, holidays and festivals, food,health, friends, family and work. Learners can engage in individual practice by simultaneously viewing,listening to and (if so desired) reading the transcripts of video clips of native speakers using the target language. The set-up allows for future expansion and inclusion of additional topics.
Type of Material: Tutorial/resource. Short videos with accompanying worksheets using mainly cloze/fill-in-the-blank type exercises, with a few drop-down and multiple-choice exercises (as well as one crossword puzzle).
Recommended Uses: These video exercises are best used for listening comprehension practice and to suggest formats for talking about everyday topics.
Technical Requirements: Javascript, stylesheets/css, xhtml, Windows Media Player, IE6 or NS6.2 and higher on a PC platform. Although the videos will load, the exercises are not working in the Classic Mac environment (up to OS 9.2), and are only supported by the Safari and Netscape browsers in OS X.
Identify Major Learning Goals: Improve listening comprehension as well as reading/writing skills with the help of target language video clips and ancillary materials; experience of seeing and hearing native speakers; cultural content.
Target Student Population: Learners of German at all levels. The material was originally intended for students in the British school system, but it is universally useful for all learners and teachers of beginning to intermediate German.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Because the videos are meant for review and improvement of skills at least a basic understanding of German is required.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: These scripted video clips can enrich any language/culture experience by bringing to the classroom and to independent study the voices of native speakers talking about everyday, little "c" topics such as health, diet, recreation, pets, housework, and the like. The native speaker monologues and interviews on these topics are engaging and the quality of the video is quite good.
Young learners will relate to the interviewees who are all young students themselves. They are poised, animated and clear speakers. The manner in which they present their topics can serve as a model for students who are preparing their own oral presentations. The scripts acompanying the videos can be accessed or hidden with a mouse click. It is a nice feature to have the option to hide the written word.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: As a means for individual learners to practice simultaneously listening to a speaker while reading a transcript of the utterance, this is an excellent tool. As learners listen, they can also complete exercises. Video control tools that allow for stopping and starting the clips at any point are available. Independent learners can self-check their answers for feedback. Teachers could make use of these clips and the accompanying texts by projecting the site for whole class or small group cooperative completion of the listening exercises. An added benefit of this well-thought our resource is that even spelling skills will improve because in most exercises the answers must be typed correctly.

On the other hand, this may be a challenge to those who indeed correctly understood the answer but whose spelling skills are lacking and therefore may have trouble succeeding with the exercises. However, they do have the scripts to look at to check accuracy.

An attempt to keep each module simple and direct is discernible. Scripts follow a predictable structure, as an adult asks an interviewee a range
of question types. For example, an interview might begin with a yes/no question
and work up to open-ended questions like " Tell me about....". While the interviews are scripted, they seem very natural and not overly rehearsed. Faculty can draw attention to the demeanor of the speakers when coaching students to speak the target language.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: The resources are presented in a clear manner, listed in two columns by category and then title. Clicking loads the worksheet, with the video on the left upper corner. Videos can be started, paused, stopped and replayed using the controls. Learners are directed to complete the exercises, then click "check" to check their answers, pausing the video when necessary. Clicking on "hint" will give a clue in the form of the next letter(s) of the word. When students use this feature, however, the system will deduct points from the overall score. Brief instructions to this effect are on every page. When checking answers, only the incorrect answers remain, the correct words the learner typed in are inserted into the text (in bold face). Each page includes a link to a list of ASCII codes for input of special characters.
Concerns: As pointed out earlier, these pages work best with IE 6+ or Netscape 6.2+ and higher on a PC platform. Although the videos will load, the exercises are not working within the Classic Mac environment (up to OS 9.2), and are only supported by the Safari and Netscape browsers in OS X.

Other Issues and Comments: The authors have included a digital mini-site, accessible from the Video
Resources page, which outlines the rationale and the technical processes
employed to make the site. The design decisions they made stemmed from a
desire to create a web resource that is easy to use, at home or in the classroom
and that adds value to the curriculum. They succeed on all counts. They even
include some html code for users who might decide to create similar video projects and are t hereby exemplary in their willingness to share their expertise.