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Twelve Days of Christmas: TeacherTube, Vimeo, and more

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Everyone knows about Youtube and quite a few teachers use it, but there are a few more resources that are slightly less well-known and can liven up lesson points or bring more English input to an EFL teaching situation.


Many teachers already know about TeacherTube, but not everyone does. It’s worth checking out if you haven’t already seen it! Unfortunately, their search and tagging system is lacking and their categories are not very useful–there’s no ESL/EFL/etc. category, so it’s difficult to find good material here. I suspect it exists, but it’s difficult to find. If you have any hints on how to find it, let me know. Videos can be downloaded once you find something you like, which isn’t easy to do at YouTube. Apparently it plays ads before videos, but I haven’t seen any because the version of Adblock Pro that I’m running on Firefox keeps them from showing. A free membership will also allow you to skip the ads.

Vimeo.com is an original video-oriented site, and it was high-quality-oriented before Youtube allowed HD uploads. I think it allows longer videos, as well. Many Vimeo videos can be downloaded as Flash or .avi files without going to the special lengths required to download Youtube videos. There’s no particular orientation toward educational videos here, but there is TESOL content to be found, including the ESL Channel. In addition, among the serious videographers’ work you may find something inspiring for your class anyway, or something to watch to relax. (Check out this Japanese festival video, or this time-lapse video.) The above video of my part of the world (which I advise clicking through and watching in HD if you have the bandwidth) is beautiful and relaxing, but could also be a fun change-of-pace exercise, prompting students to write down as many adjectives as possible (fast! wet! furry! lonely!), etc. As a bonus, the comments at Vimeo are often less of a Wild West than the comments at Youtube. There are limitations on free uploads if you want to make videos and put them online, but I don’t know much about that, I’m afraid.

Veoh.com is another general Youtube-like site, but it’s even more of a free-for-all than Youtube, if that’s possible, and I only recommend it if you are looking for a clip that you absolutely must have. (For example, bilingual Begin Japanology clips can be found there–English in one audio channel, Japanese in the other audio channel.) I don’t think an original teaching video is likely to be found solely on Veoh and not on Youtube, TeacherTube, or Vimeo, but if that’s not the case, please correct me!

Manythings.org’s video section collects English-teaching videos from Youtube. These are mostly instructional videos on specific points, aimed at independent learners, but some are more useful for classrooms. These include singalongs, videos with transcripts and subtitles, and so on. ESLVideo.com may give you some ideas on how to use Youtube in your classroom–they have Youtube videos (music, interviews, etc.) posted with quizzes. The quizzes are mostly simplistic, good for either checking word-by-word listening comprehension or surface-level grammar features, but they could give you ideas about how to use non-TESOL-focused videos in an ELL classroom.

If you’re looking for lesson material on these sites, don’t forget to a) play the “alphabet game” and search for ESL, EFL, ELT, and TESOL, and also b) try some things that aren’t in the TESOL genre, like how-tos, very simple food or drink preparation videos, travel videos, music videos, film clips, etc. I created a pretty good lesson out of some footage aimed at pharmacy school students once, too, for a student who was going back to Japan to be a pharmacist. Don’t hesitate to search for very specific themes such as “pharmacy” or “fast food.”

As mentioned in this thread on using videos in the classroom, it’s best to turn off “related videos” and preview the videos before putting them up on a projector, just to make sure you don’t have any unpleasant surprises!

Twelve Days of Christmas: Google Voice

On the eighth day, we’re taking a moment to focus on a service that’s mostly of use only to folks working in the US, although there are some ways in which it could be useful to people with a lot of American friends and family. If that isn’t you at all, well, happy new year and see you tomorrow–I’ll do better then!

At any rate, a lot of people have heard of Google Voice, but quite a few people are still asking “What is it good for?” Well, a lot of things…




Google will provide you with a phone number (I picked one with a local area code, which may not be possible for everyone, and messed around with the available numbers till I found a combination that was easy to remember). It’s a kind of virtual phone line that forwards instantly to whatever real phone numbers you specify, such as your home, work, and cell numbers. You can control the forwarding by who’s calling and when: individual calling number, groups of calling numbers, time of day, etc.

If you’re a “freeway flyer” whose students need to get in touch with you, but you don’t necessarily want to give out your home or personal cell phone, this is a fantastic service. Give the Google Voice number to your students, and you can control when and where they can contact you. For example, you could set it up so they can reach you at your XYZ College office during your office hours there, your ABC College office during your office hours there, and then have it on “mute” (voice mail) the rest of the time–except during a special project when you unmute it at home until 9 PM, when you have it automatically mute itself. If they can’t get through, they’ll leave a voice mail, which will arrive in your e-mail as a sound file. (Google will also attempt to transcribe it, which works OK some of the time, but isn’t very good with any kind of regional or international accent or cell-phone sound quality problems.)

You can also receive text messages and reply to them for free (SMS), either having them sent to your phone or sent to your e-mail address (or leaving them to not be shown unless you log into Google Voice). If you reply by e-mail from your computer, it’ll be sent as a text message at no charge to you. My husband has some students who don’t really have access to e-mail at home, and being able to communicate them by text messages without actually texting is really useful, since he wants to be able to help them out but he doesn’t want to have to try to type on his phone. (International SMS is not currently supported.)

There are a lot of other features like being able to customize the greeting by caller (this could be useful for other TESOL professionals who are working for themselves, or if you want to customize messages by class, etc.), being able to record calls by pressing a button, very cheap international calls, and so on. The ability to have phone calls follow you could also be useful if you’re looking for a full-time job, etc. It’s really just one of those services where the more you use it, the more useful it becomes. Lifehacker did a pretty good job with their article “Google Voice is Cool, But Do You Need It?” I think it’s a good roundup of the pros and cons, although I haven’t noticed any delay to speak of and I benefit from it despite rarely using it with my cell phone.

However, there are a couple of big catches:

1) It’s US-only. US phone numbers only, US texting only, and access to a US phone number is required for setup. After you get the invitation (see below), there needs to be someone who can answer an automated phone call at a US number you enter during the setup process and enter a two-digit code from the e-mail. In theory, if you wanted to use the voice mail and texting services to get messages from US-based friends and family while you were outside of the US, you could, but you’d need to coordinate that initial setup. It could be handy to set up if you’re returning from working overseas and don’t have a living or working situation pinned down yet, though!

2) Invitations are still even harder to get for Google Voice than for Google Wave. You can sign up to go on the waiting list here, but it may be a long time before you get the invitation. However, my husband has kindly agreed to donate two Google Voice invitations! It’s the same system as the Google Wave invitations–if you are an English/ESL/EFL or other second/foreign language educator or educator-in-training who would like a Google Voice invitation, please go to the Contact Me form and tell me what kind of school/other teaching situation you work in and what level you teach at (or where you’re studying and for what degree). Make sure to give me your Gmail address or another e-mail address to which you’d like the invitation sent. (Do not comment here to get the invitation–you don’t want your e-mail address posted for the whole internet to see!) You must be a language educator to get an invitation.

I do apologize for the US-centric nature of this post, and I’ll try not to do it too often! That said, it’s been very useful for my business and for my husband’s teaching.

Audio Journal? Well, After a Fashion…

ITESLJ, the longstanding free online TESOL journal, is trying out a nifty new feature: free audio versions of its articles. Go to the main ITESLJ page to get the free password and check it out. The catch is that the articles use the Mac’s text-to-speech program, something like what the Kindle 2 e-book reader does. If you haven’t heard text-to-speech in a while, you may be pleasantly surprised: it sounds pretty good. But it still has issues and certainly isn’t as good as listening to a real person read aloud. All things considered, though, this is a really nice free service to offer. If you find that you just don’t have time to read journal articles, it’s a decent solution. Just download the articles to your mp3 player and listen to them on your commute or your jog or while you shop.

The current list of 8 mp3s includes articles on team-teaching with ALTs/native English speakers and local teachers, a task-based approach to entrance exam prep, teaching deaf ELLs, using origami and magic, and more. Give it a try, and leave them some feedback in the comments box (especially if you like it and want them to keep experimenting with it!).