Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Using recorded Skype conversations as assessment tools

I was asked today by Barbara Sawhill to briefly take part in a presentation she's giving with Barbara Ganley on 'Using Skype, Podcasting and Blogging in Foreign Language Teaching'

Sitting here waiting for their Skype call, I decided to prepare myself a little bit and refresh my memory about their work.

As soon as I start looking I'm struck by what I've been missing out on by not blogging much, or taking much notice of the 'edublogosphere' recently. I can't let this happen again, no matter how busy I get.

First, I found a description of the workshop they are giving today:

"Recently, new technologies have distinguished themselves as credible tools that increase students' production and competence in a target language. With this change, a new conversation has begun about the structure of a language class, thinking about moving from a traditional teacher-and-text-centered classroom to a student-centered and possibly even a totally un-centered, textbook-less learning environment. In this workshop, we will explore several new "disruptive technologies" -- blogs, wikis, podcasts, rss feeds and Skype (http://www.skype.com)-- and explore ways these tools can support the objectives of a language curriculum."

This year I've been witness to the efforts that Barbara Sawhill has been making with her Spanish students, as we've been involved in podcast exchanges. Tonight, following links, I've just come across one of the most interesting reflections I've ever seen about using recorded Skype conversations.

Barbara Sawhill talks here, on the Language Lab Unleashed blog, about using recorded Skype calls as assessment tools for language learning.

In particular, she reflects upon students conducting Skype interviews as part of their final projects, and mentions the great value of doing this when students really use these conversations as a form of self-evaluation. She found that many students approached the task trying to produce something they thought Barbara wanted, rather than really reflect upon the conversations they had had. When her students approached the task as more than "just a list of questions that need to be answered", however, as one of Barbara's students (Gigi) did, then something special took place. In the recording, Gig talks to Rita, an EFL teacher in Argentina. She reflects upon the conversation in her blog.

Barbara also mentions the idea of students using these conversations as "snapshots" of what they were able to do at a particular moment, and she hopes some of them at least will be able to listen again in the future, and to be able to assess their progress. This is surely an area that has great potential in language learning.


  1. I am quite interested in the idea of Skype calls as a language tool and would like to know how to record Skype calls and upload them to a blog. Can you point me in the right direction for tutorials on these two topics?

  2. Hi Maryanne

    The first place I'd recommend you go is to the webcast academy

    I did a search there and found a link to the Worldbridges New Media Guides site, with a tutorial on recording telephony software like Skype.

    I hope this is what you're looking for.

  3. Hi Maryanne and Graham:

    If you go to the HISP 305 blog (the mother blog for my HISP 305 class) I have all of the information on how to record Skype calls (just audio) there. My students were expectd to do it themselves, hence the instructions (and in Englsih so there were no problems)

    let me know if you need more info!

    here is the url: http://languages.oberlin.edu/blogs/hisp305/

  4. Thanks Barbara - that's a really useful resource you have there.

  5. This does seem like a great idea doesn't it. I too have been a bit out of the loop for the past 14 weeks (my aggregator tells me I have 3500 unread feeds).

    I am anxious to hear the presentation you open this blog post talking about. The two Barbara's seem to have discovered an application for Skype and skypecasts with much potential.

  6. I think you can use Total Recorder as well, but I've never tried.


    Integrating ICT into the MFL classroom - www.joedale.typepad.com

  7. Thanks Joe - nice blog you have there, with links to lots of interesting tools and papers - look forward to checking that out in more detail

  8. Cheers Graham,

    Here is a link I found yesterday called 'How to record phone calls with Skype and Total Recorder'.


    Check it out.

    Best wishes


  9. Have you heard of these sites Graham for making online recordings?

    K7: record a message and pick it up as an email.

    Vaestro: Take turns in recording parts of a conversation

    YackPack: Online group voice messages

    Gabcast: record a podcast with a telephone anywhere in the world and have it posted back to your blog automatically

    I found these references from the excellent Langwitches blog:

    I particularly like the look of the k7 site for leaving voice messages as emails.

    I wonder if you could use the Office toolbar from Skype to call the number direct from an Office program such as MS Word?

    Would be worth trying.

    Best wishes


    Integrating ICT into the MFL classroom - www.joedale.typepad.com

  10. Thanks Joe for this rich collection of resources - I look forward to checking them out very soon.

    I've also forwarded yyour comment to our podcasting group, as I think that your suggestions will benefit people there too:



  11. No problem Graham. It's great to share.

    Best wishes and keep checking the blog!


  12. Dear Graham,

    I’ve just been trying out the K7.net service I mentioned previously which allows you to record a voice message by telephoning a specific number which can then be sent to your email address as a wav file. I found out about the site from the excellent website http://www.langwitches.org subtitled ‘Technology Integration in the Foreign Language and English Language Learner Classroom’. The site includes lots of useful information such as tutorials, a blog and downloadable podcasts. The first podcast has examples of voicemails that the webmistress, Silvia Tolisano has been sent by language teachers from all over the States. She has then edited them together using Audacity and uploaded the finished file as an mp3 to her site. One particularly good idea offered by a teacher is a song about être verbs in the passé compose. Worth a listen.

    This service could be very useful for language teachers for the following reasons:

    · exchanging ideas between colleagues
    · linking with a partner school as part of an e-Twinning project
    · setting speaking homework
    · making podcasts
    · creating a trip diary

    Silvia has kindly left a voice message on my blog for you to haven a listen. I’ve used the brilliant dew player again http://www.alsacreations.fr/?dewplayer to play the file which is on the left of the blog under Voice Messages www.joedale.typepad.com

    The telephone number is 0012063506411. This is a Seattle number. To telephone from the UK using BT it costs 1.25p per minute according to their website http://www.bt.com/btcommunicator/international. Feel free to try out the service. My plan is to upload future voicemails as they come in.

    Useful links:

    Listen to the first Langwitches podcast here
    Check out the Langwitches blog here
    K7.net unified messaging service

    To finish, I listened to an interesting podcast last night from The Gordon School in Aberdeenshire called 'Bienvenue'. Here is the link: http://mfle.typepad.com/tgs2/

    Best wishes


  13. I am using free new utility SoliCall (www.solicall.com). SoliCall records my Skype calls and in addition SoliCall reduces background noise thus improving the quality of my calls.

    BTW, SoliCall works with any softphone (e.g. Skype, Google Talk and Yahoo Messenger).

  14. Lenare12:18 pm

    I'm often contact native speakers via skype and saving my conversations with SkypeCallRecorder
    for future analysis.