and the recipient of the 2019 MSLA Service Award.
Adobe Spark Video is a free, online tool for creating animated video slideshows with background music and voice-over narration, resulting in a video that can be shared with a link, downloaded, or embedded on another site. Students can either create their own accounts or login with Google (our district is working to get the app added to our district Google Apps account but is struggling with the 13+ age restriction Adobe has in place at the moment). Students create individual slides much like PowerPoint or Google Slides, including text, images and icons. The tool includes a library of hundreds of royalty-free icons and images to choose from and automatically creates a “credits” slide at the end that lists credits for images and icons that come from the Adobe Spark library. These are not bibliographic citations, but at least there is acknowledgment of source material. Students can also upload their own images or those they find online, though we typically recommend that they avoid this to keep the project creation time manageable and to avoid the possibility of copyright infringement. The tool is designed to create relatively simple slides -- they don’t allow heavy text and only allow one or two images per slide. The look and feel of the slideshow is governed by the students’ choice of a limited number of in-built “themes” that dictate colors, fonts, sizes and design. We encourage students and teachers to think of these limitations as liberating, allowing them to focus more on the content/language skills they are developing than on the aesthetic details. The slideshows produced with this tool are attractive and professional looking.
World Language teachers like this tool because it allows them to create assignments that require students to practice speaking in the subject language by recording a narration for their slideshows. Over the past few years teachers have created a variety of assignments that not only include speaking practice, but also include requirements to use certain vocabulary words and practice using certain verb tenses. Some examples of recent assignments include:
- My daily routine (“Mi rutina diaria”): students document their daily activities from waking in the morning to going to bed at night using a vocabulary list focused on hygiene, school activities and recreation. Sometimes teachers adapt the assignment “What I did yesterday” (“Ce que j’ai fait hier”) and require all verbs to be written in the past tense.
- A trip: students interview one another to learn about a recent trip they took and then create a slideshow describing the trip. Again vocabulary and verb tense requirements are incorporated.
- How to video: students use images and narration to create a simple explainer video in the language they are studying.
Library involvement consists of planning the assignment in advance with teachers, followed by two to three class sessions in the library to learn the tool, to create the slideshows, and to submit the final projects to their teachers. Library teachers or classroom teachers typically introduce the assignment by sharing some sample slideshows with students from prior years (when we first started with this we created our own sample slideshow for teachers to use, practicing our own rusty language skills!). Once the students have an idea of the expectations, teachers typically assign creation of a script or storyboard, either for homework or during a library class period. This is created before starting to use Adobe Spark. The script or storyboard is the outline for the slideshow that students will create, including the text, image types and narration language that they will have on each individual slide. Some teachers specify a minimum and/or maximum number of slides, and require students to turn their scripts in for grading and feedback before advancing to the next stage of the project.
The next visit to the library is focused on a short lesson on how to use Adobe Spark and then creation of the actual slideshow itself. This session focuses students on slide creation, including images and text, but not narration. The projects are dynamically saved in the cloud so the students can continue with narration in a final library session. When students come for their final visit we show them how to record their narration, which occurs individually for each slide, and can be re-recorded individually as well so that students can perfect their narration before exporting the final video. We try to reserve all of the quiet corners of the library for students to record in (study rooms, offices, even closets!). Finally, we help them submit their slideshows on the school’s Learning Management System.
We have created a research guide for these projects on our library website that includes a short tutorial video and some sample videos by students in various World Language classes, as well as tips and tricks for using Adobe Spark for these kinds of projects (e.g., how to use accents with Chromebooks and Adobe Spark, how to upload external images, etc.). The guide also includes a tutorial video for students and teachers demonstrating how to submit a project to our Learning Management System (Schoology).
If you haven’t collaborated much with World Language teachers in the past, I would encourage you to try an Adobe Spark Video project with them, as it has a natural appeal for this audience. Hopefully, this will lead to more and deeper collaborations down the line -- it certainly has with us at Newton South! Feel free to share our libguide and samples with your teachers as inspiration.