What is Present.me
Present.me is an online tool that enables students as well as teachers to create presentations. What makes this tool special, is the fact that its users can upload or record a video of them doing a presentation, while at the same time they can upload some power-point slides to go with the recording. This results in one video split into two parts. As a result, when you record yourself presenting, you can control the slides so that they would be synchronized with the video.
How does it work?
After you have successfully registered an account you can start creating your presentations by clicking create at the top of the screen. At this point, you can choose what you want to include in your presentation. It could be from slides along with a video or a voice recording to just slides or just video or voice. It is also important to highlight that Present.me also supports Prezi presentations in case someone wants to make his presentations more creative. Apart from that it also supports power-point presentations, pdf files and Google docs.
Another interesting feature of Present.me is the fact that it allows you to delete bits of the presentation that you either do not like or because you made a mistake and keep the recording going from where you left off.
Finally, it allows you to embed the presentation into your website, share them by e-mail or even upload them to YouTube.
Even though Present.me identifies itself as a tool for creating presentations, I can see this to be useful with speaking activities as well. In other words, teachers along with their students can imitate the speaking part of various examinations, including those to acquire the Cambridge English First (FCE) and the Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE) as well as the IELTS examination.
Teachers can create handouts similar to those that are given during the examination and place them as slides. Then a video recording can be made with both the teacher and the student appearing on the screen. The teachers ask the student the questions appearing on the slides and then the student responds accordingly.
The most important of the reasons that Greek students choose to learner English is to pass the Cambridge examinations, either the CPE or the FCE examinations. From my experience, English language teachers in Greece will often neglect practising speaking with their students. This often originates from students' unwillingness to communicate in the Target Language (TL). Either because students do not feel confident to speak or because teachers don't promote the use of TL, students' unwillingness is a fact.
Probably the use of technology, in this case, might help students change their attitude towards practising speaking. It is to be said, though, that this will not 'simply happen'. Greek teachers of English should encourage their students to speak. This should constitute a long process in which, learners should be aware of the importance of communicating, in order to be able to use the aforementioned tool in order to prepare for the examinations.
What is great about that is the fact that teachers after recording the speaking practice, they can re-watch and send it to the students to reflect on it. After that, teachers can also make some corrections on the students' language, as well as on their approach to the answers and the different tasks that might be particularly challenging, especially the FCE's speaking task.
Difficulties with using this tool
English language teachers in Greece are often intimidated by the use of technology and prefer to stick to more traditional teaching methods. They will often say that our sole purpose is to prepare our students for the Cambridge examinations.Therefore, according to them if we put the advantages and the disadvantages into a scale, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. However, I believe that this is because many of those teachers are not aware of the ICT tools that can be used in education.
I can see this tool be used inside a classroom without hindering the language learning process. It would only be used as a replacement to the speaking tasks that are similar to the ones that appear in the aforementioned examinations. Therefore instead of sitting in front of your teacher and answering his questions, you would be sitting alongside him/her and answering his questions while being recorded by the computer's/laptop's camera. It might be possible that the process of recording might feel intimidating for the first few times. But after that, the advantages of being able to self-reflect on your performance by re-watching it would definitely help students improve their speaking skill in the long run.
There is a type of learner that will find this tool particularly helpful. Those are the reflective learners. Boyd and Fales (1983) identify reflective learning as "the process of internally examining and exploring an issue of concern triggered by an experience, which creates and clarifies meaning in terms of self, and which results in a changed conceptual perspective". In other words, reflective learners are able to identify their strengths and weaknesses, in order to become better.
However, reflective learning is not an easy task in a language class. Students might want to go back home and write about their experiences in order to reflect. This is not an easy task, considering the fact that, reflective writing becomes more difficult as time passes mainly because it is most likely that you will not remember everything that happened. For the above reason, it is wise to do the reflective writing right after experiencing the event/incident you want to reflect on. However, as I already said this in might not be possible right after the class. For that reason present.me holds great potential for reflective learners.
Boyd, E. M., & Fales, A. W. (1983). Reflective Learning: Key to Learning from Experience. Journal of Humanistic Psychology. doi:10.1177/0022167883232011