For the last few years, I have collected all homework assignments on online through sites such as Edmodo and Google Classroom.
While these sites make collecting and grading homework easy for me, and my students and parents love the convenience, there was always one type of assignment I couldn’t figure out how to do easily- speaking assignments.
Even in 2017, I have anxiety about whether my students will be able to record an mp3, save it, and then upload it. I worry their computer won’t have a microphone or they can’t figure out how to use an app on their phone.
Perhaps these fears are unfounded, but they are a result of the shock I had when I first started taking students online. Sure, they know how to play video games on the computer, but that’s about where it stops.
I had always wished Edmodo or Google Classroom could implement a recording mechanism within their apps so I could collect speaking samples easily from my students.
That day has yet to come (or I am uninformed). But recently, I came across an app that solves my problem. The app is called Extempore.
Extempore is an app for teachers that allows them to set speaking assignments for their classes. It is similar to what you can do for homework on Edmodo and Google Classroom, except it is exclusively for speaking assignments.
Here is how it works:
- You create your class inside the app.
- Then, you create a speaking assignment. The assignment can have a text, audio, or video prompt. Within the assignment, you can set time limits, which is particularly useful if doing exam prep.
- After the assignment is set up. students can log into the app and record their responses.
- Finally, you can return to the app to grade all of the recordings. You could grade on a rubric or a point system. Also, you can provide text or audio feedback.
The app is not free, but it isn’t expensive and the payment method is flexible. There are two payment models- Institution-paid or Learner-paid.
In the institutional model, a school or clinic will license Extempore for a maximum number of students, with a volume discount for larger subscriptions.
Once an institution is subscribed to Extempore, all students in that institution will have access to the app. Similar to the learner-paid model, the instructor will have access to a code for each class. Sending the code to their students enables the students to enroll in a class.
In the learner-paid model, Extempore is licensed for free to instructors and therapists, who can create as many assessments as needed in our
When ready to sign up a class or individual student, the instructor will email a system-generated unique code to his or her students. This code will take the student to a payment page where they can buy access to the class with any major credit card.
I think the model you choose would depend on how many instructors in your school use it with the same students, how supportive your institution is, the socioeconomic situation of your students, and the support of the parents.
Why I am Excited About Extempore
There are so many reasons why I would want to record my students.
1) Reading Fluency
With class sizes growing, I do not get enough time in class to ever hear an individual student read as much as I would like. In my past school, students would record their reading on tape or a recording device of their choice and receive feedback on a piece of paper. With Extempore, I could collect the audio and give the feedback all in one place.
2) Speaking Tests
Depending on the goal of the class, speaking tests may be desirable. Unfortunately, speaking tests are incredibly time intensive. Extempore solves that problem. Students can take the test outside of the classroom, freeing up time for more instruction.
3) Language Test Prep
All of the language tests my students take (TOEFL/Cambridge/GEPT) have speaking sections. One important aspect of test prep is giving students practice in timed situations. With Extempore’s time limit, it is easy to give them an experience close to the exam conditions.
4) Drama Practice
Drama has been shown to help with students language fluency and many schools put on English shows. Extempore is a great way to give your young actors the individual feedback they need on their lines so your show wins a Tony Award for best actors (I’m kidding…but I’m not).
I am super excited about Extempore. While it would be great if it could integrate into Edmodo or Google Classroom, I am just happy to finally have a simple way to collect audio from my students online.
If you would like to learn more about Extempore, go to https://extemporeapp.com/
And for those of you who try out the app with your class, let me know in the comments what you think.