O Cameo, Cameo! wherefore art thou Cameo?

cameoJust towards the end of the 2013 spring semester, and just before the summer holiday began earlier this year, many of my students approached asking what they could do to practice speaking English over the vacation (my first thought was to recommend they troll Roppongi looking for an English-speaking boyfriend or girlfriend, but I wisely held that advice to myself). As many frequently admit, our students are keen to improve their speaking skills but the chances to practice outside the classroom are often very difficult to come by. Well, lo and behold; just as classes were winding down for the 2013 winter holiday, my students were asking again how they could practice speaking over the winter break. Lucky for them there’s Cameo.

I must confess, my idea came spur-of-the-moment and my assignment for them was to download the app (free, iOS only), shoot a short video (in English), upload it to the Cameo cloud, share the finished product with me and I would then upload their videos to our class blog page. I had made two short movies over the previous weekend at the Shinjuku Illumination event using my own daughters in the starring roles, so to preface the task, I showed them my movies in class. An instant hit. 

I’m a big fan of make-your-own-video apps and Cameo is not the first one I’ve come across that offers this capability on a handheld device, however it is one of the hippest. Recently earning “Best of 2013” on the App Store, Cameo seamlessly and effortlessly allows the user to record multiple, six second videos, rearrange them in any order, splice them together, run your movie through 23 (currently available) themes/filters, add a soundtrack (or not) and then share via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or email.

Since I teach students in the College of Tourism and Hospitality, my only requirement (other than speaking English) was that they make a video related to tourism in Japan. If they were going to visit Hakone this holiday, for example, then make a movie about one of the attractions in the Hakone region.

I like this particular app because each individual clip is limited to six seconds (a total maximum video length of 2 minutes is preferred for ease of upload) and for our cohorts of digital natives, this quick pace is perfect for their rapidly shifting attention. In addition, the themes are very hip, artsy, and retro. What’s more, the bank of soundtracks offered within the app feature new, up-and-coming indie musicians and bands. As a language teacher, I like the self-made video activity because I know from experience that my students rehearse and practice the monologue (or dialogue) many times and this not only improves the final quality of the language output but also increases the quantity of L2 (Second Language) production.

Shakespeare was right; all the world is a stage and Cameo gives our digitally mobile students a tool to strut their hour upon the stage and to tell their tale of sound, image and creativity.

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