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Technology Tip of the Month

September, 1996: Innovative Introductions


by Deborah Healey

conversationIt's September and time for new classes. We all generally begin with having students introduce themselves to build class cohesion when starting a new school term. It works to go around the room and have each student stand up, say his or her name, and give a few salient features. However, the technology-enhanced classroom can offer much more variety--and make names more memorable--than just reciting and listening.

The Tech Tip this month will offer some suggestions, starting with ones that require the least in terms of technology and going on from there.

Audiotape Options

This approach offers some focused listening practice and would especially appeal to learners from oral cultures. It is also helpful in monolingual classes; speaking into the tape in English makes more sense than speaking in a foreign language directly to someone who shares your language. Each person can record a description of him/herself onto audiotape. Depending on the learners' proficiency level, the description can be a very short one--perhaps just name and major interest--or a longer physical description without the name given. Students can be doing the audiotaping while class is going on or during breaks.

The class listens to each description and tries to identify the speaker. The person guessed might be asked to repeat part of the description rather than just saying "Yes" or "No," giving another opportunity for the class to match a voice to a face and name.

Video Options

camcorderIf the class has a camcorder available, students can record themselves on videotape. If the video is played back with the monitor turned off, the activity works like the audiotape exercise described above. An alternative is to have the monitor facing only one person; that student must describe the person on the videotape so that others in the class can identify him or her. The video can be played with the sound on, giving more clues, or with the sound off.

An advantage to video over audiotape is that the teacher can also use the tape to help learn students' names. For that purpose, make sure students say their names on the tape.

Computer Options

With a computer in the picture, more activities are possible. E-mail and MOO options help visual-textual learners remember better; digitizing can appeal to both visual-graphical and visual-textual learners when images are accompanied by text. More on each of these options is below.

Students can compose a paragraph about themselves to send to their classmates via e-mail. With some systems, the person's name is not evident from the e-mail address, making identification more of a puzzle unless students include their name in the e-mail message. Students can also store the information about their classmates easily for future reference.

One of the opening day activities I've used in a classroom with e-mail access is to have students go around the room adding their names and e-mail addresses to each person's address book. It makes for an active class, especially as students try to figure out if they have the name and address for everyone in the class.

MOO stands for 'Multi-user Object Oriented environment' (or 'dimension/dungeon,' reflecting its origins in the adventure game-playing world). CHAT is a program used to connect to a 'Chat room.' A MOO such as SchMOOze University (1) and a Chat room (2) offer an online location that learners can connect to via the Internet, then use for real-time discussions. A MOO and a Chat room are quite similar, except that the MOO adds the ability to move to various locations, each with its own description and possible activities.

Generally speaking, both a MOO and a Chat room are public places, meaning that anyone who knows the location can connect. They are also anonymous; people can connect with pseudonyms. These are strengths in that the interaction is authentic--learners don't know if the person they're typing back and forth to is someone in the computer room with them or across the world. These are weaknesses in that these locations attract predators, and learners should know not to put their home addresses and phone numbers online.

Once connected to a MOO or a Chat room, learners can congregate in a pre-arranged location to type introductions of themselves (or of the person next to them). If the teacher gives each student a list of names of students in the class, then each person can try to write the pseudonym being used by each of his or her classmates and that person's real name. To avoid computer burnout, students can be asked to get up from the computer to go over to where the person is sitting to confirm an identity they think they have discovered.

Digitized video/digital cameras
video pictureSome computers, particularly newer Macintoshes, include the ability to digitize video. This means that a camcorder can be attached to a special connector on the computer, and when digitizing software is run, what the camera sees will show up on the computer screen and can be captured in a still picture or in some cases a QuickTime movie. The software converts the analog image from the camcorder into a digital image that the computer can display and store.

A digital camera such as the Connectix QuickCam or Apple QuickTake (3) includes digitizing software, so the image it captures can be loaded directly into a computer. Some digital cameras will let you take only one picture at a time before saving it on the computer; others give you a certain amount of storage space, so you can take several pictures before having to download and save them.

Students can each save a picture of themselves into a pre-arranged location on the disk (to make life easier for the teacher who has to find all the pictures later). They can also save a spoken introduction to accompany their picture, depending on whether the activity will include listening practice. The teacher can put a series of photos together to create sets of images that do not include everyone in the class, then turn the printed set of images into an information gap exercise. Students can sit back to back, each with a set of pictures (but not necessarily the same set). As the first person describes one of his or her pictures, the second student checks to see if the person being described is or is not in his/her set of pictures.

Alternatively, one person can have a printed set of descriptions to match with the oral descriptions being given by the second person based solely on the pictures. The second person can ask questions for clarification, as needed. The final task would be to take the picture and the description to the individual the others feel it belongs to and get the person's name.

These ideas are not meant to be exhaustive, but to give you a place to start from in using technology to add more spice to beginning of class introductions. Good luck!


(1) SchMOOze U is at's best to log in with a MOO client such as MUDDweller or Tiny Fugue. You can find clients to download by going to and searching for "MUD". You can get to SchMOOze without a client through telnet: telnet://

(2) Chat rooms can be accessed in a variety of ways, though use of a client such as Global Chat makes it easier. On many university mainframes, just typing irc invokes Internet Relay Chat and connects you to a default Chat room. You can find Chat clients to download by going to and searching for Chat.

(3) A discussion about digital cameras took place on TESLCA-L recently. Search for "digital camera" in the TESLCA-L archives or on DejaNews,

See Other tech tips

If you have questions, comments, or for more information, contact Deborah Healey, dhealey AT uoregon DOT edu
Last updated 26 June, 2009