Vol. 11, Issue 3, March 2011

Webbing In
Eugenia D. Coutavas

Debbie Coutavas

What is it?

Flip Cam
Flip cams are high definition digital video cameras.  They are about the size of a phone, and are made by several companies.  The one I’ve used is by Cisco Systems and retails for around $150.  Memory capacity varies, but the most salient feature is the pop-out USB that you simply plug directly into your computer.  You can then either edit or upload your video to a site or email it or simply watch it right away.

Why do I recommend it?

It’s portable and very easy to use (only 3 buttons). The quality of the images is excellent. You can play what you recorded as soon as you finish shooting it. And you don’t need any special software to play the videos.

How I have used it.

I’ve used it to record students’ individual and group presentations. I generally use it as an analysis tool in addition to written feedback students get.  Since I generally use it on mute in order to focus our analysis on body language, the sound quality of my recordings has not been that important for me.  Word of warning: check the sound quality immediately by using the playback feature.  You may need to re-record your segment.  (General rule-of-thumb – use a table tripod if possible and make sure to stand as close to the subject being recorded as possible.)

I can think of at least a dozen ways to use these handy gadgets in the ESL classroom: film students performing a talk show, film students giving a tour of their school campus as an orientation for incoming new students, film students conducting a survey outside of school, film students on a fieldtrip; film students role playing a job interview, film students expressing their opinion about a current event, film a class debate, etc.

I hope to use the flip cam again very soon for a project-based lesson where students report on a nearby landmark.

Please let me know how you have used digital video cameras in your classroom.  I’d love to hear from you.


Eugenia "Debbie" Coutavas received a B.A. in History of Art with a minor in photography from the University of La Verne in Athens, Greece, and an M.A. in TESOL from Hunter College. In addition to teaching for more than ten years, Debbie was also the Web site coordinator for Hunter College's IELI Web site.

Please send your questions and responses to "Webbing In" at dialogue@nystesol.org.