By H. E. James, MBA
I was a certified English and History teacher who had never practiced teaching that course in my college career. I also tended to be a nervous speaker myself, depending on the situation.
When I started teaching Speech and Debate, I’m afraid I was more nervous than my students. I was also teaching during a time when there was very little technology available to students and educators.
Now, however, technology is transforming classrooms and homework, with gamification, virtual reality, online homework and more.
This same technology can be useful for teaching public speaking and training speech and debate students. Use the following apps to work with students, facilitate research and much more.
A great place to start research is Google’s Expeditions. The free app is available for use on Google Cardboard headsets and crosses both iOS and Android operating systems. It lets you create virtual expeditions for your students, and they can go on these expeditions and conduct research for presentations.
For heavy-duty research in your secondary classrooms, try SweetSearch. If you haven’t already seen this browser, it caters to students conducting Internet research and is curated by experts such as librarians and teachers. Unlike some of the more restrictive browsers, SweetSearch doesn’t just return academic results, but opens the doors to other relevant sources of research and news.
Connect Students With Web Conferencing
Are you a speech and debate coach? If so, your students have probably made friends across district and even state lines and these friends are invested in the same topics and techniques. If they aren’t at least discussing topics and techniques, they should be. Even the most competitive students want to learn from each other, and teaching is the best way to learn.
Use this video conferencing software to connect your speakers, debaters, and mock trial participants to one other. When connected, they can discuss everything from the results of a competition to the planning for the next social event at a debate tournament. GoToMeeting is a webinar app that offers free, basic plans and allows for screen sharing and web audio.
Skype has been around for years and is still a great way of connecting via video calls. Just like with GoToMeeting, there are plan levels available in case you need more features, such as virtual meetings.
Make Prompting Easier for YOU
I remember how I taught speech when I was a first-year teacher. Because I never taught it before, but I still remembered being the student, I used modeling for each of the four major types taught back then. I stood in front of my freshmen with my mountain bike in front of me and began rattling off the speech I’d memorized.
I can do that more easily than most high school students. They often require a stack of note cards to keep them on track. However, note cards can sometimes turn into distractions for fidgety speakers. Some students will get distracted from their note cards and lose track of their speeches.
Help students out by implementing a prompting app in your classroom. For iOS-supported mobile devices, try mPrompt. It costs $9.99, and you get a clear interface prompting any speaker with the text of a presentation. It has an autoplay feature and can use other apps to create prompts.
If your classroom is supported by Android, try Prompster. This public speaking app costs $1.99, and its interface is similar to mPrompt’s.
Practice With Virtual Reality
Many students improve at public speaking by watching him or herself. During one college course, we were required to watch our own presentations and critique them in order to improve. This is, of course, a great way to learn for the next speech or mock trial.
Implementing virtual reality training into your classroom can mitigate some growing pains in public speaking. It can also prepare students for new venues and situations.
Virtual Speech was developed for businesses wanting to improve their public speaking, but it’s a great tool for secondary classrooms and debate or mock trial teams. Virtual Speech is free for both Android and iOS and can be used with Google Cardboard viewers.
If your classroom or district had a little more in its tech budget, try BeFearless. For Samsung Gear VR headsets, BeFearless creates virtual environments, such as audiences or even judging panels. It can even be synced to Gear smartwatches to monitor heart rates.
Alleviate Public Speaking Anxiety
For more targeted speaker anxiety help, offer meditation training for public speaking.
Students experience plenty of stress during school and presenting in front of their peers or in front of judges can be painful for some students. Teaching them to control their own stresses and anxieties is a life skill that they will carry into the workforce and higher education. This $2.99 app can help.
Make Timing Easier
Teachers need help with student presentations, speeches, and mock trials, too. There are a lot of things we’re trying to do while a student speaks. We have to grade, manage the rest of the class and more. I remember struggling with timing my students. I’d start the timer but forget to stop it.
Use your phone or a classroom tablet to help your students keep track of their own timing. For iOS users, there’s SpeakerClock, which displays timing in large red text and even gives a green light, yellow caution, and red light when time winds down.
For Android users, there’s Presentation Timer Pro. Nearly identical to its iOS cousin, this app’s timer bar changes color as the time runs out on a speaker. Both apps cost $1.99.
So many other apps exist that can help you and your students with their public speaking training. Which ones have you used in your classrooms?