Divii: A searchable video dictionary

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 11.45.03 PM

A really useful tool for students to see vocabulary in context is the corpus. One of the difficulties of corpus results as well as dictionaries is explaining something that is very visual in nature such as movement. Also, since it is text based, you are unable to hear the pronunciation as well as any nuances to the language such as stress. An interesting online tool that searches transcripts from videos in a semi-corpus way is Divii. It is free and doesn’t require registration to use. One caveat is that it uses a number of video sources, so it may not always be appropriate for younger students. It should be fine for older students who probably will appreciate the various contexts instead of everything being so academic. Here is how it is works:


  • Go to divii.org and type a search term in the ‘Search words here for video examples’ box. You can type in a single word or a phrase. Click on the search button or hit the ‘Enter’ key.

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 11.55.28 PM

  • You will be taken to your search results with a thumbnail of the video on the left and the text from a section of that video with the word or phrase in it. Click on the video you would like to watch and it will start to play, showing the transcript with the counter time.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 12.01.13 AM

  • It will continue to move through the transcript in sections as it plays. Click on a section of the transcript to play that section or click on the video to pause it. Click anywhere outside of the video to get back to the search results.

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 12.01.32 AM

As you can see, it is fairly easy to use. Once again, it is something I would only use with adult learners based on some of the content I encountered along the way. There isn’t anything there that would persuade me away from using it altogether, but it is something to consider before using in class.


Recording directly to YouTube with your webcam

Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 4.45.00 PM

This week, I have two students who have to miss class due to important meetings outside of the city. As a result, I am posting short summary videos on Edmodo for them along with the relevant material they may need to work on their own. I don’t want to spend a great deal of time recording, editing, and uploading my summaries since they are fairly short and informal, so I am using the My Webcam function of YouTube to record directly to YouTube without all of those other steps. Most people I have talked to don’t seem to know that it exists, so that prompted this short post. Here is how it works:

  1. Go to the My Webcam page of YouTube and log in if need be.
  2. The first time you go to this page, you will see an Adobe Flash message asking for access to your webcam and microphone. Click on ‘Allow’ and ‘Remember’ before click on ‘Close’. You won’t need to do this again.
  3. You will see a black box showing what your webcam sees. Click on the ‘Start recording’ button and it will start recording immediately.
  4. Along the side of the video, you will see a green bar moving up and down. This is your level indicator for the sound. Make sure it isn’t going too high or too low.
  5. Click ‘Stop recording’ when you are done. You can play back the recording by clicking on the play button. If you are happy, click on the ‘Upload’ button. If you want to do it again, click on ‘Start over’.
  6. Once you have click on the ‘Upload’ button, you will be taken to the info and settings page. Change the title name, add a description and tags, change the privacy setting to what is appropriate (I usually use ‘Unlisted’ since this takes it out of the search, but gives access to anyone I give the link to), choose a category, and click on ‘Save changes’.
  7. Depending on the length of the video, it should be ready fairly quickly. To access it, click on your ‘Video Manager’ link on the left side of the page. You should see the video listed at the top. Click on the video to view it and to get the ‘Share’ url.
There are plenty of uses for this in the classroom. I have had students record themselves for pronunciation practice or giving a mini-presentation. I can record mini lectures for self-access and so on.
I hope it was helpful.

Using archived TV news broadcasts in the English language classroom

Screen Shot 2014-08-23 at 11.57.05 PM

I was visiting the Internet Archive the other day for my class and came across the TV News archive. This is a searchable database of over 437,000 TV news broadcast video transcripts and the corresponding videos with them. I think this has a number of uses in English language learning. Here is how it works:


  1. Go to the TV News Archive of the Internet Archive website.
  2. Type in a word or phrase search in the search box labelled ‘Search captions through 24 hours ago’ and click on ‘Search’.
  3. A series of videos with their transcripts will appear along the bottom of the screen. The first video will start immediately, so you may need to click on the pause button. All the videos will start a little before the word or phrase that you have searched for and will continue to play for a total of approximately 30 seconds.
  4. After the video has finished playing, it will automatically move on to the next video or until you pause it. If you would like to see a larger version of the video, click on ‘More/Borrow’ at the top of the small video. This will give you a larger version of the video along with a ‘Share’ button to get the video’s URL. Close the large video mode by clicking on the red X in the top-right corner of the video. Use the back arrows of you browser to go back to the search results.
  5. In the search results area, you can scroll right and left to see more videos and transcripts.
Here are some ideas on how this could be used with English language learners:
  1. Students could search for word collocations such as searching for ‘take’ and seeing and hearing the words that normally go together with it. This would take the role of a corpus.
  2. Have students search for a video on a particular word to see if they can figure out what it means in context.
  3. Since the video is fairly short and starts in the middle of a conversation, see if they can guess what happened before this section of the video or what is coming up next. This could be followed up with a research project on the topic mentioned.
  4. Students can listen to the pronunciation of a word along with the possible intonation or rhythmic usage in different contexts.

These are just a few ideas that come to mind. If you have any ideas that you would like to contribute, please share them in the comment section below or send me a tweet at @nathanghall. Thank you!