The ABCs of Providing CI Through Remote Instruction: S is for Snap Camera

Most young people are familiar with Snapchat, the social media platform that allows users to send visual messages from their phones to each other using special filters on their pictures and videos to alter their appearance. The filters do things like exaggerate facial features, gives the user animal ears and noses, and many other crazy possibilities (If you are unfamiliar with Snapchat, below are some examples of what pictures and videos look like with Snapchat filters).

My friend Amy Marshall is a comprehensible input (CI) teacher who uses Snapchat to create short videos for her Spanish classes in which she retells TPRS (Teaching Proficiency Through Reading and Storytelling) stories. Not only do her students love her videos, but they serve as another source of CI for them (More CI = increased language proficiency). When I saw her workshop on this, I was intrigued, but I had difficulties figuring out how to use Snapchat, and found the process of having to transfer videos from my phone to my computer and then turning multiple clips into one video too time-consuming.

Then this year, Snap Camera was released, which is basically Snapchat for your computer. You can download the app onto your computer that, when opened, gives you the chance to use the same types of filters you’ll find on Snapchat. Installation is very fast and easy, and using the program is super simple. Basically, once you open the app, you will see a choice of filters (as in the picture below). Once you choose the one you want, it will be applied to your face, and you’re good to go.

Disclosure: I have no affiliations with Snap Camera. I just like sharing tools that help World Language teachers provide more CI to their students. 

I see two advantages to having Snap Camera. First of all, it completely streamlines the process of making videos like Amy’s. Now instead of having to download video clips from my phone to my computer and use video editing software to stitch them all into one video, all I have to do is choose my filter, open up my video recording software (like Loom or Screencastify), and start recording. If I want to change my filter, I just pause my recording, change filters, continue until I have finished, and then save my video to my computer. Easy peasy.

The second advantage of having Snap Camera on my computer is that I can use it when I am video conferencing using software like Zoom. And while it’s nice to use a filter to make it look as if I am wearing eye shadow or a hat (because I haven’t put on makeup or cut my hair since March), the real reason why I like using Snap Camera with Zoom is because my filter becomes something else I could talk about in the target language (TL) when holding Zoom meetings.

I recently took a Mandarin class on Zoom in which the teacher, the amazing Annick Chen, used a Snap Camera filter to make it look as if she had a cat on her head. Then we all learned the word for cat in Mandarin (māo) and spent the next five minutes or so talking about the cat on Annick’s head, which then led to a longer discussion about students’ pets. It was both compelling and fun, and I will NOT forget the word “māo” any time soon!

As I have mentioned before, I was not allowed to use Zoom to conduct synchronous classes when teaching remotely, but I could to use it for virtual office hours. I used the chance to see what Snap Camera filter I would have in office hours as an incentive to get students to “attend” these meetings (although personally I think this only worked because I teach middle school students, who are easy to excite). As a French teacher, I was especially excited for the filter that made it look as if I had multiple loaves of French bread on my head.

My friends who use MacBooks report that they have no issues using Snap Camera on their computers. I have a Microsoft Surface, and I find that Snap Camera can be a little glitchy. I almost always need to restart my computer to get the program to run, and while it works relatively well with Zoom, it doesn’t always play nicely with video recording programs like Flipgrid or Loom. But I will also admit that user error on my part my be part of the reason I have issues with it. If you have a computer similar to mine, give Snap Camera a try and see if you have more luck getting it to run consistently than I do!

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