About SkypeRead

Skype-icon

SkypeRead is an experimental project designed for remote, cross-border teams that use English as a working language.

The team meets in a Skype group video call and does a read-through of a movie script. Each participant plays a number of characters in the movie, and a professional language coach (that’s me!) acts as the moderator.

The aim is to recreate the emotional elements of a real-life read-through – professional actors often report feeling a “first day at school” mixture of excitement and fear – and to use these for improving English-language communication skills and teamwork.


What is a read-through?

It’s one of the early stages in the process of making a movie. The actors — together with other key personnel such as directors, writers and producers — sit down around a large table and, very simply, read through the script. It’s sometimes called a table read.

Read-throughPhoto from The Official Selena Gomez Twitter Page – @selenagomez

I asked Eddie Jemison, the actor best known for his roles in Ocean’s 11, 12 and 13, about the team-building element of read-throughs. “I think they’re really helpful,” he said. “It makes everyone realize they are all pulling for the same cause. It gives the experience shape and purpose. Without a read-through everyone is just guessing at how all the parts fit together. Plus, it’s fun and every one feels more a part of a team. And teamwork is always better than the sum of the work of individuals.”


What’s this got to do with non-native English-speakers?

Because the team-building power of a Hollywood-style read-through can be applied to any group that uses English as a working language.

It’s particularly powerful for remote teams, because the read-through can be done virtually, in a Skype group call. For groups of people who work remotely, doing team-building virtually isn’t just about saving time and money — it’s about emphasising the fact that remote working can be equally or more effective than face-to-face working.

Remote-working

As Dr Marcus Hildebrandt and his colleagues explained in Closeness at a Distance: Leading Virtual Groups to High Performance (2013), for remote teams it is important to signal that “virtuality is the reality wherein a group will work.”


How exactly does it help teams?

SkypeRead has been designed for non-native English-speakers using a number of principles from neuroELT, a new field that combines neuroscience and English-language teaching.

Brain

Emotion drives learning. Emotion is a fundamental part of how the brain processes information. The pressure, excitement and drama of doing a movie read-through creates a unique environment for learning, collaborating and bonding.

Collaboration boosts levels of cognition. Humans are social animals. As Sandra Johnson explains in The Neuroscience of Adult Learning: New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education (2006), “Social cognitive neuroscience affirms that over aeons our brains have developed physical mechanisms that enable us to learn by social interaction.”

‘Bottom-up’ can be a powerful way to learn. In today’s world, most learning is ‘top-down’. But our brains evolved in a ‘bottom-up’ learning environment — nature does not provide classes on how to survive in the jungle! SkypeRead uses a bottom-up approach: I play the role of moderator, but the group overcomes challenges and achieves results by itself.

Good learners are risk-taking explorers. We create a ‘safe’ space where group members can take risks, push themselves and make mistakes. If we don’t make mistakes, we can’t learn from them — and the brain is very good at learning from mistakes!


Does it work?

Yes! At the end of last year we ran a pilot programme involving non-native English-speakers from 18 different countries. I presented the results at the 2013 Kansai ELT Expo (which was held at Konan University CUBE in Osaka, Japan). This is a 5-minute version of my presentation “Is doing a read-through of a movie good for non-native English-speakers?” (click here for a transcript):


External links

There are some more links related to SkypeRead, cross-border teams, movie read-throughs and neuroELT here.