Ed and Tech Play With Web 2.0 Tools Part 3: VoiceThread

VoiceThread is a handy, easy-to-use tool in education with potential for digital storytelling and beyond.  It can be used to hold debates, explain, describe, persuade, etc.  It allows participants to interact on one platform in five different ways: writing, recording audio, doodling, video, or phone.   My online class will soon be experimenting with VoiceThread (VT).  I’ve used it in my College of Ed classes, a middle school classroom, with my adult ESOL classes, and at a personal level for several years now; I continue to see its benefits.

Getting Started and Examples in Education
I presented on VT back in 2007ish and hadn’t returned to the how-to’s since.  I was tickled pink to find that they still have their original (updated) directions. If you don’t get anything else from this post, do yourself a favor today and watch slides 5 and 6! (Use the arrows to access them quickly.) The first avatar still cracks me up.  What a great example of digital storytelling!

Viewable in a lovely world where I never age is my first attempt at a VT. I was surprised when a year after creating it, I returned to it and discovered people from around the world had responded.  It was memorably one of my first “ah ha” moments that this thing called social media, multimedia and digital storytelling had a bright future.  Embedded below is one my kiddo created years ago explaining her learning from a travel experience.

Wondering how to use VT in your content area?  Here are examples from various content areas and age groups aggregated on the VT site.   Search VT within a defined field to see how other educators use them.  For example, in my field I search for ESOL, ESL, EFL, ELL, assessment etc. Michelle Pacansky-Brock is a great resource to follow on Twitter or at Teaching Without Walls as well.

Ways I have used VoiceThread and things that have worked for me
Set-up: A. Use ones already created. (Do a search by browsing on VT.)  B. Make my own that I use either in the classroom or have students respond to.  C.  Guide students in making either a class, group, or individual VTs and in responding to each other.

Instructions/Purpose: It is important to have a clear set of instructions and purpose for the VT assignment. 

Storyboard/Process:  When students create their own VTs, I often have them storyboard their responses first.  This works well in a process oriented assignment.  For ELLs, it gives them the opportunity to use all modes of the language: reading (if they did research on the topic), writing/editing, speaking, and listening.  I provide checklists and grading rubrics with expectations along the way.

Collaboration: I have experimented using VT when working with multiple sections of a class.  I teach two sections of one class, and the students never see each other, but they are able to correspond, discuss questions, etc. via VT.  This also works in online courses when students enter VT from around the world.

Things I have learned as I’ve used VT
Privacy settings: I need to be mindful of students' comfort levels and privacy.  At this point, I do not have any VT that my students have made to share in public because as a class they opted to keep them private for various reasons.

Comfort level: I once had a middle school student who did a phenomenal job on a VT.  He was engaged in a way I hadn’t seen him engaged before.  He put a ton of effort into his VT, from the writing process to recording his voice several times.  When we got ready to share with the class, he hit “delete.” It was beyond his comfort level to share with others.  I think this is important to honor and another great reason if it is a project to be assessing with a rubric and/or checklist along the way.

Recording Issues:  The reality is that the tech doesn’t always work.  With best efforts, particularly in online courses, some students have hardware limitations and experience difficulties recording audio/video.  This is where the writing option comes in handy.

Potential I see in VT beyond what I have done 
Portfolios: VT could be a portfolio for students to showcase their work and reflect. 

Global Collaboration: VT could be exciting to work in a more global way with other classes.

Course Development: It could be fun to add to the same VT with subsequent classes.  This could work great with vocabulary.  Students in Spring term class create VTs for vocabulary on chapter 1 and Fall term create them for chapter 2, etc.

Get started with the free version of VT.  So far with planning, I have been able to use only the free version.  There’s an app for that.  Last year, VT introduced an app.  It’s straightforward to use and allows students yet another way to be mobile with their learning.  

How do you use VT?

Happy VoiceThreading!

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