Using VoiceThread for Poetry Critiques

This is a guest post by Educator and VoiceThreader, Mary Ellen Davies.

De Pere, Wisconsin and Hillsborough, New Jersey are separated by 999 miles.  Without traffic, it would take over 14 hours to drive between these two towns.  Given this large geographical gap, it might be surprising to know that students from De Pere Middle School and Hillsborough Middle School spent 4 days reading and critiquing poems together.  With the help of VoiceThread, this asynchronous connection was possible.  

Donna Young, Library Media Specialist at De Pere Middle School, Jaime Hoffmeister, Literacy Teacher at Hillsborough Middle School, and Shauna Murray, Student Teacher at Hillsborough Middle School connected their classrooms through VoiceThread to share, read, and critique original poetry written by the students.  The students were able to publish original work to an authentic audience of their peers, even though that audience was 999 miles away.  This collaborative activity occurred asynchronously over 4 days and culminated in a live Poetry Slam using Google Hangouts.  Thirty-one students volunteered to share their poems live during the Slam, and each class voted for the most engaging performance.  A winner from each class was chosen using a Google Form complete with pictures of the performers.

To make this connection possible, I created a VoiceThread group that students and teachers from both schools joined.  Then, the students uploaded PDF versions of their Poetry Portfolio Google Presentations and created VoiceThreads.  The students were required to read and comment on 10 poems authored by students in the other class.  The students spent one class period reading and commenting on the poems and another class period to listening to comments made on their own poems before making changes and corrections to their poems in Google Presentations.  The students also recorded themselves reading their poems out loud to practice fluency.

Most of the students utilized the text comment option in VoiceThread.  The students wrote thoughtful comments and made personal connections to the poets.  When the students recorded audio or video comments, they were able to use the pencil tool to highlight specific parts of the poem.  

Through the use of VoiceThread and Google tools, Jaime, Shauna, and Donna were able to engage their students in an activity that bridged a 999 mile gap to provide them with an authentic audience of their peers.  The students took pride in their poems, took pride in their comments during peer review, and took pride in their performances during the Slam.  


About the Author:

Mary Ellen Davies is a Computer Support Teacher at Hillsborough Middle School in Hillsborough, NJ. Prior to this, she taught German for 8 years. She is a VoiceThread Certified Educator.

 


VoiceThread Roadmap for 2017

roadmap

 

We’re committed to making VoiceThreading easier, more versatile, and more powerful.  We want to share with you how far we’ve come in the past 6 months and where we’re headed in the new year.

New Features in 2016

Retrieving Deleted Work trashcan

When you delete a VoiceThread, it goes into your Trash.  If you need to retrieve a VoiceThread that has been deleted recently, just go back and restore it from the trash. You can continue using it normally as if it had never been deleted.


Commenters Adding Slides upload3

Creating collaborative VoiceThreads got much easier this year.  Now you can allow your commenters to also add their own slides to your VoiceThread.  They can contribute slides, but they can only alter or delete what is theirs, and you can always see who added each one.


Self-Repairing Sharing  arrow2

If you try to open a VoiceThread that hasn’t been shared with you, you’ll see the option to request access to it. Just select the level of access you’d like, and the person who created that VoiceThread will be notified of your request.  That person can then approve or deny your request with a single click.

Learn more


Mobile Updates  Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 12.14.00 PM   apple3

  • Upload videos and multiple slides at once into a VoiceThread.
  • Add files directly from Google Drive and Dropbox on iOS devices. Coming soon for Android!
  • Create/edit VoiceThreads more easily with a streamlined workflow.

Searching For Comments search

Search for a specific person’s comments on your VoiceThreads. This can help with assessment, managing large conversations, or just hearing more of what that person has to say.


Re-Use Slides and Comments  plusIcon

Re-use past work and merge projects more easily by importing slides from one VoiceThread into another and including all comments on those original slides.


Create Audio Slides microphone

While VoiceThreads are usually conversations around an image, document, or video, sometimes you just want to kick off a conversation without having to upload anything. Now you can use your microphone to record a simple audio slide without having to upload any media at all.


Kaltura Integration  kaltura

Integrate VoiceThread with your institution’s Kaltura License to quickly and easily pull your video content into VoiceThread.  This is a great way to have dynamic conversations around the content you’re already creating. Contact us if your institution has a Site or District License with VoiceThread and would like to integrate with Kaltura.


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Organize your large courses into smaller groups of students, create individual groups for specific assignments, or even organize your course by week. Creating sub-groups within your main course group allows you to further organize the content you’re already using.


Faster Access to Unheard Comments newcomment

Quickly and easily jump to the first unheard or unseen comment on your VoiceThread by clicking on the new-comment notification. This will help you save time when you have many new comments to view.


Upgrades to the Custom Homepage  Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 12.32.04 PM

Schools, districts, departments, and institutions with VoiceThread licenses can build a customized webpage at their VoiceThread domain. Now you can create a simple ThreadBox to use as your custom homepage. Showcase exemplary work from your members, advertise how VoiceThread is being used at your institution, or create a portal for your users.


Security & Infrastructure  Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 12.36.29 PM

We’re always evolving and improving VoiceThread’s security. In addition to that day-to-day growth last year, we improved VoiceThread’s overall stack security by becoming CIS benchmark compliant.

 

 

Upcoming in 2017

No More Flash!

The Flash platform, which powers the most highly interactive experiences in VoiceThread, has been slowly reaching its end of life as a web technology. VoiceThread began a carefully planned move away from Flash over two years ago, and we will finish that transition by summer of 2017. The essential VoiceThreading experience will not change significantly, but using VoiceThread in a web browser will no longer require Flash.  The result of this transition will be a more secure and intuitive experience overall.  As with the other technology transitions we’ve managed over the last decade, we will work hard to make sure the change is as graceful as possible and that users retain as many options for web browsers and versions as possible.


VoiceThread Courses

If you’re teaching in VoiceThread, you probably use groups to organize your course sections or various classes. You’ll still be able to do that, but we’ll also be introducing a true VoiceThread Course that will include a number of features that traditional groups do not.

  • Management of Content
    Set the order of VoiceThreads in your course and even break them into multiple modules or weeks for better organization.

 

  • Scheduled Release of Content
    Create all of your VoiceThreads before the course starts, but then set dates and times for when they will be made available to students. You won’t need to log on and share them manually as you do with groups. You can even schedule when those same VoiceThreads become unavailable so that students can’t access them after a due date or deadline.

 

  • Course Copying
    After you’ve built a great template course, easily copy it to use in multiple sections, multiple semesters/years, or even hand it off to other instructors who may be teaching the same course.

 

  • Assessment
    If you use VoiceThread through your Learning Management System (LMS), you know that some graded assignments are already incorporated.  These same assignments will be available outside the LMS, and we’ll be introducing a number of other grading options including group assignments, in-line quizzes, and peer review assignments.  VoiceThread will offer a grade book that you can opt to sync with your LMS or use on its own.

 

  • Analytics
    Track how users are interacting with your course content to learn what works and which students might need a nudge in the right direction.

Accessibility

One of our core values at VoiceThread is to make learning interactions better for everyone. Teaching students using plain text alone is not accessible and is no longer an acceptable default policy for teaching and learning in the 21st century. Universal Design for Learning principles dictate multiple modes of interaction and information be made available, and VoiceThread makes this simple to do. We know that there are still special needs that must be accommodated in a media-rich environments. We’re constantly evolving to improve the experiences of users who are blind, are deaf or hard of hearing, are dyslexic or experience other learning differences, or don’t have access to advanced hardware or connectivity. Over the next year, we’ll be introducing sharing to VT Universal and more closed caption options.


Mobile

More and more learning happens on mobile devices. This presents some unique challenges when you’re working with audio, video, recording, annotations, and real-time updates, but we’re up to those challenges! VoiceThread’s app for iOS and Android continues to evolve for better stability and reliability all throughout the year.  We’ll also be adding more media import options and tighter LMS and grade book integration so that it’s easier for students to submit their assignments on their mobile devices.


Security & Infrastructure

We take security very seriously, and that means our job is never done. We’re always working to improve our own practices and architecture, stay ahead of any issues by auditing our systems regularly, and paying close attention to the needs of our users. A major goal for 2016 will be movement toward full at-rest encryption.


Thank you for helping to drive our growth and evolution! We couldn’t do what we do without your feedback and support. Happy VoiceThreading!


Capturing the Moment with VoiceThread

This is a guest post by educator and voiceThreader, Andrea Plato.

 

When the bell rings at the end of the day and my students scoot out the door, I often reflect on the events of the day. I think about the discussions, clever comments, and insight my students share. The bad news is I can’t remember exactly what was said in the moment, and I feel like I’ve lost a treasure trove of ideas. I strain my brain trying to recollect the moments that impressed me. With a VoiceThread, I’m able to capture my student’s ideas and conversations in the cloud. In the past, my students have created and presented projects to the class and we just moved on from there. With a VoiceThread, the students and I are both able to reflect on projects more than once. Their projects and presentations are archived and can be replayed like a rerun of a favorite television program.

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This year my students created presentations related to a theme found in a chapter of Ray Bradbury’s, The Martian Chronicles. Students created a presentation explaining how the theme was depicted in chapter of their choice using textual evidence. They also created what we called a theme meme because kids love memes and so do I. This included the theme along with an image related to their theme. The next step was for group members to work individually to find an example of evidence of the theme in today’s world. Each piece of evidence came from a different source like movies, songs, newspapers, or photographs.

We used VoiceThread as a presentation tool. Students viewed and offered feedback on the project. Students could hear what themes and messages their classmates felt Ray Bradbury was conveying in each chapter and connections students made to the real world. This also was a chance to see how other groups constructed projects. My students seemed more engaged as they viewed the VoiceThread. Students were impressed with the different options for recording comments. The doodling feature on the video recording was a big hit. The advantage with a variety of multimodal options is that students can personalize how they formulate their responses. My camera shy students chose to type their response.
VoiceThread is an amazing tool. It’s a tool that can enhance any project. I’m excited to find new ways to implement VoiceThread in my classroom.


About the Author

Andrea Plato is a  7th Grade ELA teacher at a gifted and talented magnet school in League City, Texas.


What’s Bugging You? Project-based Learning with Biology + Art

This is a guest post by educators and VoiceThreaders, Dr. Thom Tomlinson and Ashley Jo Allen.

 

We are a project-based learning, early college high school in Raleigh, North Carolina. Over the weekend of October 8th our beautiful city received a visit from the knave Hurricane Matthew. Matthew’s flood waters engulfed our school building, turning an award winning building into an uninhabitable wreck. There may be places where people would give up and cry about the unfairness, Vernon Malone College and Career Academy is NOT such a place.

The school district, community college and our business partners worked with our administration to create a plan for continuing our work. The plan resulted in our students being spread out over four different campuses within our county. Dr. Thom Tomlinson, our Honors Biology teacher and current Kenan Fellow, wanted to create a project that engaged and connected our kids, parents, and community during this time of transition. VoiceThread was the perfect tool to capture the oral and visual components of this project in a collaborative manner.  Students typically present their work to an authentic audience of students, teachers, parents, and community members.  VoiceThread provided us with the means to create a presentation from multiple classes and to share the work with students and faculty on all four campuses.

The What’s Bugging You? Project began as a hook to a unit on cell function and structure. Students seemed enthusiastic about the guiding question, “What microbe causes the most terrifying death?” Students researched various horrible manners of death by microbes and selected one for their research and art. Anyone who stopped by class witnessed students 100% engaged in this activity. Near the end of the project, students expressed concern for how they were going to share the work and receive feedback for revision. Silver Hawks learn to value the feedback of other students, the faculty and community partners, and rely on it to complete their final product. VoiceThread was our best option for overcoming geographic separation and allowing students to receive feedback. VoiceThread then became the platform for displaying their creative treatment of the driving question.


 

About the Authors

Thom Tomlinson, Ph.D. is a science teacher at Vernon Malone College and Career Academy in Raleigh, NC and a current Kenan Fellow. You can follow him on twitter at @tomlinson_thom.

Ashley Jo Allen, M.Ed. is an Instructional Technology Facilitator at Vernon Malone College and Career Academy is Raleigh, NC. Prior to this, she taught high school math and received her National Boards in 2010. Fin her on twitter at @ashleyjoallen and you can follow Vernon Malone College and Career Academy here: @vernonmalonecca.


Digital PenPals and VoiceThread

This is a guest post by Educator and VoiceThreader, Mary Ellen Davies.

 

In my 10 years as an educator, I have learned that there is definitely a difference between “teacher cool” and “student cool.”  When “teacher cool” and “student cool” are the same, the result is something incredible!

Screen Shot 2016-11-18 at 9.14.15 AMAt the start of the school year, Daynon Blevins, an 8th grade literacy teacher at Hillsborough Middle School in Hillsborough, NJ, mentioned to me that he would like to find pen pals for his class.  He was interested in giving his students an authentic audience to communicate with to share original ideas and learn about life in another part of the United States.  A post on Google+ connected us with Brandi Metts, a Computer teacher from Pierce County Middle School in Blackshear, GA.  After a quick brainstorming session, both teachers were on board with connecting their students as VoiceThread digital pen pals.  

We paired the students, enrolled them in our shared VoiceThread group, created a VoiceThread and the interaction began.  The second slide in the VoiceThread was the first prompt. The students were to share basic personal information including favorite movie and music group, extra-curricular activities, other interesting information and any questions they had for their pen pal.  

 

 

Screen Shot 2016-11-18 at 9.14.30 AM

Some of Brandi’s students recorded first and Daynon’s students were so excited to listen to what their pen pals said and have some questions to respond to.  The students have responded to 3 prompts so far and the interactions have gone beyond the expected singular response to each prompt.  We’ve checked out the time stamps when the students record their responses; they are continuing the discussions outside of class-time and are recording new responses during free periods and at home!

 

The real magic happened when Daynon’s students signed in to VoiceThread to record their initial posts and comments from Brandi’s students started appearing.  The excitement from Daynon’s students about the “real-time” connection was amazing!  Even though the students had already finished their initial recording, they were eager to listen to their pen pal’s recording and respond.  

Screen Shot 2016-11-18 at 9.14.41 AM

 

The students in both classes are excited about this connection and engaged in the activity.  What more could a teacher want?  Oh, maybe to hear “This is so cool!” from nearly every student in your class.  VoiceThread has helped Daynon and Brandi connect their students and find the sweet spot where “teacher cool” and “student cool” meet.

 

 

 


About the Author:

Mary Ellen Davies is a Computer Support Teacher at Hillsborough Middle School in Hillsborough, NJ. Prior to this, she taught German for 8 years. She is a VoiceThread Certified Educator.

 


Converting F2F Lessons to VoiceThread

We often hear that there are two fundamental types of courses: face-to-face and online. Because so much of what students experience in a typical online course is text-based, we can understand why this perception exists. We don’t see such a clear distinction between the two. With VoiceThread, teachers can design lessons that traditionally were only seen in a classroom setting.

 

Converting a Math Lesson

The Teaching Channel recently posted a great math lesson about using manipulatives to teach place value concepts. Students worked with magnetized counters and a ten frame on a dry-erase board. This type of lesson can be hard to replicate in online course spaces.

Screen Shot 2016-11-04 at 9.40.32 AM

With VoiceThread, a teacher can upload an image or document with a ten frame and students can use the doodle tool to participate in the same learning experience. Unlike in a time-constrained classroom environment though, students can take as much time as they need to reflect and work through the lesson on VoiceThread.

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Converting a Literature Circle

Engaging students in a robust discussion about a lesson can be one of the most rewarding aspects of classroom teaching. In a face-to-face class, it can be hard to make sure everyone is involved though. With VoiceThread, every student can share their ideas, reflect on what they hear and engage asynchronously. In the thread below, you can see how every student has a chance to be heard.


 

Converting Science Lab Presentations

When students do research and present their findings to the class, the experience can aid learning in a number of ways. Students get to see the work of their peers, they learn to organize their thoughts and present them in an understandable way, and group discussions can bloom. The downside of doing this in a live classroom is that student presentations can be very time consuming and take multiple class meetings to complete.

When students present their research findings on VoiceThread, time pressures are taken out of the equation. Students can complete their peer review on their schedule and they have time to re-do and perfect their own presentations.

 


 

Have you converted one of your face-to-face lessons to VoiceThread? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section below!


My VoiceThread Biology Journal Club

This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader, Dr. Karen Wells.

 

Teaching graduate-level biological sciences in the online classroom can be challenging! As an online instructor, I’m always looking for ways to “translate” enriching experiences from the brick-and-mortar classroom into the virtual classroom. One essential component for graduate-level instruction is the Journal Club: students critically read and evaluate the primary literature and then engage in a presentation and discussion of the research. This is a bedrock activity that I’ve struggled to appropriately structure for my online courses. For many years, I used traditional text-based discussion forums for my online Journal Clubs, but I found them to be unsatisfying at multiple levels: the inability to directly interact with the figures and data while at the same time posting input; insufficient interactivity between/among students and instructor; inadequate depth of content in student posts; a lack of high-quality engagement.

Luckily, VoiceThread (VT) to the rescue! Over the past few years, I’ve harnessed the power of the VT platform to overcome these previous weaknesses and transform my online Journal Clubs into the highly interactive and engaging activity I’ve always envisioned! My virtual students are now able to explore bioscience research at a depth I found elusive within the text-based format.

Here’s the Journal Club “formula” I currently use in my online courses, and it’s also the one I used for my VoiceThread Certified Educator Capstone Project:

* Student leaders submit PPTX slides that contain high-quality images of pre-assigned figures from the primary research article. I upload these slides into VT, and this then serves as the central media for our discussion. (Note: Starting on 10/28, students can add slides to a thread that you create without having to give them full editing access.) These same student leaders also post some initial discussion questions as starter (audio) comments on their VT slides.

* Throughout the week (one unit), the whole class works together to critically read, evaluate, and discuss the data within the research article. Each student is required to make two substantive posts to the Journal Club, at different times and to different figures. Each content-based post must be audio- or video-based, be 1-2 minutes in length, and include doodling as a means to draw attention to specific relevant data within the images on the slides.

* For the duration of the Journal Club, each student leader monitors & facilitates the voice-based discussion of his/her assigned figure by providing additional discussion questions, responding to classmate input, steering the discussion in relevant directions, and providing a closing audio post shortly after the Journal Club ends. As the instructor, I constantly monitor the entire VT discussion and provide feedback or questions as needed.

Here’s an abbreviated example of a recent VT Journal Club from one of my cell biology courses. In the interests of privacy, all student responses have been deleted. Unfortunately, this removes the best portion of the VT! But I’m hopeful that my comments, along with the central media, will provide some sense about the power of the platform and the way it can be applied.

 

 


About the author:

Dr. Karen Wells is a Senior Lecturer with the Center for Biotechnology Education and the Advanced Academic Programs at the Johns Hopkins University. She teaches biochemistry, cell biology, physiology, and neuroscience courses, at the graduate and undergraduate levels, both in the classroom and online. Karen is a VoiceThread Certified Educator.


Student Assessment in VoiceThread

VoiceThread’s flexible and dynamic recording features allow you to better assess student learning in all subjects. We’ve already introduced several features to help with this:

Our latest step is a minor change in what it means to allow someone else to view your VoiceThread.  Now the “view” permission means simply that: others can only view your VoiceThread.  They cannot edit or delete anything, including their own comments.  If you allow someone to record comments on your VoiceThread, and then you later decide to only allow them to view, they would not be able to delete any comments they had made previously.  This will allow you to easily “close” an assignment so that no one can alter their submissions while still allowing them to see their past work.

Watch for more assessment features coming soon!


Break down your classroom walls: Global Debate

This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader, Aaron Maurer.

 

One of my favorite projects is almost underway. Over 700 students involved in our Revolution Debate project are about ready to embark in a powerful learning project.

This is a project that started small two years ago. Two years ago teachers in our building created a debate on the topic: Revolution – Is It Justified? At this time we had students debate each other from separate classrooms. This was a great start, but we knew there was something special and could go bigger.revolution

Last year we opened up the debate to the world. We had over 800 students involved. We had 9 different locations from around the USA. We had students doing all the judging to eliminate bias and another 800 debating the topic. It was powerful. We saw a spark in the eyes of students we had never seen before. There is that moment when you state your opening remarks and someone you don’t know voices a rebuttal stating how everything is wrong that just fires you up. And in a good way. It is something that is difficult to replicate alone in your classroom.

In a post from October 2015 I posted the following

PLN Support #1: I am helping operate a debate project on the American Revolution. During this process leading up to recording the first speakers this week we had a few classes drop out. It was not a big deal. After a crazy set of circumstances we had another teacher drop and with that left us with over 180 students and 60 teams empty with nobody to debate. I put out a plea asking for any teachers to possibly jump in and help last minute. Within 48 hours I had two teachers who I have never met before or worked with in my life step in and make things happen to allow students to learn, develop their skills, and not be let down. Because of my PLN who read the plea and then went to their schools to connect with other educators we now have a debate of over 800 students pushing their thinking and learning to new levels. We also have educators building their own PLN through this debate sharing resources, teaching ideas, and learning together. Without my PLN, this debate fails and a lot of students lose out on a quality learning opportunity.

The beauty and headache of a global project that goes beyond surface level learning is the coordination of events. Already this year, we have a teacher who has lost internet. We will all rally to help make things happen and work for everyone. And this is what I love. A built in global powerhouse of educators coming together working hard to do what is best for kids. Students and teachers are involved in a process where real world (I hate to use that phrase, but much of education is simply simulation) learning takes place. Teachers have to collaborate. Students have to adjust. Technology breaks down. People don’t do work. And through it all perseverance is developed and powerful learning takes hold.

As an instructional coach I am able to sit (not really sit, but deal with logistics) behind the scenes and watch it all develop. It ignites my love for educators who bend over backwards to make things work. It ignites my passion for showcasing that students can do more than we ever imagined if just given the chance.

Speaking of bending over backwards, this project would never happen or work without VoiceThread. There is no tool on the market that currently allows us to do what we are doing. VoiceThread works smoothly and flawlessly. The ability to record audio, load up text to showcase our research, and leaving a space for judge feedback is amazing. Students can record to VoiceThread using any device, tool, or phone as long as they have internet. Mix this tool with an amazing help support from the company we simply could not do this project. If you have not used VoiceThread, then I suggest you check it out. It is a tool that leverages the power of global collaboration.

Looking forward to this year we are currently sitting at over 700 students with classes that span all over the USA as well as India. We will be debating asynchronously, but still mimicking a live debate. Students will listen to one speaker and respond within one hour of listening to mimic live debates as much as possible.

We will have room to add other classrooms. At this point we could really use about 60 more students to balance the sides of the debate.

My challenge to you is to bust down the walls of your classroom. Allow your students to connect with other students. Allow them to showcase their learning and skills. Allow yourself as an educator to build up your PLN by connecting with other powerful teachers who share your passion for teaching. Allow the learning in the classroom to have a built in real audience. Allow the the learning to have a purpose. Allow it all to happen with tools that readily available like VoiceThread.

130 debates are ready to rock and roll. Students are building up their cases or will be soon. Speakers will begin recording in the next week and the games will begin. Which side will win – Affirmative or Negative? A lot is on the line and all in the power of learning. Come join us. Sign your students up or let them be a judge, or simply follow along on the journey. Each year we scale and build. None of this could happen without the teachers who are involved pushing the boundaries of learning and teaching. None of this could happen without the technology that bridges the classrooms like VoiceThread. None of this was possible 10 years ago, but it is all at our fingertips today. Don’t make excuses anymore.

If you want to learn how to get started, then you can start here or simply join this project and we will support you along the way.


 

About the author:

Aaron is an educator for Bettendorf Middle School located in Bettendorf, Iowa. His current role as an Instructional Coach allows him to help teachers develop high quality projects in a PBL school. Aaron helps oversee a makerspace and using this space to help students bring their learning to life.

 


VoiceThread: Just a Substitute for a Live Presentation?

This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader Keri Phillips.

Last Christmas, I left teaching. I was burnt out on the tedious routine of the traditional high school classroom, and I was longing to return to the college realm where parent phone calls were violating FERPA and classroom management wasn’t a buzz word. I spent about 6 months in a teacher training capacity where I was able to research and explore what else is going on in the education world. What I discovered is that through technology, I no longer had to be the life coach trying to convince students what we were doing was worthwhile. What I found through blogs and conferences is that the future of education is unwritten, and there are campuses willing to try new methods so that we can find our way back to engagement and real learning.

I found one of those schools and returned this year to teach freshman English.

We started our first unit this year with a project. This project would ultimately culminate in a presentation, but I wanted a new way to share their projects besides the old boring PowerPoints coupled with the old boring monotone speech. That’s when we turned to VoiceThread. VoiceThread is actually a very simple webtool that can take pictures, movie, documents or audio files and transform them into a slideshow. You can add narration to that same slideshow, and all of a sudden you’ve got a video!

So here is what we did: I joined VT and created a class group. I shared that link with my different class periods, so they could also join. Once in, I left students to their own judgement and told them to figure it out! I already knew VT wasn’t a complicated tool for students to use, so I didn’t feel like students needed to be trained. They could use the Browse feature to explore public VTs already created. They could use the FAQs in the Help section to answer their basic questions. From there, I just told them to learn by making a practice one!

As my classes began working on their project and wrestling with learning a new tool, I keep coming back to this one question: Is this better than how we have done presentations before?

What can you do in a presentation with VoiceThread that you couldn’t do before? With a tool like VoiceThread, students can re-record their presentation. They can do trial runs and keep the best version of their work. So, if you have students who are anxious about speaking in front of their peers, this is a great alternative! This could be the back up plan as well, if you still want the live presentation. Also, with VoiceThread, you can share the presentation with students before they “present.” This would open up the opportunity for classmates to ask questions about the content. Now those questions could be answered as part of the final work instead of an afterthought.

Finally, with VoiceThread, group work would be transformed. There is the option for students to share editing rights. This would enable all students to contribute to a project in their own way. Shared editing means everyone in the group can contribute easily as well as make edits quickly without multiple copies floating around.

Web tools like VoiceThread streamlines the work for everyone and hopefully makes grading less restricted to time limits. More importantly, VoiceThread enables real collaboration and opens the door to redefining how to do presentations in the future.

So, how did the projects turn out? Some spot on, some the bare minimum. Overall what I found the most enjoyable was that I got to actually hear my students voice. Listening to their recordings amidst their life outside of this class was very engaging. I looked forward to grading their presentations instead of procrastinated my assessments. Most importantly, I was able to connect to my students in a different way. The presentations came off more personal and approachable than having them nervously stand in front of their classmates. With VoiceThread, I was able to hear even my most disconnected students attempt at explaining the elements of fiction from their graphic novel. I was able to both see and hear which concepts were understood and which were not.

Now I am thinking of using VoiceThread to create some mini-lessons to replace classroom instruction. There are so many different ways to use VT in the classroom that I know it is going to take me going back again and again to figure it all out. This is going to be fun!


 

About the Author:

Keri Christensen is an educator in Fort Worth. She has spent the last 9 years teaching High School English as well as college English. She is striving to reimagine the traditional classroom and is fascinating by gaming for education. You can follow her fails and success on Twitter @edtechkeri or her blog at https://notlostnotyet.wordpress.com/