Why I Love VoiceThread

*This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader Dr. Judy Arzt.

I use this tool in my own teaching, but, more importantly, encourage the teachers in my classes to use it with their students. The app is flexible and works on a variety of devices. For instance, teachers with limited access to technology in their classrooms can download the app to their phone. This suits those who teach the lower grades, starting with pre-k. The young children find phones easy to use and enjoy recording their voice and hearing it back.  Often, they use hand-drawn illustrations from a unit of study, and the teacher uploads these, and the children record a contribution. This format allows for creating collaborative class books, as illustrated in these two examples.

 

Alliteration, literature project by elementary students

 

Animals, science project by 1st graders

 

VoiceThread offered a perfect match for the Alliteration project; hearing the alliteration reinforced that successive words had the same initial sound. The Animals project reviewed science concepts while introducing the genre of non-fiction. Each student voice recorded facts to accompany an hand-drawn illustration of a chosen animal. Students watched the final presentation and voice recorded replies to peers.

 

A kindergarten teacher, with no access to technology in the classroom, used her phone for young students to create an amusing book, with each child adding a picture and voice comment to develop the story’s plot, characters, and setting.

 

Mary Had a Toaster

 

The students enjoyed the experience so much, they created a sequel.

For young children, VoiceThread presents as way to understand content concepts in chunks. One teacher using the phone app created this lesson for her young students.

 

Fruit Kabob Patterns, math for pre-k students

 

For students in the upper elementary grades, access to tablets, laptops, or desktops facilitates the process, as illustrated in these examples.

 

Students Share Their Favorite Books, a collaborative class project created by 6th graders

 

A Poetry Presentation, a collaborative class project created by 5th graders

 

The Favorite Book project was one the teacher did annually at the end of the year, with each student writing a book review, with all collected in one print book to be used the following year. This approach limited how many of the new students were able to read the book simultaneously. VoiceThread put a new spin on the project. Now any student could access all the reviews in one place any time and hear the reviews.

For the poetry project, the teacher in the past had each child recite a poem at a Parent Open House. This often caused students to get nervous, and students with special needs were excluded. With VoiceThread, students uploaded the poem they wrote with an illustration and recited the poem. In this way, students had opportunities to re-record their readings, and those students who struggled in a front of a group or who had special needs succeeded. For the latter, the teacher sat with a child and mouthed the words to help the child along with the recording. The use of VoiceThread leveled the playing field and made for a smooth event for the Open House. Parents enjoyed seeing their child’s poem on the “big screen” while hearing the voice recordings. For parents who could not attend, the VoiceThread was a win!

For older students, starting in middle school, when many have mobile devices, the process extends beyond the school day. The teacher posts the VoiceThread, and students add comments via their devices, with replies occurring at the student’s convenience. One of the foreign language teacher from my course uses VoiceThread in this way. The app affords students an excellent way to practice newly acquired skills via the speech, video, and text comment options.

In teaching, I often introduce VoiceThread through a collaborative activity. Recently, in the course, “Integrating Technology and Literacy,” which enrolls pre-k through 6th-grade teachers, we created a VoiceThread of our favorite children’s books. Before class, each person sent me a picture of the book’s cover, and I uploaded each into the app.

 

Books We Love, Our Favorite Children’s Books

During class, each person voice recorded the reason for the selection and how the book is used with students. This quick demonstration electrified the teachers, who implemented the app with their students, and, in turn, shared out with us their students’ productions, adding to our list of possibilities.

The features of VoiceThread invite a plethora of ways for teachers to re-envision their curriculum. Once introduced to VoiceThread, teachers are stoked to use it with students. The app complements multiple intelligences theory and differentiates instruction, popular trends in education today.


 

About the Author: Dr. Judy Arzt has been an educator for over 25 and currently teaches graduate courses focused on technology integration. She often presents at national conferences on the topics of digital literacy, digital storytelling, blogging, and Twitter. She is easily accessible via Twitter (@judyarzt) and Google+ (judyarzt). For additional information, see her About.Me page (judyarzt)

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