VoiceThread Impacts Teaching and Learning

We’re very excited to join Deb Frazier, an elementary-school educator, as she shares her experience and best practices in her first of a series of posts around VoiceThread. She says, “…VoiceThread has been an amazing tool in our classroom; extending classroom walls, time and learning!”

Her first entry addresses online identities:

Step One ~ Create Student Avatars
To teach the importance of computer safety we do not link picture with name.

Read more of her post.

Deb describes herself in 160 characters as “…Mom, wife, educator, children’s book lover, learner, curious about authentic tech in the classroom… [and a] new member of the blogging community, Primary Perspective.”

Follow Deb at her Blog or on Twitter: @frazierde

VoiceThread Changes The Way Educators Teach

One teacher’s VoiceThead Ah-Ha moment:
Brad Wilson, @Dreambition, describes why VoiceThread is valuable in education today.

Despite the ever-changing web and world, a growing PLN, new ways to connect and share ideas available every single day… one thing has remained constant:

VoiceThread is the highest quality, most dynamic and empowering web tool available to teachers and students for learning projects. (In My Opinion) And I have tried everything.

I decided that all the students in my district (and everywhere) deserve a chance to be this engaged. They deserve to become the teachers and to practice 21st Century skills. That belief fueled my energy to write a district-wide grant for VoiceThread access and to give presentations at three conferences (including MACUL) encouraging its adoption. The grant was approved in the spring of 2010 by our local Educational Foundation, so last school year was the first full year with VoiceThread accounts for every teacher and every 3rd-12th grade student.

Click here to read the entire post.

VoiceThread Mobile for Apple® iDevices

VoiceThread bridges the gap between real-time discussions and static multi-media slideshows, making it the platform for on-demand teaching, learning, training, and collaborating. We are working with the lofty goal of true accessibility so that any “door” used to access VoiceThread is equally effective for your means of participation.

“We want to serve the needs of a person with dyslexia or ADHD, an outdoor classroom with mobile devices, a user in the developing world without high-speed internet, a kindergartner, or an elderly lifelong learner.” (Read more)

With that goal in mind, we’ll be releasing a Mobile App this fall for the iPad®/iPhone®/iPod touch® that will provide the same experience of creating and collaborating around your content on your Mobile device that you would experience in the web-based application… and we’re pretty excited about that!

Take a look, and tell us what you think.

Congratulations to the winning VoiceThread teams from Hawaii’s Department of Education!

The Hawaii Department of Education Statewide VoiceThread initiative recently ran an engagement contest/campaign soliciting VoiceThreads from their participating schools. VoiceThreads were submitted by teams of three from two divisions: Elementary and Secondary-Ed. Finalists were selected by a panel of judges from HIDOE, and then friends and family members were invited to vote.

See all of the finalists at: http://hawaiivln.k12.hi.us/vt/winners.html

Elementary Winner: Bully Free Zone from Hale Kula Elementary

Secondary Winner: Child Abuse from Kapaa High School

VoiceThread Universal and Section 508 Accessibility

VoiceThread Universal is an accessibility project that our team has been working on and we’re very excited to release the public beta. VoiceThread has been an accessibility aid for many users and many communities of users, but it has always had a major weakness; it did not work with screen-readers, so vision-impaired users had a hard time participating in these conversations. We’re now introducing a version of the VoiceThread application that is specifically designed to not only work well with screen-readers but, much more importantly, work well for the people who use screen-readers.

Many websites and online tools use an “add on” to gain compatibility with screen-readers, simply allowing the page and its elements to be read aloud. This means that screen-reader users must listen to volumes of useless information before they can navigate and participate in the space. VoiceThread Universal is a version of the the VoiceThread application designed specifically to be beautiful to the ear with navigation, instructions, and tasks are stripped of superfluous elements, whether visual or textual. Concise, clear, and efficient is the goal for the experience. Read more about our thoughts on Accessibility.

In the coming months we’ll be gathering feedback as we build improvements. Please help us out by adding your criticisms and suggestions on this Forum post, or by emailing them to accessibility at voicethread.com.

VoiceThread Repository for Moodle 2.0

We have finished our new Moodle module for repository support. The Moodle Repository module allows easy access to VoiceThreads to post on your Moodle site. A listing of created VoiceThreads will appear in the Moodle file picker, and a link will be created for your selected VoiceThread.

This module is useful for obtaining links to your VoiceThreads, and it is planned to be integrated into current and future Moodle modules from VoiceThread.

For more information, please visit LMS Integration.

M/5 Commenting: Simple Powerful Presence

A new version of VoiceThread now allows people to browse entire collections of media while making a single unbroken comment. These new M/5 Comments feel a bit like screencast only they’re much smaller in file size, and more importantly, they are delivered to your audience in a richly interactive space. This powerful new feature requires neither instruction or training. You are simply free to navigate from image > video > to document > to presentation slide > or any of 50 different media types without breaking your narrative comment. Watch the following 2-minute video showing how this new feature works.

Updated Modules for Moodle 2.0

We have updated our Moodle Embed, Assignment, and Authentication modules for compatibility with Moodle 2.0. The Moodle Embed and Authentication modules are also compatible with 1.9; however, the Assignment module should be chosen that corresponds to the version of Moodle you are running (1.9 or 2.0).

To learn more, please visit our LMS Integration support page.

Authentication Integration Choices

A common question for new VoiceThread schools, districts, colleges and universities is “How should we do authentication integration”? There are often many options, with their own pluses and minuses.

Let’s start with the easy decision: If you have Shibboleth in production, particularly if you already are federated with inCommon, you should do Shibboleth SSO. It’s a tool built for the purpose, and it offers a very secure platform with a great deal of flexibility. Even if you only have a subscription for part of your organization, Shibboleth is an option as long as membership in that part of your organization is visible as a Shibboleth attribute.

If you do not have Shibboleth, then the question becomes more complex. If you have Moodle and all users have access, Moodle SSO can be a good route, particularly if you want to drive more students and and teachers to use Moodle. For Moodle, the scope of the Moodle instance (school-wide, district-wide, etc) must match the VoiceThread subscription. If Moodle usage isn’t universal and is unlikely to become universal, LDAP (Active Directory, eDirectory, OpenDirectory, rfc2307, etc) is also a good option. Like Moodle and Shibboleth, we support LDAP over a secure transport (SSL), and have a great deal of flexibility on attribute mappings. For LDAP, we can restrict access based on groups or OUs, for subscriptions that don’t encompass the entire organization.

VoiceThread also has a built-in internal authentication system, which you can manage by uploading CSV files containing user data. For many smaller organizations, or organizations without any one central authentication system, this can be an excellent option.

Finally, we have an external authentication system where you can write your own Single-Sign-On tool. This is cross platform (sample code is all in PHP), and provides an option for schools with unusual / non-standard systems that don’t want to do CSV uploads.