VoiceThread Accelerator

The VoiceThread Accelerator is a high performance content distribution and caching appliance that can provide a tremendous improvement in VoiceThread performance for certain network configurations. In particular, if you have excellent connectivity within your organization, but limited downstream bandwidth from the Internet at large, the Accelerator might be a good fit for your organization. Pricing depends on the number of bundled accounts; please contact us for more information.


Moodle Integration

As many of you are aware, we have a Moodle embedding module. We’re now looking to kick our Moodle integration up a notch, and need your feedback! What are the top three things you would like VoiceThread and Moodle to be able to do together? We’re already looking at ideas from assignment modules to single sign-on, and need your feedback! Please send us your thoughts.


Document Conversion Upgrade

We have upgraded some of the software involved in Office type document conversion. You should see smoother imports of Office 2007 format files in particular. Note that this only affects freshly uploaded files; if your PowerPoint slides weren’t perfectly pointy, you will need to re-upload them. As always, we recommend you keep Office documents simple for the best VoiceThread experience.


New Comment Email Notifications

You spoke, and we listened. One of our most requested features was the desire to be notified when comments are left on one of your VoiceThreads, without having to actually check VoiceThread (we all already have enough things to check).

One thing people do check regularly is email. So, we decided to create an email notification system that sends a “Daily Digest” version of all of the comments on your VoiceThreads, from the last day. With a quick visit to your My Account page, you’ll see a new menu item called, Notifications. From here you can quickly turn off and on these daily new comment email notifications.

We are planning to do more with notifications – perhaps more control on when you are notified, perhaps notified in ways other than email. This feature was largely driven by the excellent feedback we’ve received, so please continue to speak to us.


Flickr Creative Commons, Comment Reordering

As part of the new Media Browser, we’ve rebuilt our Flickr import feature to make it much faster and most importantly to enable the search and import of images with a Creative Commons License. As with the images from the New York Public Library, we will automatically insert a link back to the original web address of the image. We hope this makes gathering content faster and easier.

Our most requested feature of the last year is now live and ready for beta-testing. If you are the creator or editor of a VoiceThread you can now reorder the comments by moving your mouse over any comment segment on the timeline beneath the VoiceThread. Just hold down the shift key while over the timeline and then click-drag to move a comment segment to another position. This long-overdue feature will allow you much greater control over the quality of your conversations. We’ll be adding more advanced elements soon, so please let us know what you think.

Finally, please continue to share your great work in our VoiceThread Library. The submissions continue to impress as well as educate others on best practices when using VoiceThread. Thanks so much for all of your help developing and sharing them.


New York Public Library and Learning Modules

We’re very happy to announce that over 700,000 historical images from The New York Public Library’s Digital Gallery are now freely and instantly available whenever you’re creating a VoiceThread. Our new Media Browser (located in the Upload menu when creating or editing a VoiceThread) allows you to search or browse these primary source materials – maps, photos, drawings, paintings, posters and more, and then import them directly into any VoiceThread. Links back to the original location of the images on the web are automatically inserted to make citing and attribution easier for you and your students.

 

We’ve also created a unique VoiceThread portal at nypl.voicethread.com where you can find and make copies of VoiceThreads created by the amazing staff of the New York Public Library. These Learning Modules include expert commentary explaining the background of the images and provide a starting point for further exploration and use of these source materials in the classroom.

Learning Modules

A few months ago we added the ability for you make copies of your own VoiceThreads and now you can let others make a copy as well. This major new feature allows something we’ve wanted for a long time, the development of private and public libraries containing reusable VoiceThread Learning Modules. So, if you’ve created a great VoiceThread that was successful for you, please share it with the community publicly, or just with those in your organization, company, district, or university. When you are editing your VoiceThread just click ‘Playback Options’ in the bottom left of the screen and then check the box ‘Allow others to Make a Copy’.

 


Best Websites for Teaching and Learning

VoiceThread has been recognized by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) as one of The Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, a list of ‘tools and resources of exceptional value to inquiry-based teaching and learning.’ We’re very honored to be recognized by this organization and community, and fully support the vision they’ve set forth in the Standards for the 21st-Century Learner. If you’re looking for the language to describe the proper role of technology in education, you can find it within this great document.


The Power of the Human Voice

At the recent Sloan-C Symposium for Emerging Technologies a presentation given by Michelle Pacansky-Brock explored what it takes to engage modern learners online. Using specific examples she compares first generation collaborative environments like BlackBoard’s textual based discussion boards to current multi-modal collaborative platforms like VoiceThread. The examples in the video are extremely instructive as they point out the specific qualities needed to construct and maintain a productive community oriented learning environment (a great online classroom).



The Horizon Report

The recently published Horizon Report 2009 K12 Edition published by the New Media Consortium refers to VoiceThread as one of the emerging technologies “likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, research, or creative expression within education”, with a ‘time-to-adoption’ horizon of one year or less. The report includes a well-written overview and analysis of collaborative environments that highlights many of our current goals for VoiceThread in education. Here’s a short excerpt:

“Traditionally, a learning environment has been a physical space, but the idea of what constitutes a learning environment is changing. The “spaces” where students learn are becoming more community-driven, interdisciplinary, and supported by technologies that engage virtual communication and collaboration. This changing concept of the learning environment has clear implications for schools, where learning is the key focus of the space.”

We highly recommend reading the full report as it lays out a clear view of the the future for emerging technologies in education. Download a full copy of the Horizon Report 2009 K12 Edition.


VoiceThread Digital Library

Today, we’re pleased to announce the opening of the VoiceThread Digital Library.

The Digital Library is a database of articles about successful VoiceThread projects. Our hope is to create a resource that offers guidance and inspiration for people looking to undertake new projects using VoiceThread. Within each article is a detailed exploration of how these projects were created and what lessons were learned, because success can be replicated if it’s documented. We encourage you to share your VoiceThreads with the community and as this resource grows we’ll be adding categories and a search function to help you find relevant projects.

Here’s a couple articles already in the Digital Library: