Sunday, 2 November 2008

The Super-Terrific Awesome-licious Educationally Stupendous Tool: VoiceThread

To be honest, I’m not really “into” writing my blog this week. I’d rather be playing with my wiki or planning lessons that incorporate podcasts or following up on trying to figure out how to create my own pathfinders and webquests or browsing Voicethreads for interesting examples to show my colleagues. What’s that you ask? Voicethread? What, huh? That’s what today’s blog is about: Voicethread, which is actually a great multimedia-sharing tool. When I say great I mean AWESOME! Plus its super easy to use! I can embed it on my class wiki or my blog, its easier to record ideas and thoughts than podcasting, it allows for uploading many file formats directly from your computer (pdf, word, PowerPoint, video, pictures, etc) and it’s totally interactive! Interested? Here’s an example of a Voicethread I found by Michelle Pacansky-Brock on how it’s the best tool ever:

See! The potential for implementation in a classroom or even collaboration with colleagues are endless. And remember I said it was easy! Just go to the Voicethread home page and everything you need to know is right there on that page. They even have a “tutorial” for each topic.

But what IS a Voicethread? Well it’s like a slide show of items you upload, for example, pictures or documents or video. But you have the option to interact with each slide of the slide show, using 5 different tools. You can narrate each picture using a simple microphone (no having to fiddle with audacity or the Levelator of iTunes!), or using a webcam you can comment through video, you can type text in to say something about each slide, you can doodle on the slides (I’ll come back to this one later) or you can call in a comment via the telephone (but only form the US currently!).

That’s not the best part though, NO SIREE! The best part is that once you put your Voicethread “out there”, others can also comment using the same 5 tools, so your slide show becomes the centerpiece of a collaborative discussion. Just think of the possibilities!
Ok, let’s talk logistics. It is very easy to upload all kinds of file types, as I’ve already said, and it’s also easy to create the slideshow part of the Voicethread. But it’s also quite easy to add comments and control who is seeing and commenting on your Voicethread. You have the option to make your Voicethread private, so only those you invite can see it and comment. You also have the option to moderate (or preview) comments before they are available for the world to see. So that covers pretty much all of my worries about student use. The teacher can screen who is seeing and who is commenting, as well as the comments themselves. Also the students cannot see each others comments until the moderator allows them to be seen, which allows the teacher to ensure all comments are both applicable and appropriate. Voicethreads can even be exported to an MP3 player (for a cost). I was able to upload a bunch of pictures, reorder them, comment on each one using my microphone and post it to my blog in about 10 minutes! I said it was easy.

Just for a second, let’s talk about the doodle feature. This feature essentially allows you to draw on the file you uploaded (in any colour you choose), while you are commenting. For an example of this (and Voicethread in general) see my Voicethread My Wedding Day, which is posted below this post. I am able to point out people as I talk about them, I’m able to point out items, draw diagrams, and even make silly faces if I want, all while I am commenting. This is a great feature to use science or even math (or any subject for that matter!)

I was going to talk about all the possibilities of this tool (there are soooooo many), but I thought I’d show you instead. Here is a Voicethread where a poem is analyzed:

Here is an example of using a document in Voicethread. This is an awesome idea because I often hand out assignments and explain them to my students by adding information or anecdotes to help them understand what I’m asking for. This tool would allow me to do this and record it and then embed it on my class wiki for all my students to see and listen to whenever they needed. They could also leave questions using the comment feature.

Here is an example of a math lesson where the students watch the lesson and then try it themselves using the doodle feature:

Here is an example of map use:

Here is an example of a book review by students:

And here is an example of a possible Lab Report assignment:

See, isn’t this tool awesome! And the possibilities are so immense! Not only could I use this tool in a multitude of ways, but it’s so easy to use that my students could use it to create just as easily, and then they can embed their assignments on the class wiki. But again I also see the possibility for Professional Development with a collaborative group of teachers. Imagine if a school Teacher-librarian created a monthly or biweekly Voicethread on Library services available for staff and students and then sent it out in an email. What a great advocacy tool!

(I’m starting to see a trend in all the tools we’ve learned to use. Not only are all these tools great for teaching and learning, but they’re also great tools for teacher-librarians to use to promote the collaborative nature of their jobs. Plus, having a teacher-librarian in a school that knows all these tools would be such a powerful thing that teachers may be enticed to use the teacher-librarian more.)

In my “search for what the pro’s think” I found that The Women of Web 2.0 (WOW2) used a Voicethread last year to create a tribute to Vicki Davis who was a co-founder of WOW2, but who decided to “retire” from the WOW2 podcasts. They then embedded this Voicethread in a whole wiki and had educators from all over add to the wiki and the Voicethread to say thanks to Vicki for all her work! What a great way to showcase the collaborative nature of both wikis and Voicethreads.

I also found this example of a teacher (Mr. Warner) blogging about his experience using Voicethread with his class: Using Voicethread to Develop Empathy Skills, as well as this Wiki dedicated to Voicethreads in education: Voicethread for Education Wiki and this ning (also dedicated to Voicethreads in Education) Voicethread for Educators. In this blog post by will Richardson, he shows an example of how a teacher used Voicethread to showcase her learning from a conference and then share it with her colleagues. The really cool thing is that the teacher invited actual presenters from the conference to comment on her Voicethread!

So even though I wasn’t REALLY in the mood for blogging today, I just had to tell you all about the super-terrific awesome-licious educationally stupendous tool Voicethread. (I guess I’m a little excited about it!)

Happy Voicethreading (is that even a word? Such bad grammar on this blog, who writes this thing anyway . . .)


Hanna said...

Splendid presentation of very useful tool - Thank you! :)

Joanne de Groot said...

Thanks, Christine...great examples of how to use VoiceThreads with your students. I love your wedding VoiceThreads--I have all sorts of pictures, especially of my kids when they were babies that would be fun to put into a VoiceThread like this...something to work on at the end of term!