I am working with an Oklahoma elementary teacher in a school district which presently blocks virtually all read/write web sites including blogs, wikis, podcasts, etc. We have recorded a VoiceThread project with her students, and are seeking permission from the school district to PRIVATELY share this digital story with a partner class in Hong Kong. This is the email message I composed for the teacher to use/edit in responding to questions the district administrative staff has about VoiceThread, whether it can be used safely, and how it could be used to support learning and instruction.
Here are some answers to the questions you have about VoiceThread and its safe use in our classroom. Wesley helped me compose these answers.
What makes it secure?
We are creating PRIVATE voicethread digital stories, which means they are NOT accessible from the “open web” without a password and login. To view these digital stories, individuals have to be separately invited via their email address, by me. These people have to log in to VoiceThread using their email address and password, or the link which is sent to them when I invite them to view the VoiceThread.
A separate VoiceThread “site” has not been setup for our school. This is actually not possible on the website. What is possible, and we have done, is to create PRIVATE VoiceThreads which can only be viewed by people I select and designate. I hope to share these VoiceThreads with our parents as well as our partner teacher in Hong Kong.
Are you going to be the one to register and have the students use it under your information?
Yes, that is correct, I am. Each student has a different “identity” under my account, and students are not required to register or log in. Students do not have to have or use their own email account. All account access is through my login information, under my supervision. While logged in, I can change the current “identity” being used under my account so different students can share their ideas on VoiceThread.
How can I see (log in) to your classes’ VoiceThreads?
Since our VoiceThread digital stories are private and not publicly viewable, I will have to invite you via your email account to view our projects. I will do this.
Will students be giving out personal information? Name and/or pictures?
The only personal information students are sharing on the VoiceThread website are their first names. When you view our VoiceThread, you will see that the icon/avatar or identity of speakers change when the person who is speaking changes. We are NOT using student pictures, we are using a text graphic which shows each students’ name on a black background currently. In the future I may provide students with the option to draw a picture which we will scan or take a digital picture of, and use as their icon. We are not sharing any other personal information about students and will not.
Please let me know exactly how you plan to use it.
We plan to use VoiceThread in several ways. We are going to share oral reports about different curriculum research projects as VoiceThread digital stories. We are going to share information and interesting facts about Edmond, our community, and our school with our Hong Kong project partners. We also may engage in discussions and dialog about different topics and issues, since more than one person can comment on each VoiceThread slide. We plan to give feedback to students in Hong Kong in our partner class on VoiceThread stories they share with us, and receive feedback and comments from them on our VoiceThread projects. We also hope to share these projects with our parents, and solicit parent feedback and participation in some of our VoiceThread digital stories. I hope many of our students may extend their learning from the classroom to their homes by sharing their digital stories with their parents/guardians. If their parent registers their own VoiceThread account then it is possible students could also share ideas (add comments) to VoiceThread projects we have created from home, as well as from our classroom computer where I log in and manage/supervise our class VoiceThread account.
It is important to note that comments/feedback on all our classroom VoiceThread projects will be moderated by me. This means I will individually approve or disapprove comments and feedback which are posted. This means I am CONTROLLING both the access other people have to our VoiceThread digital stories, as well as the feedback/comments which are shared by others.
Please let me know if you have more questions or need more feedback on this. Wesley is eager to continue working with us, and is willing to explain and share this information with others in the district if necessary so we can have our participation in this activity approved.
We could be even more conservative and have all students share their voices/ideas from the teacher’s main VoiceThread identity, but I think it will be better in the long run for each student to have a separate identity. This does “disclose” the student’s name as their voice is shared/plays, but does not include sharing their actual photograph or other personal information. Hopefully our request to use VoiceThread will be approved.
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