Thanks to a tweet from New York school librarian Karen Kliegman, I learned about a superb elementary VoiceThread project she helped facilitate titled, “Federal Holidays: New Holiday Proposals.”

This student VoiceThread project exemplifies “best practices” for safe publishing of student work in several ways:

  1. SAFETY: Student identities are not revealed. Each student created a custom avatar/icon and used it when sharing their ideas during their project. While I think student photos and first names can be FINE to share with parent permission in VoiceThread projects and other web-published media projects, the approach Karen has taken with this VoiceThread is conservative and safe but still allows the full power of VoiceThread to be utilized and realized. In many conservative communities in the United States where fear about Internet use by young people seems to rival irrational fears about Islamic terrorists lurking behind every corner, publishing without student photos and names is a GREAT way to promote the cause of 21st century literacy development which administrators / school board members can easily understand as well as support.
  2. MULTIPLE VOICES: On each VoiceThread photo page, multiple students who contributed to their project speak and share. Rather than a narrated PowerPoint, this presentation format effectively reveals the different students, personalities, and ideas which contributed to the student project.
  3. OPEN FOR PUBLIC COMMENTING: Karen has left this VoiceThread open for other learners around the world to not only view, but also comment on. This is VITAL. Publishing student work on the “closed web” rather than “the open web” is far less powerful and potentially beneficial. Kudos to Karen for modeling best practices and publishing this example of student work on the OPEN WEB, leaving it open for public commenting.
  4. INTERACTION WELCOME: Published student work in the 21st century should invite ongoing interaction and participation by learners inside and outside the traditional classroom. In 1998 when we published student work in my 4th grade classroom to our school website, it was published in a STATIC form that did not facilitate interaction. The extent of interaction possible at that time was a web project visitor taking the time to send an email to the teacher, whose address was listed at the bottom of the page. Being able to share your voice and ideas interactively in a MODERATED environment (which VoiceThread provides) is critical for the development of 21st century literacy skills. There IS a “big world” out there beyond the walls of the traditional classroom, and inviting others to interact with and provide feedback on the work created by students is an important role for visionary educators and educational leaders in 2008.

Many thanks to Karen for sharing this wonderful VoiceThread!

Now we come to the challenge: Visit this VoiceThread project and leave at least two comments, either text-only or audio-comments (if you have a microphone) for the students who published their ideas about new possibilities for U.S. federal holidays. Don’t just leave all your comments on the first two student project pages, click on the thumbnails of images in the lower right corner and choose a project which may not have received much feedback yet.

Take a few minutes out of your day to edify these student publishers and writers, by providing some positive and constructive feedback for them. 🙂 For more on the benefits of doing this, see my post from March 2006, “Mentoring and Edifying Student Bloggers.”

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