I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the Teachers Teaching Teachers webcast “Revisiting VoiceThread” from July 23rd today on my commute to and from work. Among the nuggets of good advice shared in the session about helping students effectively use VoiceThread were the following basic but powerful recommendations:

  1. Rather than start teachers and students at the “invention” level of using VoiceThread, encourage them to begin by leaving thoughtful and appropriate comments.
  2. Always encourage students to write out their planned comments for a VoiceThread in advance, rather than just sharing them as “impromptu” thoughts.
  3. Require that students respond to another commenter’s ideas on the VoiceThread to encourage them to listen carefully to the thoughts of others and join a CONVERSATION.

Colette Cassinelli, who started the superb “Voicethread 4 Education wiki” containing LOTS of great classroom VoiceThread examples, was one of several guests on this TTT webcast. If you haven’t already, definitely add the Teachers Teaching Teachers RSS feed/podcast feed to your aggregator / podcatcher.

Also notable in the recorded conversation was co-founder of VoiceThread, Steve Muth’s announcement that a forthcoming edition of VoiceThread will support both Creative Commons licensing of content as well as easy copying of existing VoiceThreads to utilize as templates for student projects. I’m looking forward to the potential this will offer us at the Oklahoma Heritage Association and Gaylord-Pickens Museum as we develop curriculum this summer for student field trips. I wrote the article “Teaching With Templates” in 1999/2000 for TCEA’s TechEdge magazine. Even though the context for that article was not a web 2.0 creative environment, but rather client-side documents used in programs like Microsoft Office and Inspiration, the introductory paragraph of that article is equally applicable to web 2.0 storytelling tools like VoiceThread:

It is amazing how easy it is to waste time on a computer. Whether a student or a teacher, computer users can literally spend hours fruitlessly searching the internet, changing fonts or sizes, slowly keyboarding in text, or searching for a document they thought they saved in the proper folder instead of completing the task at hand. Just as an experienced driver does not focus principally on the mechanics of shifting and checking for traffic when they are behind the wheel, literate computer users should not spend too much time on the technical aspects of technology tools. Like a driver, computer users should focus on the destination where they are traveling, rather than on the tool helping them get there. To help both students and teachers avoid getting bogged down in the technical details of completing a task with technology, educators can create “template” files that streamline and expedite the document and presentation production process.

The addition of template functionality to VoiceThread will be welcome indeed!

I think VoiceThread co-founders Steve Muth and Ben Papell (who we interviewed back in January for the Technology Shopping Cart podcast, btw) are modeling “best practices” for enterprise 2.0 companies. They continue to listen carefully to their user community, and respond as a result of the input they receive as well as intentionally solicit. I am certainly looking forward to exploring the ways we can help more teachers and students involved in our Celebrate Oklahoma Voices learning community utilize VoiceThread effectively to not only learn and explore the knowledge and comprehension level aspects of our formal and informal school curriculum, but also delve deeper into higher order thinking skills including synthesis, analysis, evaluation, and creation.

If you’re wanting to continue learning more about VoiceThread, note that the main website now has an official discussion forum area where users can post questions and answers relating to this superb digital storytelling tool.

Many thanks to Paul Allison, Julie Conason, Susan Ettenheim, and others for facilitating and sharing this webcast with lots of great ideas about VoiceThread! Thanks also to EdTechTalk! :-)

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  • http://talbertstechtalk.blogspot.com/ Elaine Talbert

    Hi there,

    Thanks for this revisit and timely reminder about a great little tool, where purpose and pedagogy are clearly the driving force.

    I used “Blog This” to make a reference to this post on my blog.

    Elaine

  • http://www.tech4teaching.org Tami Brass

    Another great resource to check out is the Voicethread for Educators Ning – http://voicethread.ning.com/. There are about 65 members thus far, but I’d anticipate growth once more schools are in session.

  • Pingback: Voicethread « Kelli’s Blog

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