I presented a session on VoiceThread today for the “Survive and Thrive” 2008 Single Moms conference in Edmond, Oklahoma. My session was titled “Digital Storytelling with VoiceThread.” My earlier session in the day on “Internet Safety” was better attended, largely because I don’t think many of the moms attending the conference knew what “digital storytelling” is. With hindsight, I think I should have titled my session “Interactive Digital Scrapbooking” or “Safely Sharing Your Child’s Voice Online with Grandparents.”
As always, in preparing for this presentation I learned a great deal. I had previously read about VoiceThread offering downloadable archives (and had heard this was coming back in January during our Technology Shopping Cart podcast with the VoiceThread founders) but had never tried it before. I love it! With a Pro or free K-12 educator’s VoiceThread account you can export and download 30 different VoiceThreads. (Additional ones cost $2.99 each.)
I found the export process speedy, and am SO glad this functionality is available! Previously I had used SnapzPro Pro X software to capture screencast movies of some of my VoiceThreads (and those of others in some cases, like the podcast version of Kevin Jarrett and Sylvia Martinez’ K12Online07 presentation in VoiceThread about Second Life) but found some problems with this method. First, it was time consuming. Second, if the local Internet connection was slow or there was an interruption in the playback of a comment, that interruption was captured in the screencast movie. This method of archiving VoiceThreads worked, but it wasn’t easy. Exporting VoiceThreads into archives on the site IS very simple and straightforward. My parents are the first beneficiaries of this… We created some private VoiceThreads for them in the past year as birthday and Mother’s Day gifts. Now they have their own offline copies of these precious stories told (principally) by our children!
The second VoiceThread feature about which I learned new things in getting ready for today’s presentation concerned comment moderation. Generally I think, as teachers, we tend to default to web publication arrangements for students (and perhaps our own children) which maximize control and conservatively limit the potential problems which could arise. By default, VoiceThread digital stories are private. If you choose to make a VoiceThread public, so it shows up in the “browse” tab of the main website, comment moderation is turned on by default. I hadn’t seen this warning previously, so it must be new, but now (I assume this is just for accounts flagged as “teacher accounts”) the following warning is displayed if you choose to turn OFF comment moderation:
Seeing this warning got me thinking about the most popular VoiceThread members of our family have created to date: Rachel’s “Getting a New HairCut” story. To date, this VoiceThread has been viewed over 8000 times worldwide:
That statistic is amazing, but I think the fact that we’ve had less than five total comments during that entire time which I have considered inappropriate or offensive is also noteworthy. In the four new comments I previewed and reviewed which had been added to this VoiceThread yesterday, there was one which fit into this “not nice” category:
The steps to get rid of this comment were very straightforward: I simply clicked on the comment and then DELETE IT:
It would be nice, perhaps, if no one left rude comments like this on public websites, but we all know (I would guess) that sort of idealism is extremely naive and unrealistic. Despite this fact, I’ve been glad to leave this particular VoiceThread set to “public” WITHOUT comment moderation because I think it has provided a good test case for a hypothesis I formed about VoiceThread commenting. When we initially published this, I guessed not many people would be rude and leave inappropriate comments. This was due in large part to Rachel’s age and the topic of her VoiceThread, but also due to the fact that I think most people listening to her story would choose to be kind rather than mean.
Our experiences with comment moderation and VoiceThread may be be unique, I’m not sure. I am encouraged by these experiences, however, and encourage others to experiment with public VoiceThreads which are unmoderated for comments. When it comes to STUDENT and CLASSROOM VoiceThreads and other digital stories, I definitely encourage comment moderation. It’s interesting to experiment with unmoderated digital stories like this, however, which are personally published. I’d be interested to hear what others’ experiences are with VoiceThread comments in this regard.
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