VoiceThreads in the Classroom

"Likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, research, or creative expression within education."

-The Horizon Report 2009 K12 Edition (New Media Consortium)


The Evolution of VoiceThread

From what I have researched, the original VoiceThread, now known as VoiceThread Classic, was released to the World Wide Web in March 2007. It continued to run until the end of the year. In September 2007, VoiceThread “Fresh” was created. With this version of voicethread, one is able to upload a variety of media such as powerpoints, adobe documents, word documents, excel spreadsheets, and videos. Here voicethreads can also be presented in a full screen mode. You may also control the pauses within the pages of one’s voicethread and a forum was implemented for discussion and new information. VoiceThread continued to reinvent itself, now creating VoiceThread Pro in October 2007. With VoiceThread Pro one has the ability to create unlimited amounts of VoiceThreads, upload audio comments, create and administer groups and more.

As technology continued to evolve, so did VoiceThread. In December 2007, video doodling, webcam recording, phone commenting and importing from URL addresses and other voicethreads you are a creator or editor of, transformed the potential of VoiceThread. At the start of a new year, VoiceThread created Ed.VoiceThread in January 2008. It is described as a “secure K-12 network for students and teachers to collaborate and share ideas with classrooms anywhere in the world.” In March 2008, VoiceThread posted the news of Archival VoiceThreads on the blog. Now voicethreads can be downloaded and stored on computers, iPods, and can be burned onto a DVD or CD. The following month, Webware recognized VoiceThread and was chosen as a winner in the video category. VoiceThread continued to grow, adding a variety of languages for text comments in September 2008 such as Latin, Arabic, Hebrew, and Cyrillic and Asian languages in October 2008.

In 2009 VoiceThread offers a variety of accounts: Pro, K-12, Higher Ed, and Business. This past April VoiceThread announced the opening of the VoiceThread Digital Library. We have explored these articles and voicethread projects in class. Currently each VoiceThread page can hold thousands of comments from people. Once the page is full with thirty-five comments, click the comment arrow and a new comment page appears. Depending on the account up to five hundred pages can create one voicethread (Pro holds five hundred and free accounts hold fifty). I’m sure the VoiceThread team has been working tirelessly to continually improve this educational technology.

Though VoiceThread is relatively new, one can see the vast growth it has had in education and the potential this new technology has in the future, particularly in education. Who knows, VoiceThreads may eventually have Apps on iPhones that all students will plug into the dock station at their tables. Some say VoiceThreads may become the classroom, these are the few that see future teachers without a job due to the advancement of technology. Personally, I'd like to see VoiceThread incorporate Skype, which will allow multiple conversations to post comments while not only talking with one another, but being able to see each other as well. This will be great for student collaboration and project-based learning!


VoiceThread and Educational Ethics

There are numerous student issues we need to address in implementing voicethreads in the classroom and curriculum. The first issue that comes to mind is student safety. We need to be sure to protect student identities; this includes photos. The simplest solution is to make the voicethread private. If you choose to make it public however, students as well as others on voicethread.com are allowed to post, recite, or record comments. Another solution is for the teacher to create the account and register the students as additional identities on the account. As educators, we also need to teach students how to use the technology properly; this includes comments and doodling, by portraying positive and negative examples (video: VoiceThread Vandalism). In doing all of this, we will create positive and engaging learning environments.

In relation to teachers, we need to moderate student participation while in class, but because of the amazing World Wide Web, we must continue to monitor student use on the voicethread. Depending on the age of the students, I recommend logging on nightly to check the discussions and doodling. Secondly, we teachers must create and edit the voicethread for initial student use. This requires familiarity and knowledge with voicethread. Deciding how we will integrate this new technology in lessons will result in student engagement, mastery of the subject matter, and promote class discussion. For students in high school, the teacher can choose to allow cooperative groups to be the creators of their voicethread.

For the other teachers who work at the school or in the district, we can encourage them to become familiar with voicethread and implement them in their lessons as well. We should promote this new tool of learning so all students can engage in this fun project-based learning. Hosting workshops or tutorials for other teachers that enhance their knowledge and use of voicethread will also benefit more students.

In dealing with parents we should immediately inform them of the child’s use on the Internet, on the voicethread in particular. We will need to reassure them that their child’s safety is our priority and we would never put it at risk. Showing them the site, explaining that it is private, and having them try it out may ease any doubts they have. So long as we maintain an open line of communication with parents, we should have fewer worries from them. We can begin our open communication, at open house, where we can explain and guide them through the class voicethread. We can also send home a parent newsletter explaining the importance and excitement of integrating this new technology in the classroom. Actually having the parents log on and leaving comments on the site may ease their worries and I’m sure students will enjoy seeing or listening to their parents’ comments on the voicethread (of course, this depends on the student’s age. I’m thinking primary grades.).

VoiceThread in Learning Environments

*Student Engagement, Differentiation, Creativity, Student Voice, Discussion, Presentation, Interaction, Student Ownership, Literacy, Student Collaboration, Grade Level Discussion, Student Motivation, Variety of Languages, Student Expression, Critical Thinking, Student Reflection, Variety of Audience, Positive Learning With Web 2.0, Constantly Learning: Prior to/During/After School & Weekends*

If incorporated into lessons, VoiceThread will create a pro-active environment for all students. This new technology will first and foremost assist teachers in capturing student engagement in the particular subject matter. I’ve witnessed this firsthand, while asking my niece to complete the voicethread assignment Lisa and I created earlier in the class session. This third-grader was more attentive to detail while writing her paragraphs, evaluated her options while creating her superhero, and was a perfectionist while she completed her illustration, all because she knew her final draft would be seen, read and heard by others on the superhero VoiceThread. Student engagement is often times the most difficult for teachers to acquire, however, VoiceThread offers this assistance because of the differentiation it provides.

We continuously discuss meeting the needs of all students, their learning styles and how we will differentiate lessons. By incorporating technology, we are already meeting the needs of more of our students. We constantly think about the multiple intelligences and higher order of thinking, now we need to address the students who prefer learning through technology. With the latest version of VoiceThread, there are a variety of language options for students to choose from. This can be especially helpful for English language learners. All students, but especially those classified as ELL, will benefit from the literacy that correlates to the use of Voicethread. Students will read comments posted by others, listen to the English language, and will write their personal comments as well. What’s most important, they will be doing all of this while learning, thinking critically, and having fun! This new technology doesn’t stray from the reading and writing basics students should encounter daily. If anything, it promotes them. In doing all of the above students will become motivated, and just as Shefelbine states, “motivation is the key to success.” And, VoiceThread is just that! Because students post their work on VoiceThread, they essentially have an audience. If the voicethread is private, the students will complete their work knowing that their peers will be watching, listening, and commenting on their work. If however, the teacher decides to protect student identities but still make the voicethread public, the students will look forward to receiving comments from outside sources (personally, depending on the grade I may keep the account private and ask other educators to join our account and post responses for my students to view). In doing this the teacher will “extend the walls of the classroom.” This may intrigue older students, as learning and knowledge will be more readily available to them. Ultimately, it is the teachers option for using VoiceThread for differentiation within lessons and authentic assessments.

As mentioned above, students take pride with the overall presentation of their work. They enjoy the feeling of ownership with their project and this correlates to voicethread particularly because of the photos or identity images students choose. Students may feel more at ease for discussion in this realm. Of course, implementing traditional classroom discussion is great, but if you don’t have student equity sticks, the same students will participate. With VoiceThread, all students will be participating in the discussion; their student voice will be heard. Students are also able to comment on other students’ comments, making it a peer or grade level voicethread discussion. Students will be interacting with VoiceThread and if placed in cooperative learning, interaction will occur between the students. Student collaboration is extremely important with young students. They learn to socialize and work with one another within a context. Those that believe technology deters socialization, VoiceThread proves them wrong in this case. Finally a technology that promotes socialization, not just through blogging!

Depending on the use of Voicethread, students are able to take the project by the reigns, so to speak. Again, corresponding with the student voice is the creativity students are capable of portraying. This student expression is important for all students to possess. Remember, we need to stray away from too much lecture (the teacher speaks for the majority of class time) and allow the students to express their thoughts and beliefs with the subject at hand. This must be implemented at a young age. Once students are comfortable with expression they can begin reflecting on their work/projects and can share their written or spoken reflections with the class.

VoiceThread provides a positive learning environment incorporating technology, what a majority of our current students are familiar and interested in. I believe all educators should be trained on how to incorporate voicethreads in lessons. With VoiceThread, learning does not stop when the students leave the classroom. They are able to log on before school, during class, at nutrition breaks or lunch, and after school while at home. Students can also collaborate and discuss with other students on the weekends! This is learning at its fullest potential! I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

More About VoiceThread

For More Information on VoiceThread:

VoiceThread's Blog
Ning Voicethread Group
Top 100 Tools for Learning
Educational VoiceThreads
Wordpress Blog
Classroom 2.0 on VoiceThread
The Horizon Report
VoiceThread on Twitter

With VoiceThread classroom and student group conversations can be created, collected, and shared in any one place, anywhere in the world.