Part 1 - Ed.VoiceThread
VoiceThread has an educational counterpart called Ed.VoiceThread. While still an internet based tool, it is a secure network or closed community for educators and students. It provides a safe place to collaborate on the internet. As Valenza (NeverEndingSearch) explains: “the new web-based, multimedia collaborative network, offers a more secure solution for those who'd like to play in the 2.0 sandbox but have to deal with the realities of district restrictions on social networking.”
Ed.VoiceThread is also described as “a space for creating digital stories and documentaries, practicing language skills, exploring geography and culture, solving math problems, collaborating with other students, or simply finding and honing student voices.”
Ed.VoiceThread is not a free service. This is because many web services with free accounts are blocked by school districts because of online protection policies. Therefore, Ed.VoiceThread offers reasonable pricing for whole-school subscriptions. Ed.VoiceThread points out that they would prefer that the costs of these kinds of safe, effective learning tools should be not fall on the educator. They urge teachers to advocate for this service, and Ed.VoiceThread offers to provide a complete refund to any educator who signed up as part of the “Pioneer Class.”
This option is perfect for schools who wish to use a collaborative Web 2.0 tool, but want to safeguard students against some of the risks associated with publishing information on the Internet.
Part 2 - VoiceThread in Teaching and Learning
VoiceThread was ranked as #24 in the Top 100 Tools for Learning Spring 2008. Wesley Fryer in his blog, Moving at the Speed of Creativity also has high praises for this tool. He says reasons for using VoiceThread in the classroom are:
* Digital storytelling is a pedagogically sound activity for learners at all levels in all content areas.
* VoiceThread is simple, focusing on still digital images and recorded audio narration.
* VoiceThread stories are immediately web-accessible via a link or HTML code which can be embedded on another webpage.
* VoiceThread permits MODERATED feedback, so teachers can control text and audio feedback to their students’ shared digital stories.
Fryer also likes VoiceThread because it allows for immediate publishing on the global stage. He also believes this technology will help teachers have "a-ha" moments once they realize how to use it in an instructional context and purpose.
Some suggestions for using VoiceThread in the classroom include:
* Teachers can post an image or video (example: video from united streaming) with comments.
* Student can post comments creating an online discussion.
* Each student creates a Voicethread to discuss an essential question (example: What if images such as … never existed?). Students and teachers can create a discussion with each voicethread. (JAG Stacks)
Other educational uses and ideas for VoiceThread can be seen by browsing through the examples on these web sites:
VoiceThread4Education Wiki: A very useful site with examples of VoiceThreads posted by grade level.
PageFlakes VoiceThread Page: A lot of examples linked to from this page.
Maths 247 Wiki: This wiki is trying to build up a huge library of number problems organised by level and using VoiceThread to demonstrate and solve them.
The Connected Classroom: This web site offers a detailed information, explanations and links for teachers wishing to explore digital storytelling.
JAG Stacks: This web site offers handouts which teachers can use to engage students in critical thinking while viewing a VoiceThread.
The 50 Tools: Alan Levine explores VoiceThread, as well as other tools to build a story for digital storytelling.
Part 3 - Some Final Thoughts
What I have found so appealing about VoiceThread is that it allows users to incorporate so many forms of media, thus, it truly is “multimedia sharing.” Collaboration can center on various media formats; not just one or two. The more examples of VoiceThreads I view, the more ideas and uses for this tool become apparent. While it is perfect for digital storytelling, VoiceThread goes way beyond one possible function, and holds potential for any subject area and grade level.
Teachers who decide to incorporate VoiceThread (instead of Ed.VoiceThread) into their classroom should carefully plan how create identities for their students which will be viewed on the Internet. Photos of students should not be used without explicit signed permission from parents. A good alternative is to create an avatar (a computer generated character), or even a scanned image of a student’s artwork.
This is a media-rich tool which has unlimited potential for teachers and students in both the process and products of learning. There are many "a-ha" moments on the horizon!