My VoiceThread – Blog and Webinars

Using VoiceThread with GlobalCOlab

This is a guest post by teacher and VoiceThreader, Brian Jones.

This week GlobalCOlab is being featured at the Scandinavian Education Technology Transformation (SETT) Conference taking place in Stockholm, Sweden. GlobalCOlab stands for Global Collaborative Labs. In GlobalCOlab, students from different schools around the world collaborate to investigate global issues and how those issues affect their communities. An example is the Watershed Project involving GlobalCOlab students from Malaysia, Sweden, Ohio, and Norwalk, California (my classroom) all collaboratively designing solutions to watershed problems.

The school I work at is a Title I school. To become a Title I at least 40% of students must be from low-income families. My school currently has 80% of its students qualifying as low-income. In my experience, students from such low socioeconomic backgrounds feel their voice has no platform to be heard, and also feel that they do not have the power to change the world. VoiceThread has changed all of that and given students both voice and choice.

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(One of my student’s work showing the student becoming empowered)

Last year I developed a flipped gamified classroom using the zombie apocalypse called “Project Z.” The students ate it up and displayed major growth in my Life Science class. However, that platform for student voice was still missing on a broad level. So in August of last year, I was on Twitter and it occurred to me: Twitter gave me the platform to allow a teacher from Finland to answer one of my pedagogical questions. This is the global platform I must model my classroom after.

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(Sarenawati Jafaar’s [@sjaafar] school, Sekolah Rendah Islam AlHafeez (AlHafeez Islamic Elementary School), Pasir Mas, Malaysia)

GlobalCOlab has been a learning and collaborating experience just as much for its teachers as it has been for its students. To help facilitate and map this idea, GlobalCOlab co-creator, Dr. Trisha Callella (@shareTED), and I sat down and mapped out the important components to a successful collaboration that could transcend both distance and time zones.

The steps included: creating procedures to investigate problems using scientific/engineering processes, pitching their proposed procedures to global collaborators to assemble collaborative labs, simultaneously conducting real world research through inquiry and collaboration, collaboratively testing solutions by creating hands-on labs and investigations for global scientific learning, sharing out those results, and global peer review of each other’s work.

The students would be using the scientific and engineering processes on a global platform and scale. The question was: Could this be done? at the middle school level? To this, Dr. Callella suggested using VoiceThread as she had used in both her elementary classroom and graduate program.
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(Emma from Anders Enström’s, @aenstrom70, class in Sweden peer reviewing one of my student’s work about soundwaves.)

I eagerly rushed to sign up for Voice Thread. VoiceThread contacted me and supplied a school site license of 350 accounts. Those accounts are being used by students in Malaysia, Sweden, Ohio, and my classroom. VoiceThread provided the students around the world a workspace where distance and time zones were not a factor.

My students would post their work, and when they got to school they would see replies from students all over the world that were posted while they were asleep. In VoiceThread, the replies are framed around the student’s work and the student has the power to reorder the comments whichever way they prefer. This was the platform that empowered my classroom during the investigation process.

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(A student from Liz Meredith’s, @meredithscience, science class in Saint Clairsville, Ohio uses the platform to express herself)

The results of GlobalCOlab have been amazing. GlobalCOlab did all it was designed to do and more. By using Voice Thread as one of the platforms for student choice, students were able to research, investigate, and present information for collaborative labs and then peer review each other’s work. In doing so, my students were able to not only embed the scientific and engineering processes into their work and community, but become excited about it as they knew there was an authentic global audience.

They could share their ideas, learn, and receive feedback from global peers.  It is this type of connected learning that allows teachers to grow everyday through Twitter and planned learning networks.  GlobalCOlab expanded this in middle school classrooms around the world. Thanks to VoiceThread, students voices were heard around the world.

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(An anonymous survey asked to my students, and the results second day of school compared to 24 weeks into GlobalCOlab)


About the Author: Brian Jones, @ProgresivTeachr, is the co-creator of GlobalCOlab. Brian currently teaches 7th Grade Life Science at Los Alisos Middle School in Norwalk, CA where he and his students are having fun learning and growing along with the 400 students currently in GlobalCOlab worldwide.

Changing the “Culture” of Learning

This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader Pam Sengos.

 

Personalizing Learning for All Students

As a technology coach in my district, I have the opportunity to work with many wonderful teachers and students. In the past few years, our district has researched and invested time in personalized learning for all students based on their own skills, interests, and learning paths.

With a team of third grade teachers, we began our work by redesigning our Culture Unit. Our mission was to give students more ownership over their learning by allowing more choice in how they learned and what they learned, customize a learning pathway which allowed students to take steps in achieving their goals and demonstrate mastery of content, and lastly give students an authentic audience in which they could share their learning and knowledge with others.

Using Voicethread to Connect with Our Community and Global Partners

To fully embrace and understand different cultures, we knew we needed to give students the opportunity to reach out globally. Through Harvard’s Out of Eden Learn platform, we connected with several different classrooms from around the world. Out of Eden Learn not only follows the expedition of journalist, Paul Salopek, as he walks seven years around the world, but also gives students a platform in which they can converse with others safely and specifically around activities called “Footsteps.” In Footstep #2, students were asked to draw a map that represented a local area or their own neighborhood.

We uploaded students’ beautifully designed maps and then asked them to share focal points of their neighborhood or special stories that happened within them. By using the drawing tool in Voicethread, it allowed students to help their global partners focus on the parts of their map in which they were talking about in their story. It really allowed their audience to have a deeper understanding of where we live and stories that connect us to our daily lives and communities. In addition, we allowed comments to be posted by others in our voicethread to give others the opportunity to ask questions or comment on our maps and stories.

Using Voicethread as a Reflection Tool

Voicethread has been a powerful tool that has allowed students to reflect on their learning experience. Reflection is important for all students as they look back at their learning and see ways they were successful and areas in which they want to improve on. It allowed teachers a way to assess how students felt about the process and how learning was made personal and meaningful to their students. Voicethread gave teachers a direction on how to move forward with personalizing other areas of their curriculum and classroom by listening to student feedback.


 

About the author:

Pam Sengos is an Information Technology Literacy Teacher for the Oregon School District in Wisconsin. She serves on the district’s technology and personalized learning committees. Pam collaborates with teachers and provides professional development as well as works with students to help make learning meaningful and engaging. Her twitter handle is @psengos Also, you can follow her on their District’s Technology Facebook page.

Using VoiceThread for Virtual Science Fairs

How can schools ensure that science fair projects are fair? A recent article by The Atlantic details some of the ways science fair projects have been corrupted by over-involvement from parents and we would like to offer a solution to this growing problem.

This problem exists mainly because teachers can’t observe and assess the student’s work at home. Most science fairs are essentially take-home projects, so parents who mean well may be taking over much of the design and creation process from their children. While these parents are trying to help, they often undercut the initiative and learning experiences of their children. Science fairs aren’t intended to be assessments of a parent’s understanding of the scientific process, but often that is exactly what they are.

So how can educators redesign science fairs to recapture the original intent? Our suggestion would be to ask students to document their process with VoiceThread. If students and teachers interact asynchronously via VoiceThread during the planning process, parental involvement will be limited to buying materials and supporting the learning instead of hijacking it.

Here is one example of how this might look:

The process can be made even more transparent with the use of video if the student “shows their work” by recording the construction of the experiment as well as their thinking. Because VoiceThreads are living, evolving content, students can upload work, get feedback from their teacher, then revise and upload new iterations all in the same place. In essence, students can use VoiceThreads as a transparent, digital portfolio tool. We think this can help restore science fairs to their original status as amazing ways to create hands-on learning experiences that genuinely impact student understanding of the scientific method. What do you think?

VoiceThread’s Free Workshops: May and June

Join us for some professional development!  VoiceThread is hosting 6 free online sessions in the coming months to help both Higher Ed. and K-12 educators develop ideas for enhancing their classes.

Each session will be led by George Haines, an expert VoiceThreader, Instructional Designer, and former K-12 educator. George will share his expertise, showcase some exemplary VoiceThreads, and facilitate an open discussion about lesson design.

Check out the sessions below and click on each link to register.  Anyone is welcome to join us.

The format for each training will include a presentation plus hands-on activities that will continue asynchronously in VoiceThread after the live session is over.


VoiceThread Basics 1- upload, comment and share:

In this workshop, participants will learn how to upload media, comment and annotate on that media, and share it with others. This will be a slow paced, step-by-step, hands-on workshop. It is open to full VoiceThread license holders and free members.

Wednesday May 13th, 7pm ET: Register Here


Teaching Reading and Writing with VoiceThread:

The “Three R’s” have been at the core of education for years and provide the foundation for learning any subject. In this interactive session, participants will exchange ideas about improving reading and writing skills by introducing VoiceThread to learning experiences. Whether students are learning English or any other language, vocabulary and grammar are fundamental elements of any course. After completing this training, educators will be better equipped to design innovative lessons to develop these fundamentals with their students.

Wednesday May 20th, 7pm ET: Register Here


Using VoiceThread for Student Portfolios

If you are interested in learning how to use VoiceThread as a portfolio tool to showcase student work or to provide feedback for their work in progress, we can help. In this workshop, participants will learn how to use features available to full license holders to create and securely share collaborative VoiceThreads with students.

Wednesday June 3rd, 3pm ET: Register Here


VoiceThread and Universal Design for Learning (UDL):

Participants will learn how VoiceThread can help educators provide multiple means of engagement, representation, action and expression for their courses. Participants will learn how to use VoiceThread’s multi-modal communication platform, closed captioning feature, and VoiceThread Universal to design accessible lessons.

Tuesday June 9th, 3pm ET: Register Here


VoiceThread for Flipped, Blended and Hybrid Classes:

The flipped classroom is usually described as “lecture at home, homework in class.” While this may be true for teachers who use one-way, broadcast video tools to record lengthy lectures, it doesn’t need to be the case. Lesson design doesn’t need to include passive learning either at home or in school. In this workshop, educators will learn how to use VoiceThread to design engaging, student-centered, “flipped,” blended or hybrid course content that encourages students to think.

Wednesday June 17th, 3pm ET: Register Here


VoiceThread and Your LMS:

This workshop is designed for instructional designers or faculty members who work at institutions with VoiceThread integrated in their Learning Management System (LMS), or just want to learn how VoiceThread integration works. Participants will learn how to add VoiceThread content seamlessly into LMS content areas, create assignments linked to their gradebook and more.

Wednesday June 24th, 3pm ET: Register Here


 

 

 

Kicking Instruction Up a Notch – with VoiceThread!

*This is a guest post by online educators and VoiceThreaders Candace Figg, Dave Potts, and Caitlin Munn.

Often as higher education faculty, we want to include collaborative discussion activities in our instruction to enhance our information presentation to large class sizes and provide learning environments that our digital-age learners perceive as relevant instruction.  Enter VoiceThread! The very structure of the tool facilitates a collaborative discussion where everyone gets a turn, and makes you look like the cool, hip, fabulous professor you are! And this works for K-12 teachers, too!

How We’ve Used VoiceThread

The goal in our online course, Learning in the Digital Context, is for students in their first year of university to explore various digital tools available on the Internet that help them build knowledge, collaborate, collect resources, and support learning. Through an exploration of digital citizenship, our learners select tools for their own Personal Learning Environment (PLE) that will support that learning and describe how they will maintain/update that PLE. We feature VoiceThread in our discussion of digital rights and responsibilities, and hands down, VoiceThread becomes a core tool in student PLEs, having been selected by 96% of our students.

The activity we use is simple. We provide our learners with a virtual field trip of online articles and resources to facilitate the development of their understanding of digital rights and responsibilities. Next they share their learning and understandings with their peers in the Digital Rights & Responsibilities Discussion VoiceThread. It’s proven to be an efficacious collaborative activity, engaging our learners in the consolidation of new knowledge and facilitating deeper learning.  

Our VoiceThread: Digital Rights & Responsibilities Discussion 

We have also successfully incorporated VoiceThread in our instruction to foster backchannel discussions, showcase individual student work, and collect feedback from peers. ALL of these activities are do-able in large (and small) university or K-12 classrooms!

Why We Use Voicethread

There are other collaborative discussion tools available, but we chose VoiceThread for this activity for the following reasons:

Flexibility: Incorporating mobile devices makes the instruction more interactive and accessible, breaks up the presentation of information, and increases retention by allowing learners time to process the information. Also, the VoiceThread mobile app allows students to use their own devices!

Collaborative discussion: Collaborative discussion is one of our most powerful learning activities for online and face-to-face/blended learning environments! These valuable activities give everyone a voice. In the online classroom, VoiceThread provides a way to move beyond text-based discussions to a more inclusive, engaging, and interactive means of communication because learners can choose the medium that matches their technical skills and comfort levels.

Differentiation possibilities: Obstacles to group instruction include the social dynamics of large group instruction, varying student confidence and knowledge levels, and the subsequent range of vocal participation that learners exhibit. With VoiceThread, learners who are reluctant to speak in the face-to-face classroom can comfortably respond in their medium of preference: voice, text, or video!

Opportunity for assessment: VoiceThread also provides an opportunity to conduct assessment of student learning and understanding. Learners and educators alike can also track growth and development, by comparing submissions across time-spans.

Be a VoiceThread master in your own class!

Four tips for success with VoiceThread . . . .

Plan for student success – Take time to introduce VoiceThread to your learners. Modeling how to use the technology, even to our tech-savvy digital learners in higher education, is important! Take time to do a VoiceThread activity in class so students better understand your expectations and how to navigate the tool. Guide them through the questions on the slide(s), allow them to make contributions, and discuss the final results in class. This sets the stage for independent/blended learning in future discussions.

Plan for required set-up – Think about discussions and how to stimulate them. There are many fabulous resources online to guide your construction of great discussion questions! Check out Edutopia’s  article Guidelines for Developing Juicy Discussion Questions, or the University of Wisconsin’s Teaching with Technology Online Workshop Series. Next, consider how you will set up the VoiceThread – VoiceThread’s own Getting Started tutorials are useful here.

Plan for implementation – Classroom management techniques are important, so consider the following: Will you set up groups for an in-class discussion? How will you allow time for learners to then see and hear what others have posted? What will the follow-up activity be? Will you provide in-class time for this discussion or will it be a blended learning experience where students contribute as part of their homework and return to class to build consensus of the significant points shared?

Plan for student access to VoiceThread and technology – Consider how students will access the VoiceThread and what devices students will use to access the tool.  For younger students who have never used VoiceThread, providing student access is simpler when the teacher sets up an account and makes multiple identities (one for each student). With any paid license, student accounts are included and can be automatically created via LMS integration. With VoiceThread’s iOS and Android apps, students can access VoiceThread with their own devices anywhere and any time they choose. Secondly, will you provide technology – computers in the classroom – or will they use their own devices? Will the infrastructure of your university (or school) allow this access? How will adapt if you only have access to one computer?

 

Now it’s your turn! Try it out!

Here are some helpful VoiceThread resources to get you started in kicking your large class instruction up a notch – with VoiceThread, of course!

VoiceThread in the Classroom, Group Participation and Community, Voicethread wiki, and Voicethread’s extensive list of Ideas for using Voicethread.


Your guest bloggers, Candace Figg, Dave Potts, and Caitlin Munn, are all instructors in the online program of the Centre for Adult Education and Community Outreach at Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. Candace Figg is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Teacher Education Department, where her specialty is teaching and learning with technology; Dave Potts is a Sessional Instructor and Online Facilitator for Brock’s Faculty of Education, delivering the Teaching & Learning with Technology and Learning in Digital Contexts courses; and Caitlin Munn is a Learning Strategist at Assiniboine Community College in Brandon, Manitoba, where her speciality is assistive technology and strategy instruction.

Online Courses are Different than MOOCs

Massive, open, online courses don’t live up to the hype. People are starting to realize that while MOOCs are open, and they are certainly massive, most of them are not actually courses. They are really just curated spaces where people can access content. They more closely resemble YouTube playlists or online textbooks than genuine, human learning environments. The drop-out rates are massively high because most MOOCs don’t follow the basic formula for learning.

That basic formula looks something like this: practice + feedback = learning. When a course is massive, instructors can’t give individualized feedback on student practice. Often, students aren’t required to practice much of anything, they are simply expected to consume information and remain isolated from their instructor.

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Image Source: https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7057/6951917119_e5f6ff0eb7_z.jpg

Consuming information is just the preamble to learning. MOOCs are essentially online spaces where students can consume information, the same way they they consume information from a textbook.  In other words, massive, open, online courses are just a preamble to learning. This is an example of a flawed design that threatens the promise of online teaching and learning.

So why are MOOCs dangerous? They are dangerous because they present a straw-man that critics can use to attack all online courses. They conflate two very different experiences and undermine quality online instruction. There is no reason that students can’t practice skills, apply information and receive quality feedback in an online course. With the right tools and thoughtful lesson design, online learning can be spectacular.

At VoiceThread, we believe that online courses can be about so much more than information consumption. They can be places where students can apply knowledge and engage instructor feedback in a real, human way. Online courses are different than MOOCs for just this reason. Let’s take the straw-man out of the conversation and change the narrative together.

 

Bullying and Anonymity

The New York Times recently published a story about a teacher at Eastern Michigan University who discovered insulting messages about her on social media. Margaret Crouch discovered that during one of her classes, students were having conversations about her on a popular social messaging app. She made efforts to determine who made the comments about her, but she was unable to find answers:

“In the end, nothing much came of Ms. Crouch’s efforts, for a simple reason: Yik Yak is anonymous. There was no way for the school to know who was responsible for the posts.”

Source: http://nyti.ms/18sCG67

At VoiceThread we understand the problems associated with anonymous comments, which is why we don’t allow them. When students know that they will be held accountable for comments they make, they tend to make better choices.

K-12 educators in the Ed.VoiceThread community can share content and interact with students in a safe, private space but they can also hold students accountable for abusive or inappropriate commenting. Here is a quick overview about Ed.VoiceThread:

Our Higher Education communities can also hold their students accountable for comments they make on a VoiceThread. Teachers will know who made comments and also when they made them. Inappropriate comments can be hidden from view of their classmates through comment moderation and corrective action can be taken. You can learn more about comment moderation here:

 

We believe that students should have a voice but we also believe that students should know that they are responsible for comments they make. This gives educators the ability to create rich, yet safe, learning environments for their students. We’d like to know what you think, so let us know in the comment section below!

Diversity in Groups: A Connected Experience

This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader, Dr. Jaimie Hoffman

The Idea

Last summer I was inspired to dream about what could be possible if I could connect my students with students in another country in a common learning experience using technology. This was an exciting possibility both because gaining international perspectives is a key pillar of my institution and because I think it is an important outcome of the undergraduate experience. I thought about collaborating with friend from high school, Mario Perez, who now teaches English in Japan; I thought he might be up for a challenge and ready to color outside of the box.

Getting Started

Mario quickly agreed to work with me on this adventure. First, we discussed and finalized what we wanted our students gain from this experience and established measurable outcomes. We then decided that the module would involve students from my Group Communication Course working with students from his Intermediate English Course to learn about diversity, specifically Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions, together and…. teach each other along the way. An additional outcome for Mario’s students was to get practice speaking and listening to English.

Module outcomes

With the outcomes finalized, we looked at what digital tool might best meet our needs. How the heck can we get students living 5400 miles apart and 17 hours time difference to work together? Sure, we could have used a static, text-based discussion forum, but we identified VoiceThread as the best option for creating a humanized experience.

The Module

We created the module itself including, instructor information, context, outcomes, instructions, VoiceThread links, and a reflection form, on a web page using Populr.me. We divided our students into twelve small groups with about five students from CI and three students from APU. It was important to us that all voices could be heard in the conversation and with over eighty students, it would be counteractive to have large class discussions.

Module page

The process of putting together the module was fairly smooth although we encountered differences between educational and cultural practices in the US and Japan that had some implications on our module. For instance, something as small as how we refer to our students in our videos (e.g. Japanese students, US students) became a focal point of our conversations because we realized that we did not want to offend students who may not be Japanese but who live in Japan. While the same applied to the students in the US, tensions between Japan and Korea gave the issue greater prominence. In essence, Mario and I learned about diversity as we prepared this experience about diversity.

The VoiceThread consisted of a series of slides, which were a mixture of Mario and I narrating and posing discussion questions. The students were given three due dates: by the first date, they were to post their initial response to our questions and pose a question to their peers in the other country, by the second date they were to respond to their peers’ questions and by the third date they were to submit their responses to a reflection.

Impact/Student Perceptions

Students responded positively to the module:

82% of APU students who responded to the reflection survey reported they agreed or strongly agreed with the fact that the module helped them practice English.

89% of all students who responded to the survey indicated that they strongly agreed or agreed with the fact that it was exciting to work alongside students in another country.

The asynchronous nature of VoiceThread allowed students to reflect on their culture and the questions about another culture. One student said, “I had the chance to collect my thoughts on how I truly see my culture and having to explain why. It was nice to reflect.” The module introduced students to differences in ways that a textbook or class discussion probably could not achieve. This student’s reflection is a great example of this: “I learned that what is normal here can be very different in other countries. We are used to diversity here and experience a lot of different cultures, but in Japan the ethnicity of their people is pretty constant and unchanging. Another thing I learned is Japan has a lot of power distance in its culture.”

We plan to repeat this module again with slight modifications:

Allow more time for planning: it took a lot of time collaborating to align outcomes, creating the presentation, securing student permissions, and explaining the module to students… and that’s just the work that took place before the module occurred.

Add introductions and follow up to facilitate breaking the ice: we realized that our students could have benefitted from a few slides with “getting to know you” activities especially since the students in Japan began the module at a disadvantage with regard to their English language abilities.

Provide opportunities for continued connections: many students told us they wished that their connections with students abroad could continue beyond the module. In the future, we plan to provide a facilitated post-module activity using VoiceThread to continue conversations.

Structure more space between deadlines for enhanced engagement: The tight timeline and specific post requirements we used for participation may have stifled the conversation. Next time we plan to use less specifics on number and dates of post requirements and greater emphasis on the quality of conversation

Recommend students to use microphones: Language was a definite challenge in this activity (which was also part of the learning process) for all involved; volume was an element of the process that could be controlled with use of microphones.

It was definitely a great learning experience for everyone involved and was invigorating to see how this can help us imagine possibilities for future connections.

Want to hear Mario and I talking about our experience with Michelle Pacansky-Brock? View our Hangout on Air on Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at 4:00 p.m. or check out the recording that will archived in the same location. We will also be presenting our experience at the upcoming ET4Online conference in Dallas, Texas.


Dr. Jaimie Hoffman is an Instructional Technologist and part-time faculty member at CSU Channel Islands. Jaimie has taught in blended, online and face-to-face format to undergraduate and graduate students. You can learn more about her at http://jaimiehoffman.com

Connect Your Students with an Author

Would you like to connect with an author for World Read Aloud Day? Your students can add their voices to a collaborative VoiceThread with author Kelly Young-Silverman and illustrator erin the great for their book Man in the Moon!

About Man in the Moon:

“Man in the Moon is a beautifully illustrated story about an inquisitive little girl who reaches for the moon and finds a friend. This sweet rhyming tale follows our young heroine on a magical journey as she learns that any acquaintance can easily become a friend and no matter how small you may feel (especially compared to the great big moon) you are special to someone.”

We embedded the VoiceThread version of the book below but you can also use this link to open the VoiceThread:

Man in the Moon Read Aloud

Your students can add their voices to this VoiceThread and even ask the author and illustrator questions about the book! Please leave your questions on the first slide and add your narration on the rest of the slides.

The authors also sell signed copies of Man in the Moon from on their website: www.evieandknoxstories.com


For other World Read Aloud Day ideas, check out these posts:

How to: Write and Read using VoiceThread and Storybird

Connecting Students for World Read Aloud Day

Let’s work together to make reading fun and exciting for your students!