VoiceThread – Blog and Webinars

VoiceThread and Early Learning

This is a guest post by Sarah Diaz, VoiceThreader and Kindergarten teacher.

I had first used VoiceThread as a student in graduate school. I loved the idea of sharing media, narrating it, and giving/receiving instant feedback. As a student, I enjoyed the freedom it gave me and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to create new projects. I began to think of how I could use it in my kindergarten classroom. There would be challenges because their knowledge and skill sets are limited. As emergent readers and writers, they would not be able to use all of the features on VoiceThread; however, young learners are exceptionally good at thinking beyond the box, and I wanted to see what they were capable of.

I began by presenting them with VoiceThread as a digital story. I took pictures and narrated an alphabet story, Max Grover’s “The Accidental Zucchini”. The class roared with laughter after hearing a favorite story in a familiar voice on the computer. They wanted to watch it over and over.

Once I had their attention, I asked them if they wanted to create their own alphabet story and make a VoiceThread as I had done. They were very excited. Each child chose two letters, listed two things that began with that letter, and made their letter pages for our class book. In the past, this is where the class book was assembled and the project ended. Now, I took pictures of my students’ work and recorded each of their voices reading the work aloud. When the big debut of their class digital story came, the students were so proud to share their work with each other, other classrooms, and their families.

This was the beginning of my students’ use of VoiceThread. Since this project, I have created different digital stories for the students to listen to, and they respond by using the comment feature. They have given predictions, opinions, and compared different texts through either recording audio or video. It serves as a formative assessment for me on their comprehension skills of the story and in their language development.

I am an international teacher. The majority of my students are English language learners who are not from our host country. Developing their English language skills and having the ability to share my class’ stories with their families from all over the world is important. Technology helps tremendously in keeping my classroom connected to our families and global community. Parents and relatives alike can view our stories, and see their child’s growth for themselves.

One of the joys of VoiceThread is that it can be used in any subject, at any level, in any class. Young students can be shown which buttons to press after the visual content has been added for them, but the stories are still their own. Now that there is a VoiceThread app, my students have an easier time making stories with the class iPads. It has been one of the tools that significantly added to my students’ 21st century skills and continues to amaze them with what they are capable of with technology.


Sarah Diaz teaches in Venezuela, but you can find her on twitter here: @SarahDiaDiaz

VoiceThread’s Free February Workshops

Join us in February for some professional development!  VoiceThread is hosting 3 free online sessions in February 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.

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 1.54.58 PM


 Beat the Next Snow Day with VoiceThread

Winter is not over, and there may be more snow days to come, but you don’t have to lose a full day of instruction. VoiceThread lets you be there even when you’re not! In this workshop, participants will learn how to create asynchronous conversations around course content so students can continue to learn and grow even when schools are closed.

February 4th, 7pm ET: Register Here

 Collaborating with Experts

Whether you want your students to speak with an author, interview an astrophysicist, or connect with a CEO, scheduling is always the biggest obstacle. With VoiceThread, you can still collaborate with those experts but you don’t have to worry about scheduling. In this workshop, participants will learn how to break down the walls of their classrooms so their students can learn from experts in any field.

February 11th, 7pm ET: Register Here

Storytelling with VoiceThread

Most cognitive scientists agree that storytelling is a great way to help your message stick in the minds of an audience. Our minds are fine-tuned to remember information shared within a narrative structure, not a broadcast lecture. In this workshop, participants will learn how to use VoiceThread to create engaging stories with their students.

February 18th, 7pm ET: Register Here

We are also offering an intensive, hands-on workshop series on VoiceThread basics in January. Click here for details: VoiceThread’s January Cohort



January Workshop Cohort



Webinars are boring.

We know it and you know it.

They are boring because they are one-sided broadcasts that remind us of the time we fogged up the store window staring at a new toy that we couldn’t play with. This January, VoiceThread is removing that window and offering an intensive, hands-on, 3 workshop series on VoiceThread basics. This series is about playing and experimenting, not simply watching a facilitator.


Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/webatelier/5929860024/

The first workshop is open to everyone; whether you have a site license, school license or simply a free trial account. In workshops 2 and 3, we will cover the features available to everyone with a full license.

Here’s a rundown of what we have in store for January:

Workshop #1: Creating a basic VoiceThread

In this workshop, participants will learn how to upload content, comment and annotate on that content, and share that content with others. This will be a slow paced, step-by-step, hands-on workshop.

January 7th, 7:00pm ET: Register Here

Workshop #2: Groups, Playback Settings and Secure Sharing

In our second workshop, we will begin to explore the features available to VoiceThreaders with a full license. Participants will learn how to create groups, set sharing permissions within those groups and privately share VoiceThreads with individuals.

January 14th, 7:00pm ET: Register Here

Workshop #3: Moderating, Re-ordering and Copying

In our final workshop in the series, participants will learn how to use comment moderation to formatively assess student work, re-order comments and copy VoiceThreads for use with multiple groups.

January 21st, 7pm ET: Register Here

After you register for this cohort, you will receive an email from us with all the instructions you will need to get started. We hope you can join us!

To see a list of our free February workshops, click here: VoiceThread’s Free February Workshops


Fall Workshop Archive: 2014

We just wrapped-up our fall professional development series and it was so great to work with all the wonderful educators who participated. If you missed any this fall, here is the archive of all the workshops and their accompanying “brainstorm” VoiceThreads.

Please join the conversation and leave your comments on the brainstorm VoiceThreads!

Online Course Design: The Human Element

Full Workshop Recording

Join the conversation:

Formative Assessment with VoiceThread

Full Workshop Recording

Join the conversation:

Flipping Your Class with VoiceThread

Full Workshop Recording

Join the conversation:

21st Century Literacy

Full Workshop Recording

Join the conversation:

Authentic Math Lessons

Full Workshop Recording

Join the conversation:

Delivering Asynchronous Instructional Design Workshops

Full Workshop Recording

Join the conversation:

Phys. Ed. Hybrid Lesson Design

Full Workshop Recording

Join the conversation:

We have more workshops coming in January and February too! You can sign up for any of them here:

January Workshops Link

February Workshops Link

3 VoiceThread Features You Should be Using

This is a guest post by Alissa Harrington, VoiceThreader and Instructional Designer at Stevenson University.

VoiceThread is so flexible and simple to use, that we often overlook some of its powerful built-in features. Below are three ideas to incorporate into your VoiceThread experience:

1. Insert an Active Link- An easy way to share a file* or website with students during a VoiceThread presentation is to copy the source URL and paste the link in a text comment. Links in the comment area are live once posted. Alternatively, you can also post an active link in the title of a slide, however only one link can be shared per slide using this method. No matter which method you choose, be sure to introduce the URL with a video or voice comment so the students are aware of its purpose.

*Note: To share a file, place the item in Google Drive or Dropbox first and then select share to generate a URL for the file.

2. Create Assessments Using Comment Moderation- Comment moderation “hides” comments from all users except the creator of the VoiceThread. This option is useful for assessment prompts as it forces students to create original and creative responses. To enable this feature, select Publishing Options from the Edit page of your VoiceThread and then select the ‘Moderate Comments?’ option. Moderated comments will appear grayed out with a closed-curtain icon. Once all grading is complete, instructors can click the closed-curtain icon to reveal each comment to the class.

3. Organize Conversations with Tags- Tags are an optional, yet powerful item; they allow you to conduct a search based upon keywords. The tag field appears in the ‘Describe your VoiceThread’ dialog box under the title and description fields. Use tags to associate your VoiceThreads with categories, research topics, or presentation types, such as debates. Once you assign tags you can quickly filter related conversations by entering a keyword into the search field located on the MyVoice tab.

About Alissa Harrington

A former elementary school teacher turned techie; Alissa is recognized for her ability to teach complex technology concepts to the non-technical. Technology and education have been her passion for nearly 20 years.  Alissa is currently an instructional designer for Graduate and Professional Studies at Stevenson University. Follow her on twitter at: @aj_harrington

VoiceThread of the Month: December


We are excited to announce a new way for us to feature your work and the work of your students! Each month for the 2014-2015 school year, we will be accepting submissions for a “VoiceThread of the Month”. Each month, we will ask for an entry based on a different theme along with a link to submit the work when it’s complete.

For December, the theme is: December Holidays


Do your students know the history of Hanukkah?

Does your school collect Christmas gifts for the less fortunate?

Do your students know why some people celebrate Boxing Day?

Here’s how it works:

The submission can be either student or teacher created.

We are looking for conversations, not just presentations.

The VoiceThread will be judged on these 3 criteria:

1. Comment Quality- all comments should add value to the content of conversation.

2. Visuals- all images/documents/videos should be appropriate, interesting, and properly sourced.

3. Comment Quantity- more people engaged in the conversation means more shared points of view.

The winning selection for each month will be added to a special section in our digital library so everyone can see the great work you do.


You can add your submission here: VToM Submission Form


Themes for the 2014-2015 school year:


Why do your students use emojis?

Do your students use emojis when they post messages on your class discussion boards? Do they sprinkle smileys into their emails? If you’ve taught a class in the last ten years, you probably answered yes to both questions. So, why do they do it?


Maybe they do it because they are used to miscommunication with their text-based communications. There are entire websites dedicated to documenting text messages gone wrong, misconstrued emails and essay fails. We all have experience reading and writing messages that serve to confuse rather than clarify.

Writing is tough.

Communications experts claim that at least 80% of communication is non-verbal, which means that with each written message we send we are only signaling 20% of our intended ideas.  Until someone invents a sarcasm font, people will rely on emojis in an attempt to convey these nonverbal cues that are so vital to effective communication.


At VoiceThread, we don’t believe that a smiley face can replace an actual face. Smiley faces can’t express tone of voice. They can’t gesture the way a human can. They can’t control the pace and cadence of the spoken word. Text can’t replace you and it can’t replace your students either, no matter how many emojis they use. ;)

You don’t need to be an expert in paralanguage and kinesics to know that face-to-face communication is more effective than text. Critics of online classes usually point to this as proof that face-to-face classes are a better choice than learning online. The good news is that in 2014, we no longer have to choose between “online” classes and “face-to-face” classes. With VoiceThread, you can create an online, face-to-face class and reclaim that missing 80%.

Take a quick tour of VoiceThread here:  What’s new with the new VoiceThread?

VoiceThread of the Month: November

We are excited to announce a new way for us to feature your work and the work of your students! Each month for the 2014-2015 school year, we will be accepting submissions for a “VoiceThread of the Month”. Each month, we will ask for an entry based on a different theme along with a link to submit the work when it’s complete.

For November, the theme is: Election Day



Are you discussing voter suppression with you students?


Are you discussing the difference between a Democracy and a Republic? 


Are you analyzing the election results in class?


Are you evaluating the validity of the polling data?


If you said “yes” to any of these questions, turn that conversation into a VoiceThread and submit it using the link below!


Here’s how it works:

The submission can be either student or teacher created.

We are looking for conversations, not just presentations.

The VoiceThread will be judged on these 3 criteria:

1. Comment Quality- all comments should add value to the content of conversation.

2. Visuals- all images/documents/videos should be appropriate, interesting, and properly sourced.

3. Comment Quantity- more people engaged in the conversation means more shared points of view.

The winning selection for each month will be added to a special section in our digital library so everyone can see the great work you do.


You can add your submission here: VToM Submission Form


Themes for the 2014-2015 school year:


Why I Love VoiceThread

*This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader Dr. Judy Arzt.

I use this tool in my own teaching, but, more importantly, encourage the teachers in my classes to use it with their students. The app is flexible and works on a variety of devices. For instance, teachers with limited access to technology in their classrooms can download the app to their phone. This suits those who teach the lower grades, starting with pre-k. The young children find phones easy to use and enjoy recording their voice and hearing it back.  Often, they use hand-drawn illustrations from a unit of study, and the teacher uploads these, and the children record a contribution. This format allows for creating collaborative class books, as illustrated in these two examples.


Alliteration, literature project by elementary students


Animals, science project by 1st graders


VoiceThread offered a perfect match for the Alliteration project; hearing the alliteration reinforced that successive words had the same initial sound. The Animals project reviewed science concepts while introducing the genre of non-fiction. Each student voice recorded facts to accompany an hand-drawn illustration of a chosen animal. Students watched the final presentation and voice recorded replies to peers.


A kindergarten teacher, with no access to technology in the classroom, used her phone for young students to create an amusing book, with each child adding a picture and voice comment to develop the story’s plot, characters, and setting.


Mary Had a Toaster


The students enjoyed the experience so much, they created a sequel.

For young children, VoiceThread presents as way to understand content concepts in chunks. One teacher using the phone app created this lesson for her young students.


Fruit Kabob Patterns, math for pre-k students


For students in the upper elementary grades, access to tablets, laptops, or desktops facilitates the process, as illustrated in these examples.


Students Share Their Favorite Books, a collaborative class project created by 6th graders


A Poetry Presentation, a collaborative class project created by 5th graders


The Favorite Book project was one the teacher did annually at the end of the year, with each student writing a book review, with all collected in one print book to be used the following year. This approach limited how many of the new students were able to read the book simultaneously. VoiceThread put a new spin on the project. Now any student could access all the reviews in one place any time and hear the reviews.

For the poetry project, the teacher in the past had each child recite a poem at a Parent Open House. This often caused students to get nervous, and students with special needs were excluded. With VoiceThread, students uploaded the poem they wrote with an illustration and recited the poem. In this way, students had opportunities to re-record their readings, and those students who struggled in a front of a group or who had special needs succeeded. For the latter, the teacher sat with a child and mouthed the words to help the child along with the recording. The use of VoiceThread leveled the playing field and made for a smooth event for the Open House. Parents enjoyed seeing their child’s poem on the “big screen” while hearing the voice recordings. For parents who could not attend, the VoiceThread was a win!

For older students, starting in middle school, when many have mobile devices, the process extends beyond the school day. The teacher posts the VoiceThread, and students add comments via their devices, with replies occurring at the student’s convenience. One of the foreign language teacher from my course uses VoiceThread in this way. The app affords students an excellent way to practice newly acquired skills via the speech, video, and text comment options.

In teaching, I often introduce VoiceThread through a collaborative activity. Recently, in the course, “Integrating Technology and Literacy,” which enrolls pre-k through 6th-grade teachers, we created a VoiceThread of our favorite children’s books. Before class, each person sent me a picture of the book’s cover, and I uploaded each into the app.


Books We Love, Our Favorite Children’s Books

During class, each person voice recorded the reason for the selection and how the book is used with students. This quick demonstration electrified the teachers, who implemented the app with their students, and, in turn, shared out with us their students’ productions, adding to our list of possibilities.

The features of VoiceThread invite a plethora of ways for teachers to re-envision their curriculum. Once introduced to VoiceThread, teachers are stoked to use it with students. The app complements multiple intelligences theory and differentiates instruction, popular trends in education today.


About the Author: Dr. Judy Arzt has been an educator for over 25 and currently teaches graduate courses focused on technology integration. She often presents at national conferences on the topics of digital literacy, digital storytelling, blogging, and Twitter. She is easily accessible via Twitter (@judyarzt) and Google+ (judyarzt). For additional information, see her About.Me page (judyarzt)

You’ll Never Guess Why Clickbait Posts Work So Well

If you’ve spent any time on the web in the last few years, you’ve probably come across hundreds of links with titles like:

Drake just got an emoji tattoo—and you’ll never guess which one” or

Facebook is unveiling something new on Monday” or

You’ll never guess who wants to cater Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s wedding”

(Those are all real headlines, btw)

These are all examples of “clickbait,” a digital marketing trend aimed at enticing readers to click on a link to help generate ad revenue for various news and entertainment sites. So why do we see so many of these types of sensational headlines?

We see so many because they work, and they work because they plant a question in the readers’ minds. The question compels the readers to click on the link to find the answer. Marketers have learned how to harness the power of basic human curiosity to engage people and encourage discovery. They bait the hook with a question and often we are curious enough that we click to find the answer.


Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pasukaru76/

At this point, some of you may be asking, “So what does this have to do with education?” The answer is that digital marketers didn’t really invent this concept; Socrates did. The Socratic Method is fundamentally about designing questions that help the student construct good answers. Like digital marketers, Socrates understood that if you ask the right questions, people can’t help but think about possible answers. It’s a brain hack. Piquing human curiosity isn’t easy but it is a fundamental element of engagement. Engagement starts with questions and ends with answers.

Why are students more curious about who wants to cater Kim and Kanye’s wedding than about how the Milky Way formed? Why are they more curious about Drake’s emoji tattoo than they are about how art and music affected the Vietnam War? If educators have more profoundly interesting content than digital marketers, why are students more curious about clickbait headlines on Upworthy or BuzzFeed than science, history and economics?

Is it because digital marketers are simply better at designing questions? How can this be? Maybe the digital marketers are better at designing questions because they ask more of them. So how do we make our educational content more clickable? Where do we start? Maybe you can start by asking yourself some questions:

When you design lessons are you designing answers for your students to memorize or are you designing questions that compel them to discover? Is your class a monologue or a dialogue? Do you believe in broadcasting answers about content or do you believe in having conversations around it?

We’d love to know what you think, so why not leave a comment below?