VoiceThread – Blog and Webinars

Beat the next snow day

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When Matthew Phillips, a business instructor from Wake Forest University, learned one morning that his evening class would be canceled, he turned to VoiceThread as a “just-in-time solution” to hold class anyway. Even though he’d never done it before, he quickly created a VoiceThread, tweeted the link to his students, and then actively participated with them that evening. “Since Wake Forest University has a campus license,” explained Mr. Phillips, “we didn’t really have any problems. Only 1 of my 90 students had trouble, and his problem was fixed in about 40 seconds.”

Mr. Phillips has held three canceled classes with VoiceThread, and he’s found that “students get the experience of a real conversation better than with any other single solution.” The majority of his students say that they prefer using VoiceThread instead of a simple recorded lecture when they can’t be in class. Now that he has some experience, he says he’ll also use VoiceThread for a larger variety of activities, including “flipped classroom” discussions and bonus content for students.

iPad 2School closures have affected students of all ages, and some districts have already exceeded their allotted snow days for the year. With ever-growing technology initiatives and one-to-one programs, however, not all of those schools lost that class time. One school district is even hoping to be able to declare its first virtual day. Read more here. VoiceThread is a perfect fit for those days that you can’t be in class. Students can participate whenever and wherever it’s convenient for them, they can collaborate and ask questions around the material, and since there are no time constraints, you can require participation from each and every student. See an example in the VoiceThread Library.

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!

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iOS App Updates – Version 2.0

This update to the VoiceThread iOS Mobile App includes exciting new features and enhancements. VoiceThreading on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch has never been better!

Watch the video above and leave a comment to tell us what you think!

Simplified navigation

Tabs have been reorganized and reduced to allow simpler navigation to the parts of VoiceThread you use most often.

Secure sharing with Groups

Share your VoiceThreads securely with any of your existing Groups.

Sharing via SMS

Share the link to your VoiceThread in a text message.

Sharing via Twitter

If you have Twitter enabled on your device, tweet a link to your VoiceThread instantly.

Integrated quick search

You can now search any of your VoiceThread lists just by typing in a few letters at the top. This will make finding your VoiceThreads much easier and faster.

Sign-in assistance

VoiceThread can now read the email address being entered at sign-in and smartly inform the member where they should go to sign in properly. This greatly improves the experience for those using their mobile devices (and for those that manage them).
*Requires proper configuration – contact us for details.

Simplified sign-in for K-12

K-12 students using fictitious VoiceThread email addresses can now sign into their accounts using their usernames instead of their addresses. This is great for those students, but also for those who are responsible for getting them all signed in and working.

Improved Doodling

A new toggle button allows you to decide whether you want your Doodles to fade over time or remain on the slide for the duration of your comment. This allows you to choose whether the annotations behave like a pointing device or like a pen.

Enhanced stability

We’ve introduced a number of fixes and enhancements that will make the App quicker and more stable overall.

Native camera support

The camera interface is now iOS native, which means it uses the same interface as the iOS camera app, including the flash and autofocus.

Activity view

One-tap access to recent comments is now available in the redesigned Activity tab, and those comments are also listed on each VoiceThread page as well. Whether you want to see all recent activity on the Activity tab or just the recent comments in a single VoiceThread, both views are easy to access.

Support for iOS 7

The App is now ready and waiting for iOS 7, so feel free to indulge your need to be an early adopter of this next version of iOS.

Click here for more information about using the App.

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Google Apps and LTI Integration

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Organizations that integrate with VoiceThread experience as much as 5 times the use and spend 1/5th the resources on support and training as organizations that do not integrate. Simply put, seamless integration is the key to effective use of technology in education.

Our integration toolset is now more advanced than ever. Earlier this year, we introduced support for the LTI standard, which enables remarkably fast, simple, and robust integration across a wide variety of learning management systems, including Blackboard, Sakai, ANGEL, Desire2Learn, Canvas, and Moodle.

We are now happy to announce the arrival of integration with Google Apps for Education. Bring VoiceThread right into your students’ and teachers’ Google accounts in minutes. It is simple to set up and even simpler to use.

  • Single sign-on: no new username or password to learn
  • Instantaneous integration: The simplest setup possible of any integration framework
  • Improved experience: The entire VT toolset is seamlessly available within your LMS or Google domain

Overview of LTI integration    Overview of Google Apps integration    Other Options

To learn more about integration and licensing options for your school or district, inquire here.

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New Developments and Account Changes

VoiceThread has one of the most diverse populations of users of any communications tool in the world. Voice? Text? Video? All of these options are available within the same conversation, each person choosing for themselves the best method to participate. This diversity is by design. We want people to participate in the way that works best for them. With that goal in mind, we have added some new features that expand the way you use and experience VoiceThread conversations.

 

Support for Closed Captioning is live on both the Web Application and VoiceThread Universal. Not only can you view captions, but you can also add CC files to any video file uploaded to VoiceThread.  Just look for the “CC” button in the top-right corner of any VoiceThread slides that contain videos.

 

Be notified immediately when someone leaves a comment on any VoiceThread that you have created or that has been shared with you. Just click the link in the email notification to hear the new comment.  If you decide you no longer want to get instant updates on that one conversation, you can opt out with a single click. Simple, and speedy.

 

Instead of listening to your new comments as they come in, access ALL new comments in a new view called the Activity Feed. The recent comments are listed chronologically by date, time and VoiceThread. A single click will open up the conversation and take you right to them.

 


Free Account Changes

Free account holders will receive all the new upgrades stated above, but the following two changes have been made to that account type:

  • VoiceThreads can no longer be deleted.
  • Secure sharing is not available. You can still share simply with a share link, but you cannot set and control specific security settings.

Click here to upgrade to an account type that does not have these limitations.

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LTI – Learning Tools Interoperability now available

We have some very good news to report today, well at least if simplicity is important to you, or lowering the workload for your ITS staff, or lowering your operating costs, or future proofing your long term IT planning? VoiceThread is now officially LTI conformant. Available to every institutional VoiceThread partner, LTI represents not only the future of standards-based interoperability, but also the core values of VoiceThread itself: increasing accessibility, simplifying the user experience, and making technology disappear into the background.

What is Learning Tools Interoperability? The short answer is that it’s a common technical standard created by IMS Global, whose mission is to ‘Advance Learning Impact by Enabling the Open Foundation for Seamless, Agile and Information-Rich Educational Technology Integration.’ Yes, that’s a mouthful, but now let’s see what that concept means when applied to real-world stakeholders:

• For Students – VoiceThread, and multi-sensory communication, becomes a seamless part of the LMS and of their teaching and learning interaction with professors and peers.

• For Faculty – On day one of a course, and for each day afterward, the roster is created automatically so that as students sign in, they are given accounts and appropriate access to the course content.

• ITS support staff – Professional development and training is significantly reduced in scope as faculty and students are given fewer technical management tasks that need to be documented, taught, and supported. In addition, LTI setup is standards based and remarkably easy to implement.

• CIO and Organization Leaders – Because the LTI standard is a broadly supported across all the major LMS providers, using it to integrate with VoiceThread makes any future LMS roadmap changes extremely safe. The ability to lower IT costs is predicated on choice, and tools that integrate via LTI can be migrated with ease from platform to platform.

Lastly, VoiceThread itself is a stakeholder in all this. Our core area of expertise has always been making multi-sensory communication simple to use and highly accessible for people all over the world. LTI allows us to pursue our central mission instead of getting bogged down building and supporting complex plug-ins for the various LMS platforms. When we are allowed to focus on our strengths, we build low-cost, enterprise tools that make everyday people communicate more effectively and, importantly, smile. LTI allows us to do this, and we’d like to thank all the people at the IMS Global Learning Consortium for recognizing the need for open learning-technology standards and then doing all the hard work to make them happen, kudos.

If you are interested in integrating with VoiceThread, please send us an inquiry at integration@voicethread.com.

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VoiceThread as a discussion board

VoiceThread makes a powerful replacement for traditional, text-based discussion boards. While flat text scrolls and pushes the topic of conversation off the screen, VoiceThread allows for richer, more dynamic conversations that take place around the topic rather than below it.

Creating the VoiceThread
Go to the Create page and upload a piece of media to “anchor” the discussion. This can be an image that relates to the conversation, a thought-provoking quote, a document, or just about any piece of media that ties to the topic. The conversation will take place around this media.

Be sure to give the VoiceThread a title and description so that participants can easily find it.

Starting the conversation
Begin by leaving a voice or webcam comment. Record a brief introduction and explain exactly what participants should do. If they are not encouraged to comment, they might not realize that they can.

The first comment on the VoiceThread often establishes the level of discourse. If it is an audio comment that is thoughtful and well-articulated, others’ comments tend to reflect that same quality.

*Tip: If there is a particularly good comment that others should see first and emulate, use comment re-ordering to move that comment to the beginning of the conversation.

Managing the conversation
Each time a new comment is recorded on the VoiceThread, participants will see a yellow comment notification on the MyVoice page. This is a great way to instantly track when new comments are recorded. Click here to learn more.

Participants also receive a Daily Digest, which is a daily email listing of all comments made in the past 24 hours on VoiceThreads that a person has created, had shared with him/her, or subscribed to.

Click here to learn more.

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Using Groups to facilitate easy sharing

Groups make sharing and organizing VoiceThreads quick and easy. Knowing how to create and manage Groups is key for any course.

Creating Groups manually
Any Pro Educator or Pro account holder can create a Group and invite other people to join. Instructors may create as many Groups as they’d like.

Click here to download a printable Group Creation Guide.

Groups can be created for any purpose, whether it’s to share VoiceThreads with a whole course section, to break students into smaller Groups, or to share VoiceThreads for a specific project.

VoiceThread Information Systems Integration (VISI)
VoiceThread offers automatic Course-Group creation with the VoiceThread Integration Package. Have your technology facilitator or IT team contact us for more information.

Learn more about VISI.

Drag-n-Drop sharing with a Group
Once the Group is created, sharing a VoiceThread with it is as easy as dragging a file into a folder. Click and drag a VoiceThread from the MyVoice page into a Group on the left side of the page, and let go. That VoiceThread is instantly shared with all the members of that Group.

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Video commenting

Commenting on a video in VoiceThread is a powerful way to communicate. While leaving a voice or webcam comment on a video, a commenter can play the video as he/she speaks, use the timeline to scrub to a different location in the video, and pause it at any location, all while using the Doodler to annotate on the video. See the sample below, and create a video comment of your own!

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Comment Moderation

A VoiceThread can be one of two very different types of conversation space. The first is an open discussion where all comments are visible to anyone who can see the VoiceThread. The other is one where comments are kept hidden and are only visible to the person who created the VoiceThread. Comment Moderation is what makes this second type of discussion space possible.

Enable Comment Moderation in the Publishing Options for a VoiceThread by following these steps:

1. Go to the MyVoice page.
2. Click on the gear menu icon in the corner of the VoiceThread.
3. Select “Edit.”
4. Click on the “Publishing Options” button at the bottom of the page.
5. Check the box that says “Moderate Comments?”
6. Click “Save.”

As soon as Comment Moderation is enabled, all future comments on that VoiceThread will be moderated. Learn more about revealing comments below.

Comment Moderation is useful any time the commentary on a VoiceThread should be private by default. Some scenarios include:

Public VoiceThreads
When inviting the public to participate in a conversation, a VoiceThread creator risks getting a larger volume and lower quality comments than with a private conversation. Comment Moderation allows the creator to view all new comments before deciding to allow everyone else to see them. The creator can control the quality of the conversation and the number of comments that participants can see.

Individual Assessment
Comment Moderation is a great way to evaluate individual learning. Have students respond to a prompt, evaluate themselves, or express an opinion while assuring them that their comments will be private. Individual comments can always be revealed later in the case that an instructor wants to showcase an exemplary comment or allow students to see each other’s work.

Critique
It’s often important for students to critique each other’s work. Comment Moderation will allow an instructor to screen all criticism to make sure it is constructive before allowing the other participants to view it.

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