VoiceThread – Blog and Webinars

5 Lessons Classroom Teachers Can Learn From Coaches

Classroom learning is often criticized for being too removed from authentic experience. Coaches rarely face the same criticism and here are a few reasons why. Coaches generally use most of the following approaches to teaching that can be overlooked in the traditional classroom setting:

1. Get to the hands-on practice as soon as possible

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Athletes, just like academic students can’t start doing something until they know what it is they should be doing, but coaches know that with limited time they had better use words economically and get the students practicing and developing an understanding as soon as possible. The goal isn’t to show how much experience the teacher has, the goal is to show how much experience the students have. The only way for them to get that experience is through hands-on practice as often as possible.

2. Formative assessment is vital


Imagine a coach who never gave feedback during practice and then spent hours after the game evaluating players on those very skills. That would seem sort of crazy. Athletes are used to coaches either praising or correcting them after each attempt they make during practice. Formative assessment is non-stop during practice. In the classroom, students often have to wait days or weeks to be assessed through a tool like a quiz or an exam.

3. Authentic assessment is the goal


Would you practice a sport if you knew you’d never play an actual game? Would you listen to your coach if she gave you a multiple-choice exam about the rules and strategies instead of letting you prove your learning on the field? Coaches know that learning the rules and learning the vocabulary are just means to an end. The only yardstick for measuring success is how well the players apply their knowledge in the game. In school we judge students on whether they are familiar with the rules but we don’t judge how well they apply what they learned.


4. Emotion is the primary motivator


Unfortunately, a word often associated with school is “boring.” How it this possible? In school we learn about volcanos, world wars, Shakespeare, civil rights, yet somehow we manage to sanitize it of all emotion. Every subject from history to science has emotional resonance. Every subject can bring out joy, wonder, shock and empathy. School should be an emotionally charged experience. Compare a half-time speech during a playoff game versus a lecture about Stalin. We can learn a lot from coaches.

5. Data can make us better


Coaches use data all the time. They record statistics, tendencies and many other valuable data points. They take all that information and tell a story with math. The story might be “We’ve found our opponents’ weakness and here’s our plan to exploit it” or “We’ve found our weakness and here’s our plan to correct it.”  In essence, the next week’s game plan is data-driven design.

Can you think of any other lessons that classroom teachers can learn from coaches? Let us know in the comments below!

Flipping History Class with VoiceThread

This is a guest post by History teacher and VoiceThread user, Liz Ramos.

Sharing and collaborating with educators on Twitter has been INVALUABLE to me as an educator and my classroom over the past year and a half. I (@historytechie) participate in a variety of educational Twitter chats and have no problem sharing resources and tools that work in my classroom, such as VoiceThread. As a result, I was eduhonored when VoiceThread reached out and asked me to be a guest blogger. I have flipped my World History, AP US History, and AP Government classes over the past three years- while NOT being a 1:1 classroom.

VoiceThread has been a phenomenal tool to get my students annotating and practicing visual literacy. I have shared my experiences with other teachers at county workshops, edcamps, CUE Tech Fair, and California Council for the Social Studies conferences and Classroom Technology Blog…you can say I believe in their product.

My integration of VoiceThread into my classroom arsenal came about when I was struggling to get my students to examine primary sources. They were just NOT getting excited about documents on paper. I had to think…how am I going to “”PIRATE” this lesson? Another issue I had was that I wanted to share the insights some students were making in another period with ALL of my classes. Utilizing VoiceThread for students to record their insights allowed me to share student discussions with other class periods. Then I remembered being introduced to VoiceThread at a Teaching American History workshop.


My students and I went to the computer classroom one day. They were not too excited, because most classes at my site computer lab were research projects. We were changing that mindset! I showed them VoiceThread and their curiosity was piqued. They proceeded to register and begin to use the product. Now students being students, especially in high school, they had fun playing with the writing tool and making comments to other students at first. I was ok with this to get buy in. Boy oh boy did I have buy in from my students. They were working away analyzing documents AND NOT BEMAONING the process…”PIRATE” success. My students are huge fans of the writing tool, audio response, and video comments. Two of their favorite VoiceThreads were examining FDR’s first Inaugural Address as a declaration of war on the economy and Native American Perceptions Through Images.

VoiceThread is great beyond primary source analysis, as I share in presentations for teachers outside of the history classroom. Why not upload an image from your Art, Science or Math curriculum and have students label it? You could also jigsaw the diagram and have different students focus on different components. In Foreign Language or English you could have part of a sentence or story for student to complete or identify the wrong part of speech. VoiceThread is a creative way for a teacher to introduce vocabulary or a scenario and have Foreign Language or English Learners respond orally and practice their speaking fluency.

Here are a few tips from my use of VoiceThread. Beyond their phenomenal image selections, I utilize images from the National Archives quite often. I have found it easy for my students and myself to create a PPT with the images and text. This serves many purposes for me. Class management: I generally pick a bright color as my PPT background. This makes it easy for me to notice on the students’ computer screen and seek out students I need to check up on.

I generally will include a slide or two with instructions and a bit of background for the students. This helps with me not having to repeat myself a million times- you could also have the first response be your written or oral instructions for the students. Don’t be afraid to also place jigsaw instructions in your PPT instructions. If your computers or rows are numbered this will facilitate the process. Let the responses be public at first so they can get a sense of the program. Comment and give feedback on responses and encourage the students to do so as well.


Once they realize this will be public it raises the bar. Then go back and make the responses private. We go back over them the next day and highlight great comments. Don’t just highlight the same students. I found that the quiet students and class joksters would ROCK their responses. Add slide numbers in your PPT- this helps students to pace themselves when you tell them they should be at point x in class. Once you have your “lesson” finished, save your PPT as a JPEG for all slides and then import them into VoiceThread. Lastly, keep your “master” Voicethread clean. Make a copy of the VoiceThread for each class period to make the management easy.

I hope this has been helpful and sparked some ideas! Don’t forget that VoiceThread is also an app that your students can use on their iPads or iPhones.


Liz Ramos is a History and Social Studies teacher at Alta Loma High School in Southern California and Inland Empire Council for the Social Studies Teacher of Excellence.

Do you think about classroom design?

Summer is a great time to think about classroom design. In this VoiceThread, Cristina Milos (@surreallyno on twitter) counters conventional wisdom about classroom design. She discusses her ideas about the drawbacks of “cute” displays, gender perceptions and much more. Take a minute to watch and add your ideas on this thought-provoking VoiceThread from an incredible international educator:

How to Integrate Web Tools into Student-Led Projects

This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThread user, Craig Kemp.

My name is Craig Kemp, a kiwi boy living in Singapore. I am Head of ICT & Learning Innovation at an International School here in Singapore. I am proud to classify myself as a globally connected educator. I love twitter and blogging. My guest blog today is based around some practical experience I have had in the classroom utilising VoiceThread as a tool to support student led projects, in particular PBL (problem based learning).
I am a huge fan of PBL and I use it frequently in my classroom. My role has changed over the past few years and now sees me in a mentor/coaching role for staff members across K-8. My role now is to supply teachers with innovative and engaging ideas that are easy to use and actually save the teacher time (the most important factor for any educator).
A recent example that I am going to focus on today was working with Grade 3 Students and Staff on a Space related project. Not only did we work incredibly hard to globally connect these students with space related experts from all over the world but we integrated many webtools to support their learning. One of the most powerful being VoiceThread.

After some core teaching, inquiry based learning and student led discussions, students had the opportunity to use their own guiding question to seek and extend their learning. Students used VoiceThread to post their question and send links via social media, to parents, to other classes, and to other staff members to collect their ideas.




One student was investigating how space suits protect human beings while in space. We put her question and link out via social media and in an email to the above mentioned contacts and within 24 hours she was able to check out her VoiceThread wall and collate the 20+ responses to her questions which included links to videos, a voice message from an astronaut, an offer to connect to a space suit company in USA plus much more. In an instant she was hooked. She took her student led project above and beyond expectations thanks to the amazing collaborative tool that is VoiceThread.
I look forward to sharing more examples of how I use VoiceThread across my school over the coming months. In particular my use of it in the Mathematics classroom – here is an example of how I used VoiceThread with Year 6 students to assess their knowledge of a Mathematics strategy back in 2011 -http://voicethread.com/?#u298549.b1457021.i7691013
Craig Kemp is the Head of ICT and Learning Innovation at Avondale Grammar School. Stay connected with him via Twitter  and his blog.

Free* (strings attached)

Participating in a VoiceThread conversation is free and unlimited. People around the world use VoiceThread to capture and share their voices, and this has resulted in some amazing examples of human expression and collaboration. All that’s required to register for a Free account is a valid email address. VoiceThread does, however, have an number of accounts that offer upgraded creative and management features, and here’s why:

“Free” services are never actually free. Understanding the revenue model of any service that you use should be important to you, particularly if that service involves the creation, storing, and transport of student data. If you are reading this, it’s likely that you care about this issue as well, so here is what you can say to anyone who asks about VoiceThread and our use of student data: VoiceThread does secretly not sell your student data to anyone and we never will. Our revenue comes directly from subscriptions, no strings attached.


It’s a simple and old-fashioned proposition that provides clarity and transparency to our users. The funds that come from premium subscriptions go toward employing the Development Team who create and maintain VoiceThread, and the Support Team who help you use and implement VoiceThread successfully. They also go toward the world class datacenters that keep VoiceThread humming along with over 99.9% up-time over the last 4 years. There are few companies, even those 100 times our size, that can match that record, and it is no accident.

Our team is simply passionate about their work and strives to “do it right” every time. If VoiceThread, or any other service you may use, is an important part of the way that you teach, create, and collaborate online, think about what you are actually trading to get a “free” product.

We realize that ‘free’ is an attractive word, but don’t forget that companies who give away products aren’t staffed by volunteers. No one hosts and supports their edtech tools because they are simply kind-hearted. They are in business for the same reason as every other company: to make money. To paraphrase Douglas Rushkoff, if the money isn’t coming from you then you’re not the customer; you’re the product.


What is Asynchronous Learning?

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

-Jerry Seinfeld


People hate public speaking because mistakes happen in real-time. We can’t delete something we regret saying to a live audience. All of the factual errors and verbal tics are part of our presentation, like it or not. When your students record their presentations using VoiceThread, they can keep trying until they nail it.


In addition to revising and editing drafts, VoiceThread enables students to record and teachers to assess presentations on their schedule. Live presentations take up valuable class time.

Even when teachers assign group presentations, it might take weeks to complete them all. That means most students are passively consuming information instead of actively learning new concepts. These ideas are core to the rise in popularity of the flipped class, but they apply to every educator in the modern world.

VoiceThread helps us make presentations better and easier at the same time. That’s asynchronous communication and that’s why VoiceThread produces higher quality than real-time tools.



Summer Professional Development with VoiceThread


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

Each session will be led by George Haines, an expert VoiceThreader, curricular 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 can continue asynchronously with VoiceThread after the live session is over.

Mobile Lesson Design – Tuesday, July 15 at 8pm EDT

Classroom walls no longer exist the way they did for the last century. With the surge in flipped classrooms and blended learning models, it is more important than ever for educators to design lessons with mobile technology in mind. In this interactive session, participants will have an opportunity to exchange ideas about mobile lesson design with VoiceThread and connect and share with other educators.

Lesson Design Brainstorm: STEM – Thursday, July 24 at 8pm EDT

Jobs in STEM-related fields are increasing in importance, and today’s students need a deeper understanding of STEM subjects to perform in a global economy. In this interactive session, participants will have an opportunity to exchange ideas about STEM lesson design with VoiceThread and connect and share with other educators. The focus will be on student-centered lesson design and demonstration of understanding.

Lesson Design Brainstorm: English/Language Arts/ESL – Wednesday, August 6 at 3pm EDT

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 creating learning experiences with VoiceThread around improved reading and writing skills. 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.

Lesson Design Brainstorm: Art and Music – Wednesday, August 13 at 3pm EDT

Often overlooked as “special” subjects, Art and Music provide unique opportunities for higher-order thinking skills and creativity. In this interactive session, participants will have an opportunity to exchange ideas about creating engaging Art and Music lessons with VoiceThread. It is our hope that after this session is completed, participants will see lesson design as an art form that can enrich your students’ worldview.

Lesson Design Brainstorm: Social Studies/History – Wednesday, August 20 at 1 pm EDT

History class should be more than memorizing dates and names. Storytelling is one of the best ways to ensure that students understand and retain the patterns that emerge when studying our shared history. In this interactive session, participants will learn innovative strategies to bring those stories to life using VoiceThread.

Group Work from Design to Assessment – Monday, August 25 at 1pm EDT

Collaboration is one of the words we often associate with “21st Century” skills. While students may prefer to work independently, they will not always have that option in the real world. Developing teamwork around learning experiences empowers students to succeed not just in school, but in life. In this interactive session, we will discuss strategies to help make group work with VoiceThread both meaningful and engaging.

We’ve had a great year of VoiceThreading and would love to work with you to make next year even better!

How a “Digital Dinosaur” Adapted to Teaching Online

This is a guest post by VoiceThread user Timothy Lloyd.


Recently, I was asked to do a guest blog by VoiceThread.   I teach an honors level biology course at Norwin High School in North Huntingdon PA.  I would consider myself to be a digital dinosaur, I still have a dumb phone (and I like it) and when my computer at home has issues, I consult my son (whom I often refer to as my IT department) to fix it. 


source: flickr.com/photos/hackaday/

So that takes me to my interest in online education (yes I am trying to acclimate, as I don’t wish to follow in the footsteps of the dinosaurs).   I first became interested in online education as part of a district initiative.  One of the interests that has intrigued me is the how students use the internet and in many aspects utilize online resources.  Last year, I completed an in-service project where I learned to use Moodle. 

I decided to place the course that I teach at school onto Moodle.  The next question that I had to address was how I can present online so that my students can get to that information on “their” schedule.  After considering several options, I decided to use VoiceThread.  What I really liked about VoiceThread is that I could use the same presentation slides that I already used.  But, it actually motivated me to update my PowerPoint slides to introduce more graphics and make them more interesting.  I could then easily convert them to VoiceThreads, and then just add my narration to the slide. 

I found the slides to be easy to update, and I can go in later and change anything that I don’t like or update information as it changes.  When I first began my VoiceThreads, I was a perfectionist, repeating the narrations several times until it was just right.  Once I gained some comfort with the process, I realized that my students already get the unedited version at school so the slides on VoiceThread didn’t really need to be perfect. 

As the year went on, I found that many of my students were getting on me to keep up with the material it was covered in class because they were using it to review after class on any given day and before exams.  So after using VoiceThread for about a year, I have decided to use it to expand the coverage of content in my class, this year I assigned about three chapters to my students through Moodle (using VoiceThread), next year I would like to expand this to 6 chapters.  This will give me more time to cover essential content in school and add supplemental content on-line. 

scubaSource: flickr.com/photos/gshowman/

I am also a SCUBA instructor and am planning to expand my use of VoiceThread into my SCUBA classes over the next year.  I usually teach a Masterdiver class over the winter.  VoiceThread will provide a way to allow my Masterdiver students to make up a missed class or potentially take the class online, especially if they are far away, and meet for the dives over the summer.

Timothy Lloyd teaches Honors Biology at Norwin High School and is also a SCUBA instructor who teaches Masterdiver classes.

How VoiceThread Helped My Work-Life Balance

This is a guest post by VoiceThread user Laura Volpintesta.

I’m so excited to be in my first year teaching fashion illustration for myself. 

6 years ago, as a relatively not-tech-savvy individual, (and full time faculty member/single mother of two at Parsons School of Design Fashion Department,) I was assigned to the project of creating their very first completely online fashion studio and illustration course by my very kind supervisor who figured that teaching a few classes online “would give me more time with my kiddies”.  Well, she was right, since I was teaching 10 studio classes per year.


Image Source: flickr Tina Lawson

In the first year, before VoiceThread, we used a really awkward blog format where each student would scan their artwork /homework and each student in the class would be required to give targeted feedback to  a certain number of their peers.  

The students would get typed feedback from myself from their peers too— a hugely rich source of support and insight from a fashion peer community that is a wonderful for the course.

Enter VoiceThread, recommended by Shira Richman and James O’Connor at the New School University (I teach at Parsons the New School for Design Fashion School).

With the addition of VoiceThread the course took on another slant which was so unique and beneficial that when I launched my own online fashion teaching business Fashion illustration Tribe less than a year ago,  I realized that VoiceThread just had to be a part of it.

VoiceThread was irreplaceable!!!

Students upload their drawing and design/ illustration assignments each week. Not only can we video, record, or type our commentary, cheering each other on, giving each other ideas and perspectives, but as the teacher I can use that pen tool to help them understand exactly where to add in a line of stitching or a missing seam.  When drawing a standing fashion figure, I can show them where the “s-curve” or arabesque is, or how to use the plumb line to balance their drawing so that the figure never looks like they are falling over.

The fact that I can draw on their assignments is that missing piece that no other program offers me.

So FashionIllustrationTribe’s courses use VoiceThread, and that was one intentional choice I made without hesitation.  I think the students are delighted and surprised by that aspect of it.

…And you low what? My supervisor was right. I WAS able to spend more time with my homeschooled kiddies (now teenagers) while teaching online, as my students (who are often mothers, single mothers, and business owners), do. When I was on the Full Time Faculty at Parsons, I used to commute 2 1/2 hours EACH WAY in and out of New York City before VoiceThread.  (Only two days per week, but still….)


Image Source: flickr joiseyshowaa

When the arrival of my third child 4 years ago forced me to give up my full time position, I became vehemently passionate about changing the “shape” of our careers and educations to integrate with the realities of our family and creative lives.  VoiceThread is part of this new culture that is changing family life, changing the economy and bringing parents home—making dreams come true while balancing work, study, and life.


Laura Volpintesta teaches Fashion at Parsons School of Design, she is the Founder of FashionIllustrationTribe.com, an online Fashion Design course and community.