My VoiceThread – Blog and Webinars

Delivering meaningful feedback using VoiceThread

This is a guest post by Eoin Lenihan, a pedagogy lecturer and VoiceThreader.

Students at the University of Augsburg recently took part in a weekend seminar on Evidence-Based Teaching (EBT). One of the key areas of agreement between John Hattie @VisibleLearning and Robert Marzano @MarzanoResearch, the two most influential voices in EBT, is that feedback has one of the most significant teacher-attributed effects on student achievement. The problem with feedback, as Hattie (2009,4) points out, is that the vast majority (80%) of feedback that a student receives in school is from a classmate, and the majority of that (80%) is incorrect. In our seminar, we worked as a group to assess how to deliver better quality teacher and peer feedback. This tied in neatly with another strand of our seminar, the lack of EdTech in the German classroom. VoiceThread was the logical option for enhancing the quality of student feedback while integrating user-friendly EdTech.

Feedback is not simply positive reinforcement, patting a student on the back and saying “nice work”. Praise is welcome but quality feedback is explicitly related to helping a student form an awareness of where he currently stands in relation to realising academic goals and what steps need to be taken next. Essential to feedback is goal-setting, making criteria and rubrics clear and understood and evaluating where a student is in relation to these. Hattie (2011, 5) breaks it down into three steps – “Where am I going?”, “How am I going?” and “Where to next?” One simple method of quality feedback that fulfils these steps is @GeoffPetty’s (2009, 90) “Medal and Mission” routine. A “medal” is awarded where a student meets a goal or where a specific element of his work meets a designated element of the rubric. A “mission” is simply a specific target to help the student continue to improve his performance in relation to the set goal and rubric. We experimented with this method using VoiceThread.

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 2.12.43 PMStudents from the University of Augsburg, Germany give structured feedback using VoiceThread

We designed a poster project rubric and placed a photograph of a semi-completed poster by “Thomas” on our VoiceThread canvas. Students were tasked to read the grading rubric and then leave a VoiceThread comment on Thomas’s work. Our first attempt allowed us to reflect on how we give feedback and our conclusions were revealing. Most feedback was positive reinforcement and there was little direct reference to Thomas’s poster project rubric. Further, comments went on too long, students became lost in their thought processes and there was a great deal of repetition. In short, our feedback was of little academic use to Thomas. Had we not used VoiceThread, these deficiencies would not have been clear to the students and visible to me as the teacher. Like Hattie said, poor Thomas got lots of feedback, just not much of it useful. As a result, we brainstormed how to give Thomas a better chance at academic success.

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 2.13.04 PMStudents brainstorm (using a chalk-talk) how to improve our feedback method

The group decided that to maximise the potential of VoiceThread as a tool for quality feedback, input from students would need to be short. We chose to limit each person to one minute per comment. Comments would focus on academic feedback only by giving each one “medal” and one “mission” per feedback session. These would be strictly worded and linked to the attached rubric: “I am awarding you a medal for…” and “Your mission is…”. This allows the student receiving the feedback to easily comprehend where he needs to go next by integrating these “missions” into his work. Having agreed upon these guidelines, we once more gave Thomas feedback and the results were transformative. Comments were focused, brief and criteria-driven. Without doubt, Thomas will now achieve a better grade in this project and, more importantly, have a deeper understanding of how improved academic performance is related to goals.

Having finished our experimentation, we awarded “medals” to VoiceThread. Here are some of the reasons the students will be using it in their future classrooms.

  • It can be used on any device with an internet connection.
  • As the teacher is the administrator, data is safe and comments are moderated.
  • It provides different ways to communicate and it creates a “visual dialogue”.
  • It is simple to use and wastes no time to set up.
  • It is fun!
  • It is a totally different way to think about feedback.
  • It makes learning visible to parents and it keeps them involved.
  • It gives parents a deeper understanding of the learning process and not just a grade at the end of the year.
  • It allows experts from all around the world to comment on student work.
  • It can be used as a means of collaborative planning for teachers.
  • It can be used as an excellent introductory tool for student-teachers at a school.

For more on how to use VoiceThread to facilitate positive parent communication, join the Education Week roundtable at:


About the Author:

Eoin Lenihan (@EoinLenihan) is a lecturer of Pedagogy at the University of Augsburg, Germany. He has taught at the International School of Augsburg and the Bavarian International School. For more see:

Beat the next snow day


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.

Matthew Phillips Tweet 2

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.  Several school districts across the US, including some in Indiana, Minnesota, and New Jersey, have held virtual school days.  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!

George Haines, an instructional designer and long-time VoiceThreader, will be offering a free, hands-on workshop on February 4 to talk more about how VoiceThread can help you beat the next snow day.

If you would like to learn how to beat your next snow day, join us on February 4th for our free workshop. You can Register Here.


The Multi-Faceted Uses of VoiceThread for Online Undergraduate Instruction

This is a guest post by Susan Bertolino, University Professor and VoiceThreader.

Online education is a part of the college experience. More departments are choosing to include online classes in their course schedule. Many instructors are trained to use Web Ex as a mode of conducting synchronous learning, in which college students meet with their instructor via the internet for class discussion, questions, outlines of assignments and other necessary components of active learning. Yet problems arise with this method. Some students have difficult schedules that cannot allow for certain meeting times. Some students have quirky home Wi-Fi connections, so they do their online work at the college computer lab, where they sit next to other students who use the lab to check Facebook and go on Tumblr instead of doing coursework. How does the online instructor address these problems when the emails come in, saying I work every night, I have to pick up my kids, the lab is crazy busy at that time, my roommate uses the computer for his online class at that time—the list goes on.

Our program decided to address these issues by dispensing with synchronous learning entirely. We use Voicethread as our one common tool, along with Temple University’s Blackboard system that is available for all instructors and students. The advantages are enormous:

* Students choose when they will log into the assignment along with the background material necessary to complete their work.

* Students can choose to record or videotape any comments. (They can also write their comments, but I personally discourage it as I use Voicethread for the interactive benefits.)

* Second language learners can practice speaking their English in a non-threatening environment.

* Voicethread builds community. Once students get used to using the tool, they begin to relax and open up. They see each other online, so they feel they are building relationships with each other, just as they would in an in-person classroom.

* Students who refuse to talk in class feel less pressure when they need to speak, as they are discussing the text on their own terms. Often the shyest students excel with Voicethread.

* Students can comment directly on assignments and powerpoints.

* With a free account, students can create 5 voicethreads. Some students choose this instead of commenting on the comment Voicethread. It is up to the instructor whether he or she is comfortable with separate voicethreads, depending on the assignment.

* The tool is easy to use. Common glitches may come from an outdated flash player; bad Wi-Fi or too many people are accessing the same voicethread.

I use Voicethread with my online and in person classes, as I believe in using educational technology in the classroom. Too many people think of technology as consumption along with instant gratification. It is one thing to write a tweet. It is another to respond to an assignment with page numbers from the text along with personal insights into specific information. Good technology keeps our minds active. Once the student gets used to the format, it all works out. By the final assignment, I don’t get any email that tells me the tool is inaccessible. They know what to do.

I’m including some work from my fall semester of 2014. One combines one of my in-person classes with my online class. I created this assignment as a response to Stud Terkel’s Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do. The first Voicethread assignment asked the students to interview a full-time worker; the second section asked them to reply more about the book Working by Studs Terkel. I deleted some of the answers for the sake of brevity. I also included an interview with my husband as an entertaining way to model the first half of the assignment.

The second assignment pertains to The Death and Life of American Cities by Jane Jacobs. Only my online students participated. It is based on a powerpoint I created on some of the chapters in the texts. Students were asked to comment on key images, using specific terminology from the text.

You will see that Voicethread allows for a lot of teacher commentary to explain the powerpoint. I alternated from comments I created for my summer class to new ones I made for my fall semester one. Both voicethread assignments show how some students choose to use the web camera while others preferred the audio recording. For the powerpoint assignment, I gave them the option to choose; however, for the interview, I asked the students to videotape their interview unless they had a reason not to do so, and that problem needed to be discussed with me.

I hope I have given an overview of how Voicethread works in online classes along with the more traditional classroom format. Speaking for myself, it has opened up my teaching tremendously. Students left the course with better critical thinking skills and a sense of accomplishment on how to use educational software. Voicethread creates a positive teaching tool for any class environment. I encourage all educators to give it a go!

Susan Bertolino has taught in the Intellectual Heritage Program for the past ten years at Temple University. Before moving to Philadelphia, she was a bilingual classroom and resource teacher for K-8 in Chicago–Spanish is her second language. She loves using educational technology in various modes as she thinks it addresses the three primary learning styles: auditory, visual and tactile.

Novel Ideas: A LitWorld VoiceThread Unconference



Are you an educator in the New York City area?

Do you work to improve literacy in schools?

If you answered yes to both questions, then we want you to join us for Novel Ideas: A LitWorld VoiceThread Unconference.

(What is an “unconference“?)

This unconference is for educators who work at the intersection of literacy and technology. At VoiceThread, we believe in conversations, not presentations, and the unconference model embodies that belief. At Novel Ideas, educators will work together to discuss different perspectives on teaching and assessing literacy in the year 2015 and beyond. 


VoiceThread is partnering with LitWorld, the global literacy non-profit, to bring you this event. The goal is to make connections and share innovative ideas about how to improve reading and writing instruction in our blended, hybrid, or online courses.

If you’ve ever been to an EdCamp or any other unconference, you know that the topics of conversation will be designed by you, the participants. Pre-conference planning for Novel Ideas with take place virtually using our planning VoiceThread to pitch ideas and discuss potential topics of conversation.

On the day of the conference, we will hit the ground running. The beautiful living room and loft area in the Flatiron Hotel will comfortably accommodate 75 participants as we huddle up for our breakout conversations.



This event is also part of the build up to World Read Aloud Day, LitWorld’s special global event advocating for reading as a human right.

We encourage all participants to contribute to our Read Aloud VoiceThread Collection in the weeks leading up to Novel Ideas and World Read Aloud Day.

Space at Novel Ideas limited, so if you sign up but can not attend please let us know so we can give your spot to someone on our waiting list.


February 28th 9:00 am – 2:00 pm


Toshi’s Living Room in The Flatiron Hotel

1141 Broadway, New York, NY 10001




9:00-9:30:  Opening remarks and scheduling

9:30-10:15:   Session 1 block

10:20-11:05:   Session 2 block

11:10-11:55:   Session 3 block

12:00-12:45:   Lunch

12:50-1:35:   Session 4 block

1:40-1:55:   Pam Allyn, founding Director of LitWorld

1:50-2:00: Closing remarks




VoiceThread of the Month: January

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.

If your submission is chosen as our winner, and your school doesn’t already have a license, you will win a free license for a year!

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


For January, the theme is:

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day


Do you discuss the impact Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had on American history?

Do you discuss the civil rights movement with your students?

Do your students study the “I Have a Dream” speech?

Then turn those discussions 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 points of view.



You can add your submission here: VToM Submission Form


Themes for the 2014-2015 school year:


VT Update: Comment Moderation

If you have an Ed.VoiceThread license and have opted to allow anyone to view it in the past, you know that Comment Moderation was enabled for you automatically.  After receiving your feedback about the needs of students and teachers, we have updated that policy.

Now, Comment Moderation will not be enabled automatically if you choose to allow anyone to view and comment. There is only one time that Comment Moderation will be enabled automatically, and that is if you opt to publish your VoiceThread to the Browse page.  (Learn more here)

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 7.47.11 AM

Comment Moderation is a powerful tool for assessment, for students who are hesitant to comment if other students can see their work, and for simply making sure that all comments are on-topic and appropriate before allowing your audience to see them.  Learn more about Comment Moderation here.

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 has been a kindergarten teacher for the past 11 years and has worked with students in public, private, and charter schools in the United States and abroad. She is passionate about early childhood education, STEM, and digital storytelling. Catch her on twitter @SarahDiaDiaz for more ideas from her kindergarten classroom.


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:

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