My VoiceThread – Blog and Webinars

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.

alone

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 courses. 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!

Workshop Archive: January and February 2015

It was great to work with all the wonderful educators who participated in our January and February workshops! If you missed any, 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!


Hands-On Workshop #1: Creating a VoiceThread


Hands-On Workshop #2: Groups and Secure Sharing


Hands-On Workshop #3: Moderating, Re-ordering and Copying


Beat the Next Snow Day with VoiceThread

Full Recording

Brainstorm VoiceThread:


Collaborating with Experts

Full Recording

Brainstorm VoiceThread:


 Storytelling with VoiceThread

Brainstorm VoiceThread (includes full recording on the last slide):


You can find out about our March and April workshops and register here:

March and April Workshops


 

 

 

How to: Write and Read using VoiceThread and Storybird

Read alouds are a staple in many classrooms around the world. We know that read alouds can be beneficial for both older and younger students. Creating a VoiceThread read aloud can be a wonderful learning experience for all students and a great way to assess reading ability for their teachers.

However, listening to students reading a published work by an author they love on a VoiceThread is tricky when we consider copyright and fair use rules. The good news is that you don’t need to violate copyright laws to create VoiceThread read alouds. One way to get around copyright issues is to have students read original works that they write themselves by using storybird and VoiceThread together!

Instead of using read alouds to assess reading ability alone, why not have give your students experience both writing and reading their own work? If you want to give it a try, we broke down the process into 16 easy steps.


STEP 1: Login to storybird.com.


 

STEP 2: Click on “write” in the upper-left.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 11.28.19 AM


 

STEP 3: Scroll or search through the images and click on one that you like.


 

STEP 4: Click “use this art”.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 11.32.02 AM


 

STEP 5: Choose which style of writing you’re doing.

(For this example, we chose a poem)

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 11.34.15 AM


 

STEP 6: If you are creating a poem, simply drag the words where you like.

drag

Optional Step: If you don’t like the word choices, just click the refresh button in the bottom-right corner

refresh


STEP 7: When you are satisfied with your poem, click “menu” then “publish”.

publish


STEP 8: Give your poems tags, then click “continue”.

tags


Now that your poem is complete, it’s time to turn it into a VoiceThread so you can read it aloud!

STEP 9: Take screenshots of their storybird stories.

On a Windows machine, use the “snipping tool”

snippingtool

On a Mac use command+shift+4

commandshift4-1


STEP 10: Login to VoiceThread.com


STEP 11: To upload those images to a VoiceThread, click “create”.

create


STEP 12: Click “Add Media” then search “My Computer” for the images.

addmedia

 


STEP 13: Once the images are processed, click “comment”.

comment


STEP 14: Select either audio or webcam as your commenting method, record your narration and click save.

audiowebcam

 


STEP 15: In the upper-left corner, click on the menu then click “share”.sharemenu


STEP 16: When the sharing window opens, click on the “basic” tab, then click “copy link” then paste it on your website or in an email to share it.

basiclink

 

 


That’s all there is to it!

If you create on original read aloud using storybird and VoiceThread, let us know. We’d love to see your work, so feel free to paste your link in the comment section below!

Free Workshops: March and April

Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 1.54.58 PMVoiceThread is hosting 7 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.


Teaching Languages with VoiceThreadFULL

In this interactive session, participants will exchange ideas about creating learning experiences with VoiceThread around improved reading and writing skills in any language. 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.

March 11th, 7:00 pm ET: FULL- If you would like to receive the full recording the following day, please add your contact info here: Mailing List


Flipping Your Class with VoiceThread- FULL

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” content that encourages students to think.

March 18th, 7:00 pm ET: FULL- If you would like to receive the full recording the following day, please add your contact info here: Mailing List


 Basics #1- Creating a Basic VoiceThreadFULL

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.

March 25th, 7:00pm ET: FULL- If you would like to receive the full recording the following day, please add your contact info here: Mailing List


Basics #2- Using Groups and Secure Sharing- FULL

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

April 1st, 7:00 pm ET: FULL- If you would like to receive the full recording the following day, please add your contact info here: Mailing List


 Basics #3- Moderating, Re-ordering and Copying- FULL

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

April 15th, 7:00 pm ET: FULL- If you would like to receive the full recording the following day, please add your contact info here: Mailing List


Basics #4- VoiceThread and your LMS (evening session) FULL

In our final workshop in this series, participants with an integrated school or site license will learn how to use VoiceThread from within their Learning Management System (LMS). With LMS integration educators can create and share VoiceThreads and grade student work.

April 22nd, 7:00 pm ET:FULL- If you would like to receive the full recording the following day, please add your contact info here: Mailing List


Basics #4- VoiceThread and your LMS (day session) FULL

In our final workshop in this series, participants with an integrated school or site license will learn how to use VoiceThread from within their Learning Management System (LMS). With LMS integration educators can create and share VoiceThreads and grade student work.

April 29th, 1:00 pm ET: FULL- If you would like to receive the full recording the following day, please add your contact info here: Mailing List


 

 

 

Connecting Students for World Read Aloud Day

Connecting your students with other classes around the globe for World Read Aloud Day can be tough. Scheduling a live skype session with a school in a different time zone can be a deal-breaker for what would otherwise be a wonderful learning experience for your students.  Even when you overcome the scheduling issues, technology can fail to cooperate. Sometimes their mic isn’t working, sometimes your bandwidth ruins the idea, sometimes the server goes down or your principal decides to have a fire drill halfway through.

The good news is that you can still execute these ideas and not have to worry about the problems if you use VoiceThread for an asynchronous collaboration. At VoiceThread, we understand the issues surrounding global collaborations and we want to help you avoid the pitfalls of synchronous scheduling, high-pressure troubleshooting and bad timing.

We would like to empower you to create rich, memorable learning experiences like this:

If you want to connect with other schools for collaborative read alouds, there are a few options. If both teachers have a Pro Educator License, they can share editing rights to a single VoiceThread. Even if one or more of the teachers is using our free trial account, you can still collaborate. Below you will find the steps you need to get your collaboration off the ground.

Collaboration between Pro Educators

1. Login to your VoiceThread account.

2. Go to your “Groups and Contacts” screen.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 4.19.43 PM

3. Add the other teacher to your contacts.

4. Create your VoiceThread either by using your webcam to record students reading, or by uploading images and having your students record audio comments for each image.

5. Click on share.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 4.26.22 PM

6. Share your VoiceThread with the other teacher. In the “secure” tab, search your contacts for the other teacher and click on them. Then click “edit” and click the blue share button.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 4.30.54 PM

7. The other teacher will be notified that you shared the VoiceThread and they can upload and edit it with their own students.

8. Finished!


 Collaboration between free accounts

1. Login to your VoiceThread account.

2. Create your VoiceThread either by using your webcam to record students reading, or by uploading images from the book and having your students record audio comments for each image.

3. Ask your collaboration partner to email you the screenshots from their book. (Free trial users cannot share editing rights, so one of you will need to do all the uploading for both groups)

4. Click “share”

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 4.26.22 PM

5.  Click on the “Basic” tab and then click “copy link”. You can paste the link in an email and send it to your collaboration partner.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 5.10.31 PM

 

6. Your collaboration partner can have their students record their portion of the read aloud as audio or webcam comments.

7. Finished!


Let us know if you have any questions or comments about creating an asynchronous read aloud collaboration using VoiceThread. If you need help connecting with another school, let us know and we can help.

We would love to see your work and share it with the VoiceThread community! You can share your read alouds here: VoiceThread Read Alouds

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: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teaching_ahead/2015/01/keep-your-students-close-but-your-parents-closer.html#comments


 

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: www.eoinlenihan.com.