What is VoiceThread Anyway?
“A VoiceThread is a collaborative, multimedia slide show that holds images, documents, and videos and allows people to leave comments in 5 ways - using voice (with a mic or phone), text, audio file, or video (via a webcam). Share a VoiceThread with friends, students, and colleagues for them to record comments too” (VoiceThread, 2008, p.1). YouTube offers up multiple pages of VoiceThread videos providing tutorials, educational platforms for integration, and quick guides for new users. TeacherTube hosts just as many selections for VoiceThread video tutorials, in addition connects viewers to videos specific to classroom instructional frameworks. What better idea to introduce students to the concept of creating their own VoiceThread by playing a tutorial video titled How To Use VoiceThread moderated by two elementary students.
Voice Thread is a Web 2.0 application that captures and publishes educational voices. Brenda Dyck (2007) points out that by giving children a voice in education we support educational philosopher John Dewey’s work claiming “that the inclusion of student voice is a necessary step in learning (p.10). She further describes VoiceThread as an important tool which provides students the opportunity to record educational commentary about experiences important in their personal learning.
Creating a VoiceThread
In order to create a VoiceThread, you must first create an online account using the VoiceThread homepage. Signing up for an account, like most other Web 2.0 tools, was a simple process using an email address and creating a personal password. As usual, I jumped instantly into the tool’s ‘create’ mode by uploading digital pictures from one of my travel adventures. In each new Web 2.0 application I use, I like to go straight into working in the application and compare the ease in which users (like me) can navigate through the learning and creating process. There are three main tabs: Browse, Create, and MyVoice. The Browse tab gives users the opportunity view new files in three categories: Today, This Week, This Month. It is amazing scroll through the three category pages of the Browse tab and see the diverse range of topics and image for each thumbnail.
Clicking on the Create tab opened up a blank page for uploading images, documents or video. I had no difficulties uploading a small group of digital pictures from my computer. There are several other pathways for uploading including Flickr, Facebook, existing VoiceThread files and direct URL addresses. I arranged the digital pictures into order and gave each slide a title. Using my trusty inexpensive microphone, I recorded brief comments for each picture. The recording process took longer than I had anticipated. While not a difficult task, I was not satisfied with my recording the first time through for any of my eight pictures. The finished product was now ready for uploading to my blog. Using the Share button in the Create tab provides three options before uploading or embedding the final product. Users have options such as private/public viewing, moderation on/off feature and listing your project on the VoiceThread browser. The application defaults to private, so in order to share this on my blog I had choose the public option. This was something I did not realize at first because I embedded my VoiceThread and in trying to view it for the first time online I received a message saying that this was a private VoiceThread and was not viewable. Easy problem to fix. I re-embedded my now public VoiceThread using the Blogger choice as my uploading destination. My first VoiceThread was created and posted on my blog.
The Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies (C4LPT) ranked VoiceThread in spring 2008 in the top 25 free online Web 2.0 tools educators should have in their toolbox. VoiceThread is a versatile tool for both educators and students to utilize within instructional and learning environments.
VoiceThread promotes asynchronous discussion and learning for all subject areas. An asynchronous is advantageous because it gives students control over when and where they conduct their learning and participation in a VoiceThread project. Asynchronous learning also supports flexible scheduling for collaboration between students to work at their own pace.
It encourages collaborative feedback and interaction on a project for participants and viewers to collectively share thoughts and narrate while watching simultaneously.
Using this tool naturally supports differentiated learning by supporting students who have difficulties communicating through the writing process. Verbal-linguistic learners can thrive in this type of learning environment as the tool provides oral narration and storytelling participation preferences.
This application is also a great investment for educators to focus on teaching new multimedia skills, building interactive participation for all and developing new approaches to curricular projects while infusing ICT outcomes.
The amount of educators using VoiceThread is growing rapidly. There is no shortage of ideas, project initiatives, resources and professional development online. One of the first websites to visit would be the Delicious VoiceThread Tag. There are over 6000 bookmarks tagged using this application, more than enough resources to encourage first time creators to jump right in.
What’s the Buzz?
Comments posted on the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies (2008) website from educators who classify VoiceThread as one of their favourite ‘must use’ Web 2.0 tools this year:
"I love the collaboration feature of this tool. It's great for digitalstories and even greater because participants can comment on each other's stuff...with audio!" by Janice Petosky
"Social audio and social imagery personified. A perfect demonstration of how digital media can be integrated into the curriculum and at the same time explains the value of digital storytelling." Andrew Middleton
"Again, new, and FREE. I’ve had students creating and commenting on each others’ projects. Nice work, easy tool, good fun." John Curry
Examples of VoiceThread Resources
Educational Software Wiki
A wiki dedicated to VoiceThread tutorials, projects, classroom ideas and embedded examples.
EdTechTalk: #112 VoiceThreads
The Teachers Teaching Teachers series on EdTechTalk podcast narrative discussion on VoiceThread in education.
VoiceThread 4 Education Wiki
A comprehensive collection of educational focuses using VoiceThread.
VoiceThread for Educators Ning
This Ning site is for educators who develop, build and collect VoiceThread resources for use in their own classroom.
Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies. (2008). Top tools. Retrieved from http://c4lpt.co.uk/Top100Tools/voicethread.html
Dyck, B. (2007). VoiceThread: Capturing and sharing student voice with an online twist. Retrieved from http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/columnists/dyck/dyck019.shtml
VoiceThread. (2008). About VoiceThread. Retrieved from http://voicethread.com/about/