Monday, May 12, 2008

Using VoiceThreads with Bill Ferriter

Laila Weir writes in Edutopia on sixth-grade language arts and social studies teacher Bill Ferriter and his use of VoiceThreads with his students at Salem Middle School in North Carolina. Ferriter had a hunch it would work since his students already spent time online outside the classroom. With VoiceThreads, he has been able to extend learning and interaction beyond the classroom walls and regular school hours.

VoiceThreads are "interactive media albums" that contain images, documents or videos that viewers can comment on in one of three ways: by typing a comment, recording an audio or video response, or drawing directly on the image, document or video. VoiceThread is easy to learn and use, a boon for teachers new to Web 2.0 tools and for students who may have varying levels of experience with technology. (A secure site for teachers and students, Ed.VoiceThread, has a fee-based service but one that "should pass even stringent school Web filters.")

Ferriter started small, posting VoiceThreads on a number of topics connected to classroom work and letting students respond voluntarily. He got so many responses, he knew he was onto something. Students are more likely to participate in a digital discussion where shyness and fears of embarrassment, very strong in middle school, are eliminated by nature. Students can also think ahead of time about their responses, something that isn't usually possible in an in-class discussion.

Students can participate in multiple conversations, eliminating another in-class discussion problem according to Ferriter: "In a classroom conversation, there's generally one strand of conversation going at any one time, and if you're bored by that particular strand, you're completely disengaged." One VoiceThread on Darfur elicited thoughtful responses and a lot of participation--Ferriter got over 60 comments from 36 of his 53 students.

The VoiceThread site has great tutorials to get you and students started. VoiceThreads can be private or published and can be embedded in a class or teacher website. Because you can use a telephone to leave an audio response, the need for microphones or webcams are eliminated for students or schools that don't have them. And this also makes the discussion accessible to students of varying levels of ability and technological experience. Ferriter has a wiki that has examples of VoiceThreads and lots of great tips for getting started.

SOURCE: "VoiceThreads: Extending the Classroom with Interactive Multimedia Albums" 04/16/08
photo: screencapture of a VoiceThread tutorial

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