The website/app EVERY teacher can use

October 11, 2012

in ed tech, really cool stuff

This is an awesome free resource that promotes critical thinking and collaboration in any subject area, at any grade level!Voicethread is my absolute favorite classroom technology tool because it so amazingly versatile and has an almost limitless number of uses. I share it with every single teacher I coach and I thought I’d share it with you all, too. Not only will you love it, but your students will, too.

 

What makes Voicethread so awesome?

  • It’s an easy way to promote collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity
  • It can be used for any subject and any grade level
  • You don’t have to be tech-savvy to understand it
  • If you have access to even one computer or mobile device, you can use Voicethread with your students
  • Through one login, you can switch back and forth between the website and the app seamlessly
  • The interface is extremely easy to use and isn’t constantly changing
  • Voicethread Universal is compatible with screen-readers and great for students with visual impairments
  • You can create Voicethreads for FREE!

What exactly IS Voicethread?

The best way to explain Voicethread is via the quick overview video above. Or check out this summary from the Voicethread site:

“Group conversations are collected and shared in one place from anywhere in the world. All with no software to install. A VoiceThread is a collaborative, multimedia slide show that holds images, documents, and videos and allows people to navigate slides and leave comments in 5 ways - using voice (with a mic or telephone), text, audio file, or video (via a webcam).

Share a VoiceThread with friends, students, and colleagues for them to record comments too. Users can doodle while commenting, use multiple identities, and pick which comments are shown through moderation. VoiceThreads can even be embedded to show and receive comments on other websites and exported to MP3 players or DVDs to play as archival movies.”

How much does it cost?

The main drawback of Voicethread is that educators are no longer given free unlimited accounts. Fortunately, under the current plan, it’s free to create 3 web-based Voicethreads with up to 50 slides each and unlimited commenting. You also get 5 free Voicethreads on mobile devices using the app. If you want unlimited Voicethreads via the app, it’s $5.99/month. A classroom subscription for the web-based version of Voicethread is $15/month or $60/year.

Keep in mind that if you create individual (free) accounts for your students, you can create new Voicethreads that way. So not only will you have the 3 free Voicethreads under your own account, if you have a class of 25 kids and each one gets 3 web-based Voicethreads free, that’s 78 Voicethreads your class can use throughout the school year.

How can I use Voicethread in my classroom?

I love this example of a Voicethread created by a young group of students (probably kindergarten or 1st grade). Each student created a picture via Kidspiration or a similar digital drawing program/software, and the teacher uploaded the pictures to the Voicethread. (You could also have students draw on paper and then either scan the drawings or take photos of them.) Each student then described his or her picture by typing words or recording video or audio. The link to the Voicethread was shared with students’ families so they were able to watch the Voicethread from home (via their computers, phones, etc.) and leave their own written or video/audio comment for the child.

As the Voicethread plays, watch the little icons on the left and right sides which represent the people who are commenting on the Voicethread. You can click ahead to the next slide by pressing the arrow on the right side. The gray bar at the bottom will let you skip ahead within the current slide to get to later comments.

In this Voicethead, the teacher has provided math problems to her upper elementary students. The students work collaboratively to explain how their group solved each problem. This Voicethread makes great use of the doodle function, where you can draw right on the image you’re discussing.

This Voicethread is from a middle school science class. Each students studied an insect and used a digital camera and proscope to capture images of the insects. They used Voicethread to share their findings with the class.

What are some other Voicethread project ideas?

  • Connect and share ideas with penpals in another state or country–way better than just writing letters!
  • Record events on a field trip via photo/video and have students reflection on their learning
  • Take a photo of a math problem and have students share strategies for solving it
  • Create a class book: each student has one page which they read aloud to practice fluency and expression
  • Upload video of students giving presentations or acting out skits and allow peers and families to give feedback
  • Discuss or debate an image or video: great for political cartoons, art work, historical artifacts, scientific evidence, etc.
  • Add photos from a text students are reading and have them re-tell the story in their own words
  • Instead of book reports or regular research projects, have each student create a Voicethread to share images and tell about them
  • Practice foreign language skills via discussing and describing images and videos, or by having students write and read a script

This Voicethread Examples in Education slideshare is from Suzie Vesper. Some of the links to the Voicethreads no longer work, but you can still get some nice project ideas from the slideshare.

I found the slideshare as well as the example projects above on the Voicethread 4 Education Wiki, a wonderful site where you can find more examples of real classroom projects organized by grade level. On the main page, there is also a Voicethread where teachers talk about how they use the program in their classrooms.

How do I introduce Voicethread to my students?

Voicethread is simple enough that you don’t have to spend a lot of time teaching your students the technical aspects of how to use it, but it’s really important to provide guidelines so they understand how to make the most of the tool. This student introduction to Voicethread is a wonderful Google Doc of do’s and don’ts.

It’s a good idea to have students write out what they want to say in advance and then record the audio or video. I love this handout for students to take notes on when previewing a Voicethread: it really helps students plan. This handout guides students through leaving constructive comments on a Voicethread so they can leave constructive comments than encourage high-quality discussions. (Both of these handouts are via Bill Ferriter).

Where can I find more Voicethread resources?

Have you used Voicethread with your students? Share your experiences in the comments!

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Angela Watson was a classroom teacher for 11 years and has turned her passion for helping other teachers into a career as an educational consultant based in Brooklyn, NY. As founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services, she has published 3 books, launched a blog and webinar series, designs curriculum resources, and conducts seminars in schools around the world. Check out the free teacher resource pages for photos, tips & tricks, activities, printables, and more.

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