Participating in a VoiceThread conversation is free and unlimited. People around the world use VoiceThread to capture and share their voices, and this has resulted in some amazing examples of human expression and collaboration. All that’s required to register for a Free account is a valid email address. VoiceThread does, however, have an number of accounts that offer upgraded creative and management features, and here’s why:
“Free” services are never actually free. Understanding the revenue model of any service that you use should be important to you, particularly if that service involves the creation, storing, and transport of student data. If you are reading this, it’s likely that you care about this issue as well, so here is what you can say to anyone who asks about VoiceThread and our use of student data: VoiceThread does not secretly sell your student data to anyone and we never will. Our revenue comes directly from subscriptions, no strings attached.
It’s a simple and old-fashioned proposition that provides clarity and transparency to our users. The funds that come from premium subscriptions go toward employing the Development Team who create and maintain VoiceThread, and the Support Team who help you use and implement VoiceThread successfully. They also go toward the world class datacenters that keep VoiceThread humming along with over 99.9% up-time every year. There are few companies, even those 100 times our size, that can match that record, and it is no accident.
Our team is simply passionate about their work and strives to “do it right” every time. If VoiceThread, or any other service you may use, is an important part of the way that you teach, create, and collaborate online, think about what you are actually trading to get a “free” product.
We realize that “free” is an attractive word, but don’t forget that companies who give away products aren’t staffed by volunteers. No one hosts and supports their edtech tools because they are simply kind-hearted. They are in business for the same reason as every other company: to make money. To paraphrase Douglas Rushkoff, if the money isn’t coming from you, then you’re not the customer; you’re the product.
This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader, Austin Fleischer.
One of the biggest challenges with technology in education today is trying to navigate through the enormous amount of apps and websites that are available. I have been fortunate enough to work in a district that is one to one with technology. This has allowed me to explore a large variety of apps and create a list that we call our Core Tools. VoiceThread is one of our core tools that we use inside my classroom on a regular basis.
Our Core Tools allow us to create and collaborate with each other. VoiceThread has the unique ability to do both. It is as simple as you creating a question for the students and they can answer it using their voice, video, or text. The students answer the question on their own then you can listen to it later. All of the students’ answers are kept together and with a click of a button they play one after another. It is an easy way to check for understanding of a topic from all subject areas.
One way that I have used VoiceThread in my classroom is after our field trip to the City of Fairview Park. The students had an opportunity to visit all the departments of City Hall as part of our local government unit. After the field trip I created a VoiceThread and asked them what their favorite part of City Hall was or one new thing that they learned. I was even able to attach a photo from the field trip that the students could see as they answered the question. Once all the students responded to the question we listened to each other’s answers as a class. This was a great way to reflect back on our field trip and have a discussion about what we learned and saw.
After we listened to each other’s answers it was just a few clicks to email your entire VoiceThread or share it to Twitter.
My favorite part about VoiceThread is it allows you freedom to use it in many different areas inside the classroom. I tend to use it a lot for my students’ morning work or at the end of a lesson as a quick assessment. It also allows students who tend to not raise their hand to have a voice without being nervous about speaking in front of a whole classroom. The students can edit their comments if they do not like how it sounds the first time. If VoiceThread is not one of your Core Tools I highly recommend that you make it one.
About the author
Austin has been been an elementary school teacher for the past 7 years and has always found ways to use technology to enhance my students’ learning. When he started teaching he would bring his own projector and iPad into the classroom. Currently, Austin work in the Fairview Park City Schools which is One to One with devices at all grade levels. Follow him on twitter @apfleischer and check out some of the amazing things his students have been able to create!
This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThread Certified Educator, Curtis Izen.
Each semester, I try refining or creating a new assignment. In my online MIS course, the students are grouped into teams of 4-5 students. Their assignment is to create a group wiki on an emerging technology in business. Using the wiki tools from their LMS, they are tasked to add any multimedia, text or links to make their wiki as engaging and informational as possible. The end result is threefold: (1) they learned quite a bit from their research, (2) the wiki doesn’t appear striking as it could be and (3) there is no verbal collaboration with the final product.
My goal was to change this to a more interactive and dynamic activity. First, I had the groups do the same assignment, but in a PowerPoint presentation. This was a tool they were already comfortable with. They were able to add mashups and were not limited by the tools from their LMS. This also provided them with a marketable skill where they learned new features.
Using Google Docs, the teams worked on their PowerPoint presentation. When approximately 2 weeks were left to the semester, these PowerPoint presentations where then converted to PDF. Subsequently, they were uploaded to VoiceThread. Once in VoiceThread, each group was tasked with the following: every slide needed a voice comment. In addition, at least one of the slides needed to be a video comment from every member in the group. Doodling and Multi-slide (M/5) comments was encouraged.
When the assignment was due and no further edits were permitted, I opened up all the groups VoiceThreads to the entire class. My next assignment is really where VoiceThread excelled. Every student needed to watch and go through all of the VoiceThreads including their own. I created a final slide on each VoiceThread which was a comment slide. All students needed to do a voice or video comment on what they (a) learned from that VoiceThread regarding the emerging technology and (b) what they liked or felt needed improvement on the VoiceThread presentation.
I was astonished hearing how much they learned from other classmates. On a number of occasions, students responded on their classmate’s VoiceThread how they were going to use the presented technology in their own business or life. It was also enlightening hearing how student’s learned from listening to the critique on their own VoiceThread from their peers.
Take inventory of your current assignments. If you find that there are one or more that lacks engagement or collaboration with the class, consider how VoiceThread can make that happen.
About the Author: Curtis Izen is a senior information associate and VoiceThread Certified Educator. Curtis adjuncts online and face to face courses at Baruch College and the School of Professional Studies at the City University of New York. Curtis is passionate on bringing new philosophies and technology into the curriculum. He is a 2 time recipient of the Presidential Excellence Award for Distinguished Teaching and Pedagogy at Baruch College.
This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader, John Briese.
These days teachers are embracing technology as a way to improve their instruction and help students find a deeper connection to their content. However, I talk to teachers all the time whose concern is that the only “technology” they have used in class is having their students create a PowerPoint. Therefore, my challenge has been to find the next step for them to take that will not overwhelm them, but will also help them move forward with introducing more 21st Century skills into their classes.
Enter VoiceThread, a collaborative communication tool that gives students a voice, and allows them to interact with each other’s presentations. It is user-friendly enough to allow developing technology teachers to take the next step, and has the tools that will allow advanced technology teachers to challenge their students to reach a higher level.
The first introduction to VoiceThread that I use for students and teachers is an assignment where they take the PowerPoints they are already comfortable making, and transform them into an interactive presentation. You can import almost any type of file you like (Word document, PowerPoint, PDF, image, video, etc…) then add your comments and screen annotations as needed. This raises that typical PowerPoint to a completely new level by allowing the presenter to have pre-recorded discussions that their audience can interact with. It also gives students a voice by allowing everyone to add text, audio, or video comments, collaborating with their classmates by sharing their ideas on each subject. Teachers find it engaging because students enjoy sharing their opinions and feedback with their classmates. Students find it inspiring because they learn things they never thought possible from the people they spend the most time with. They learn to see things in a new light, and find the benefit in collaborating with their peers.
Students love VoiceThread, and teachers truly enjoy watching them collaborate and create amazing products using this fantastic tool. However, I have found VoiceThread to be incredibly useful for adults as a way to maintain organization and flexibility in their schedules as well.
Teachers can use VoiceThread as a substitute assignment when they know they will be absent. Throw away that dusty old Sub folder in your desk and create a VoiceThread that allows you to be out of the classroom, but not miss a day of instruction. Insert your resources, add your video instruction, and engage your students in quality learning on a day when you are elsewhere. No more busy work, or “study time” where students get nothing accomplished; give them an opportunity to continue their classwork without missing a beat. 10 minutes of creation on the teacher’s part lends to un-wasted instructional time for their students.
Another way teachers and administrators can use this fantastic tool is as a substitute for a meeting when time constraints do not allow a team to get together. I work as a Technology Learning Coach in a High School with five Administrators. Unless they possessed the ability to literally stop time, the Administrators’ duties never end. Finding time to meet with five people who have extremely strenuous responsibilities and tasks they must attend to every day is a very difficult undertaking. This is where VoiceThread becomes a virtual meeting where each stakeholder can view the material and participate on their own time. Proposals for upcoming events, schedules, or just campus information that needs to be communicated can be put into a VoiceThread and made interactive amongst the group. I shared my proposal for the Laptop Collection plan with the Administrators and they were all able to comment and participate in the discussion before it was finalized. This way I did not interfere with their everyday duties, and we still got everyone’s opinion on what was needed to develop the best strategy possible.
I have only been using VoiceThread for a little over six months, but it has quickly turned into one of my favorite tools to use in and out of the classroom. Its versatility makes it useful for every person in the building, allowing free flowing communication and the ability to present and interact with new ideas and concepts. I love this tool, and I hope you will find it as beneficial as I do.
About the author: John Briese is a Technology Learning Coach for Fort Worth ISD. He previously taught a number of different classes including Digital and Interactive Media, Animation, Journalism, and English. You can connect with him on Twitter at @johnbriese.
Educational technology shouldn’t compete with hands-on learning; it should support it. Regardless of which subject you teach, there are always opportunities for your students to get out of their seats and explore real-world learning and VoiceThread can help. Hands-on learning helps student by providing memorable experiences, but experimenting alone isn’t enough. Students need to analyze and reflect on those experiences to crystalize the lessons.
Here are a few ways you can use VoiceThread to support hands-on projects with your class:
1. Document the Learning Process
It’s not always practical to have a class full of students all working on experiments in the same space. When space and time are limited, take the students outside or ask them to document an experiment at home. With the VoiceThread mobile app, students can document the steps they took and discuss the results of their experiment. Teachers can then add feedback right on the VoiceThread and ask follow up questions to enhance the experience. In the example below, a student uses Jenga blocks to test a physics prediction. He takes pictures of each step, uploads them to VoiceThread and adds his commentary as he goes:\
2. Share Your Classroom Activities with Parents and Administrators
Parents and administrators love to know what students are doing in class, but students aren’t always great at communicating what they’ve learned. Parents frequently ask their children what they did in school and the response they receive is usually a one word answer or a shrug. This can be frustrating for teachers because of the time and energy that goes into designing meaningful lessons. With VoiceThread, you can capture the learning experiences as they happen and give parents or administrators the context around the lesson. In the VoiceThread below, you can see students working on building toothpick bridges and explaining their concepts in real time.\
3. Demonstrate Real World Skills
Teaching students practical job skills is one of the core missions of a university. While direct instruction and reading from a text are important aspects of learning in Higher Ed, practicing skills may be the most important part of the learning experience. Whether students are aspiring musicians, nurses, or lawyers, demonstrating hands-on aptitude is vital when assessing what they have learned. In the video below, you can see a nursing student demonstrate how to give a head-to-toe medical assessment. Instead of soaking up valuable in-class time to watch each student perform these tasks, use VoiceThread and review their work when time allows:\
Digital tools aren’t a replacement for these hands-on learning activities; they are a supplement. Don’t let digital get in the way, use it to capture and amplify the learning.
This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader, Jessica Gonzalez.
I learned about VoiceThread when I started my new job in 2015. I work in the Center for Teaching & Learning at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, TX. Primarily, my office works on teaching best practices with the faculty. VoiceThread, I came to understand, was an online tool that professors could use to add a human connection to their online coursework. At least, that is how the website and YouTube videos would describe VoiceThread. I would come to learn that VoiceThread was a tool that has the potential to propel the digitally disinclined, such as myself and my classmates (all grad students of English), to teach to the next generation of digitally inherent undergraduates of all majors.
Let me begin by saying that I am not a teacher. I have never been in front of a classroom to give a lecture or been a guide for the coursework. I am preparing myself to become a professor and I am currently in a job where the teaching is well…about teaching to teachers. That was enough to keep me motivated in becoming certified as a VoiceThread Educator when the opportunity arose for me to take the certification course.
English, unlike technology, has no problem with making human connections due to its fascination with the human story. However, I began to see that teaching reading and writing was dreaded by students who had no patience for it. How attractive is a simple book with pages in comparison to the smartphone with all its buttons, swipes, scrolls, and visuals? Technology always wins the attention and therein was the problem. I thought to myself, how could the English class include technology in its pedagogy? I thought about the current group of undergraduates who obtained smartphones as pre-teens and I thought about the next group coming after who will most likely know how to take a selfie by the age of two. Technology continues to refresh and I felt that the English classroom needed some upgrading.
For my capstone presentation to become a certified VoiceThread Educator, I asked my professor if I could introduce VoiceThread to the class. The class was called London in Literature and it culminated with an actual visit to London, England for a week. My professor had no knowledge of the tool and I went to her office to give her a quick tutorial. She agreed to it to my delight. For the presentations, my classmates went up one-by-one to give their presentations on books they had read outside of the required texts about London. When I went up, I gave them directions instead of a literary presentation. I directed them on how to use VoiceThread. I also instructed them that they would have a week to respond.
Even though there was no grade for participating, a few of the students joined the conversation. My fellow classmates told me that they enjoyed using VoiceThread and one of them, a graduate who was teaching a composition class, said she would use it for her coursework. I was very glad because I wanted my classmates, more than anything, to find the value using online tools like VoiceThread. Creating conversations everyone finds engaging is always a challenge and this is something critical to consider as I continue on my journey to become a professor in this digital age seeking purpose.
About the Author:
Jessica lives in San Antonio, TX after growing up in El Paso, TX. She received her Bachelor’s degree in English from New Mexico State University in 2011. Currently, she is working on her M.A./M.F.A. in Literature, Creative Writing, and Social Justice at Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU). She is set to graduate in spring 2018 and hopes to one day become a professor specializing in British literature. She is employed as the Administrative Assistant/Instructional Technologist for the Center for Teaching & Learning at OLLU. Her interests include literary analysis, technology’s social impact, and faith-based movements. You can connect with her on twitter at @jessczalez.
This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader, Joel Solomon.
Every year our school celebrates “Read Across America Day” on March 2nd to honor Dr. Seuss’s birthday. We invite community members to visit our school and read to classes, the cafeteria serves “Green Eggs and Ham” for lunch, and we have a contest where classes decorate their doors to show how much we appreciate Dr. Seuss. As our school’s Technology Specialist, I’m always looking for new and innovative ways to incorporate technology into the curriculum, and VoiceThread is what I use to publish student work.
This year I wanted to try something new by using VoiceThread to celebrate Read Across America 2017. My goal was to give students opportunities to be creative by illustrating famous Dr. Seuss quotes and then reading their sayings in VoiceThread. I created a template in Pixie (a drawing application, although any drawing application can be used, such as Google Draw) that served as the starting point for the project. Each page of the template included a Dr. Seuss quote, and students were asked to create an illustration that supports the quote. This is where students could be creative and learn how to use a drawing program to make their ideas come to life.
Once the illustrations were done, we exported our Pixie drawings to an internet-compatible format, like .jpg. We then uploaded our drawings to VoiceThread where students could record themselves reading Dr. Seuss quotes. For many of our students, this was the first time they were hearing their own voices. We have a high population of English Language Learners, so this project allowed students to practice speaking and presenting. The looks on their faces as they were listening to themselves reading online was priceless!
Here’s an example of an ELL student project that highlights reading fluency and creativity:
VoiceThread allows teachers to publish student projects quickly and easily. The sharing options allowed me to copy/paste each student’s URL for inclusion on our school website.
VoiceThread’s recording features are so easy, even our Kindergarten students can do it! VoiceThread also directly correlates to Technology and Literacy standards:
Technology – Creative Communicator:
Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.
Literacy – Oral Expression and Listening
– Deliver organized and effective oral presentations for diverse audiences and varied purpose
– Use language appropriate for purpose and audience
VoiceThread is easily one of the most useful tools to help teachers publish student work in a safe and easy-to-use online environment. Thank you for allowing me to share this project.
About the Author:
Joel Solomon is a Technology Specialist at Village East Elementary School in Aurora, Colorado. You can connect with him on twitter (@jsolomon_2) or check out his website: www.joelsolomon.com.
* Note that if your institution has a custom SLA in place with VoiceThread, these updates do not apply to you.
- Other Guidelines and Certifications: In addition to Privacy Shield, we’ve explicitly addressed how FERPA and COPPA apply to VoiceThread.
Check out the new terms below. By continuing to use VoiceThread after March 17, 2017, you are agreeing to the new policy.
- Ed.VoiceThread (K-12) users
- VoiceThread.com (higher education, commercial)
Please contact us with any questions!
Have you ever asked students what they don’t like about online courses? If you have or if you’ve ever researched the complaints online students have, you’ll notice one major trend: students want to know the instructor is present, engaged and interested in them.
Since the advent of online courses, students have craved a strong social presence from their instructor. Sure, most students love autonomy and the freedom to direct their own learning, but no one wants to shout into the darkness. Students of all ages want to be part of a community, not a correspondence course. They want to know that their voice is being heard. They want to know that their opinions matter. They want feedback and connection, not isolation.
So how do you establish that social presence and make sure students don’t feel isolated in an online environment?
At VoiceThread, we believe it all starts with your mindset and vision for your course. Do you see your course as a way for you to broadcast information to an audience or do you see it as a way to personally guide students toward knowledge using feedback and questioning? In a MOOC, instructors prepare information for students to consume but they don’t follow up to see if any learning is really happening. Feedback on student work is one of the cornerstones of good pedagogy, and VoiceThread was designed to do just that.
When your students comment on a thread that you share, you will receive instant notifications so you can facilitate learning as it happens. Instead of creating content for students to consume, try creating a VoiceThread so your students can interact with your content and more importantly– with you!
Classroom learning is often criticized for being too removed from authentic experience. Coaches rarely face the same criticism and here are a few reasons why. Coaches generally use most of the following approaches to teaching that can be overlooked in the traditional classroom setting:
- Get to the hands-on practice as soon as possible
Athletes, just like academic students can’t start doing something until they know what it is they should be doing, but coaches know that with limited time they had better use words economically and get the students practicing and developing an understanding as soon as possible. The goal isn’t to show how much experience the teacher has, the goal is to show how much experience the students have. The only way for them to get that experience is through hands-on practice as often as possible.
- Formative assessment is vital
Imagine a coach who never gave feedback during practice and then spent hours after the game evaluating players on those very skills. That would seem sort of crazy. Athletes are used to coaches either praising or correcting them after each attempt they make during practice. Formative assessment is non-stop during practice. In the classroom, students often have to wait days or weeks to be assessed through a tool like a quiz or an exam.
- Authentic assessment is the goal
Would you practice a sport if you knew you’d never play an actual game? Would you listen to your coach if she gave you a multiple-choice exam about the rules and strategies instead of letting you prove your learning on the field? Coaches know that learning the rules and learning the vocabulary are just means to an end. The only yardstick for measuring success is how well the players apply their knowledge in the game. In school we judge students on whether they are familiar with the rules but we don’t judge how well they apply what they learned.
- Emotion is the primary motivator
Unfortunately, a word often associated with school is “boring.” How it this possible? In school we learn about volcanos, world wars, Shakespeare, civil rights, yet somehow we manage to sanitize it of all emotion. Every subject from history to science has emotional resonance. Every subject can bring out joy, wonder, shock and empathy. School should be an emotionally charged experience. Compare a half-time speech during a playoff game versus a lecture about Stalin. We can learn a lot from coaches.
- Data can make us better
Coaches use data all the time. They record statistics, tendencies and many other valuable data points. They take all that information and tell a story with math. The story might be “We’ve found our opponents’ weakness and here’s our plan to exploit it” or “We’ve found our weakness and here’s our plan to correct it.” In essence, the next week’s game plan is data-driven design.
Can you think of any other lessons that classroom teachers can learn from coaches? Let us know in the comments below!