Published on April 27, 2014
VoiceThread is a simple, cloud-based collaboration tool that is available to instructors inside a Blackboard site. At its core is the ability to have a conversation around a piece of media. Images, presentation slides, text documents, audio clips, or video are are the focus point of a VoiceThread. Then users add video, audio, or text comments about the media using a microphone, webcam, or their keyboard. VoiceThread allows for more personal feedback from students and teachers by making people feel as though they are interacting with people as opposed to just text on a page. For this reason, many teachers find VoiceThread to be an extremely engaging tool compared to text-only means of communication. In particular, instructors who have an online component to their classes find that VoiceThread offers more meaningful interactions and acts as a means to critique and collaborate.
VoiceThread is in its first semester of official use at Mizzou and instructors are already finding innovative ways to teach using this program. Michelle Teti from Health Sciences says she uses VoiceThread as an “alternative to writing papers.” She has replaced two of the three essays in her Introduction to Public Health class with VoiceThread assignments. One assignment requires her students to make a VoiceThread where they play the part of a doctor reporting to a hospital director about an imaginary disease outbreak. She rewards the best project by showing it to her whole class, allowing her students to learn from their peers. Teti likes that these assignments get her students to be creative regardless of personal writing ability. She also finds that it is easier to give more personalized feedback more quickly and easily.
Dawn Heston from Romance Languages and Literature also uses VoiceThread to assign projects in her hybrid Spanish class. These assignments require her students to upload a picture to the center of their VoiceThread and describe it in Spanish with a voice comment. Subsequently she has her students view each other’s VoiceThreads and leave feedback, so that students are not only engaged in creating their own VoiceThread, but also engage in viewing, critiquing, and learning from peers’ work. Dawn also finds that VoiceThread is a great tool for online lectures. It allows her to not only illustrate the material with keynote slides, but also speak the language as she uses the doodle tool to point to important points and highlight vocabulary that her students may not know. The ease with which students can ask questions and receive answers about lecture material is also an important feature to Dawn. VoiceThread makes it even easier to stay up to date with comments and respond promptly to questions with the VoiceThread digest feature, which sends a daily email with information about who has been interacting with your VoiceThreads. Simplicity and ease of use are some of VoiceThread’s most attractive features for Dawn and Michelle. They have found that not only do they take minimal time to learn the program, but they can spend minimal class time teaching their students to use the program, while students can focus on their project and not the technicalities of the program.
Nancy Price from International Programs assigns her English Language students a script every week to practice and record on VoiceThread. VoiceThread offers simple grading for Price, with the benefit of saving students’ assignments, so they have an “individual record of pronunciation” which they can continue to learn from and track their improvements.