The Power of the Human Voice (Thread)

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As I sat down tonight, my original intent was to simply post this video in the Video of the Day section and be done with it.

But I couldn’t do that. There is so much more to say!! I am so excited about Voice Thread and its possibilities for teaching and learning! As a result of this over exuberance, I’ve decided to forgo all the quality checks and balances we have here at We Teach We Learn, and just toss this out there. I’ve got a devil may care attitude tonight.

So, if you haven’t already done so, check out the video above for a brief 3 minute example/introduction.

Okay. Back with me? Great. If that’s your first exposure to Voice Thread, let me show you something else. See, I don’t want to spend a lot of time telling you about this. As a teacher, you really need to see it and experience it and then let your imagination run with the possibilities.

What you’re looking at just below, is an actual Voice Thread I’ve embedded here explaining what a Voice Thread is. So go ahead. Click play. You know you want to:

Alright, so maybe you watched the whole thing, or maybe you didn’t. Regardless, can you start to see the potential here? I’ve been playing around with this application for about a week now and have made a few Voice Threads of my own. One of my first was actually for this blog as I shared some information about gender differentiation. You can see that post here.

So there I am stumbling around. You liked it, you didn’t like it–whatever. That’s not the point here. Stay with me.

At the time of this writing, I hadn’t yet found anyone else to play with me. I mean, nobody has participated on the voice thread. I hope that will change soon. But it may not. Still, the point is it opens up all kinds of possibilities for presentations. The slides I used were taken directly from a handout I gave to people that attended my session at a conference. I also prepared a powerpoint that I used during my talk to inform and help stimulate discussion among the participants.

I was a bit rushed for time. Still, I thought it went reasonably well. But here’s the thing: When we all left the room that day–it was over. I haven’t heard from a single one since to further the discussion.

Not that this would be ideal, but with a Voice Thread, I could have prepared and presented everything on-line. People could have been able to access it as many times as they liked, whenever they liked. And not only that, but we could have also continued the discussion–OUTSIDE OF THE ROOM!

Okay. So to me, that’s pretty cool. But the other thing is, this application is so ridiculously easy to use! I’ve explored podcasting, and uploading slide shows using slideshare and trying to add voice and video into powerpoints–but it’s all so cumbersome for me. Sure, I suppose I could figure it out. But like I said when I started this post–I’m busy!

I promise you, Voice Thread took less than 5 minutes to figure out. It really is as easy to use as it looks.

So, naturally, I wanted to start using it in my classroom.

Now let me say right off the bat that, while my ideal is to get the kids involved in discussion by using the Voice Thread as a launch point, I have to temper my enthusiasm because I don’t have a solid, secure way to manage their accounts. You need an email to get your own free account. Not all my kids have that. I wish we could get them all secure accounts here at school, but we’re just not quite there yet as a district. So, I’m willing to start small.

Here’s what I did. This is a link to a wiki I’m developing to manage my–you know–class, curriculum, units. It’s a place kids can go to get what they need for 8th grade language arts. Please don’t be critical–I’m just getting it started. I don’t have any interaction built in yet–or even many units.

Anyway, we just started a Treasure Island novel unit. The way I run it is, typically, students are responsible for two chapters a day, one of which I read to them in class. The other, they’re on their own–which is fine for most. But, you know, there are always those that are going to struggle mightily with the text. I mean, after all, Treasure Island was originally published in 1883. The language has changed a bit. Plus there’s dialect and weird vocabulary and spellings and all kinds of other complexities.

So, if you check out this wiki page, you’ll see that I’m slowly but surely recording the even numbered chapters (those I typically don’t read in class), along with slides that support the text. Now these struggling readers can read along as they listen. We don’t have to have a library of audio tapes or CD’s to keep track of. They can just hop on a computer with internet access– either here at school, or home, or the library, or where ever–and away they go!

But this is just one (very limited I might add) application of how Voice Thread can be used. Soon, I’d like to secure a few email addresses for some of my struggling writers so that they can leave voice comments in response to slides I develop prompting them to–you know, all that language arts stuff–summarize, predict, analyze, interpret and extend the text of the story by responding ORALLY!!!

Who knows where we can go from there. Maybe even responding to each other, offering opinions (on our opinions), capturing discussions and learning on line. Maybe kids who are low energy during class will be able to engage at a later time of day. I don’t mean to imply that voice Thread can totally replace a good quality classroom discussion. But I think it can certainly be a tool we can use to enhance teaching and learning.

Lots of possibilities.

And the cool thing is–there seems to be no limit. It’s totally up to you. Now imagine how it might fit into your curriculum. Let your creative juices flow.

Next, invite your students.

For a list of examples of how other teachers have used Voice Thread, check out this page of educational Voice Thread examples to get ideas for your own classes. This page contains examples created by real teachers, for real K-12 students in all curricular areas.

Check out this link to explore Voice Thread logistics related to education. Complete with a discussion about privacy.

So there you have it. The bottom line: Voice Thread takes presentations and collaborations and discussions and media to the next level. Add it to your arsinal.

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