Voicethread Exploration

I confess, I have deviated wildly from my original inquiry plan.  One of the joys of being a teacher-librarian is that in connecting with a teacher or student, I often coincide with my plans of the moment, I find a reason to make my current obsession work with a real life project. So although I always struggle for perfection, the artist definitely got in the way.  This week should be about Evernote, but I focused entirely on Voicethread instead.

My colleagues who teach co-op, a course that helps provide senior students with workplace experience, occupy the library every couple of weeks to meet face to face with their students.  This year, they have a particularly challenging group, who struggle with literacy, numeracy and digital literacy.  The teachers challenged me to update their job interview assignment to include technology and very little reading and writing.  The department also has no equipment, and no budget for purchasing more.

So after reading more on podcasting with Berger and Trexler (2010), I tried to think of the interview assignment as a narrative (p. 135).  Helping the students consider a career as a process, helps them reflect on the growth that they will themselves encounter in their career path.  The interview assignment is a great one for isolating some of the more difficult questions that students are often curious about, but don’t feel brave enough to ask their employers.  Fontichiaro (2008) also gives suggestions for successful interview podcasting by suggesting that the best podcasts can be created in flexible spaces, and can be spontaneous (p. 74). After that, I discovered that essentially that students could simply use their phones to capture images of their workplaces, and audio recordings of their subject’s answers.

I also wanted to provide a solid exemplar for the coop students to work from.  I decided to interview Greg Hill, who manages the responsibility room in my school, and has tutored many of these students.  Here is my first attempt at creating a Voicethread:  http://voicethread.com/share/2356850/

I did have to cheat a little to get it looking so nice though.  I found out that I really needed to record the images first and create the image skeleton of the assignment, then I recorded myself saying each interview question.  Because I was working with a particular class, I decided to spring for the educator account and get 50 student logins.  This gave me the ability to upload my audio as Mr. Hill, by creating a 2nd identity.  Then I just uploaded the audio in the right order to correspond with the pictures et voila!

I explained the Voicethread process to the class this morning, and I think I had 3 main student reactions.  The first third thought that Voicethread looked too simplistic, and they asked to jump right to making videos and sharing them through YouTube.  The second third of the class completely bought into the idea of Voicethread, and they were very keen to put their phones to the test of doing the recording of both images and sound.  The final third of the class were very resistant to the idea of using any technology to complete the assignment and asked their teachers for permission to do written assignments and bristol board presentations.  We agreed that all of the ideas were viable, but assigned some homework for the next two weeks.  When we meet again, I’ll work with my middle third of the group to get their work together into a Voicethread.  In the meantime, I’ve asked all of the students to try taking photos and audio this week.  I’ll let you know how it goes.


Berger, P., & Trexler, S. (2010). Choosing web 2.0 tools for learning and 
teaching in a digital world. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Fontichiaro, K. (2008). Podcasting at school. Westport, CN: Libraries Unlimited.

1 Comment

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  1. Good stuff, Alanna. I hope you find success with VoiceThread! And I’m looking forward to reading an upcoming piece from you about Evernote – something I need to use more.

    I’ve been using VoiceThread for about 2 years now, I suppose. I use it daily to teach my online courses at OSG (http://onlineschoolforgirls.org) and I’ve used it a bunch already this year in my brick-and-mortar classes at OES (http://www.oes.edu). I think VoiceThread can be a critical thiinking tool. I’m presenting on this at EdCampPDX in a couple weeks, and possibly also at the Global Education Conference next month.

    Pedagogically, I see VT as great for connecting students and building conversations outside of class restrictions (space + time). I use it with my non-online classes to start discussions after readings that then build into great socratic seminar conversation. For example, students read a short passage and then comment in the VT on what interested them and what questions they have as a result. I curate the comments/questions and we use them for a student-driven discussion the next class.

    Also, I’ve had great success this year encouraging reflection and evaluation of student-performance by video recording their presentations and embedding them in VTs. The students watch their own (private VTs btwn them and me) and comment on their performances. It’s a great reflection tool!

    Thanks for your blog. Keep up the good work.


    Mike Gwaltney


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