VoiceThread in Teaching

This post is written by Denise Johnson, Assistant Professor of Reading Education, School of Education.

For some background information on this project, see this blog post.

For my project, I will use VoiceThread for multiple purposes in my elementary reading/language arts methods course. Two years ago, I paid for a VoiceThread account and used it as a way to create community among my students at the beginning of class. I modeled creating a VoiceThread in which I created a “memoir” that allowed my students to know more about me on a personal level. Each student in class was then given the assignment of creating their own VoiceThread memoir. After the students’ VoiceThreads were created, I put them in groups and they each watched and commented on each other’s VoiceThreads.

The impact of this project was immediate. After watching my students’ VoiceThreads, I knew more about them than I ever would have discovered otherwise. I was able to connect what I knew about their personal lives to the activities in which I had them engage in class, which made learning more meaningful for them. This, of course, is exactly what I am teaching them to do in their own future classrooms. The same thing happened with the students. Even though many of them spent the summer together in courses, there were many aspects in the VoiceThreads that they didn’t know about each other and they bonded at a deeper level than they would have otherwise. VoiceThread allows pictures, videos, and voice narration, so students were able to see photos/videos of family members, etc., and also hear the emotion in their fellow classmates’ voices.

This past fall, I didn’t pay for an account again, so I didn’t do the VoiceThread memoir activity. I immediately regretted it—I felt that I did myself and my students a disservice. Though the VoiceThread memoir experience in and of itself was amazing, I didn’t take full advantage of VoiceThread. The program has multiple applications for instruction across content areas, but I believe especially for the language arts.

In the Fall 2012 semester, I will use the program for creating memoirs, as I did last time, but also for multiple other projects over the course of the semester:

  • My students engage in book clubs and read several children’s books in common over the semester. They will use VoiceThread to discuss a particular aspect of one or more of the books they read.
  • My students videotape themselves teaching a guided reading lesson in a lower grade. They will upload the video to VoiceThread, and in groups, watch each other’s video and comment.
  • My students write several pieces over the course of the semester in several genres as a way to engage in the types of writing their future students will be required to do. They will upload one of those pieces to VoiceThread and in groups, peer review each other’s writing.

One of the great things that happened the semester I used VoiceThread was that several students used it during their student teaching the following semester. This is EXACTLY what I want to happen! The rich media grant will fund a VoiceThread account for myself, and provide free accounts to twelve of my students for use during their student teaching. These students will have to agree to submit a short report on how they used the account and their impressions of their students’ learning outcomes from using VoiceThread in order to get the free account. I will use the results of the short reports and children’s examples of completed projects to show students in my future classes.