Voicethread?

March 20, 2008 at 3:41 pm (voicethread)

Voicethread was one of the Web 2.0 tool that I had never heard of or even knew existed before this course.  I chose to explore it, rather than Jumpcut, as my computer at home is being taxed to its limit, similar to some at school.  I can only watch videos in five second chunks and even some of the Voicethreads that I listen to are the same.  However, when I watched/listened to the Introduction to Voicethread on the website all went well so I thought there was hope for me in using it both at home and at school. 

I first came across the word “voicethread” in Valenza’s Manifesto as well as in the PowerPoints that she links to in her informationfluency wiki at the beginning of this course.  Valenza defines it as “a web-based, multimedia collaborative network.”  Bill Ferriter, at his blog “The Tempered Radical” calls it a group audio blog.  At the http://www.voicethread.com/ website, it describes it as

“an online media album that can hold essentially any type of media (images, documents and videos) and allows people to make comments in five different ways – using voice (with a microphone or a telephone), text, audio file, or video (with a webcam) – and share them with anyone they wish.  A VoiceThread allows group conversation to be collected and shared in one place, from anywhere in the world.”

The avatar (the visual chosen by a user to represent them online) of each person that has commented or contributed to a discussion is visible around the image or video on each page of the voice thread.

At her blog, Valenza said that there is a “teeny-tiny learning curve” which sounded almost too good to be true.  It took me longer than what I would have suspected based on what she said.  If I had a faster computer it probably would have been true. 

I took the headset that I had bought, to replace the one I borrowed and returned, to school so that a parent volunteer could use it to record exams using Audacity for students who require this accomodation.  As a result, when I sat down to do this, I had no audio recording device.  I popped over to Walmart and bought a $10 desktop one, the cheapest one I could find, as a test of sound quality.  I don’t think it is too bad.  The other headset I bought on sale for $30 (regular $50) is better when there is background noise as it filters it out better than this desktop one.  I need to remember not to be any closer than a couple inches away from the desktop one otherwise it picks up the exhalation.  I also need to remember to maintain a consistent volume.  I tend to start softer and get louder as I speak.  In considering the listening audience, if they can’t hear to begin with, they probably won’t be interested to listen. 

From start to finish, it took me an hour and half to sort out how to do this.  I watched the One Minute VoiceThread, as well as setting up the microphone, although I already knew how to do that.  I liked that the Voicethread tutorials are short so I can watch them over and over again.  There is also a VoiceThread dedicated to the WordPress plugin.  I wasn’t very optimistic that I would get this to work as WordPress does not allow flash.  I couldn’t get the plugin unzipped and when I searched plugin in WordPress, it said that it doesn’t allow any.  The focus of this week’s blog was creating a Voicethread which I have done.  I can simply link to it from my blog since I am unable to embed it.  I like how the VoiceThread appears as if it is a pop up of your own site, an extension of your space.  To me it doesn’t feel like a different website like it does if you are listening to a podcast which has been uploaded to a remote site.  This is most likely the case for me because of the presentation style that I chose for my blog that is quite similar to the VoiceThread interface.  

I have been wanting to change my blog’s Flickr photo stream to some of my South American photos, however, when I tried the RSS feed from a particular album rather than the whole pool of photos that I have on Flickr, the image links did not work.  So, I reverted to how it was.  Voicethread allows me to share those photos and have a commentary which is much easier than typing titles and descriptions for everything.  Even better is others can type or record their reactions in audio or video to the photo.  I assume that they would need to have an account which would be problematic for some of my friends or family who do not wish to sign up for one. 

Because uploading with Flickr, YouTube and podcast hosting sites was fairly quick, I wasn’t expecting VoiceThread uploading to be so slow.  I followed the recommendation to clear the cache and open a new Internet Explorer browser and rather than trying to upload 12 photos, which I thought was conservative, I did one at a time.  This went much smoother.  I didn’t find an option to rotate images, and don’t do this on my computer as it destabilizes the photos, so I could only use landscape photos.  I assume that there is a rotationg feature, or at least there should be, but I didn’t find it…yet. 

Unfortunately, you can only create three voicethreads on a free account.  Ed.VoiceThread, which only went live on January 28, 2008, is another option.  On their website they identify that it

“is a space for creating digital stories, documentaries, practicing language skills, exploring geography and culture, solving math problems, collaborating with other students, or simply finding and honing student voices.” 

It is only for k-12 educators, students and administrators.  Unlike VoiceThread, all must be registered users and there is a cost associated with it, the reason being then schools won’t block it because more safety is built in.  To learn more visit Valenza’s blog post, “Ed.VoiceThread: We Can All Play.”

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4 Comments

  1. plugusin said,

    Glad you tracked down my post on Voicethread. It’s honestly the most valuable Web 2.0 tool I use in the classroom. Check out this presentation that a group of students been cranking out on Darfur:

    http://ed.voicethread.com/share/62276/

    I like how this presentation has required students to make text comments only primarily because that serves as a form of free-writing often overlooked in most classrooms. Practice with short, approachable bits of articulation just can’t be a bad thing.

    Also, a bit of a correction to something you wrote: Educators can also get a free “Pro” account, which provides unlimited presentations for free. That’s a way around the pay-per-student format of Ed Voicethread.

    While I like the security offered by Ed Voicethread, it’s not the only way for teachers to get unlimited access.

    Rock on,
    Bill Ferriter

  2. arllennium said,

    Hi Bill,

    I hadn’t thought of VoiceThread as a form of free writing – I’ll have to add that one to my list! I’ve heard about the Darfur projects through EdTechTalk but you’ve just reminded me that I wanted to spend more time checking it out. Thanks for clarifying the unlimited Pro account. Depite all the reading I’ve done, I somehow missed that one.

    The power of web 2.0 for networking and collaboaration never ceases to amaze me. I can’t believe that only 13 minutes after I posted I received this comment from you. Unbelievable!

    Thanks for stopping by,
    Arlene

  3. Bill Ferriter said,

    No worries, Arlene…

    I’m actually jazzed to have found your writing about Voicethread. The level of detail and the connections to writings by others on how this tool can look in classrooms is pretty outstanding. I’ll be taking advantage of it in some of the work that I do with teachers around Voicethread.

    Nice work,
    Bill

  4. The Horizon Report on Social Networking « InfoTech4Lrng said,

    […] social networking connections around shared activities and interests (in this case it began with VoiceThread), challenging each others notions and encouraging revision and/or refinement of ideas.  The […]

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