My Vision for VoiceThread Part 2

March 23, 2008 at 11:00 am (voicethread)

I can’t believe that in just over a day I have received three comments on this blog topic from people I don’t know, people who are part of the web 2.0 network.  I must admit, this is not something to which I am accustomed.  I feel that this is another instance where I must retrain myself or unlearn things.  Getting unsolicited email usually means it is spam and, as I have learned, there is blog spam, too.  But comments from an interested and engaged audience is part of the benefit of social software, social computing and Web 2.0, of which VoiceThread is yet another example.

When I received my first couple unsolicited comments from someone unrelated to my class it was actually a bit unnerving.  One of my colleagues asked how they found me.  At first I thought it was through a blog search such as Technorati but then I realized that I had linked to them.  It is only natural that you would want to know what someone is saying about you and ensure that it is accurate.  I thought I was being quite conscious of my audience, however, the more comments I receive the more conscious of my audience I become.  I can’t help but feel that my increasing awareness of this “global audience” has left me with a bit of “blog block.”  It’s not like writer’s block where I have nothing to say.  Rather, realizing just how big the potential blog audience is a little scary.

Bill Ferriter suggested  In it’s introduction the teacher gives very detailed and specific instructions of what he wants contributors to do.  On each page of the VoiceThread a different political cartoon related to Darfur is displayed.  The first couple comments are typed and parts of the political cartoon are circled to support the explanation.  Political cartoons are often very challenging for students.  VoiceThread provides visual, audio, social and doodle interaction to differentiate for individual student learning styles and preferences to assist in deconstructing the cartoon.  This way students can use the mode with which they are comfortable and excel and perhaps challenge themselves to try one of the other modes of communication and become more comfortable and fluent using it.  By hearing others thoughts, students can build on what someone else says, which the teacher suggested, or sythesize and build on the ideas of several people.

Colette Cassinelli also let me know about a wiki she has created at where she is collecting VoiceThread exemplars divided by division.  When I first visited a couple days ago, the wiki had just been created.  Now it contains ideas on each page.   

One of my colleagues emailed me about her plans for VoiceThread, having students create a new verse for Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” including content from the history they study this year.  Students could type or record the audio of their new lyrics that are supported by a literal or figurative/conceptual image interpretations.

Lastly, Tim Fahlberg provided me with a detailed explanation and examples to support the higher level thinking and motivation of students involved in creating Mathcasts. 

I am greatful to everyone who has commented on my blog and contributed to my learning.

I forgot about another idea that I had for VoiceThread.  In September, one of my colleagues and I often take students on virtual fieldtrips of the trips that we take during the summer.  As VoiceThreads, these could be archived for present and future students to revisit, comment or add content to based on their personal experiences having visited or lived in those locations, research they have completed, connections to current events, movies, or reading be it fiction or non-fiction.  In particular, I have images related to Japan (Social 8), the Industrial Revolution in Britain and The Former U.S.S.R. (Social 9) which serve to bring curriculum to life and stir discussions about life and culture in different countries. 

I listened to Teachers Teaching Teachers, from October 31, 2007, on EdTechTalk today.  Joyce Valenza was on along with the co-creators of VoiceThread.  The creators of VoiceThread said that there goal was to remove anything that could get in the way of people doing what they want to do.  They want the technology to empower rather than inhibit sharing different stories spurred by the same image.  They wanted everyone to have the shared joy such as the one in the now classic example of each member of a family sharing their perspective on what led up to the family photo. 

Valenza said that in addition to using VoiceThread for authentic practice for second language learners, they are looking at converting their student art gallery into VoiceThread.  That way artists can make a statement and students, parents, community can contribute to the virtual gallery walk.  This does not have to be limited to student art but can also include other student work. 

As one of the creators commented, VoiceThread is a vehicle for participation.  It removes constraints from collaborating with people from different geographic regions or time zones because it is asynchronous group conversation.  It is not limited to audio annotation.  If this were the only thing that it could do then it wouldn’t be much different than PowerPoint which would allow you to do the same thing.  How is it different from a slideshow or a screencast?  One of the creators said that it is different because it is a slideshow that asks a question.  It provides the opportunity for groups to broadcast as an invitation for participation.  Because people are so accustomed to PowerPoint where they weren’t asked to participate, creators of VoiceThreads must make their intentions clear of how and when and what they want participants to say.  This should be one of the first things that a person hears on the VoiceThread.  Students and their teachers must think about how they want people to contribute, collaborate, and co-create content within the VoiceThread and how they can includes spaces for this. 

VoiceThread demonstrates the power of the group (the network?) to create something that an individual could never create alone.  Like a wiki, VoiceThread is another Web 2.0 tool that validates the social nature of learning.

Another feature of VoiceThread that I hadn’t realized existed is RSS feeds.  Changes to MyVoice can be subscribed through an aggregator.  In the EdTechTalk program someone suggested that this has very interesting potential, particularly as VoiceThread works toward incorporating tagging and the capability to subscribe to individual VoiceThreads.  A student who is researching climate change could subcribe to blogs, wikis, podcasts and VoiceThread.  What a powerful diversity of media and perspectives for inquiry.

What about the bigger picture? 

I can’t help but think back to my own experience taking a face-to-face storytelling class and the oral power of words to bring people together and unite them around common experiences.  If I combine that experience with what I learned about the power of podcasting (see Podcasting Update – One Week Later) and our discussion about the changing nature of literacy to encompass digital, technological, visual, information and global literacies, VoiceThread has the potential to be a very powerful tool.  I don’t just see VoiceThread as a tool for collaboration or co-construction.  I see it as a tool for social action and social change, particularly after visiting the International Day for Sharing Life Stories Blog

Julie Lindsay discusses her vision for global collaboration as guest blogger at Dangerously Irrelevant.  Lindsay ran Learning Circles (see Margaret Riel article in Topic 1) as part of iEARN, and is co-founder of the Flat Classroom Project and the Horizon Project.  With these new projects, she identifies that collaboration has taken on a whole new dimension, which she refers to as Global Collaboaration 3.0, that provides a new focus for online collaborative projects.  Its characteristics include

  • a social network of likeminded people sharing ideas
  • working as a team with others from around the world
  • facing failure due to a non-traditional approach
  • trust and risk-taking and inquiring
  • bringing the world into your classroom
  • embracing differences and making a difference
  • student-centered where students share responsibility, solve problems and become self-reliant

Lindsay goes on to distinguish between Global Collaboration 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0, the last of which

  • teachers are fully engaged and communicate with all participants
  • Web 2.0 tools are used for communication, interaction (networking) and creation
  • classes from around the world work together as one on common objectives
  • high expectations for connectivity and collaboration
  • includes community partners (eg. experts)
  • output (individual or collective) includes input of others
  • multimedia output aims to make a difference locally or globally
  • teacher and/or student initiated, student-centered learning

As with all Web 2.0 tools, the tool can only reach its potential if the teacher using it has a student-centred view of integration of technology where the technology is used to mediate experiences that are liberating and allow the student to explore, discover and construct their own knowledge in a partnership with peers and teachers (Subramaniam, 2007) from near and far. 

Because VoiceThread uses voice, or text that represents that voice, it seems more naturally to come from the heart.  This speaks to the affective or reflective centre that infuses every process of the inquiry model, a voice that is very convincing when inhibitions are over come and vulnerability is evident.  VoiceThread could be a stepping stone towards more extensive social networking and social action.  In either students not only contribute to the global body of knowledge but also assist others in articulating, modifying and/or clarifying their global perspective and mobilizing others to take action. 



  1. Bill Ferriter said,

    Hey Arlene—-

    I enjoyed your reflections about the social nature of learning and the use of Web 2.0 tools to facilitate those kinds of collaborative exchanges between teachers. That’s a very real aspect of the Ed Tech community—-Kind of an ongoing dialogue about how to best use digital tools to engage kids.

    When you jump into that dialogue, you learn to listen—and to enjoy the reactions that others have to your work. Whenever I see that something I’ve written has resonated with others (either positively or negatively), it’s exciting….and their responses (either in the comment section of my blog or in extended posts on their blog) often spur additional thinking on my part.

    That’s the true constructivist view of learning—individuals possess notions that they hold to be true and personal growth only occurs when those notions are challenged by outside stimuli. The mental tension that results between what one held to be true and new thinking forces revision or refinement.

    That mental articulation is learning in its purest form—and for bloggers, it means seeking out those with likeminded ideas or those who are pushing the envelope that you’re currently trapped in!

    What I love the best is that all of this collective thinking is essentially intellectual philanthropy at its best—-writers and thinkers freely sharing what they know with one another. It’s the best PD on the market, that’s for sure.

    Oh yeah…and I found you through Technorati. I keep a Watchlist on my blog and my name to make finding reactions to my thoughts easy.

    Anyway…you’re doing neat work here…..Welcome to the conversation!

  2. Linda said,

    Okay, first of all I love Bill Ferriter’s idea of intellectual philanthropy; isn’t that a fundamental of our course? Secondly, thanks so much for the Darfur voicethread. Stephen Lewis spoke about Darfur at our last teachers’ convention and moved me to tears over the plight of the people there. We all need to pay attention to this social injustice and do what we can to stop it.

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

    […] can’t help but relate this to my most recent blog comment where Bill Ferriter speaks very elequently about the power of making these social networking connections around shared […]

  4. Val said,

    Hi Arlene: I’m enjoying reading the comments from Bill, The Horizon report and others whom you are quoting and using as examples What a great dialogue and as mentioned a true example constructivist learning. The Darfur political cartoons were very interesting. What a great SS activity for Sr High. Voicethreads have so many uses it makes your head spin.

  5. Blogging Comes Full Circle « InfoTech4Lrng said,

    […] from people that I don’t know, which led to, what I referred to in a previous post as, “blog block.”  It is also only recently that I have begun to link to previous posts and to comments […]

  6. Blogging Binds Critical Reading and Writing « InfoTech4Lrng said,

    […] from people that I don’t know, which led to, what I referred to in a previous post as, “blog block.”  It is also only recently that I have begun to link to previous posts and to comments […]

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