Do your students use emoji when they post messages on your class discussion boards? Do they sprinkle smileys into their emails? If you’ve taught a class in the last ten years, you probably answered yes to both questions. So, why do they do it?
Writing is tough.
Communications experts claim that at a large percentage our of communication is non-verbal, which means that with each written message we send we are only signaling a percentage of our intended ideas. Until someone invents a sarcasm font, people will rely on emoji in an attempt to convey these nonverbal cues that are so vital to effective communication.
You don’t need to be an expert in paralanguage and kinesics to know that face-to-face communication is more effective than text. Critics of online classes usually point to this as proof that face-to-face classes are a better choice than learning online. The good news is that today we no longer have to choose between “online” classes and “face-to-face” classes. With VoiceThread, you can create an online, face-to-face class and reclaim that missing 80%.
This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader, Kelle Stroud.
Buckland Mills Elementary School implemented Student Led Conferences 9 years ago. It was our goal to provide an opportunity for the students to be at the center of the conference and lead the way in sharing their learning. We also wanted to engage our community and have them play a significant role with their child in the conference. The traditional conference with the teacher and parent only gave a glimpse into the ability of their child due to time limits and structure of the conference. VoiceThread was a wonderful addition to our implementation of Student Led Conferences.
We began the roll out of Student Led Conferences with our upper grade classrooms for the first two years. They were so successful and we received such positive parent feedback that we implemented in all grade levels (K-5) the 3rd year. In the grades 2-5 the conferences are totally students driven. There are 5 families in the classroom at the same time for 45 minutes.
The teachers and students have created a checklist ahead of time for the students to follow. The students guide their parents through examples of their work and share their strengths and areas for growth in all academic areas. The teacher is circulating the classroom touching base with all families, answering any questions, and providing feedback on student academic growth. The teachers are a playing a secondary role while the students takes charge of sharing their learning.
The teachers have taken the time to prepare theirs students for the conference weeks in advance. They are fully aware of the materials they need and what they need to show their parents. They have taken the time to role play with their classmates so that they are fully prepared. We have noticed over the years that this preparation has become less and less since students are used to how we conduct these conferences. In grades K-1 students are incorporated in the conference while the teacher plays a more active role since these students are younger.
Due to our school schedule our students led conferences are held in the fall. We wanted to provide an opportunity in the spring for Student Led Conferences so we could wrap up the year. Our schedule doesn’t allow that so we decided to use VoiceThread and provide a virtual Student Led Conference for our families. Teachers were tasked with recoding each student explaining their learning in a subject are of their choice. Once that was recorded and the teacher made positive comments the link was sent to each child’s parent. This coming school year the teachers will be tasked with sending two links in the spring of each student to their parents.
Not only is this providing the parents an opportunity to see their child share their learning they are able to have an electronic copy to keep forever. What parent doesn’t want an amazing recording of their child? VoiceThread has closed the loop for us in conducting our Student Led Conferences. It has given us the opportunity to provide an additional sample of their child speaking about the year and show their academic and social growth. Student Led Conferences are how we do business. Each day we put the child at the center of all we do and implementing Student Led Conferences follows that mindset. VoiceThread now plays a vital role in closing out a child’s school year. We at Buckland Mills Elementary School are excited to see where this journey continues to take us.
Author Bio: My name is Kelle Stroud. I am the proud principal at_ Buckland Mills Elementary School. I have had the unique opportunity to have also been a 5th grade teacher and the Assistant Principal at Buckland Mills. I was the lead teacher in implementing Student Led Conferences in my 5th grade class. This has been an amazing journey watching how Student Led Conferences has evolved in our school. We have watched our students become competent communicators as their share their academic knowledge with their parents. Voice Thread has been a wonderful tool for us to use in continuation of our Student Led Conference journey. You can connect with Kelle on twitter at_ @kelle stroudand follow the #teambmes hashtag oronFacebook.
This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader, Timothy Thomas.
VoiceThread has been a wonderful tool to use with middle school students. As the library media specialist, I have used VoiceThread with students to engage and motivate them, introduce topics, curate research and information, and develop unit portfolios. VoiceThread is one of my go-to web tools because it is simple to use, efficient, and adaptable.
Recently, I was working with language arts’ students who were researching the Russian Revolution, so they could better understand the allegorical novel, Animal Farm by George Orwell. The teachers placed students in small groups of 3 or 4 and each group was assigned a historical figure or topic from the Russian Revolution to research. The students conducted research, compiled information and wrote a script that was recorded in VoiceThread. The students also chose pictures related to their figure/topic they uploaded to their VoiceThread in an effort help their fellow students better understand the historical figure/topic. The last step was to narrate their script across the various slides. Each group shared their VoiceThread with their fellow students who then watched and took notes on the historical figures and topics that they had not researched. We could have chosen other ways to present this historical information, but VoiceThread allowed us to learn and teach a lot of information in a short amount of time. Throughout the entire process students were engaged and the onus of responsibility had been shifted from the teacher to the students who were responsible, not only their own learning, but for educating their peers. VoiceThread is extremely user-friendly, so the learning curve was minimal and I did not have to spend a lot of time teaching the students how to use it.
This past fall another language arts teacher and I decided to combine story writing, narration, and illustration with makerspace. We used VoiceThread to publish and share the student’s stories. Student’s paired up with a co-author and wrote a bold action story incorporating the necessary plot elements. Once their bold action story was complete the students divided their story into chunks and used Legos to create 3-4 pixel art images that coordinated with their chunks. Students took pictures of their pixel art and uploaded them to VoiceThread. They narrated their story and shared them with their classmates. The entire process of story writing became fun for our middle schoolers who were engaged from beginning to end and were excited and proud of their final product.
About the Author:
Timothy Thomas is the library media specialist at Hereford Middle School for Baltimore County Public Schools and sees his job as having three equal parts: promoting literacy, co-teaching, and community building. As a self identified Renaissance man Timothy loves to learn and being a library media specialist feeds into this love of learning and allows him to share it with his students. You can follow Tim **@**Library_HMS on Twitter.
This is a guest post by Music Educator and VoiceThreader, Erika Safford.
VoiceThread is an amazing resource for the music classroom at any level. I frequently use VoiceThread in instrument instruction in my general/vocal music classroom. It allows me to have various groups at different levels learning and testing on different pieces at the same time. For beginners, I post a video of myself giving instruction on how to play the piece, a copy of the sheet music, and any accompaniment tracks that they can use. For more advanced students, I post just the sheet music, accompaniments, and comment anything they need to know about the piece. I can also move my mouse and write on the score to show students how to follow along with the score in more complex pieces. Students can then post their playing test when they feel they are ready to be evaluated or need feedback.
The ability to have students record playing tests has made my classroom management easier. Students tend to be better prepared for a playing test when they have had the opportunity to watch a video of their performance, evaluate it, and possibly re-do it before I see it. Also, an entire class can play at the same time, rather than having to wait for me to be available. They can then move on to another piece using the instructional video I posted. I can grade the playing tests later and leave a text comment to give feedback. I can also post a video comment further instruction if needed. I am then free during class to manage behaviors and work with a small group, or individuals who need help.
Recorded playing tests, instead of live performance playing tests, allow me to create a digital portfolio for each student by downloading their video comment from the thread. It also gives me a performance to share with students, parents, and other stakeholders if there is any confusion about my grading. Students can also mentor each other and learn how to make appropriate comments and critiques of performances by replying to each other’s comments.
I also use VoiceThread for clubs and activities after school to check in with students between rehearsals. I have used it with All-County Chorus to provide students with materials to use a home and if they have a webcam and access to the internet, they can check in with me, and get feedback on their preparation. For the musical, I can post choreography for students to practice in between rehearsals. I have not yet used VoiceThread for a lesson with a substitute teacher but will definitely use it in the future to keep valuable instruction continuing even when I am not present.
VoiceThread is an invaluable resource in my classroom. I wish I had had access to it when I was conducting large ensembles in middle and high school to structure sectionals and for singing tests, part tests/checks, and to allow students to practice singing against another part, using the video. I cannot suggest enough that other music teachers use this resource in their classroom and am excited to find even more ways to utilize the application.
Erika Safford is a vocal music teacher and enthusiast. She currently teaches part-time at Lyons Mill Elementary School for Baltimore County Public Schools and is a mom to her two toddlers. She has also taught in other counties in Maryland and Indiana. She has taught elementary vocal/general music, middle and high school choir, world music, music theory, piano, theatre, and Spanish. She regularly performs in a variety of choirs, musicals, and as a soloist and has recently started calling square dances. You can follow Erika @SaffordMusic on Twitter.
“Conversation is a catalyst for innovation” – John Seely Brown
High quality conversations and higher order thinking have a chicken-and-egg relationship, where the important fact isn’t which came first but rather that you won’t find one without the other. VoiceThread is a broadly accessible sandbox for perfecting the skills required for world class conversations and the higher order thinking that drives them.
We are excited to share some recent platform developments as well as what’s next for your bigger and better VoiceThread conversations.
Automatic Closed Captioning
The hardest thing about implementing our Automatic Captioning system has been explaining to skeptical administrators that it is, in fact, automatic. There are no requests or jobs to manage, and no unknown costs to worry about. It just runs behind the scenes with zero maintenance. Machine captioning and an integrated caption editor are now available with an upgrade to Platinum Service for your Site License, Active User License, or District License.
Contact us if you are interested in discussing this service as an add-on to your existing license.
Most interactive video solutions consist of the ability to place post-it style notes on a video timeline. It might be novel, but it’s not a conversation. VoiceThread’s video commenting update, released last year, allows you to insert your audio, video, or text comments into a video exactly where you want them. Rather than being posted and forgotten, the comments are all made in the context of an actual structured dialogue where ideas evolve over time, based on listening as much as commenting.
VoiceThread affords easy unscheduled human interaction, but sometimes you need the rapid back and forth that’s only available in a live meeting. Our upcoming integration with the Zoom web conferencing platform will allow you to pull in any live meeting that you’ve recorded so that you can not only share the conversation with people who missed it, but more importantly, continue to extend the conversation over time.
Conversation Policy Updates
Two new improvements to the playback policy of comments will make participation in any VoiceThread conversation more efficient. First, when there are unheard or unseen comments (marked by yellow), you will be taken directly to the first one whenever you open a VoiceThread. This eliminates the need to wade through comments you’ve already heard or seen. The second change takes a page from streaming video services; it remembers where you were the last time you closed a VoiceThread and then returns you to the very same spot the next time you open it.
LTI 1.3 and Deep Linking
If you already use VoiceThread in your learning management system, then the Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) standard is what makes that possible. Version 1.3 of the LTI standard and new Deep Linking features are in development now, and VoiceThread is an early adopter. These updates will offer deeper LMS integration, more rostering transparency, course copying improvements, and more.
Version 4 of the VoiceThread mobile app is on its way! It’s a complete redesign, from the underlying architecture up. With simplified workflows, new features, increased stability and reliability, and more accessibility options, it will make mobile VoiceThreading much easier and more flexible.
A completely new infrastructure for VoiceThread assignments will be released in time for fall of 2019. All components of the system, from the assignment builder to the student experience to the grader, have been redesigned to simplify workflows and enable new assignment types. This update will take your VoiceThread assessments to a whole new level.
If you attend any education or technology conferences this year, keep an eye out for us! Here are just a few places you can find us:
OLC Innovate in Denver, Colorado – April 2-4
Instructurecon in Long Beach, California – July 9-11
OLC Accelerate in Orlando, Florida - Nov 19-21
Please stop by and say hello!
Thank you for helping to drive our growth and evolution. We couldn’t do what we do without your feedback and support. Happy VoiceThreading!
This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader, Tasia King.
I bet when Randall Munson created International Creativity Month, he had no idea of how this would impact the minds of students at my elementary school in South Carolina. During the month of January, I wanted to make it clear that our students can, and are ready to be creative geniuses this month and beyond. I’d have to say that many times, schools across our country are the very places to stifle students’ creativity. There are so many mundane tasks to get done, standards to meet, assessments to administer, and meetings to be had. In the midst of all of this, it takes one person to step out of the box, take something old, revise it, and try something new!
Teachers are some of the most creative people that exist, and I’m fortunate to work with many of them every day. During my recent grade level professional development, I asked teachers what were some of their fears about allowing students to be creative in untraditional ways. Some of the responses, as I expected, were fear of losing control of the class, and losing time from the instructional pacing as outlined. For many of us, it may bring thoughts of chaos and a loud noise levels. This, however, doesn’t always mean that you’ve lost control. It may be a sign that students are in tune with their most creative selves and the products they’re creating will prove it.
As with any professional development on a technology tool, I started my January session with second through fifth grade teachers (in teams) by having teachers create a list of verbs that we see commonly in standards and indicators. Our lists included words like communicate, create, illustrate, and demonstrate. We wondered, how can we allow our students to master those standards all while being creative in their learning? At this point, it was appropriate to introduce the tool that would guide students to the desired learning outcomes. VoiceThread is easy enough for all students in kindergarten through fifth grade to access since our district has purchased a subscription which allows for single sign on options. Based on their initial feedback, there were already some grade levels that have found the value in using VoiceThread to give assessments to students who may need oral administration on assessments. What a time saver! However, my focus this month was more on student creation.
As a technology and learning coach, my hope is that teachers can always leave with something that they feel they can implement immediately. I was pleased to see that within the next hour, a teacher asked me to come to help her with sharing her very first VoiceThread link on Google Classroom. As you can imagine, I was more than thrilled to assist! Since then, teachers have allowed their students to create slides mainly with the use of Google Apps (Drawings and Slides). The feature that allows for students to add media straight from their Google Drive appeared to be an easy way to upload their work.
(Students were to share what they knew about the battles in the American Revolution)
Now that our second through fifth graders have had an opportunity to create using VoiceThread, my focus is on sharing those same learning experiences to the lower grade levels. The beautiful thing about our school is that each class has an assigned “Book Buddy.” This is where an upper grade class is paired with a lower grade class and they meet monthly to read and share learning experiences. During their “buddy time,” teachers can empower the older students by having them work alongside the younger students to show them how to create their own VoiceThread slide. The possibilities are endless, and the students immediately became the teachers! As Albert Einstein said, “if you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” This is a sure way to see how well students can create and communicate using VoiceThread. Our usage of VoiceThread, and all of the remarkable opportunities for learning that it allows for our students, is going to evolve as the year goes on. Many teachers have embarked on creating groups and having students add to a class deck while others are App Smashing VoiceThread with some of their other favorite tools. I’m proud of these teachers for taking a leap and trying something new through the use of VoiceThread. In the end, both teachers and students are learning to tap into their most creative selves during the month of January and beyond!
About the Author:
Mrs. Tasia King is a Technology and Learning Coach in Columbia, South Carolina. She has taught both second and third grade over her 10 years in education. Tasia has presented on many topics such as integrating technology to address content standards. She is currently Google Certified Level I and a Seesaw Ambassador. Her passions include graphic creation, social media marketing, and developing attractive presentations. You can follow her work on Twitter at @techytasia.
Throughout these assignments, I predominately required video or voice commenting. Students often speak from four to twenty minutes contingent on their assignment. They often preceded their comment by writing some practice notes on paper.
Many spoke passionately about their topic, and it was evident they were engaged in the assignment. Numerous students in my courses are from different parts of the country and communicate in different languages. As part of their assignments, they are tasked to state the researched article’s name including the web site address (URL). One of the challenges confronted was providing closed captions to note the web sites mentioned. Many classmates, including myself, wanted to visit the site commented on. If one character or letter spoken was unclear, the URL was invalid or not found when typed into a web browser. There were a couple of alternatives to work around this dilemma. A text comment under the student’s video or voice comment providing the web address was made. We then had twice as many comments making the VoiceThread challenging in viewing; while the students had extra work. The other alternative was having them create a closed captioning file. This was not very intuitive and was time consuming; something the students didn’t find welcoming.
Auspiciously, VoiceThread has recently added an improved closed captioning feature. Once you enable the option on your VoiceThread, a few minutes later from the conclusion of the comment (longer comments will result in more time), the closed captioning is automatically generated (I was pleased how accurate my spoken words were to the generated text).
Students could then go back into the VoiceThread closed captioning editor and correct their misspelled words (their stated names usually need to be revised) as well as the web address. This allows anyone who is listening or watching a comment to pause the comment, seeing the precise spelling.
Having closed captioning on your video and voice comments not only meets UDL, but it benefits classmates who might need to look up a word, phrase or web address. The only caveat to the new closed captioning feature is that it currently works for newly created VoiceThreads. If you have an older VoiceThread that doesn’t have this feature, you must make a copy of the VoiceThread first and use the copied version. Additional information that was helpful is located at VoiceThread’s web site Instant Captions with VoiceThread.
Curtis Izen is a senior information associate and VoiceThread Certified Educator. Curtis adjuncts online and face to face courses at Baruch College and the School of Professional Studies at the City University of New York. Curtis is passionate on bringing new philosophies and technology into the curriculum. He is a two-time recipient of the Presidential Excellence Award for Distinguished Teaching and Pedagogy at Baruch College.
This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader Luisa Josefa Corsi García.
I want to share some of the benefits I had after taking a short teacher training workshop on VoiceThread. Thanks to that course I was able to learn how to use some extra tools that the VoiceThread offers to us, such as the video VoiceThreads that I was not using up to that moment. I was truly motivated by concrete pedagogical concerns in the speaking component that pushed me to innovate using new technologies with my undergraduate students at Los Andes University. Additionally, I wanted to start practicing the “know how” by implementing immediate actions before I forgot this valuable information.
Video Speaking Project in English 5
This course aims to develop a stronger set of reading skills in comparison to the other skills; therefore, it is necessary to foster speaking skills beyond the classroom. When the VoiceThread videos came into my way, I immediately thought: “this could be great to do in class.” First, I asked my students to make a two-minute video with powerpoint slides where they could practice the specific grammar and vocabulary. For instance, some of the main topics were the use of conditionals and vocabulary related to the brain. At this point, I provided them with specific parameters and assessment checklists for the project and the peer feedback. Then, students posted their comments to give peer feedback to their classmates. Finally, I gave them my feedback taking into account the continuous feedback I had provided them with throughout the process.
Video Experience with English 7
Students in this course are taught language learning strategies and aspects of spoken language which help them understand why they have the difficulties when learning English. In addition, students get familiarized with some of the most important features of spoken English such as the English sound system. My previous experience with video projects in English 5 led me to consider doing something similar according to the content I was teaching. Consequently, students made a two-minute video based on their notes of a text called Memory, which explains some of the aspects the brain has in terms of encoding, storage, and retrieval. Moreover, I asked them to work on six specific English pronunciation sounds they needed to work on the most. Finally, after taping themselves, I asked to give mutual feedback according to some parameters related to spontaneity, pronunciation, and content. I myself provided them with feedback through the whole process, as well. In both courses, I provided students with a kind of “User Manual” guide in order to show them a step by step description of the video creation and the comments for the peer feedback.
The most relevant conclusion I could draw from these teaching practices is that students were actively involved because the teaching and learning dynamics completely changed. In fact, the classroom was flipped since I did not spend most of the time explaining grammar or pronunciation aspects, but students themselves were the ones who were in charge of their own learning by asking me questions that had a real meaning to them. It is also a great opportunity for learners to share their knowledge and points of view. I will definitely continue incorporating VoiceThread videos in my classes.
Here I share one of the questions I asked them to get students’ feedback.
What did you like the most about this video final speaking project ?
These were some of the answers:
“I like a lot the topic and how it was introduced”
“The central theme of this video and the participation of other people, the correction of the sentences from the concepts seen in class and the evolution in speech”.
“how I improve my pronunciation”
“I like that I can practice with a partner.”
About the author
Luisa Josefa Corsi García is a teacher of English in the Languages and Culture Department, at Los Andes University; Bogota, Colombia. She holds a Master of Education and a CELTA Certification of English. Her lifelong teaching experience, in English and German languages with undergraduate students of all faculties, has recently been enriched by Flipped Learning principles. She can be reached by email: lj.corsi [at] uniandes.edu.co or on Twitter at @Luisa_Corsi.
This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader, Jennifer Schultz.
How can I teach hands-on technical skills in an online environment? How can I be sure that students not only understand concepts, but can apply them to their future careers? How can I encourage students to do their best when I’m not in the classroom with them 3 days a week? These were the unknowns that I
faced as we attempted to deliver face-to-face training for speech-language pathology assistants in an online classroom. Fortunately, our instructional design strategist had a solution, VoiceThread. VoiceThread has allowed me to deliver content, build learning communities, assess student competence, and form positive relationships with students.
Initially, and still today, VoiceThread is the primary lecture and discussion tool used in our online SLPA coursework. Thirty- to 40-minute lectures are created for each weekly unit in 2- to 3-credit courses. Text slides, diagrams, video demonstrations, and illustrations are built into each VoiceThread to present information in visual, audio, and written formats to meet the diverse learner needs of the students in each course. I provide audio and video comments to explain key concepts, prompt students to answer review questions, and invite them to share their experiences related to the topic.
Students participate in discussion with typed and audio or video comments. Use of weekly VoiceThreads in our asynchronous course format allows students to comment and ask questions at the point in the lecture when their ideas and thoughts occur to them and on the day of week and at the time of day that fits their busy
schedules. Other students hear their questions and comments and build off them or respond to them. Typed, audio, webcam video, doodling, and upload commenting formats ensure that I have all of the tools I need to respond to students at the right time and in the best format to communicate the information they need.
Students share their work on larger projects including speech and language therapy plans and activities, and reflections on experiential learning projects by adding demonstration video slides and by uploading work products to VoiceThreads. Their coursemates provide feedback and ask questions to clarify content. These sharing activities allow students to learn from each other and leave the online classroom with multiple career resources.
Assessments have been expanded beyond traditional written assessment procedures through VoiceThread technology. By creating a moderated VoiceThread and embedding it within a test question in our LMS, I am able to present written clinical terms on text slides. Students record audio comments in which they pronounce these key terms or use them in meaningful sentences, which allows me to assess their ability to use career-specific language. In a reverse format, I am able to assess students’ ability to process and accurately document speech and language skills through transcription assessments. I record assessment stimuli in a VoiceThread created with a webcam video upload in which I produce speech and language samples. That video is embedded into an assessment question and
students transcribe the speech sample within their test.
VoiceThread also allows students to participate in supervision simulations. In one particular activity, students assume the role of the SLPA who is reporting progress to their supervising speech-language pathologist. They record a 2- to 3-minute webcam video in our moderated Oral Reports VoiceThread. After listening to their report, I respond with a private comment to ask a question, which prompts them to clarify the content of their report or to plan for future treatment activities. Students return to the VoiceThread to respond to my question to complete the oral reporting activity. This interaction allows SLPA students to gain experience and confidence in oral reporting and professional communication within a supervisor/supervisee relationship in preparation for their capstone clinical fieldwork experience.
VoiceThread has enabled me to deliver instruction efficiently and effectively, to provide opportunities for students to interact with me and with other online students, and to assess hands-on technical career skills. The reactions my students have to the use of VoiceThread technology gives me confidence that the tool is essential to their engagement and success in our training program. Many students initially express fears of isolation and limited learning/practice opportunities in online coursework. They quickly realize that they are not alone, but are part of a class with real students and real instructors.
They consistently identify the VoiceThread interaction they have with me and with their coursemates as one of the most beneficial aspects of their online learning experience. When asked in course surveys, “What was the most positive aspect of the way the instructor taught this course?,” comments like this one validate our use of VoiceThread in online learning: “I never had the chance to say this, but especially in the stressful part of coursework, it is nice to hear her smile come through while listening to the VoiceThread. In a strange way it inspires confidence and positivity.”
About the Author:
Jennifer Schultz is an instructor in the online speech-language pathology assistant program at Mitchell Technical Institute in Mitchell, SD. Before teaching SLPA students, Jennifer was a clinical speech-language pathologist in hospital and school settings. She can be reached by email at Jennifer.schultz [at] mitchelltech.edu or on Twitter at @jschultz_slp
This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader, Jim Briggs.
I am an Art Educator, 24 years strong, and I say, “you can teach an old dog new tricks!” Although I primarily teach traditional art: drawing, painting, collage, sculpture, etc., to grades K-5, I also enjoy infusing a little art & technology-based learning into my lessons when I feel it is necessary and extremely useful to my students. For me, VoiceThread quickly became one of those perfect tools to use every day. I have included many photos, and VoiceThread videos at the end of this blog that may help visually explain how in-depth I use technology, and how it is such an integral component within my Art Room.
At a glance, I simply felt VoiceThread could be the primary vessel that my students could use to capture their own visual expressions and artwork, and to showcase and share their amazing talents for our End-of-the-Year Art Show. After familiarizing myself further with VoiceThread, I quickly realized this program could have many purposes within my Art Room. Over the last four years of working with VoiceThread I’ve found it useful for designing dozens and dozens of Video-Art Lesson Introductions and Demonstrations, Student Work Times, Class Assessments, Small and Large Group Discussions, Shared- Learning Discussions, Artwork Critique Lessons, Elements of Art and Principles of Design Demonstrations, Body of Evidence Presentations, Master Artists Video Exhibitions, Stop-Motion Animation Presentations, Video Art Sub Plans, and again the End-of-the-Year Art Show Student Expositions.
When communicating with other teachers from different schools about how I’ve used VoiceThread, Word, PowerPoint, Schoology and other technology software programs in my Art Room, they are often quite surprised about the grade levels I’m teaching it to, and the level of difficulty of each technology I’m teaching them. My first year working with VoiceThread was a trial run with a few video lessons throughout the year, going out to just my 4th and 5th grade students. However, each year of using VT has opened the door to teaching it to younger and younger grade levels, and now, just four years later, I use VoiceThread with grades 1-5 and they absolutely love it. Let’s face it, our younger generation adapts much quicker to most technology, and as their educator, I’m just preparing them for their future. I’d probably find some way to use the technology with Kindergarten if I could get computer devices in their hands, but for now I’ll just focus on the 1-5 grades.
Being the Art teacher allows me to see every student, which is awesome, but like most elementary special area teachers, I only have each class in my Art Room once a week. When students come see me every second counts and it is with the technology element of VoiceThread and other software programs I work with that extremely helps utilize each second of every art lesson. VoiceThread may come into play with an Introduction and Demonstration video on student’s devices, depending on where each student is in the current art assignment. For those several students who finish earlier than others, I have setup the next video art lesson in VoiceThread, which they usually access the link through Schoology. Although the video is not a full lesson in its entirety, it is approximately a 1-3-minute video of me explaining and demonstrating how to begin the next art lesson. Within each intro. video I explain what the new assignment is, the type of medium we will be using, the interesting subject matter we will focus on, and the first few steps needed to begin the new assignment. It is never enough for a full lesson description, but that is why I am there as their Art instructor, to facilitate and work with every student equally and to help make them a successful individual in my Art Room.
I’ve also setup VT videos reminding students what to remember during the “art process”, or what we also call Student Work Time during Art. This VT video acts as a checklist for the students, and most often it makes for a better outcome for the entire class. My pre-recorded Assessment VT videos are viewed either at the end of each lesson, or at the end of our art units, and they incorporate questions for the students to ask their classmates in both Small and Large Group Discussions. Our student computer devices are equipped with a camera, and each student takes a photo of their artwork in two stages: the process stage and the finished stage. We do this for keeping track of each student’s Body of Evidence, or student portfolio. This VoiceThread portfolio can be viewed by all classmates for Artwork Critique purposes, and other types of Shared-Learning Discussions. Students also need to be reminded of our Art terminology (Art Word Wall), and VoiceThread gives me the opportunity to create a pre-recorded video of the Elements of Art and Principles of Design, which students may open and reference at any time.
In Art we mention a numerous amount of Master Artists throughout the year, and once again VoiceThread can be utilized to create a presentation for students to learn some art history about each of our master artists we acknowledge. As their Art teacher, I find VoiceThread a much better tool to show the class information about Master Artists and the many artworks each Master Artist has produced. Each student can access this information on their own computer device, rather than trying to view one decent size poster hanging on my front board or looking up at a PowerPoint I’m displaying on the large white screen, which is sadly frozen on one slide, before I switch to the next slide.
As exciting as all the above data may be, the next bit of information may peak your interest even more. Stop-Motion Animation, Video Sub Plans, and Art Show-student presentations are some of my favorite discoveries while using the VoiceThread program.
Having once taught graphic design, animation, web design, and game development to high schoolers for 16 years, I knew I had the confidence to learn new technology. When our school received our devices a few years ago I jumped at the chance to start implementing them in my lessons. After noticing what each program consisted of, I started incorporating new art assignments to each grade level. I taught Stop-Motion Animation to grades 4 and 5 the first year we had devices but realized the younger grades could also be taught similar techniques for simpler animations. MovieMaker and VoiceThread were the key tools to make these Stop-Motion Animations come to life. When I became more comfortable working in VoiceThread I started thinking about video art lessons, which quickly made me think about Video Sub Plans. I’m now remembering when I was a student in school, and how much I would have loved to watch a Sub Plan video that my teacher had left for us. Nothing against substitutes, because they work extremely hard at what they do, but as a student, having a special area class such as Art once a week, I always hoped to see my Art teacher each time, and a pre-recorded video of that person is the “next best thing” to the actual teacher. It would have also been a great feeling as a young student because I would have realized the extra time and effort that the teacher put toward his/her students.
I made one VoiceThread Art Sub Plan and left it for my class the next time I was out, and everyone was quite pleased with the use of technology. The substitute left a note for me saying how happy he was that I created “video instructions” for the students. Plus, the students enjoyed seeing me on their computer devices, explaining the art lessons for the class. I believe one of the student’s comment was that they liked that they could rewind the video and watch what they missed or forgot about the lesson. Since this VoiceThread Sub Plan was a complete success I started to make several new videos for every other time that I would be out. To this day I have over a dozen VT video sub plans, and even if I don’t use them all I like the variety. It’s simple to say that I absolutely love VoiceThread and sharing the technology with my students, and I felt that I could teach this program well enough to the students so that they too could create an awesome presentation of their own to share to the school community. Thus, the Art Show Student Expositions were created. Again, I started this assignment in an earlier year with my 4th and 5th graders, but I currently have grades 1-5 produce video presentations for our Art Show. Grades 1 and 2 have a much simpler version to create, but with the same end goal in mind. I use PowerPoint, MovieMaker, and VoiceThread to impress our Art Show attendees.
*Students photograph each artwork they make and use it in their End-of-the-Year VoiceThread video.
*Students work in PowerPoint to create a “Photoshop-like” digital media creation. PowerPoint has enough (not all) “photoshop” features to do what I wanted the students to do. Manipulating Layers in PowerPoint was certainly the deciding factor to make this student assignment a reality, and the students loved it. All these digital artworks go right into VoiceThread for the students to use in their video portfolio.
*Students occasionally watch VoiceThread videos for the next Art lesson. As I’ve stated before, not every student finishes an art assignment at the same time, and for the students who wish to continue forward to the next art unit, they can open and watch a VoiceThread video I have ready for them and begin that next artwork. I am a huge advocate for Student-Centered Learning, and VoiceThread and other programs I use help make this happen every day in my Art Room.
*Students use MovieMaker to capture several different Stop-Motion Animations, and then they upload those animations into VoiceThread to create one full movie. Students absolutely love movement in Art, and although this assignment incorporates somewhat of a “lost art” of Stop-Motion Animation the students enjoy creating and take pride in their own VT video productions.
*Even though I infuse technology in many of my art classes, we do thousands upon thousands of traditionally-based artworks each year. My school art gallery is always full of amazing student creations. The technology aspect of the lesson/unit (VoiceThread and other programs) are always mixed into each class, but never really take over the full assignment. I simply use the tool that makes life easier and more comfortable for all of us, and in several situations that tool is VoiceThread.
*VoiceThread can also be used as a means of communication and critiquing in my Art Room. Students can type, speak, and/or video record themselves with comments, opinions, and advice on so many topics. The above photos are of me within a VT video I made, and I call it “The Summer of Mr. Briggs.” In this VoiceThread video, I share events and special moments of my previous summer, and I ask the students to watch the video in its entirety. Next, I demonstrate how to make comments, and reply to other classroom comments before giving students the assignment. I’d like to mention that this isn’t a full lesson, but rather a mini lesson which leads into the first artwork of the year. The next VoiceThread video (not shown) shows the master artist I’m using, along with the subject matter of the artwork used to help inspire the children’s creativity. We use this master artist video in the same way as the video about me and my awesome summer, but now it pertains more to the artist, the medium the artist used, and the thought behind the example artworks, plus this second mini lesson becomes the start of a critique (small/large group discussions) for the students. I used this method with grades 1-5 and it worked successfully every time.
*VoiceThread is perfect to collect and create assignment videos of resource photos. Let’s face it, as teachers we don’t want students searching for photos in too many areas on the web. I do use Kiddle, PebbleGo, and Discovery Education, and they are fine and safe for students, however, we can’t always find the photo we need. Creating a VoiceThread video of 20-40 resource images that students can look at on their own device can really help the productivity and inspiration of the art lesson.
*Our school Art Show consists of a couple thousand artworks scattered along the school walls, in every hallway and on every floor, along with several hundred computer devices displaying a mixture of student videos in VoiceThread, that include everything each student has completed all year. I believe it’s the most comprehensive way to use the technology that is placed in front of us. ****
*These are only a few of the many VoiceThread videos I’ve made. I have approximately 50 videos so far, but my video library is constantly growing.
5^th^Grade Stop-Motion Construction Paper Animation
I want to quickly mention to everyone that I didn’t stumble on this VT program on my own. My colleagues have been some of the most influential components of my entire teaching career, and some of them also currently use VoiceThread. With the assistance and support of my teaching staff and administration, I’ve gained the knowledge and technical skills to make my career a successful one. VoiceThread is super easy to use. The only thing it’s missing is an individual’s creative ideas. Simply brainstorm a lesson, design it in nearly any program, and upload it in VoiceThread for everyone to enjoy. If you create one VT video, you’ll create others that follow. I highly recommend incorporating VoiceThread in all classroom settings, subject areas, and lessons. Take it from this “old dog”-after teaching for 24 years, I’m still learning something new, innovative, and valuable every day.
About the Author:
Jim Briggs teaches Art to grades K-5 at Prettyboy Elementary School in Baltimore, Maryland. He also taught Art, Graphic Design, Animation, Web Design, and Game Development at both Parkville High School and Franklin High School. Before working with his current students, Jim taught Art, Graphic Design, Animation, Web Design, and Game Development at Towson University. You can find him on twitter at @jbriggs_artroom.