Monday, May 31, 2010

The power of Voice in online classrooms

Consider this scenario.

You are an art history teacher and you are assigned with teaching a distance course. In the classroom, you have had great success with a teaching approach that involves showing photos on the big screen and building teaching moments by discussing with students the important elements of the image. You want to translate this teaching method to the distance realm. Of course, you have several challenges:
  1. The students are geographically distributed and, therefore, using an audio-enabled online synchronous presentation room (such as Elluminate Live!) would be difficult for scheduling reasons.

  2. You could write down an accompanying piece of text to go with an image where you describe the concepts and then you can ask students to engage in a text-based discussion around the concepts. But somehow the mechanics of this activity sound so ‘artificial’. It lacks that intangible quality of a face-to-face discussion while being able to point to parts of the image. It’s a poor substitute for what you have become accustomed to in the classroom: exchanging ideas both student-to-instructor and student-to-student while talking together, etc.

  3. Your department has given a very small budget to help with the creation of your course – $100.

Does this sound like a daunting scenario?

Welcome to Voicethread. It’s a tool for having conversations around media. It’s a way to share with a group of people one or more images placed into a VoiceBook. Together you can make a series of audio comments on the images that everyone can hear and playback more than once. These voice comments can also be augmented with annotations to the images that highlight areas of interest – much like pointing to a section of a slide while talking in class. The power of this service becomes fantastic when you realize that students *and* instructors can both leave audio comments on the same image. So assembling together the audio commentary from a group of students is a great thing to experience. You can definitely feel the collective energy of the class much more intensely than you can with a written discussion forum. It gets much closer to providing that intangible feeling of face-to-face discussion while being completely asynchronous. For about $100 you can use it with a class of 50 students and it's entirely online with no software to install.

Do you want to see it in action? Michelle Pacansky-Brock, an Educational Consultant, has put together a few demonstration images into a Voicebook so you can experience the power of this tool.

If you want more info on Voicethread be sure to watch the intro video from the makers of Voicethread themselves. Also, visit (and contribute to) the Voicethread page on the classroom 2.0 wiki for additional resource related to Voicethread.

Do you have any exeprience with Voicethread or do you see an application for it in your field? Share your ideas with everyone by leaving a comment below.


Iain said...

I have used it extensively and find it a good fit in some of the work I do. Here is public diigo resource list

Eric said...

That's a great public diigo resource list for Voicethread. Thanks for sharing the link Iain.

Kathleen Cercone said...

As I started to read your post, my first thought was Voicethread and then you said it! I have used Voicethread in a distance learning class and F2F (both had the same class in the same school) so I used Voicethread to get some collaboration between the 2 classes.
I did not find that it got them to work together, but they did post to it. They did not respond to each other though.

I would like to hear how it goes!

Unknown said...

Sounds really interesting to me! Would love to use it sometime. Thank you for sharing the information.

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