Friday, March 29, 2013

VoiceThread - "Conversations in the Cloud"

**Update: 10/19/2013: Unfortunately, a single educator account is no longer free. Now, it will cost $79 a year for a teacher account and 50 student accounts. It also appears that "old" voicethreads can no longer be accessed. While still a great tool, I was disappointed by this. While I do understand that these companies need to be profitable, it does seem that some special dispensation for education users should be made. Oh well...**

VoiceThread is a unique web-based resource, and we have been remiss not talking about it 'til now. Briefly, VT allows students to quickly pull together images and then 'attach'  comments to each. Others - students, parents, teachers - can then start a 'conversation in the cloud' - via telephone, webcam, even file upload - and VT makes this process very simple.

For instance, I've had students use it to create 'reports' on issues faced by countries in modern-day Africa. The results were powerful, and the students were very proud of the outcomes. Our kindergarten teacher put together a great Mother's Day thread using scanned images her students created, along with a Mother's Day wish from each, attached to the drawing they made. Needless to say, moms (and dads!) loved it.

There are lots of easy to use controls to 'review' comments and manage the thread - navigation is pretty simple, and it's really a highly refined tool.

Not only can students add recorded voice to the images they pull in, the software allows others - even with no VT account - to easily add their own comments to the student's work. It's a very powerful platform that provides a reasonable way to encourage deeper thinking. It also support Project Based Learning in an easy to use platform. Comments can be moderated, and the free account has a decent level of feature that should satisfy most needs. There is also an iOS app (sadly, did not see one for Android, but you can use the web interface anywhere...). So, take a look at VoiceThread, and start a cloud-based discussion today.

CC Connection: This is a fun tool students can use to pull together the aspects of a story or novel they have read, such as an analysis of characters, setting, literary devices, or text comparisons.  They can use it to study vocabulary or significant lines of text.  Since they can hear themselves read, younger students can use VT to practice fluency and pronunciation.  Students can also use it to write narratives, share research, and illustrate conclusions.

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