VoiceThreads in Education
What did Vicki set out to do?
Vicki has a strong interest in documenting child play through photographs and video. In the past, she has had her students collect documentation and present their analyses orally in class, or create posters and hold a poster session. Her learning goals are to:
- learn how to observe, document, and analyze children at play
- present the students' analysis to the professor and their peers
- offer an opportunity for the students' peers to critique their analysis and offer analyses of their own
These teaching goals have worked well using presentation and posters, but Vicki tried doing it with a new tool called "VoiceThreads" which, in a nutshell, is an online service that offers a way to post an image or video and collect audio commentary from different users. In other words, the technology is a perfect fit for Vicki's pedagogical goals.
What are the advantages of VoiceThread?
If posters and oral presentations have worked well in the past, why make a switch to a digital technology? Here are a few reasons:
- Video can be paused, re-started, re-wound, and written on
A nice feature of VoiceThread is that anyone leaving a comment can stop or rewind the video and "draw" on it to point out a part of the image. These pauses and drawings are recorded as part of the video response. This can be extremely useful when viewing video of toddlers, who rarely pause for the camera!
- The video can be viewed repeatedly by the students
The documentation is available on the web, not just at presentation time
- Peer reviews are captured and become part of the "presentation"
Other students' comments become associated with the video, resulting in a collection of multiple perspectives. The video becomes the center of a collaborative analysis
- Other voices can be added
Because VoiceThread is based on the web, you can record a response to a video anywhere you have a connection to the web. This gives you opportunities to add other "voices" to the thread. In Vicki's case, she collected the commentary of the teachers of the documented children
- The video and analyses are preserved for future use
Even after the assignment is complete, the VoiceThread remains as a resource. In Vicki's case, she now has a small (but growing) "library" of documented childplay and analysis that she could potentially use for future classes
What was the assignment?
Here is Vicki's assignment as given to the students.
And did it work?
Overall, Vicki was pleased with the results, but acknowledges that there is room for improvement -- particularly in the design of the assignment. Generally speaking, students were interested and engaged with the assignment, and the resulting VoiceThreads were of overall good quality.
Vicki plans to refine and repeat the VoiceThreads assignment.
What would she do differently?
Vicki's "lessons learned"
- When using a class assignment with which students are unfamiliar, it is better to over-structure rather than under-structure the assignment.
Vicki thought that her assignment write-up (shown above) may have been too prescriptive, but students appreciated the clear expectations and in some cases wanted more.
(Note that the next time Vicki runs this, she will have examples of "good" VoiceThreads to show the class, which will help in this regard)