Year 3's First Voicethreads

One of the real joys of my current job is that  I get to work with our younger students in the primary school.  Having only ever taught high school, the chance to work with the R-6 kids is just so refreshing.  They are so enthusiastic, so keen and so refreshingly honest.  I’ve had a great time this term working with all the Junior School kids, but in particular I enjoyed working with Year 3 on some digital storytelling projects, where I suggested to the Year 3 teachers that they try Voicethread as our storytelling tool of choice.  One quick demo and they were all excited by the possibilities.  (And so was I for that matter… although I’ve used Voicethread a lot for my own personal use, this was the first time I’ve had the chance to work with students to do something with it)

The kids were especially excited by the idea of getting some real feedback from real people in other parts of the world.  If you get a chance, please pop in and leave them a message. You will need to sign in with a Voicethread account in order to leave a message but I’m sure many readers of this blog will already have one, and if you don’t you should!  If you could get your own students to leave them some feedback too, that would be awesome!

You can find the kids’ work at http://ed.voicethread.com/#u110482

Note that comment moderation is enabled, so your comments may not show up right away, but please leave them anyway.  At the time of writing, they are still finishing them off so there are still a couple more to come yet, but your comments would still be very welcome, and a great motivator I’m sure!

Our school signed up for ed.voicethread, the new education service provided by VT, which is good although I have to say I’ve found it a little confusing to manage.  However, we seem to have gotten the kids’ work online without too much trouble and the students have really enjoyed the task.  Voicethread is an amazing tool, so simple to use, yet so powerful in what can be done with it.  As an entry point into digital storytelling and podcasting (which is sort of what it is) it is a really excellent tool.

We were particularly focused on ensuring that all our images came from non-copyrighted sources, and the kids got really good at searching through Creative Commons photos using either FlickrCC, Flickr Storm or CC Search.  It was great to see these 7 and 8 year olds showing respect for intellectual property online and only using CC licensed photos.

In hindsight, I think I’d scaffold the work a little more next time, as the task was fairly sophisticated for Year 3 students.  Although I prelinked the various National Park websites and linked to Google Maps’ satellite images of the parks on our Year 3 Moodle page so they could just go directly to some of the more relevant sources, most of the websites were written in fairly adult language.  Despite that, I think they still did a good job of answering the following questions in their Voicethread…

  • What type of park is it?
  • What is it protecting?
  • Description including location… Where it is?
  • About the Park? Things to do and special features?
  • Interesting facts about your National Park… History? Aboriginal perspective? Tourism?
  • Why do you think this area should be a National Park?
  • Come up with some specific rules for conservation in your National park.

All in all I think they did a great job, and I’m very proud of them!  You go girls!

The Power of Podcasts

I never realised I was such an auditory learner until I became a podcast junkie. Now I listen to oodles of podcasts on all sorts of topics. My drive to work is a little longer at the new school this year and I’m rather pleased about that since I get to listen to more podcasts!

Ever since starting my own podcast, The Virtual Staffroom, over a year ago I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to chat with other educators about school, learning and whatever else came up. Initially, the motivation for making the podcast was just to figure out how it was done, and I’ve been lucky to have had so many wonderful teachers offering to join me online for a Skype chat, which then ends up as a podcast.

This week, in somewhat of a role reversal for me, I was invited to be on the interviewee’s side of the mic for a change. I had the great pleasure of being a guest on the Ed Tech Crew Podcast this week, where Darrell and Tony had a chat to me about a bunch of things, but mainly interactive whiteboards. They heard I’d been writing a book on the topic and wanted to have a chat about it. These guys asked some really good questions about IWBs, and I enjoyed the opportunity to have a chat about how I see IWB’s impacting upon education. You can check the podcast episode out here if you’d like.  I’ve also been a guest on Jeff Utecht’s Shanghai -based On Deck podcast a few times, where he and Dave chat about educational technology issues as well, specifically centering it around the South East Asian area. And a few minutes ago I just had a Skype chat with Sharon Peters in Montreal who asked if I’d like to join her and the rest of the Women of Web 2 for a podcast in June.  We have quite a podcasting ecosystem going on here…

Podcasting is such an amazing medium. I actually live around the corner from the studios of a community radio station and I often wonder about their audience size, and how much expense and infrastructure must be required to broadcast to this audience. I’m sure the audience is relatively small and the overhead required to broadcast to them quite considerable. And yet, here in the podosphere, anyone can potentially broadcast to a much bigger global audience at virtually no cost. All it takes to be a podcaster is a basic computer, some audio recording software, an internet connection, and you can have essentially the same opportunity to broadcast your ideas to the world as any other fully licensed, commercial broadcasting entity.

Forget about technology side of podcasting for a moment and think about what effect it is having on the economics of commercial broadcasting. Sure, it’s not about to put the big name radio stations out of business just yet, but it has the potential to be a truly powerful alternative… this truly is The Long Tail in action, and you really have to wonder how the future of media will look as anyone who wants to have a voice can have one… easily, cheaply and effectively.

On the Power of Networks

I was doing some stuff on Voicethread this morning and spotted a Twitter from Alec Couros directing me to a very powerful use of Voicethread. Alec is a professor at the University of Saskatoon in Regina, Canada, and posed the question “What does your Network mean to you?” as a Voicethread and got a large number of responses from a wide range of educators. It’s very interesting to scan through the responses and see what a wide range of ideas can be held within a single Voicethread.

Take a look for yourself…

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