As I said in my last post, I think voicethreads could be of tremendous use in schools. But then I watched this voicethread, and now I KNOW it will be of use! They have really worked hard to make it safe for students and useful for educators. I think the designers of voicethreads knew they had a great educational product and wanted to make sure it was well-used, and not feared like so many other web2.0 tools (youtube, facebook, even wikis). In case you missed it, here's a link to a voicethread all about it.
I went ahead and signed up for my free educator pro account and got started! It really was easy, the hardest part of making my voicethread was waiting for my pictures to upload. I decided to make an interactive alphabet. Time and 'stuff' constraints limited me to just 4 letters for now, but I love how it turned out, so I'll be adding to it until it's complete! I took pictures of items that started with a particular letter sound and narrated the picture. Students could comment by telling what they see in the picture, or by telling about other things they know start with that sound. Teachers could also assign each student a different letter to make a picture for and have them narrate their picture for a class collaborative voicethread! Here is a link to my voicethread, since embedding doesn't want to work for me.
I haven't had much luck finding information about voicetheads or multimedia sharing site in journals, so I put on my critical thinking hat and hit the web. I found this blog post by Wesley Fryer, where he describes best practices for voicthreads: they should be safe, feature multiple voices, be open for comments, and welcome interaction. While my initial reaction to this was "shouldn't everything we do in schools meet those criteria?" I quickly realized that a lot of it doesn't. A lot of what goes on in schools, while safe, showcases only one voice, is never commented on by anyone other than the teacher, and stops at the classroom door. Web 2.0 tools might be intimidating to teachers because they try to push our teaching past those safe boundaries with which we are familiar. But won't all learning benefit if we apply those 4 best practices to voicethreads... and book reports, and math projects, and... well, everything?
Brenda Dyck blogged on EducationWorld about voicethreads, and mentioned that they "give teachers a bird’s eye view into the thinking of their students, especially students who have difficulty communicating their learning through writing." Voicethreads could be a very powerful addition to student portfolios, as teachers could upload samples of student work, and that student could tell why this is great work, why she's proud of it, etc, questions we often ask our students about portfolio pieces but that are paraphrased by an adult's hand at the early childhood level. This let's kids speak for themselves!
She linked to this wiki (that has Wesley Fryer involved) that features voicethread book reports. What a great library use! TL's could use voicethreads for book talks, and encourage students to add their own thoughts about the featured books, in addition to creating their own book talks. Here's another handy use of this technology for TL's: a voicethread tour of the library!