Can you think of an example of a digital conversation? Emails, discussion boards, chat rooms… In other words, it’s a text, a number of graphic symbols transferred online. To make this bare text a little bit more emotional you can add emoticons :-), or exclamation marks!!, or YOU CAN START TYPING IN CAPITAL LETTERS (it’s not very polite though), or … this is really it.
Is it possible to fill digital conversations with enthusiasm and expressiveness of the human voice? Is it possible to play with your voice pitch and intonation to express your emotions online?
The answer is VoiceThread. Known as a “group audio blog”, VoiceThread allows users to record audio and video comments about uploaded content: images, videos, presentations, documents. Now you and your learners can have lively verbal discussions asynchronously! In other words each participant can contribute to a conversation whenever and wherever he/she wants. It provides access to these conversations 24/7.
It is a fantastic tool for adult EAL/ESL programs, because it encourages students to talk to each other, listen and think about each others’ ideas. Besides, it will give your learners more confidence and help them improve their listening comprehension and speaking skills. In class learners can only say what they want to say once; on VoiceThread they can re-record their speech until they are completely satisfied with their work. The comments they will receive will boost their confidence and they will have much more practice.
VoiceThread offers you even more: as you’re recording a voice or webcam comment, you can navigate to other slides in your VoiceThread and draw on top of your images and documents. All movements between slides and all your annotations are recorded as a part of your comment. So when people listen to your comment, they’ll see it as if you were speaking right now. It does create a breathtaking feeling of presence, especially if you work asynchronously.
And now just think about how incredible this tool is for blended learning, when students learn in part through online delivery. You can use it to enrich your online classes / online activities with the warmth of human presence. And it is a powerful platform for creating speaking activities for online environment. Imagine digital storytelling when narrators can use their facial expressions and body language… It is even no longer a storytelling; it’s a digital drama if you want. VoiceThread is a dynamic and empowering web tool for learning projects. It provides the opportunity to build annotated presentations with verbal explanations. Do you want more ideas of EAL/ESL activities on VoiceThread? Watch the webinar recording or have a look at the handout materials.
VoiceThread adds the human feel element not only to the way you teach, but to the way you assess your learners. It’s easy to view and hear the students’ comments because they are all captured in one place. Besides, VoiceThread might work for portfolio-based language assessment: it can be used to collect learners’ speaking samples.
And last but not least, VoiceThread contributes to personalized learning. In a F2F class (especially if you have 10+ learners) it is difficult to find enough time to listen to and to leave your feedback to each student. When you use VoiceThread for speaking activities, you can listen to their speeches and leave your feedback even at home or on the go. Recorded video/audio feedback messages are much more encouraging for learners then emails or text comments. Human voice helps reduce that isolation feeling that some learners might experience in an online environment substituting it with a feeling of presence and inclusion.
Not sure if it’s really that great? Try it with your learners tomorrow!
Thank you and see you online!