Voicethreads and I shook hands at http://voicethread.com/about and again at What's a Voice Thread Anyway?
From there, I moved through my memory's rolodex to......(cue the "Twilight Zone" music)....
.....Years ago, when a friend of mine, who worked for a time in an outdoor sporting goods store, told me that he was far more likely to make a sale if he could just get the potential buyer to imagine themselves using the product he was selling; once customers could visualize themselves paddling the canoe or gliding across snowy forest trails on the cross-country skis, or cruising mountain trails on the mountain bike, all that remained (often) was deciding whether it'd be cash or Visa.
I was reminded of my salesman friend in my exporation of Voicethreads, when I came across a "testimonial" extolling the virtues of Voicethread's option of having one account holding many identities - specifically, having 22 students completing one project in a computer lab in 45 minutes. Now THAT was I picture I could paint myself into! Hooked by this tempting educational vision, I became a sort of quiet crusader (it's probably the Easter overtones kicking in there) for Voicethreads, searching out their possible positives....
of which there appear many. For example, voicethreads can:
1. spark story starters, stimulating creativity and imagination.
2. be used to create sequential story segments, building collaboration/community building.
3. be used to create differing story endings/titles.
4. be soapboxes to announce the virtues/shortcomings of movies/songs/books/poetry, etc. - building critical thinking.
5. provide models/playful practise for pronounciation, accents, vocabulary, grammar, intonation, etc. for ESL students and other 2nd (3rd, 4th, etc.) language learners
6. springboard penpal or "epal" opportunities.
7. provide negotiation/debating/conflict resolution exercises.
8. provide forums for brainstorming - cross-curricular/age/culture/gender, etc.
9. link classrooms around the world, contributing to global awareness/citizenship and Rogers' global literacy.
10. link classrooms with parents/community - great PR for schools!
11. allow educators to interact with each other, providing "best practises" ideas, cautionary tales, professional development and collaboration and providing an outlet for Glazer and Pages' collaborative apprenticeship.
12. provide reflections opportunities for posted art work and learning how to evaluate in a constructive, rather than a destructive, manner/promoting "netiquette", empathy, social graces... and providing opportunities to accept/consider/evaluate criticism of one's own work.
13. provide an opportunity to honour Gardners Multiple Intelligences theory, providing optional vehicles for reporting (art/photos/audio/written text) and for responding (voice - microphone, telephone, video, text, audio).
14. help establish equal playing fields for both genders by giving everyone equal opportunity for voice, aiding the erasure of the digital divide Cooper writes of.
15. offer a way for computer skills to be used in a cross-curricular context, giving a nod to Eisenberg and Johnson's appeal for learning and teaching technology in context.
16. expand literacy and computer literacy skills.
17. convert classrooms to "real world learning" situations - eg. have the students explain/narrate events about the digital pictures taken on a field trip and relate them to the curriculum, where possible. Another example: have the students compile oral histories through interviewing grandparents, war vets, etc. Another example: voicethreads could dovetail beautifully with many components of health/safety themes such as bicycle, fire, water and winter safety, and could potentially have life-saving benefits. A final example: students could present recipes like this one real or imagined (like the "sandwitches' my class created for Hallowe'en).
18. extend the impact of classrooms beyond the architectural/temporal walls - as Valenza advocates for libraries.
19. help accommodate/include absent students (I added this suggestion to the Thinking Machine pbwiki, listed below. My picture is the one of the Weimaraner with the ears being held out).
18. help accommodate self-paced learning.
19. collect data/opinions and/or interpret/present data.
20. support inquiry.
21. promote positive school culture while connecting with the curriculum. For example, several years ago, to compliment the Grade 6 Science strand of Evidence and Investigation, my third graders "kidnapped' a 3D, lifesized snowman from the grade 6 classroom. We left a ransom note and clues for the sixth graders to unravel. Our principal was in on the gig and even called in an RCMP officer (one of my students' fathers) to come in and speak to our class. Naturally, we spoke AT LENGTH about the difference between what we were doing and ACTUAL lawbreakers. The whole situation would've been fun to have presented as a voice thread - presenting point of view of the kidnappers, the investigators, the police officer, the principal, the snowman (of course!) and others involved.
Similar scenarios could be set up involving "eyewitness accounts" of staged crimes/activities - again, wht the cautions that real life lawbreaking would not be condoned.
I can also see voicethread themed alphabets being a hoot to present: animal/food/anatomy themes, etc. or using voicethreads to present multiplication mneumonics or suggestions on how to pamper moms on Mother's Day or suggestions on how to wrangle mosquitoes or catch leprechauns or advertise igloos..or use voicethreads......the sky's the limit!
This Thinking Machine wiki boasts even more ways for educators to use voicethreads. Check it out! I'd also recommend asking the students for ideas on how they could use Voicethreads. I find my classes to be literal treasure troves of informational gems.
Letting parents know that Voicethreads communities can be limited /controlled and that Voicethreads comments can be moderated and controlled would help alleviate parental concerns, as could School Advisory Council/parent workshops regarding Voicethreads. As well, parental buy-in could be heightened by informing parents that the students' anonimity would be protected, either by using first names only,or by using drawings or photos to represent the students, or by using pseudonyms (my class made up names for their "Mathematical Heavyweights" math facts records: they called themselves names like "No Guts, No Glory", "Bone Crusher" and "Six Pack" - some fun!) Of course, the biggest advocate for Voicethreads (or Jumpcuts or ....) would be the child' joyful, enthusiastic participation (sounds corny? maybe, but it's true, I believe!)
The voicethreads activity that I set up follows. My voicethread account was, like wikis, blogs, etc. very straightforward and easy to set up. Commenting on the voicethread account (100 ways to Use Voicethreads)was also very easy. Technology's intimidation factor is dwindling gigabyte by gigabyte! One thing I've finally learned in setting up all the tech tools for this class is that I can repeat my password for wikis, podcasting accounts,etc. - this streamlines the process of adding to my tech tool box even more! I like the option of embedding my voicethread in a wiki and I liked the drawing tool option. Voicethreads is definitely something that I will use in my class - and would recommend to others to use.