Experimenting with Lab Reports and VoiceThread

A little while ago I wrote about how I like to try a new tool every week (give or take). After reading a post by Jeff Utecht earlier in the week, VoiceThread rose to the top of my ‘Tools To Try’ list.

Funky light

Jeff wrote about how a science teacher at his school, Carol Jordan, had her grade 9 students report the results of their science experiments. Instead of the usual formal lab report document, the students either created a YouTube video or a VoiceThread. I have been thinking about having students do lab reports in a different format so it was a very timely post for me! In his post, Jeff has lots of examples of both types of lab ‘reports’ which was incredibly useful to see what the students produced.

Last night I had insomnia, which was the perfect opportunity for me to try out VoiceThread! (With a 4 and a 6 year old where else do you find the time?!) I signed up for an account and created the following VoiceThread which provides information on how to navigate my blog. Lately I’ve had trouble embedding items in this blog, so first here’s the link and now the embedded file: [kml_flashembed movie="http://voicethread.com/book.swf?b=76592 " width="480" height="360" wmode="transparent" /]

VoiceThread allows you to upload a variety of files; video, photos, documents etc. You can then comment using audio or video. In true web 2.0 fashion it also allows others to comment on your work, so feel free to comment away on my VoiceThread.

I did have a few technical difficulties with VoiceThread–the program wouldn’t let me edit at times and I somehow ended up with a lot of scribbles on one of my slides–but all in all it was very straight forward. I could see students being able to figure it out and being able to start creating pretty quickly. Unlike SlideShare’s slidecasting, which I posted on here, you record the audio directly on the VoiceThread site. With SlideShare you must produce your audio on your computer, host it on a podcast host, then link your slide show to the podcast host. So a bit more set-up is definitely required with SlideShare. SlideShare slidecasts do have a more professional feel to them, but VoiceThread allows for more interactivity.

VoiceThread also offers EdVoiceThread.com, with is designed for use by teachers and students. It is designed as a safe environment for students to create and comment on each other’s work. They are obviously trying to address the security concerns that some schools and districts have with social networking type sites.

In summary, I think that VoiceThread is a pretty user friendly tool, and I don’t think it would take much to get the students used to it and using it.

Image: Funky Light by Gaetan Lee

Reflections on the Daniel Pink Live Video Conference at Arapahoe High

I was a bit behind on my Google Reader feeds, but was happy to find Karl Fisch’s post from Tuesday just in time! The grade 9 students from Karl’s school have been reading Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, for the past month or so. Over the course of their reading they have invited other educators and guests to join in their live blogging discussions of the book. Today they upped the ante! Karl writes:

This Thursday is our students’ live video conference with Daniel Pink. They’ve finished A Whole New Mind and this is their chance to ask Mr. Pink some questions directly, as well as further discuss the book with their classmates. We’ll have all four classes of students (about 110 or so) in our Forum and will conduct a video Skype call with Mr. Pink.

They also decided to Ustream the discussion and have the live blog discussion hosted on CoverItLive. I caught the post just in time this morning to log onto Ustream. Along with about 80 other viewers I was able to watch (and I could have participated in side discussions) part of the amazing discussion. Some live Ustream talks I have watched were not of very good quality, technically speaking; this was not the case today! It was amazing to hear the mature discussion between the students and Daniel Pink. It was difficult to follow the conversations on CoverItLive as the comments were coming so fast and furious!

A Whole New Mind

Today’s experience really highlights how powerful web 2.0 tools can be in education. The students were totally engaged and clearly understood the key points of Daniel Pink’s book, judging from their questions to the author and the way they were rippin’ it up on CoverItLive. Imagine trying to offer the students (and interested educators) this sort of opportunity without web 2.0 tools.

Thank you Karl Fisch for sharing this experience with other educators; it is really something to aspire to!

Addendum: February 29th–A big thank you to Anne Smith and Maura Moritz, who Karl Fisch pointed out in the comments, are the English 9 teachers who organized the whole learning experience.  And the grade 9 students at Arapahoe High; you really showed people how thoughtful and involved with your learning you are, well done!

Adventures in Slidecasting

There are so many web 2.0 tools, that it really is hard to keep up. In an effort to expand my web 2.0 horizons, I’ve attempted to try at least one new tool per week. I note which tools are receiving a lot of buzz or look really powerful and they end up on my informal list.

The latest tool that I’ve tried is SlideShare’s slidecasting. I’ve seen quite a number of straight slide shows on SlideShare, but it was only recently that I played a slidecast. What is a slidecast? A slidecast is when your slides are synched to audio. It has the power of video, but is much simpler to make and the visual quality is excellent! In addition when you are watching the slidecast you can skip ahead to the slide you’re interested in and the audio is still synched. At the bottom of the slidecast you can see how much audio goes with each slide.

To learn how to make your own slidecast, check out Jonathan Boutelle’s slidecast. In addition to Jonathan’s info, the following might help. To make your slidecast, you upload your slides to SlideShare and your audio to a podcasting host. In Slideshare you provide the url for your audio. One of the things that I found difficult was locating the url for my mp3 file. I still don’t know how to find the url for the audio I uploaded to Gcast. I eventually loaded my mp3 file to Internet Archive. When you click on your audio file in Internet Archive you get a screen that looks like the image below. I’ve indicated in the image where you find out the url for your mp3 file.

Internet Archive

I decided to make my first slidecast using a Google Docs presentation I did for my Science 9 on-line class. It is on cell division. The slides were not geared to slidecasting, and have far more text than is necessary. I’ve never podcasted before, so there are definite problems with the audio–it is very quiet and there are no intros, outros or music of any kind. In the spirit of sharing though (see Shareski–Lesson #1 Share), here’s my slidecast, warts and all.

[slideshare id=276642&doc=copy-of-sci-feb-20-1203656309380038-3&w=425]

SlideShare | View | Upload your own

In case the embedded slidecast doesn’t work, here’s the link.

One way to use slidecasting would be to prepare mini-lessons that can be posted on-line for students to access on an as needed basis. They could also come in handy on those days you require a substitute teacher 🙂 People can comment on slidecasts that you post to SlideShare. If students did projects involving slidecasting, their peers could view and leave comments. I could see using this to get students to make their own slidecasts to explain concepts.

I’m excited about slidecasting because it is relatively straightforward to produce, it has the power of video, the image quality is great, and all the tools are free! If you haven’t tried it before, give it a look-see and maybe you’ll add it to your list of tools to try.

Time to catch my breath.

Well, it has been almost 2 months since I joined the blogosphere, and what a ride! The past month I have been exploring blogs (see my rapidly expanding ‘Blogs I read’ list) and joining in on some pretty interesting conversations in relation to education and web 2.0. It’s been keeping me so busy that I haven’t had much time to post to my own blog! My goals are
– to find a way to make learning more relevant to my distributed learning students
– to explore how to help students become technologically literate so that they can operate successfully in the 21st century.

With respect to my first goal, one of the difficulties I am having is that I do not have a very large group of students in any one grade. I have 3 to 6 students who are active in any one class so coming up with a project specific to a class may not be very fruitful unless I can link up with more students.

With respect to my second goal, I’m thinking more and more that I would like to start doing some mini-units for students (and interested parents) on using blogs, wikis, etc in education to get them interested in using some of these applications in their learning.

As always, I am interested in suggestions or comments that you might have.