I wanted students to work together to create and present material in an online class.
In the field of special education, collaboration is essential therefore pre-service teachers need to learn how to collaborate with other individuals. In my introductory special education class, EDU 234 Inclusion: Issues and Strategies, I had always had the students present information about various disabilities and it was always a collaborative project. This year was the first year I attempted to place the class online and my goal was still the same for the online class. So now I had to think about using a tool that was simple and would enable them to work together without needing to ever meet face-to-face. I chose VoiceThread because it was easy to use and would allow the students to coordinate online without ever having to meet face-to-face to record the presentation. I did consider Panopto and PowerPoint, but I wanted to expose students to a different tool.
Most people think of using VoiceThread to aid in online discussion, so I first used the VoiceThread tool early in the semester for online discussion of single questions. This allowed the students to become familiar with the tool prior to using it for their project. I then developed a rubric for the presentation and also modeled how to place and record a PowerPoint presentation on VoiceThread.
I had the students use the tool as a final project so that 1) they had time to familiarize themselves with VoiceThread and 2) they had enough time to plan with their partner.
This project was very successful. All students in the class were able to create a PowerPoint presentation via VoiceThread. For most students the project was easy to implement. One challenge was that I had to constantly remind students to make the presentation public so we could view them. Another challenge was that in one pairing I could only hear one student’s voice. It took several days emailing back and forth to correct that error. Also, I would like to find an easier way to make the students responsible for communicating to the class that their presentation is available and can be viewed.
An informal survey was given to the 20 students at the end of the semester. Students were asked to answer the following questions.
- On a scale of 1-5 (1 being uncomfortable to 5 being extremely comfortable), how would you rank your comfort level with technology?
- How comfortable are you with VoiceThread?
- Have you used VoiceThread before?
- Have you created an oral presentation online prior to this class?
- What technology tool did you use?
- Now think about one tool compared to voice thread. On a scale of 1-5 (1 being easier to 5 meaning more difficult), was VoiceThread easier or more difficult?
- Would you recommend using VoiceThread again?
- Any other information you would like to share?
The majority of the students had used VoiceThread in a previous class (all but three) and those three students were from a different institution. No student had used the Voicethread tool for a presentation. Fourteen students stated that they had created an oral presentation online prior to class using Panopto (10) or PowerPoint (4) using narration audio. One student stated that PowerPoint was easier, 3 people said that VoiceThread was easier than PowerPoint. The ten students who had used Panopto all said that VoiceThread was easier than Panopto .
Perceived/Determined Value and Next Steps
I was very happy that I was able to maintain an important project in my course despite the course being online. Most students found VoiceThread easy to use and their projects were good. After implementing this project, I feel that VoiceThread is a viable option for online group presentations.
I would like to continue using VoiceThread in my online classes to spark discussion. In the future I will be posting more presentations on VoiceThread with questions embedded in the PowerPoint. So while students view the PowerPoint, they will be able to stop and ask or answer a question.