Split Yourself in Two with VoiceThread
Type of technology: VoiceThread
SAMR Model Rating: Modification
Grade level: All
Subject area: All
Cost: Free – $1,100 per site
I had to be absent for none other than a Technology PLC day. As I was getting ready to write my sub plan for a science movie, I looked at my plan book, and realized that I couldn’t spare losing a single teaching day before our next assessment. I needed to be in class, one way or another. Since I haven’t yet figured out how to split myself in two, I turned to technology to solve my problem.
I had previously been encouraged to use a screencasting program called VoiceThread, but was a little reluctant because I already knew how to use Quicktime. I felt it was just another app to do the same thing. But that little voice inside my head screamed to me and said, “don’t get stuck in a rut!” So I opened my laptop to VoiceThread resigned to spending the next few hours figuring it all out. After setting up my free account, I clicked “create.” A big plus appeared on the screen asking me to drop my files on in. Nothing new to create, I just dropped in the same presentation I would have done in person. In no time, it uploaded and and I was ready to comment. I got to work using the microphone in the comment section to record my voice. All I had to do was click the microphone and talk. When I was done, I pressed “stop recording.” Done, saved, and on to the next slide. If I slipped up when I was speaking, or I didn’t like how it sounded, I could easily hit cancel, and start over. I also tried out the pen feature. There were a few slides where I wanted to draw attention to something, so I picked a pen color and drew on the slide directly. I could easily erase if I wanted to. If you want the students to actually see you teach…or sing and dance for the kids, you can use the video feature. I tried it out, but didn’t end up using it. It was just as easy as the microphone, as it uses the built in video camera on your device. When I was done narrating each slide I saved my edits and easily embedded the link on my sub notes. When clicked, it opens in the app, or on a web browser with ease.
There were many things I liked about VoiceThread. First of all, it was very easy to use: drag and drop, record, stop, save. I didn’t need to make anything new, I just need to imbed my voice into my existing presentation. Secondly, I liked that the sub could pace the presentation as needed. The students had a note taking guide that they filled out during the presentation. Because the slides were recorded individually, the sub only advanced once all students were ready. With other apps like QuickTime, you need to pause before the screencast moves on to the next slide. By manually advancing the slides, you don’t hear the students yelling, “Stop! I’m not ready!” Then there is the solution to being two places at once.. Sometimes you get a really good sub, one you would trust your lesson plan with. But however good they are, they aren’t you. They don’t know your unit objectives, your vocabulary, and all the nuances of your lesson. This is where VoiceThread scored a perfect ten. I was there, with all of those critical nuances. I didn’t have to ask the kids, “Did the sub tell you this? Did you finish the notes?” I got to teach the lesson, and not be there in person!
Teachers are priceless, so this app must cost a pretty penny. The single user login is free. You can pay for more advanced features such as having student accounts, all the way to an entire district license. Those are pricey. I would love to have students use this, but I could easily have them set up accounts with their own Google address. I can imagine students creating a presentation and narrating it, or given an image, having to explain what is going on as an assessment. I’m not there yet, but I would imagine that in the hands of kids, some pretty cool things could happen.