VoiceThread and Our 1:1 Program

This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader, Mary Ellen Davies.

Flash back to February 2013 when the 1:1 program in Hillsborough Township Public schools was in its infancy. A few teachers at the high school and one team at the middle and intermediate schools were part of the pilot program using Chromebooks in the classroom. I received an email from my supervisor that said, “​T​ake a look at what a high school teacher is doing in her class; I thought this was really cool. I know we don’t all speak Spanish but you’ll get the idea,”​ with a link to a VoiceThread showcasing high school students who had recorded a Valentine message in the target language. From the moment I saw that VoiceThread in action, I was hooked.

I couldn’t wait to start using it with my students so I reserved the Chromebook carts from the library, created a VoiceThread with pictures of extreme weather conditions in German cities and my students got to work. Over the course of two days, the students recorded their responses on their smart phones, on school­ issued iPads and Chromebooks, and personal tablets. The results I got were fantastic.

I didn’t teach the students much more than how to record the 3 different types of comments; text, voice, and video. It didn’t take them long to find the pen tool and start adding images and symbols to the slides. I was pleasantly surprised to hear the students self ­editing as they listened to the playback of their recordings. The quality of the target language that was produced on this first VoiceThread was better than I expected.\

As I, and my students, got more experienced with VoiceThread and as the 1:1 pilot program expanded to include more students, the potential for what we could do with VoiceThread grew. As the final assessment for the family unit, my students uploaded Google Presentations of their family trees and recorded comments about each family member in the target language as. To check their understanding of the accusative case, they created digital packing lists during the clothing unit.

The students picked a vacation destination, checked the weather and used a photo collage app to upload outfits to VoiceThread before recording a description of what they had packed. During a review with my 8th grade students, they uploaded pictures of themselves each day for a week and then recorded descriptions of what wore and did each day. The world language department in my school used VoiceThread for our SGO assessments last year.

When my students listened to the recordings they had done in September, they were able to hear how much progress they had made in June. I have also assigned VoiceThread for homework to give the students a place to practice grammar and vocabulary learned in class.

As a former World Language teacher, I can’t believe I ever taught without VoiceThread. It is a tool that allows you to truly harness the power of the student voice, especially the quiet ones!!


About the author:

Mary Ellen Davies is a Computer Support Teacher at Hillsborough Middle School in Hillsborough, NJ. She taught German in the same school for 7 years.