The weather in upstate NY is dreadfully hot and humid this week. I remember similar days when I was a kid, when we’d retreat to my grandparents’ lovely cool basement room, where my grandfather would show us family pictures on his slide projector. Years later, I still have a soft spot for the slideshow.
The web seems overflowing with slideshow apps, but VoiceThread is easily my favorite. To be more precise, Ed.VoiceThread, which is a dedicated K-12 / educational version of VoiceThread.
A “VoiceThread” is a series of images–still images or video–to which users can add narration, their own audio files, hyperlinks, or hand-drawn “doodles.” PowerPoints and .doc files can be uploaded,too. The end result is a multimedia slideshow. The site will generate the HTML code you need to embed on your own site for a lovely YouTube kind of look.
Here’s a VoiceThread my preK class made before going to the zoo.
I uploaded the pictures–though of course, older kids would be able to do that part for themselves, since it’s as simple as browsing your files for the images you want. You can also upload pictures from a URL or from other VoiceThreads you’ve created. Then I handed the microphone over to the kids. At age 4 or 5, they’re not writers yet–but they sure can make noise. That’s the sweetest-sounding polar bear roar I’ve ever heard!
The preK teacher told me that the kids were really excited to see the gate to the zoo–Holy cow! It was the same gate they’d seen in Library time! (Isn’t Flickr’s Creative Commons pool great?)
There’s a social aspect, too. Once you’ve created a VoiceThread, you can allow other VoiceThread users to add comments, too. This would work nicely in a classroom setting; students could collaborate on a project, or review each others’ work. A VoiceThread called Mr. G’s Shakespeare Page shows the possibility. The teacher created a simple, two-slide presentation. The kids then recorded their own reading of the prologue to Romeo and Juliet. Clever–the teacher has wrapped up his Shakespeare unit with a multimedia show that serves as a collaborative student project and an assessment piece, all in one nice package. The sense that they’re performing for a larger audience encourages the kids to do their best, too. School Librarians can seize the opportunity to talk about copyright–and copyleft–and the ethical use of other people’s media.
VoiceThread (without the “Ed.” in front) accounts are free, but K-12 educators are going to want to be part of the “Ed.VoiceThread” network. There are several pricing levels, but you can jump right in for a one-time $10 fee. Their customer service is excellent–when I’ve had problems, I have had e-mail responses from VoiceThread in as little as 15 minutes.