Students Learn from Peer Feedback
One of my colleagues fought long and hard to convince my district that they should purchase Voicethread for our students. She believed strongly in the power of peer evaluation and feedback and felt that this tool would provide students with just that. From what I've observed when using Voicethread, she was not wrong. This tool allows students to quickly and easily create a presentation with images, text, audio, and video that they can share with other students in their group then hear back from them. Through the use of Voicethread, teachers have the perfect opportunity to teach students how to respond to others online, what a good comment looks like, and what constructive feedback really is. Although this is not part of the elementary curriculum, which is where I spend most of my time, this is a good way to softly introduce students so that they'll be better equipped to take part in peer exchanges in the coming years. In my opinion, it is this feature that sets Voicethread apart from other collaborative apps and websites and what makes it such a great tool to use in my classrooms.
How I Use It
I've used both the Voicethread website and app to give students an opportunity to share something with their peers. In the past we've had some issues uploading videos to the Voicethread website so have pretty much stuck to still images with students recording audio to accompany each slide. Once their presentations are shared with the group (which is private and not available for viewing by the general public), their peers can comment on individual slides to question, give praise or constructive criticism, or share additional information. Students are very interested in what others their own think and the comments are often very insightful. Comments are not anonymous so the teacher can monitor the exchange of ideas, making it a very safe environment for students. To make it easier for the teacher to view comments, we've limited our student to only giving typed responses when they are giving feedback to other students. The beauty of this product is the fact that it can be used in virtually any curriculum area. So far the students in my district have used it to share facts about their favorite hobby, as tool for analyzing literature, and to create a photo journal. We're using iPads with the last example and so far it is going pretty well. The only obstacle we've run into is in joining groups with the app. Since students join the groups with a link, they need to be logged into Voicethread at the same time through a web browser. However, once they join the group, everything seems to be working fine with using the app. We love the mobility of this and find it allows students to record their audio easier than would be the case with a desktop or laptop computer.