Website review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2021

VoiceThread

Presentation platform gets students talking, requires customization

Learning rating
Community rating
Based on 56 reviews
Privacy rating
87%| Pass Expert evaluation by Common Sense
Grades
K–12
Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, Communication & Collaboration

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Pros: It's unique yet intuitive. Students can use a variety of media in their projects.

Cons: Pickings can be slim when browsing for up-to-date, high-quality content in certain subject areas and grade levels.

Bottom Line: With upfront and ongoing work to tweak the privacy/security settings to a classroom's needs, VoiceThread can offer a powerful way to create and discuss multimedia presentations.

VoiceThread is a natural fit for a range of student presentations and projects, such as explaining research, demonstrating understanding of a math operation, or retelling a story with original artwork. Some teachers might use VoiceThread as part of a digital portfolio to track student growth over time. Students might also enjoy using it as a collaborative creation tool; with the commenting feature, each group member could add his or her own analysis of a document, image, or video. Alternatively, teachers can start a series of threads that'll serve as the starting point for nested student responses. Using thought-provoking images, questions, quotations, or passages, teachers can ask students to respond to a prompt, making sure to listen to or read their peers' responses before providing additional feedback. Teachers can reorder comments to create a multimedia discussion that helps cement students' understanding of class concepts. 

Since there's so much focus on leaving individual comments, teachers may want to consider having students respond from a quiet space apart from their peers. With this in mind, the platform could be a great fit for asynchronous learning, especially since students will want to be able to record and play back comments without the distractions and background noise that often comes with being in a noisy classroom. 

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VoiceThread is a presentation and storytelling tool for the web, iOS, Android, and Chrome. It provides users a platform to create and share media projects that incorporate video, image, voice, text, and drawing. There's a VoiceThread product for a broader consumer audience and one for educators called Ed.VoiceThread. Ed.VoiceThread offers a more secure environment and is the focus of this review.

Combining select features of tools like GarageBand and Flipgrid, users create digital stories by uploading audio, files, images, URLs, or videos and then add their own commentary in the form of text, audio, video, or drawing. Stories are organized into slides that other users can click through and then potentially comment on, depending on permissions. Users can add contacts and create groups that allow them to share and collaborate on stories with each other. Students can be added by teachers with just usernames. There's also a private messaging feature between students and teachers with a few different customization options.

When a project is complete, users choose from a wide variety of options regarding privacy, sharing, comment moderation, embedding, and more. These options will be different depending on the overall administrative settings. Notably, teachers have access to edit student work, and this extends both to content and to the permissions applied to stories.

VoiceThread is an old standby in edtech and continues to offer a unique platform for learning as a creator and through meaningful feedback. Students who use VoiceThread to create presentations or stories will benefit from the process of finding quality content, sequencing it, and then practicing speaking skills and demonstrating their knowledge. On the flip side, students will learn to give or receive feedback. Of course, quality feedback will be more likely when classmates are supported by teacher guidance, intent moderation, and solid classroom norms. It'd be nice to see some support for these skills in the platform -- if only just some tips that get users to pause and think before commenting. Browsing community content, in theory, could have some benefits, but the resources range in quality, and there are quite a few that are outdated. Digging into the community also pulls students out of the protected environment of the classroom-created and -managed work. 

While VoiceThread has made efforts to offer educators a more secure environment (and their policies are transparent), the platform can still be tricky to navigate when it comes to setting things up for privacy and safety. Teachers will need to be vigilant, setting behavioral policies and norms in the classroom, and making sure that the administrative account has appropriate security settings. As it stands, teachers can tweak things so that students' work remains private to a classroom, but it's challenging to restrict their access to the wider Ed.VoiceThread and VoiceThread communities, where they might comment on other users' creations (including with video and audio) and receive private messages from educators. The best way to set up a walled garden approach, where students are just interacting within their own school community, is through firewalling and use of a class or school domain.

Overall Rating

Engagement

Students will quickly get up to speed. The ability to respond in a variety of ways (text, audio, video, drawing) is a powerful motivator. The design is adequate but could use updating.

Pedagogy

By creating media -- or by giving and receiving feedback -- students develop skills that go beyond basic content knowledge. There are many options for expression, which helps reluctant presenters.

Support

Tons of customization options, but there could be an easier path to creating a secure space. It'd be nice if there was built-in guidance for effective commentary and meaningful feedback.


Common Sense reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Instructional Technology Facilitator

Community Rating

(See all 56 reviews) (56 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Shari M. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
The "thread" that keeps going!
Voice Thread is an excellent tool for both teacher and student and avatars make it fun! Lessons can be prepared in advance with voice over which permits multiple views for clarification or the absent student. It is also an easy way to incorporate art and/or primary sources into lessons. As always, privacy can be a concern.
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Data Safety
How safe is this product?
Users can interact with trusted users and/or students.
Users cannot interact with untrusted users, including strangers and/or adults.
Profile information is not shared for social interactions.
Data Rights
What rights do I have to the data?
Opt-in consent is requested from users at the time personal information is collected.
Users can control their information through privacy settings.
Users can create or upload content.
Ads & Tracking
Are there advertisements or tracking?
Data are not shared for third-party advertising and/or marketing.
Traditional or contextual advertisements are not displayed.
Behavioral or targeted advertising is not displayed.

Continue reading about this tool's privacy practices, including data collection, sharing, and security.

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