Monday, August 29, 2011

65_About VoiceThread

Supporting an Online Community of Inquiry Using VoiceThread
by Fei Gao, Yanling Sun, 2010
Research Highlights in Technology and Teacher Education

This article is worth considering, like a few I will be writing soon about from a special edition resource that summarizes highlights on technology and Education. The specifics of this piece are around the use of VoiceThread ( ) and how this tool can support communities of inquiries based on the Garrison et all. model (2000).

We dealt with the model before in this blog. The idea is that communities of inquiries are built around the intersection of three key elements: Social, teacher and cognitive presence. This article argues that VoiceThread actually meets these three presence elements through its affordances and allows for a multidimensional potential for any online learning, and for us, in specific, for second languages (or ESL).

I highly recommend the consideration of the table that summarizes the features and affordances of the tool that can be found on page 10. It categorizes the features under three key families: presentation, collaboration and moderation features. The key differences between the tool and more text-based traditional online discussion posts is that specific discussion threads can be created through the tool, and the collaboration , view and moderation can occur utilizing multimedia features (text, video, audio and images) in a combination that allows users to follow along at their pace and meeting more than one learning style at a time.

The key claims that the article makes around the idea that VoiceThread supports the model include:

  • in support of social presence
    • multimedia tools are utilized to engage in the asynchronous conversation (use of audio in particular can support the connection with teachers and students at a more emotional level)
    • ability to share personal experiences
    • sharing of norms and class rules
  • in support fo cognitive presence
    • potential to design interactive activities that are meaningful and engaging (with multimedia support)
    • focused discussions and peer feedback (these are also totally possible in more text-based environments)
  • in support of teacher presence
    • creation of interactive content (this may be a bit of a stretch as one would need to define interactive and compare that affordance with other tools already available online)
    • engaging different learners through different delivery channels
    • provide scaffold and feedback
The uniqueness of the article lies more in the fact that it itemizes the features and their affordances of the tool in a simple way. However, the bigger picture view, the comparison with more interactive tools that can also be integrated and used in different ways to meet the model are rarely considered. Additionally, the idea of using a specific tool should include considerations about the tools limitations and specific requirements for use. I personally believe VoiceThread is probably the most reliable interactive discussion platform available to teachers at the moment and it has great potential when embedded in a suite of tools that can be used for online learning in general. On its own it has the potential to quickly become a heavier tool for presentation and collaboration tasks, when compared to more interactive tools like wikis and blogs.

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