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Higher Ed analysis of Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried"

Description

This VoiceThread is a look at a great piece of writing by Tim O'Brien. It is set in the 1960's during the Vietnam War. Most of my students were not familiar at all with the subject matter. This VoiceThread encouraged my students to critically examine the story and post their insights for the entire world to see. I saw them go from being reluctant and nervous students to enthusiastic and totally engaged teachers of one another. They actually couldn't wait to begin this assignment! This is our second VT.

Process/Assignment

I utilized my Power Point presentation that I had just written for our short story section. I discovered VT by accident. I decided to try it with my students after reading and viewing several presentations. Then, I watched the tutorials on VT and decided to try one. My first project was a success, but I accidentally created 2 identities for myself, and when I tried to delete one, I also deleted all my students comments on the VT. I have promised the students that I will not delete anything!

Goals and objectives

My goal was to promote critical thinking with the short stories we are reading for American Literature. I started out wanting to engage my students, to promote active learning, and to enhance our classroom experience by introducing some new technology to the students. Now I would like other readers of literature to respond as well as my own students.

Easiest Part

Uploading my slides and learning to use the buttons.

Hardest Part

Trying to get my voice to match the speed of the slides. I had to figure out that I could change that. Easy to change once I found the little gear icon. My biggest surprise and setback was after we had posted a wonderful VT on Eudora Welty's "A Worn Path" and I accidentally deleted the entire thread. My advice: Do not ever hit delete unless you really know what you are doing! I just wanted to delete an extra identity I had created on there, and I lost about two hours of my students' very wonderful work! Ouch!

Tools

Microsoft Office PowerPoint, photos, iPhoto on my Macbook Pro, my built-in camera and microphone.

Advice

I think I put too many questions on each slide. I wanted them to respond with the equivalent of what they would have written in a journal for homework. This is a graded assignment. I would suggest fewer questions (no more than 2 per slide). Also, I have developed a rubric for grading now. I also learned that my students just like to type their answers, and since there is no spell check, what they type is what you get! They tend to type their responses more casually, like texting on their phones! You may want to require that students write out their answers first and then comment on the VoiceThread with a voice comment, reading their answers.

Variations

I think that you could use it to teach other classes as well. I could see it being used in other English classes but also history, philosophy, creative writing classes as well.

The VoiceThread