Sharing Your Student’s Research With VoiceThread

This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader, Curtis Izen.


Students taking my online Principals of Management Information Systems course are required to contribute in weekly VoiceThreads, submit case study assignments, work on a group project and complete an individual research paper. The majority of their efforts are shared or developed with the entire class as it’s completed. Classmates are able to contribute their knowledge to other peers, who in turn, learn from their findings and insight. I trust this pedagogy is similar in many courses taught in a variety of disciplines.
One of the most time consuming and high stakes assignments is the individual research paper. Students are tasked with spending a great deal of effort and time from the semester completing this. They need to find a topic they are deeply interested in, propose the topic for acceptance, create an outline, research the topic, find and interview an outside specialist in the area of study, and conclude with an MLA style paper of 12-15 pages. Students often find this assignment the most challenging, yet fruitful one of the entire course. This project is unlike others in the course. It is sent to the instructor for grading without other students seeing or learning about the content submitted.
VoiceThread eliminates this barrier, allowing the entire class to learn from every classmate’s research. One of the final VoiceThread assignments (see Figure Below) involves students creating a video comment about 2 minutes explaining their researched topic, describing how their explored subject connects to the advances in a given business or industry and concludes with what they learned from their analysis. This allows students to deliver all their research in a unique methodology that’s summarized and explained to other peers.

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Classmates are then asked to provide a threaded comment to another peer; providing insight as to what they found enlightening after reviewing their VoiceThread video comment. This creates a dynamic engagement on an array of topics. Since all the VoiceThread comments are up, students can simply watch and listen to all the classmate’s commentaries. If you’re considering a way to have an individual research paper or assignment benefit the entire class, VoiceThread can be used to make this advantageous.

About the Author:

Curtis Izen is a senior information associate and VoiceThread Certified Educator. Curtis adjuncts online and face to face courses at Baruch College and the School of Professional Studies at the City University of New York.  Curtis is passionate on bringing new philosophies and technology into the curriculum.  He is a 2 time recipient of the Presidential Excellence Award for Distinguished Teaching and Pedagogy at Baruch College.

VoiceThread A to Z: Three Storytelling Lesson Designs

This is our third post in the VoiceThread A to Z series. In the first post, we discussed ways to use VoiceThread for early semester activities and in the second post we discussed creating presentations. This post will focus on incorporating storytelling into your curriculum. Upcoming posts will focus on other innovative lesson design and assessment ideas. Stay tuned!


Which types of courses can use storytelling as a lesson design framework? People typically assume storytelling is confined to creative writing or literature courses, but stories can be a part of any course. Let’s take a look at a few creative VoiceThread storytelling examples:

Language Instruction

In this thread, the instructor is working with students who are learning to speak English. He begins a story and asks his students to make predictions and co-write the ending of the story in their new language. This design not only assesses whether they understood the vocabulary used and the overall story concept, but also helps him evaluate the students’ pronunciation.


Speaking and Writing Skills

In this thread, a 1st grade student wrote an original story and then uploaded screenshots so he could narrate the story for his class. The student not only learned how to write a story in 3 acts, but learned new technology skills and got to practice speaking via a read-aloud.



Turning any Lesson into a Story

This is a lesson comparing databases and search engines for research purposes. That content doesn’t seem like a natural fit for storytelling, but the instructor framed the lesson as a battle between the two approaches. He created a question in the minds of his students and that question helps create engagement.



These are just a few lesson ideas that you can bring into your class this year. If you have other ways to incorporate storytelling into your VoiceThread lessons, let us know in the comments below!


VoiceThread A to Z: Creating Presentation Content

This is the second post in our VoiceThread A to Z series. In the first post, we discussed ways to use VoiceThread for early semester activities. Now we can move on to the different ways you can use VoiceThread for the week to week lesson design in your course. This post will focus on instructor-created mini-lecture content and student-created presentations. Upcoming posts will focus on other innovative lesson design and assessment ideas. Stay tuned!

One of the big benefits of using VoiceThread to create presentations is the ability to engage in two-way conversations. There are a number of video hosting tools, but none that empower real discussion with students. With VoiceThread, teachers can create on-demand mini-lectures and students can ask questions or respond to their teachers questions all in one place. So how do you get started?

Creating a VoiceThread is always a simple two step process:

1. Add your media

2. Comment

For flipped content, this process may involve uploading a PowerPoint presentation that you already use, then narrating your mini-lecture over each slide. If you don’t use PowerPoint, you can always upload images, movie files, import Khan Academy videos or upload audio files too. Here’s an example of this model:


The instructor isn’t the only person in the class who can create presentations though. Students can create engaging content and share it with the class too. Using VoiceThread for student projects not only improves the quality of the student work, but it can help teachers reclaim valuable in-class time.

VoiceThread is an asynchronous tool, so student have time to prepare, practice and iterate. When students have to present in a live classroom setting, there are no opportunities to revise and improve what they say or how they say it.

Student presentations take up a lot of class time as well. In a class with 40+ students it might take weeks to finish all of the presentations. With VoiceThread, they can all be delivered and viewed at the most convenient times for teachers and students alike. Here’s an example of how a student presentation looks:



If your institution has integrated VoiceThread in your LMS, the student presentations can be created using our assignment builder tool as well! With the assignment builder, the student presentation is connected to your LMS grade book, so it’s easy to review and assess your students’ work. Here’s how assignment submissions in an LMS looks for your students:



Whether you use VoiceThread for instructor-led, flipped mini-lectures or student-led presentations, you’ll find the ability to review, revise and re-record improves the quality of the work. In the next post in this series, we will discuss more lesson design ideas using VoiceThread as a storytelling tool.

VoiceThread A to Z: Tips for the First Day of Class

We frequently hear from instructors who use VoiceThread for one specific purpose in their classes, but haven’t thought about how VoiceThread can be a complete solution for online or blended courses. In this blog series, we will work through all the different use cases throughout the school year. Over the next few posts in the VoiceThread A to Z series, you’ll see how to use VoiceThread from day 1 through the final day of classes. In this first post, we’ll show you examples for the beginning of the semester, then in the weeks to come we’ll discuss flipping your class, using portfolios, creating assessments and more. Stay tuned!


Getting Started

Sure, VoiceThread is great for big projects and deep learning discussions during the heart of the academic year, but it can also help with the small and simple early semester stuff. Whether you are an instructor on the higher ed level meeting your new students, or a middle school teacher meeting your new parents, an introduction VoiceThread will help bring the human element back to your digital communication.

With VoiceThread, you can easily record an introduction via your webcam and share it with students or parents and get to know each other without having to schedule meetings. Here’s an example of how an intro might look:

Direct link:

Instead of taking valuable time at the beginning of your first class going over the syllabus, you can upload your docs to a VoiceThread and let students listen when they have time. This way, you can use that first class to dive right into content that can hook your students on your subject. Here’s an example of a professor who did just that:

Direct Link:

These are two easy, low-stakes ways to get started with VoiceThread. In our next post, we’ll discuss innovative ways to use VoiceThread for weekly content and conversations. We’d love to know how you use VoiceThread to start your semester off, so leave a comment below and share your ideas!

Global Connections with VoiceThread

This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader, Jennifer Starkey.

For the past few months I have had the privilege of being involved in a teacher professional development program called Finnish Connections, Collections, and Reflections at North Carolina State University. One of the goals in this program is for the participants to connect with other cultures through global, collaborative, classroom projects.

For our project, I worked with my colleague Andrea Echols who is a second grade teacher and also part of the Finnish Connections program. Finding a teacher to collaborate with, especially when we limited ourselves to one country proved to be a bit challenging. We were members of several online classroom connection sites but actually ended up meeting Noora Malkavaara, a fourth grade teacher in Finland, through Twitter.

The idea for our project was for the students in each classroom to get to know each other. What was a typical school day like for our students and what was a typical day like for the students in Finland? Our students were curious about what the Finnish students liked and if they would have anything in common with students across the globe.

To accomplish this, I wanted to use a tool that would allow the students to interact with each other as much as possible. Because of the time difference and our school schedules, live video communication would not work and letter writing would take too long for the short time we had to complete the project. We discussed several options but I felt that VoiceThread was the only tool that could do everything we wanted. Noora had never used VoiceThread and was a bit hesitant but once she began working with it and experienced how simple and user friendly it is she agreed that it was the best choice.

VoiceThread’s versatility in giving the user choices in how they present their information by text, voice recording or video allowed the students to participate in the way they were most comfortable. Some of the Finnish students were nervous about speaking English so being able to type their responses allowed them to confidently participate. As the project progressed it was wonderful to see some students take chances and while they may have typed their first comments, they decided to try voice and video for others. VoiceThread also gives the option of being able to directly reply to comments so the students could have conversations and answer specific questions. The finishing touch was to make our profile pictures the flags of our countries so anyone viewing our project could immediately see which comments were from which country.

We began by taking pictures of our students during their daily routines such as arrival at school, lunch, recess, math, music, etc. Noora shared her pictures with me and I used different online tools to collage her pictures together with the pictures of our students. Each collage was loaded as a slide into VoiceThread. The students chose the daily activities they wanted to describe, wrote out and practiced what they were going to say, and recorded their information on the corresponding picture slide.


When the project was complete and our students were able to see the final VoiceThread they were glued to the screen. They were excited, surprised and awestruck by what they learned. When asked if they would do another project like this they overwhelmingly said, “YES!” Learning about another country and culture was the highlight of their year and VoiceThread is the tool that made it happen.

For me, the best part of the whole experience is that the VoiceThread can continue to be used for our students to learn about each other. Noora’s and Andrea’s next class of students can watch, add their own comments to the project and communicate with each other throughout the school year and this year’s students can revisit the project at any time.


About the Author:

Jennifer Starkey is the Instructional Technology Facilitator at Holly Grove Elementary School in North Carolina. You can follow her on Twitter @JennStar11 or her blog (which she has been neglecting but promises to get back to) Technology Adventures.

Using VoiceThread to Help Students Prepare for Interviews

This is a guest post by Instructor and VoiceThread Certified Educator, Dr. Kathy Melago.


With modern technology, the job interview process frequently begins with a phone or video interview. As the head of our music education program, I work closely with our students as they look for jobs and prepare for interviews. While I have conducted live mock interviews in the past, one thing I had not done previously was to help students practice phone and video interviews, yet those are usually the screening interviews that actually get applicants to the in-person interviews. VoiceThread was the perfect tool for me to practice phone and video interviews with my students.

For my capstone project in the VoiceThread Certified Educator program, I created a VoiceThread for my current student teachers to practice both phone and video (Skype, FaceTime, etc.) interviews. While the VoiceThread I created here is geared toward the music education job search, it could easily be used as a model for other fields.

Please note that for privacy reasons, this VoiceThread does not include the student responses:


Each student under my supervision for student teaching was required to participate in the VoiceThread. After answering the two interview questions with comment moderation enabled, the students received feedback from me and from John Snyder, the associate director of our university Office of Career Education and Development. We gave our feedback in threaded (not private) comments to each student and then I removed comment moderation so all participants could learn from the interview question responses given by their peers and from the feedback given by Mr. Snyder and me. The students were encouraged to provide additional feedback to their peers via VoiceThread.

Some key features that made this VoiceThread close to an authentic interview process are:

* I used comment moderation so the students could not hear what others had said and allow what they had heard to influence their responses.

* I set the settings to prevent the students from being able to delete their own comments. I did this because in an interview setting, the first response will be the one that counts.

* I had the students use the phone-in comment option to practice answering a phone interview question. I did that because sometimes, people are not aware of the quality (or lack thereof) of the phone they use in an interview or what it will be like to hold a phone or use a hands-free device during an interview.

* I had the students use the video comment option to practice answering a video interview question so we could also give feedback about camera quality, background, lighting, and other relevant issues.

I was pleased to see that the student teachers took this assignment very seriously, dressing professionally for the video interviews and giving well-prepared responses to the questions. I believe that the feedback Mr. Snyder and I provided to the students was useful to them and hopefully helped them avoid some of the typical stumbling blocks people face in their first interviews. Finally, conducting this VoiceThread interview practice early in the spring semester enabled the students to get a head start on preparing to answer interview questions. VoiceThread was the perfect tool to help me take my ability to mentor my students through the job search process to the next level by using the features I mentioned above to give them mock interview practice and it was easy to accomplish. A win-win for everyone!



About the author: Dr. Kathy Melago is associate professor of music education at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, where she has served as the head of the music education program since 2009. She actively seeks creative ways to teach music online and uses those ideas in her face-to-face and online classes. Kathy is a VoiceThread Certified Educator.



Using VoiceThread as an Ice Breaker Assignment

This is a guest post by Instructor and VoiceThread Certified Educator, Curtis Izen.


One of the issues with online pedagogy is truly knowing and identifying who your students are. The students are in an analogous situation. As instructors, we are supplied with a list of names, id numbers, etc., but very little about the individual. The students probably know very little about the instructor other than what they see on Rate My Professor or social media. How can the instructor effectively get to know more about their students and vice-versa?

In my online class, everyone has an opportunity to learn about their classmates and instructor. A quick way to accomplish this is through VoiceThread. My week 1 ice breaker assignment is creating a VoiceThread where I introduce myself in about a 2 minute video. I talk about my education, work experience and interests outside of academia. Having a video and talking to the students creates a presence that makes the students feel more relaxed. This in turn engenders a classroom atmosphere.

Once the students watch my introductory video, they are required to make a video comment. This video comment requires that they introduce themselves, their background, major, work experience, outside interests, etc. This is a good way for the students to test VoiceThread using their technology. It also allows those students who may not be comfortable speaking in front of a camera to break out of their comfort zone. Since VoiceThread is used for many more assignments during the course, this is a great way to get started and make certain everything works as expected.

The next task of the assignment is for each of the classmates to listen to their classmate’s video comment. The students are then required to reply to one of the video comments using either a video or voice comment. What I truly appreciate is how this creates a connection among the students that other otherwise couldn’t happen. I have seen classmates who have been in prior classes’ together, work in the same industry, live in the same town, etc.

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Screenshot of my one slide introductory video and those students who have commented

Once students complete this assignment they are ready for future VoiceThreads including any project that involves group work. When teams need to be made up, the students already have a good sense of who their peers are. There is no random guesswork in choosing their groups. Everyone has a true personality.

Using VoiceThread for this introductory assignment generates a great experience among the students. They really feel part of the class and are more engaged in the course as a result. The physical limitations that are hindering an online course can be removed by creating a virtual presence.


About the Author: Curtis Izen is a senior information associate and VoiceThread Certified Educator. Curtis adjuncts online and face to face courses at Baruch College and the School of Professional Studies at the City University of New York. Curtis is passionate on bringing new philosophies and technology into the curriculum. He is a 2 time recipient of the Presidential Excellence Award for Distinguished Teaching and Pedagogy at Baruch College.

Can Algorithms Replace Teachers?

It seems like every week there is a new story about how computer algorithms are the future of teaching and learning. We read about how software can personalize education, differentiate instruction, provide mounds of data for administrators and revolutionize our lives. We hear about how students can open an app, view a playlist of videos that can teach them biology, calculus, literature and a host of other subjects. We know that jobs that human beings used to do are now executed by machines (like ATMs replacing bank tellers) and it gives us pause. Are teachers really important? Can algorithms do a better job than human teachers?


Content is everywhere. Kids can Google any facts they could ever want. They can watch videos, read blog posts, play educational games and consume content wherever they are, whenever they feel like it. But is consuming content the same as learning? Teaching and learning isn’t about content delivery, but advocates of algorithms ironically reinforce this 20th century narrative.

At VoiceThread, we believe that this logic is based on the marriage of an enthusiasm for modern technology and outdated understanding of what teaching and learning actually means. Learning isn’t about consuming content. Learning is about applying content, repeatedly practicing, and receiving feedback from an expert. In other words, practice + feedback = learning. Consuming content is the same as simply reading the instructions. Content is a preliminary step, not a complete system of learning.

In the future, your students may consume all of their content through automated software like Khan Academy and they may be able to take multiple choice tests to see if they can remember the facts but that isn’t the same thing as learning. Without practice and feedback those facts will fade quickly. Anyone who has ever crammed for a test and forgotten all of it within days already knows this.

We have no problem with tools like Khan Academy. In fact, you can pull Khan Academy videos right into your VoiceThreads to share content with your students easily. But we believe sharing a video tutorial is not enough. The role of the modern teacher may not be to deliver a lecture anymore, but that does not mean that an algorithm can replace that teacher. What happens after the student watches the video? Is the video going to watch them practice applying what they heard in other contexts? Is the video going to give them quality feedback on that practice? No, but a teacher will. Teaching is about the human connections you have with your students. It is about knowing their interests, connecting new knowledge to those interests and guiding them through personalized feedback.

VoiceThread aims to support those human connections, not replace them. Listening to your students’ hesitation, seeing their facial expressions, and using that information to guide them in the right direction matters. Algorithms might replace the lecture, but delivering a lecture was never at the core of learning and that’s not going to change just because students have smartphones. Devices are great and technology is great, but human teachers are vital to a student’s progress and they always will be.


Conversations in the Cloud in Chinese

This is a guest post by Educator and VoiceThreader, Mary Ellen Davies

How do you connect four Chinese classes from two schools located in different states who meet at completely different times? Why, ​VoiceThread o​f course!

When learning a new language, it is important to speak that language as much as possible! World Language instruction has evolved to focus on a communicative approach. Students communicate in the target language with their teachers and classmates but rarely have the opportunity to connect with other target language learners.

This winter, Wenhui Liu, the Chinese teacher at Hillsborough Middle School in Hillsborough NJ, approached Mary Ellen Davies, a Computer Support Teacher at Hillsborough Middle School, about making a connection with the Chinese teacher from Wilson School District in West Lawn, PA. We discussed connecting students live via Google Hangouts for a conversation in Chinese. After a few emails between Mary Ellen and Rick Lapi, Instructional Technology Integration Coach for the Wilson School District, we realized this connection could not happen live. Shortly after this exchange and quick brainstorming session with George Haines, Instructional Designer for VoiceThread, the idea of connecting these classes using VoiceThread w​as born.

We worked together to create a group in VoiceThread​ that students from all four classes joined, to establish partnerships between Hillsborough and Wilson students, to create a presentation that included the names of each partner, and then the students got to work.

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Hillsborough students went first and recorded a few sentences about themselves in Chinese and asked a few questions of their partners from Wilson. A week later, Hillsborough students were so excited to receive responses to their questions from their partners from Wilson.


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VoiceThread provided students from Hillsborough and Wilson School Districts the opportunity to communicate in Chinese in the cloud. To find out how VoiceThread c​an help your students have a conversation in the cloud, click h​ere!​



About the Author:

Mary Ellen Davies is a Computer Support Teacher at Hillsborough Middle School in Hillsborough, NJ. Prior to this, she taught German for 8 years. She is a VoiceThread Certified Educator.

Using VoiceThread for Online Courses

This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader, Dr. Maureen Cuevas.

Teaching in an online asynchronous format for the national MSW program at Our Lady of the Lake University, I have come to depend on Voice thread in every class I teach. And as we redevelop our courses to make them more interactive, I recommend to every faculty member that they try to use the incredible power of this tool in each class.

I first learned about Voice Thread in a faculty development seminar with our instructional designers in Fall 2014. Immediately I loved it. We were trying to find ways to connect ourselves and our students more “naturally” which can be difficult in an asynchronous program and Voice Thread looked like a way we could do just that.

Developing a Program Evaluation course at the time, I decided to use Voice Thread to have students “real play” the role of Program Evaluator and present to the “Board of Directors” the different components of the evaluation they are conducting. So they first start off with the evaluation question they’ve developed and guide the Board through the types and means of data being collected. Then their peers, who have to watch and respond to the videos of two other students using video in Voice Thread, play the role of the Board of Directors and ask whatever questions they have or making comments that are intended to improve the program evaluation as well as the presentation style and performance of the student initially presenting.

The students LOVE this. They can start an actual “conversation” talking back and forth through video and actually connect with one another and with me since I do the same thing and respond to what each one has posted, giving feedback and asking questions. Their feedback says that they feel much more strongly connected to their peers after doing these presentations for one another and that they feel like they are more prepared to do presentation when they get out into the field.

The whole assignment actually has three different presentations over the course of the eight week term. So they are interacting just about every other week, and many of them choose to respond to the same peers every time so that a relationship is built through the process.

One of the other pieces it allows me to address with the students is professionalism and their presentation skills. Sometimes students need to be told things like “don’t present in your pajamas” or “yes, your dog is cute, but I shouldn’t see it in your video.” I want them to really own the professionalism of the program evaluator role and present accordingly. And it is amazing to see the differences between the first video they do and the last one. Most of them gain a lot of self confidence in the process and increase their presentation skills immensely.

I use Voice Thread in other classes as well. In one class, they are presenting to a funding source to try to persuade them to fund their campaign about a personally chosen social justice issue. In another, they present a family interview and solicit feedback from the other “clinicians” in the class about what direction to take with future interventions. Like a case staffing would be at an agency, just taking place virtually. All of these activities help students to develop more fully their social work skills and to practice things they will be done in their jobs as social workers while getting feedback relatively safely from their peers. And again, they love it!

I’m going to add a Voice Thread assignment to every class I teach from now on! I even use it in my face-to-face classes so students can become comfortable with some of the same skills and with the technology. As we move further into the digital age, they will be faced with new and different technology all the time and being comfortable using different types will help them to adapt more readily in the future.

About the author:

 thumbnail_Cuevas, Mo

Mo Cuevas, Ph.D., LCSW has taught online for years, first in a hybrid BSW program at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas for 12 years. And now for two years at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. The Lake, as it is referred to, has a large online asynchronous MSW program with more than 800 students. So finding ways to make their classes come alive is really important to Mo.

Mo received her MSSW from UT-Austin in 1989 and her PhD, also from UT, in 2002.  Her areas of social work practice have included working with adolescents, working with survivors of childhood abuse, managing nonprofit agencies and counseling individuals, groups and families. She has written about social work education and freshman success in college. You can follow her on twitter or facebook to learn more.