This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader, Michelle Reagan.
I use a variety of EdTech tools in my blended classroom, but my absolute favorite is VoiceThread. Not only is it the most user friendly, it does something that is essential in a religion classroom: It allows us to continue to build relationships in cyberspace.
Teachers are ultimately in the business of forging relationships: We bond with students, we communicate with parents and we enable youth to become personally invested in their education. As a religion teacher, the ability to create personal connections is even more fundamental. I am called go beyond an intellectual level. I strive to make my students women of a deep, personal faith. Initially, I thought that in a blended classroom, maintaining the critical bond of fellowship would be a challenge.
Technology is innately impersonal, or so I thought. Then I found VoiceThread. I love student presentations, but they devour class time. I began using VoiceThread as a tool for “flipped class presentations.” I wanted my students to give presentations reflecting on images of Church. Using VoiceThread, my students gave traditional oral presentations, but they took place in the cloud.
I required a minimum of three comments on classmate VoiceThreads giving me the opportunity to educate students on appropriate online sharing, something today’s youth desperately need. But what sets VoiceThread apart, is the students’ voices. The ability to hear the student explain her idea of church with support of her own artwork, created that personal connection that is vital to developing fellowship in a religion classroom. Here’s a sample from my first VoiceThread class:
None of the relationship was lost. In fact, for me, the personal connection was enhanced. I was able to watch each VoiceThread at a time when I could focus my full attention on each presentation. There were no distractions that take place when students present in the classroom: Bells, calls from the office, inattentive peers. VoiceThread allows me to be totally present to the student, even though we’re not in the same room.
The other benefit of using VoiceThread for presentations and discussions is that it puts all students on a level playing field. My students wanted to make video reflections to review what they learned. We shared their videos using VoiceThread and invited students to comment voluntarily about a discussion we had in class. I was pleasantly surprised when the comments started to appear. They did not come from the girls who always raise their hands in class. Rather, the “quiet students” were commenting on VoiceThread. It allows students who don’t feel confident speaking in class to have a voice. Students who never spoke a word in class were posting multiple comments on their peer’s videos.
For me, teaching is about building relationships that help students bond with their faith. In a digital age, teachers need tools that allow students to forge real connections in a virtual world. For me, VoiceThread is that tool.
About the author
Michelle Reagan has been a high school teacher in the Diocese of Orange for over 10 years. She currently teaches sophomore religion at Rosary Academy in Fullerton, CA. Her passion for using technology to ignite her students’ faith has made her a frequent presenter at Diocesan professional development events. You can find her on twitter at @foleyreagan.