Break Down Your Classroom Walls with VoiceThread

This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader, Eleanna Liscombe.

I am a 12 year veteran teacher of third graders as well as a Google and eMINTS Certified Educator.  I earned my Master’s of Information Science and Learning Technology from Mizzou where my studies ignited a new passion.  After realizing that I rarely had my students use technology for reaching outside our classroom walls, I decided it was time to open the world to my kiddos from the Midwestern USA.

After meeting Viktoriia from Ukraine via the ePals website in 2014 and chatting via their email exchange, we decided to branch out. ​ She did not have Internet in her classroom but was willing to invite her students into her home to use her DSL connection to create a VoiceThread project and type their comments.  Talk about dedication! So, I started a free trial account and had my students create a project on our temperate forest ecosystem in Missouri.  I chose this to parallel our curriculum units on the human impact on nature and informational writing.  During the course of this I became acquainted via ePals with Dhanam from India whose students from her all girls school also produced a project about their ecosystem. My students were beyond impressed when they learned that their class field trip was TO A RAINFOREST!  

After communicating separately with each of my newfound colleagues via ePals we decided to move to a group chat in Google Hangouts.  The time difference as well as connectivity issues prohibited a live video chat to solve the issues we were experiencing when trying to access each other’s projects.  I used Screencast-O-Matic to make a tutorial and sent it via YouTubeto them.  Within a day, we had our very own Group in VoiceThread and all of our students could view and comment on each other’s work.  

My classroom was a flurry of excitement as students rolled in each morning itching to check to see if they’d received any “comments” back from their now dubbed Global Buddies.  Since then we’ve added our friends in Ghana to the VoiceThread group and await their first contribution.  My foreign friends and I all enjoy the authentic practice our students get writing and speaking English while supporting our curriculum and widening our appreciation of the world’s cultures.  

We’ve done projects on civil rights, currency, cuisine and holidays.  My school has adopted the Odumase Extension School in Ghana and we now fund their annual Internet access fees and purchased a projector for their computer lab last year.  This year we hope to provide enough money to purchase tables and chairs for their library that now consists of only a few shelves of books. 

I hope you decide to take the first step to break down your classroom walls…I promise your students will benefit from it!

About the author:

Eleanna Liscombe is a third grade teacher who is passionate about using technology to educate her American students about the world.  Call it 21st Century Skills, ISTE standards or local curriculum…she is dedicated to creating contributing and successful members of the global community.  She holds a Master’s Degree in Information Science and Learning Technology, eMINTS and Level 2 Google Certifications and enjoys teaching fellow educators about the power of technology in education as an adjunct professor for Lindenwood University. If you’d like to follow Eleanna on her journey around the globe, find her on Twitter @elfvdb or read her blog.