Stealing online minutes for learning

No one will ever suggest that TLN Forum member Bill Ferriter has a thready voice. He’s a robust kind of guy. Voice threads, on the other hand, definitely fit our Bill — as you’ll learn in this new feature story at the Edutopia website, highlighting his Web 2.0 teaching strategies.

The story describes the active learning going on in Bill’s sixth grade classes using the free Voicethread web software. If you haven’t had a chance to play around with it, here’s how the story’s author sums up its functions.

VoiceThreads might best be described as interactive media albums. They are essentially online slide shows of images, documents, or videos that enable viewers to comment on any slide (or at any point in the video) by typing, recording an audio or video comment, or drawing on the image itself.

In his award-winning blog The Tempered Radical, Ferriter regularly makes the case for integrated teaching of language arts and social studies. Voicethread is one of several ways (blogging is another) that he ties free writing to social studies topics. For the most part, his students participate in Voicethread   activities outside of class time. Ferriter, an NBCT and former NC regional teacher of the year, says his goal is to “steal some of their online minutes” that might otherwise be devoted to more trivial pursuits.

Here’s a wiki where Bill describes some of what he’s learning about using Voicethread to increase student engagement and learning. Scroll down to sample several Voicethreads, including one which engages his middle schoolers in discussions about the genocide in Darfur through an examination of political cartoons.

The enthusiastic  promotion of Voicethread by Ferriter and other digitally savvy teachers has prompted the tool’s creators to develop EdVoicethread, a secure site for educators and students. Who says teachers are powerless?