As regular Radical readers know, we’re in the middle of planning for an asynchronous Voicethread conversation with school change experts Rick and Becky DuFour (see here and here) who will be helping us to think through the nuts and bolts of restructuring schools as professional learning communities from September 8th and the 11th.

For those new to Voicethread, here are a few tips:

Voicethread is one of the easiest—and most engaging—digital forums for discussions available to educators today.  It’s a tool that my students have embraced completely (check out this conversation that they had about Darfur) and that I’ve used with teachers for conversations on Web 2.0, Grading, Reading Instruction and Professional Learning Communities.

Our conversation with the DuFours will start on September 8 and run until September 11th.

During that time, Rick and Becky will be stopping by our Voicethread a few times a day to lend their advice and to answer your questions about the challenges of transforming schools—-but the real value in our conversation comes from the collective wisdom of all of our participants!  My hope is that we’ll wrestle with challenging topics together for four days—-answering and asking questions, pushing back against controversial ideas, letting our own preconceived notions be challenged.

The cool part about Voicethread is that there are no set times for participating in our conversation.  Far from a full four days of constant interaction, Voicethread conversations allow users to choose when they’d like to stop by and learn.

That means you can stop by as your schedule allows—before school, after feeding the dogs, just before bed—-to read comments from other participants and to share your wisdom with the digital peers that join together to reflect on professional learning communities.

It should be a great example of what collaborative dialogue between accomplished teachers can look like—and it should elicit ideas that we can all use to drive change in our own schools and communities.

To be best prepared to use Voicethread during our conversation with Rick and Becky, consider:

  1. Creating a free educator account by visiting
  2. Viewing this Voicethread tutorial, which will show you how to add comments to a conversation.
  3. Viewing this Voicethread tutorial, which will introduce you to the idea of Voicethread identities.

You can also practice by adding a comment to one of the following professional development Voicethreads that I’ve created for my teachers:

You might also be interested in these “digital conversation suggestions” that I introduce to teachers and students whenever we tackle new tools:

While commenting, try to respond directly to other readers. Begin by quoting some part of the comment that you are responding to help other listeners know what it is that has caught your attention. Then, explain your own thinking in a few short sentences. Elaboration is important when you’re trying to make a point. Finally, finish your comment with a question that other listeners can reply to.

Questions help to keep digital conversations going!

When responding to another participant, don’t be afraid to disagree with something that they have said. Challenging the thinking of someone else will help them to reconsider their own thinking—and will force you to explain yours! Just be sure to disagree agreeably—impolite people are rarely influential.

If your thinking gets challenged by another participant in a conversation, don’t be offended. Listen to your peers, consider their positions and decide whether or not you agree with them. You might discover that they’ve got good ideas you hadn’t thought about. Either way, be sure to respond—let your challengers know how their ideas have influenced you.

Finally, know that you can always leave questions for me in the comment section of this entry.  I’m really excited about our upcoming conversation and want to make sure that everyone feels comfortable with the tool that we’ll be using to interact with one another.

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