Monday, May 20, 2013

VoiceThread, Revision, and Conferring

I am growing to like VoiceThread as a way for students to share their work for feedback. Throughout the year, we do a fair share of student sharing and feedback in groups of three. Often, students will express that they hate reading their work. Some ask if another could read it for them. Sometimes, they wriggle out of it altogether.

Posting and narrating one's work on VoiceThread allows students to read and record their work aloud (an important phase of the revision process) and then listen or read the feedback of their peers...sometimes over and over.

It also allows me to hear as much of the feedback as I choose, and certainly allows me the time and flexibility to hear every student read their work. Obviously, when students are reading and sharing their work in class in groups, I cannot possibly hear and comment on every single piece of writing.

Using VoiceThread has, in a sense, created time...or suspended time. Because I can access it from my iPhone, laptop, iPad, or any web browser, I can access student work anywhere, at anytime. 

In my first example of student work, an 8th grade student, Connor, uploaded an original photograph. We participated in the My Hometown project which was run by the New York Times. I asked students to select one from  the dozen or so pictures they took of their hometown. With that picture, I asked them to write an original piece to complement it--it could be an essay, a narrative, a poem...anything.

This second example is a piece of an original story written by Sophie, also in 8th grade. Sophie uploaded her pages and then recorded herself reading it. Over the course of the next several days, I along with several other students will be offering comments on Sophie's work. Interestingly enough, when I had students practice leaving comments on a piece of my writing, they almost all choose to type them rather than record them on either an audio file or video file--even though VoiceThread makes that very easy to execute.

I am finding another level of understanding when I listen to my students read their own writing. Hearing their tone and inflection makes their pieces human in way that I miss as their primary reader...I am not hyper-focused on the flaws and find myself celebrating the positive elements. Also, their voice adds a freshness to working through a stack of papers--after all, I only "hear" my voice when I read student work silently to myself. VoiceThread helps me in this regard.

I know others use VoiceThread as a way to develop online student writing portfolios--something I will explore next year.

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