A VoiceThread for Any Course

This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader, Dana Heimlich, MS,Ed.


I love VoiceThread! I love it so much that I’m always tweeting my gratitude to them–which is how I ended up writing this guest blog post (seriously). I’m very excited to share my experiences in the hopes that it might inspire you to give VoiceThread a try!

I discovered VoiceThread years ago as a high school German teacher. It seemed like a dynamic way for me to teach vocabulary. I could collect images, speak the words out loud and have students write out what they heard, assessing listening, spelling and vocabulary simultaneously. After establishing a basic level of proficiency, I re-used the VoiceThread by having students make individual or small-group copies. They then deleted my narration and recorded their own sentences. Because they were recycling prior knowledge in a familiar setting, their confidence soared along with their grades!

Eventually, I had German students build their own, personalized photo-storyboards in VoiceThread. They eagerly used the comment feature to ask questions about each other’s stories and engage in exciting discussions in the target language. From slideshows about zombie invasions (illness/injury vocabulary) to after-school-special-style guides on German driving and hilarious, German-language tours of our own high school campus, my students had me laughing for years.

As an instructional technologist in K12, I excitedly assisted my colleagues in other content areas with VoiceThread. Math students narrated their thought process step-by-step while solving problems. Their classmates chimed in with thoughtful questions or a critique of their reasoning. English students created VoiceThreads with images of their favorite books and posted links to secondary sources after a library lesson on the information search process. Anatomy students made Jeopardy-style games by describing a body part or flashing an image of it on a slide.

VoiceThread is also a fantastic “gateway tech tool” to hook higher ed professors on the wonders of educational technology. Many instructors use old-school PowerPoints in face-to-face courses or in Learning Management Systems without thinking about compatibility or student engagement. They are often thrilled to learn that trying VoiceThread is effortless–they can import a pre-existing PowerPoint (with audio!) directly into the system in seconds. The web link can be shared anywhere and eliminates compatibility issues. From there, it’s easy to make a case for flipping the classroom and asking students to post questions to the VoiceThread before delving deeply into the content. They can return to the same VoiceThread later to respond to classmates with newfound knowledge.

But wait–there’s more! If your students don’t have computing devices, they can use smartphones to access slides and leave text, video or audio comments without even downloading the app. This works to spice up faculty training sessions too!  VoiceThread’s accessibility features are excellent and its mixed-media style format helps to differentiate instruction. Fresh out of ideas? Search VoiceThread’s public gallery for inspiration or give your students a guiding question and have them create your course content.

I’m a huge fan of this tool and find it to be an easy, user-friendly way to engage students and make learning fun!

***About the author ***

Dana Heimlich, MS,Ed. is an Instructional Design Specialist and Adjunct Instructor of Education at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, NJ.  She is a Google for Education Certified Trainer and an avid supporter of dynamic web-based tools like VoiceThread in K12 and higher education.

Dana is especially interested in leveraging technology in ways that promote equity in education and is a staunch supporter of student-led learning and inquiry-based pedagogy. You can find her on Twitter @danaheimlich or via her blog at danaheimlich.com.