Friday, October 28, 2011

Day 5- Skype

Today's challenge is to explore the Internet telephone and video calling service, Skype. Strictly speaking, Skype isn't a Web 2.0 tool since it involves a download, but many of its applications blur the line between program and web tool. Regardless, we may not have jet-packs or human cloning like the science fiction writers promised, but we can enjoy the benefits of collaborating face-to-face even when separated across distance today.

Skype is easy to download and install. The following links will get you started:

Create an Account
Download the Software
How-To Videos on YouTube


The great thing about Skype is that it allows you to send your expertise and experience to other Skype users anywhere in the world, or to invite others from across the globe to share their expertise with your classroom without the inconveniences of travel, hotel stays, or long-distance phone bills. You can collaborate with a classroom in Turkey, or invite a professor from Harvard to speak with your class. The best part is that many people are happy to share what they know via Skype because it is easy and convenient. All you have to do is ask.


Here are a few Skype directories that can help get you started:

Skype an Author Network
Skype in Schools Directory
EduBlogger: Skype Other Classrooms
Skype for Educators Directory
Collaborators Wanted

You can join the Skype for Educators Directory here.

Finally, here are a few resources for getting started with Skype in your classroom:

50 Awesome Ways to Use Skype in the Classroom
Cool Cat Teacher: Using Skype in the Classroom
The Complete Educator's Guide To Using Skype


Your Assignment: Explore the possibilities of Skype in the classroom. How do you imagine using Skype to enhance your professional practice? If you use Skype, share your thoughts about Skype as a classroom or professional tool. Have you used Skype with students? If so, what did you learn from the experience?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Day 4 - VoiceThread

Welcome back!  Have you picked up on the theme of this week’s challenges?  Each tool focuses on communication and collaboration.  The deliberate grouping of tools aligns with National Educational Technology Standards called the NETS for students.  There are also NETS for teachers, administrators and coaches, which are published by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).  Your blog comments are touching on most all of the five teacher standards and the fifth standard, Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership, is really at play.  We are thrilled that so many educators have committed to participating in this learning community and we are enjoying your reflections as we explore creative applications of technology to improve student learning. So on to today’s challenge!

VoiceThread engages students in discussions in a non-traditional way and became a favorite resource after colleague Matt Etienne asked me to check it out.   I saw the full potential of this tool when fellow coach, Richard Roll, shared how he and others were using VoiceThreads at Glenwood Leadership Academy. Since then I’ve used it as a student and must say it’s a powerful means for sharing peer reviews.

What is VoiceThread exactly?
It is a web application that allows you to use different types of media to create an interactive slideshow.  You can use pictures, videos, documents, or even presentations to build the VoiceThread but the real magic happens when you and your students record audio or text comments that respond to each slide.  You can even draw right on the slide to demonstrate your ideas.  The collaboration doesn't have to stop in your classroom either.  VoiceThreads can be private and yet selectively shared for cross-collaboration.

Get Started by Opening an Account:
  1. Go to and Click Sign in or Register on the upper right of the screen.   
  2. When the new page loads, click Register on the left.  Enter all your information. 
  3.  When finished, click the Products tab and go to K12.   
  4. Then click Single Educator.   
  5. Scroll down to the chart showing the VT Educator option.  You can see all the free upgrades that you get with this distinction.  Click Apply at the bottom.  Fill out the requested information. (Within 24 hours you should get a message confirming it was processed.)
Once you create an account in VoiceThread you have access to a complete library of very well done tutorials including the comprehensive Introduction to VoiceThread.  If you don’t have a lot of time, one tutorial that a classroom teacher may be interested in is “Comment Moderation!” which demonstrates how to preview a comment before allowing it to be visible on the thread.  There are also tons of teacher created resources on the web.  I use Diigo, a social bookmarking tool, for saving webpages that I find useful.  Here is my list of resources on VoiceThread that you can refer to for more ideas and information.

I’ve created a very basic VoiceThread for you to test out. (Notice I embedded it below; it was super easy to do!)  I encourage you to get in there and try it out! 

Step 1: Click Comment, which will prompt you to log into VoiceThread.  Once you've done that you'll see your "Identity" in the lower left corner.

Step 2: To add a text comment to the first slide, click Type and begin typing in the comment box.  When you are finished hit Save. Your identifier will pop up next to the slide when complete.  You can preview it or move on.  If you want to add a recorded comment you can do that too.

Step 3:
If you are not automatically forwarded to the next slide, you can click the arrow on the right. Here's your chance to try out the Doodle Tool.  Click Type which will bring up a color wheel. 

Click on the color of your choice and you can begin creating your jack o' latern. Hit save when you're done. Click on the center of the palette to keep the drawing from fading out.

Your assignment:
Identify an assignment or activity that you ask students to complete that could be transformed by introducing a VoiceThread instead. How do you think the change could impact student engagement?  What support would you or your students need to get started?  Share what you're thinking in a comment.