14 December 2010

Doing the "Interactive Flip" with VoiceThread.

As mentioned earlier in this blog, I have been experimenting with incorporating Project-Based Learning into my teaching.  In particular, I have had my students using Web 2.0 tools such a Glogster, VoiceThread, Google Apps, and Jaycut.  The problem I kept having was a matter of time.  Being a history teacher, and seeing the importance of building a narrative, I wasn't ready to completely do away with basic lectures and discussions while moving to more projects in the classroom, even though I want my students to discover more of their learning for themselves.  So, what was often happening is I would spend a couple of days lecturing on a topic and, in-between, giving students time to work on their projects.  Usually, this wasn't enough, so they would have to finish their projects at home.  Often they would have questions, encounter technical difficulties, and they would end up emailing me at 11:30 with these issues.  This was frustrating for them and me.

Then, about 6 weeks ago, I came across several articles talking about Reverse Intruction.  In this technique, developed by chemistry teacher Karl Fisch, a teacher records their lectures for the students to watch at home.  This gives them their "basic" level of understanding.  Then in-class, students have more time to do the more complicated, deeper work of the class.  I found this to be a wonderful idea that could be applied to almost any area of study.  The only problem I saw with this was the limited amount of interactivity that students had with just watching the video of a lecture.  My solution, was the use of a resource I had been using with my students: VoiceThread.  VoiceThread, for those of you who aren't familiar with it, is an online service that allows you to take presentations, video, pictures, and documents, and place them online and comment on them interactively.  I find this to be a more interactive version of Reverse Instruction (an interactive "Folmer Flip" as opposed to the ground-breeaking "Fisch Flip" of innovator Karl Fisch).  So, I now take the presentations that I had been using for lectures in class and place them on VoiceThread.  I then make comments using my webcam to turn it into a 15-20 minutes lecture that students can watch and have some simple questions to answer at the end (I use Edline for this, but you could also do it with something like Google Forms)  The nice thing about the VoiceThread is that students can make their own comments on the presentation, ask questions, draw on the slides, even interact with their classmates.  I can go back and check on these and add new information for clarification (I also place the presentations on Google Docs for students to review and print out later).  This then leaves class time to do more work on projects, analyze documents, or have deeper discussions that would have been taken up with the lecture.  In this way, my students and I are interacting on a deeper level with more differentiated and personalized learning.  Also, using VoiceThread for this is very easy since it is entirely web-based.  All the teacher needs is a mic or webcam (or you could type you comments, like many students do, but this is less engaging).

This is still an very early experiment, but the students have been giving me very positive feedback thus far and all indications show they are learning more.  Below are some examples of VoiceThreads I've done with this method.  Please share any information or feedback in your comments!