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!


Tim said...

I think you're on to something very important here. For me, the flipped or partially flipped instruction model needs to become widespread. And here, you've opened up your presentation to multimedia feedback--- you've embraced a backchannel. It's pretty cool.

If I were you, I'd get closer to the camera. Its easier to follow someone when you can see all the little expressions on his face. Just a suggestion.

Keep going with this and keep posting about it. We have a lot of preachers in the school technology world, but not many people demonstrating their actual work with kids. --@tbfurman

Andy Rundquist said...

I've been teaching college physics with a reverse classroom for a couple of years now. I use screencasting to put my lectures up and have my students type up any questions they have for me to both review ahead of time and answer in class. I like the possibilities you're exploring with VoiceThread, especially the notion of having students add commentary right into the multimedia experience. How often do students do that and how often do you go back and check? -@arundquist

Maryanne said...

Thanks so much for sharing. I'm curious so see what kind of comments the students posted on Voice Thread regarding your presentations. Could you share those?

Folmerica said...

I do try to check back and make comments pretty regularly. I think if you view the VoiceThreads, you will find some student comments (but, I don't want to put too much out their for confidentiality issues.

Anonymous said...

I feel as though too much technology in the classroom can be counter productive too. I see that you are trying to use 21st century technolgy in your teaching, but has it ever occurred to you that we learn from history so having discussions about what the students are learning is very important. If we are to learn from history, we must first examine it and see what was wrong with what was done so that one may learn from these mistakes. Other than this teaching history is totally pointless and you may be wasting your time and your student's time. If you really want to teach student new methods of technology, why not teach computer applications/ science?

Audrey said...

I teach math in a synchronous online classroom, and I am also using voicethread to flip the classroom, in exactly the same way you are doing! I also find voicethread has a great advantage over making vodcasts, since the students can leave questions as well as answer other kids' questions. Here is a link to one of my class's voicethreads: http://learnquebec.ed.voicethread.com/share/1735623/
I find it is SO worth the $60 per year. This year I would like to get my students to make voicethreads of their own - maybe get them to explain something to their peers. Thanks for sharing!