In my past blog on photosharing, I commented that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Well, this week, I found out how to add the words to the photos in two very fun, and easy multimedia websites: Animoto and Voicethreads.
Reflection on the process of learning about the tool
I came into the assignment this week with no prior knowledge on how to use multimedia websites to create presentations. I was having so much fun learning about and playing with Animoto and Voicethreads this week that I got so distracted with making new videos and slideshows that I barely left enough time to blog about my experience with these fantastic new tools! I started with Animoto and found it the fastest and easiest application for Web 2.0 that we’ve used yet. Within 15 minutes, I had created my first video. It took four easy steps. First, I signed up for a basic free account that allows me to make an unlimited number of 30 second videos. Second, with a single click of a button, I uploaded 12 of my favourite snapshots from my own album. It was easy to arrange them in the order I wanted to view them by clicking and dragging them into place. Third, I chose music from the vast number of copyright free choices in their program and with a final click, the program ‘mashed’ them together to produce a professional looking video. It only took a mere 5 minutes to receive my completed video. I was delighted with the finished product and chose not only to embed it in my blog, but also email greeting card copies to my family members. The only difficulty I had with copying the HTML code and embedding it my blog, was that it was too wide to fit properly. This was easily remedied by typing over the width in the HTML code to “400” and the height to “300”. There were also plenty of options to embed it in Twitter, Facebook , or send it to an iphone. I also played with the ‘remix button’ to see some of the variations that were available. It was amazing to me that no two videos were alike.
I was also curious about Animoto’s educational website, so I tried to sign up for an account there as well. It was a bit more rigorous, as I had to include information about my school, and wait while they checked my credentials. I still have not yet heard back from them whether or not I’ve been approved. The benefit of this type of account is that it allows educators and their students to make full length videos free of charge. There is the other option of buying an all access pass for $30 per year for full length videos and professional quality DVDs. Professionals can also sign up for a license for commercial use for only $249 per year. A small price, I think for the amazing product that is produced so quickly and easily.
I also tried using voice thread, and this proved to take a little longer to produce the desired product. It was easy to sign up, and start an account, and load my first photo but I didn’t find the recording step to be intuitive. I had to watch a video tutorial to figure out how to add participants and their photos. I also had some difficulty emailing the photo directly to my family members for commenting. Instead, I copied a link and used that in an email to direct them to the photo. My mom had some trouble with her microphone, and since she is still on dial-up, I couldn’t talk her through the process over the phone. Instead she chose to write her memories of that particular day were and add it as a comment instead. It would be nice to have her voice recorded for prosperity however, so I will have to spend some time with her in person, working through the microphone technicalities.
Multimedia as a tool for my own personal learning
I am sick to death of powerpoint presentations. I am tired of using them, and I am bored of viewing them. If I never saw another clipart picture again, I would be a happy woman! I am incredibly excited to learn that there are newer, easier, more interactive and FUN methods of presenting information. I have only been using Animoto and Voicethread for a week, but I have already become addicted to Animoto. As soon as I was finished my first video, I quickly made my niece, Ruth a get well card. She had an emergency appendectomy at 1:00 am Friday morning and was feeling lousy that she didn’t get to carve her pumpkin and was going to miss trick-or-treating all together. With her video, I chose to combine photos from my own files with pictures from Animoto’s extensive collection and also to write some text on some of the slides. She absolutely loved it! Next, I made my step dad a birthday video. Then I called my mom and requested some of my childhood photos so I could experiment some more. I now have new ways to lecture, present information, send messages to loved ones or create unique event invitations.
I am also excited about the possibilities that voice thread has to offer, although I still feel that I need to spend more time learning the intricacies of the program before teaching it to my own students. I really like the idea of being able to annotate family pictures or home videos with personal messages. My mother is an only child and with the death of my grandparents, I have become only too aware that she is the sole proprietor of my family’s history. There have been several recent occasions where she has been brought to tears by looking at a photograph because she no longer has the ability to find out the story behind it. We also have several old family recipes written in my great grandmother’s thin, shaky cursive writing that we can no longer read, and would love to have her explain to us personally. With Voicethread, we now have the ability to document feelings, reflections and personal history to accompany our family ‘treasures’ so that they may be passed on to future generations. I can think of no other tool that is more valuable for sharing information.
Multimedia as a tool for teaching and learning
In our 21st century society which has become much quicker paced, media-saturated, and digital, it has been proposed that a “new literacy is required, one more broadly defined than the ability to read and write." (Jones-Kavalier and Flannigan). This idea of a new literacy includes the ability to interpret media (text, sound, images), to reproduce data and images through digital manipulation, and to evaluate and apply new knowledge gained from digital environments ( Jones-Kavalier and Flannigan). It is also the ability to use these skills in a collaborative fashion to synthesize the information, reflect and formulate our own ideas. One of the many challenges faced by teachers who want to develop their student's new and multiple information literacies, is the process of locating engaging, cost effective, intuitive learning technologies (McPherson). Animoto and Voicethread are two examples of free online applications that allow students to easily communicate and express themselves using audio and visual media together.
Animoto is a very easy intuitive program to use, and will quickly engage any learner in it’s unique and fun approach to communicating visuals. Its straightforward approach and its ability to create a one-of-a-kind product with minimum or no frustrations will easily encourage users to return again and again. However, as much fun as Animoto can be to present work, it doesn’t become interactive or useful in collaborative learning until it is shared with others on a blog, or social utilities like Youtube or Facebook. I feel that Sprankle is right in his opinion that Voicethread is one of the better tools to bring “creativity, innovation, communication, and collaboration with a global audience into your classroom”. The real power of the tool comes from allowing other people to comment on the content within the voicethread. Comments can be typed, recorded by voice or video, uploaded as audio, or even recorded by phone and you can even draw on the slides to illustrate a point (Sprankle). The other benefit that voicethreads offer is the ability to post student work which “allows for reflection and conversation that can transcend the limitations of the classroom” (Sprankle). Students or parents can add to a discussion from home, and other teachers and students from around the world can also join in. This allows the participants to engage in discussion and explore course material more deeply while practicing critical thinking (Voicethread).
As a teacher, I like the idea of being able to post student work to share with a larger audience, but I also like having the option of moderating the comments or controlling the settings to be public, private or only shared among peers within a class, and this is allowed by voicethreads. I also like how voicethreads can be downloaded as a QuickTime movie which also allows for easy archiving.
So what are some of the best uses for students? The ideas are almost limitless, but I particularly like these suggestions found in Voicethread’s own library:
• Create a portfolio of work with annotated presentations or explanations of the work they have done.
• In English and language arts, students can present stories they have read or written, have asynchronous conversations about books, share poetry and writing combined with their artwork or photos or document a ‘day in their lives’.
• In a foreign language class, it could be used to introduce vocabulary, images or text and engage students in oral practice of the language.
• In a math class, it could be used to demonstrate knowledge (like a geometry lesson or measurement and ratio) or it could be used to get students to work together to develop problem solving strategies.
• In a science class, voicethreads could be used to explain diagrams (like water or nutrient cycles) or as a walk-through a virtual dissection.
• In a social studies class, students could examine historical photos and comment or read and share historical letters.
• In a visual or performing arts class, student artwork could be combined with words, visuals or music.
There are also many ways in which teachers can benefit from using voicethreads. The first use that comes to mind is to engage in conversation with colleagues and use for reflective practice. It could also be used for professional development presentations or while introducing new technology for education. Teachers could also develop instructional videos, tutorials or give a dynamic lecture. This format engages students in an interactive environment better than any ‘downloadable’ (i.e. podcast or videocast) lecture can. It could also be used to improve communication with parents by creating newsletters or putting together a presentation of a field trip so parents could ‘come along’ with their children (Sprankle).
In my opinion, Animoto and Voicethreads are an excellent way to incorporate new digital and visual literacy skills in multimedia presentations which will help to prepare students for multimodal communication in future work and social environments. At the same time, they provide a fun way to create a culture of participation and collaboration in the classroom and perhaps with a larger audience.
Jones-Kavalier, Barbara R. Flannigan, Suzanne L. (2006). Connecting the Digital Dots: Literacy of the 21st Century. Educause Quarterly. Vol. 29, No. 2.
Retrieved from: http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Quarterly/EDUCAUSEQuarterlyMagazineVolum/ConnectingtheDigitalDotsLitera/157395
McPherson, Keith. (June 2009). Mashing Literacy. Teacher Librarian. Vol 35, Iss. 5 Retrieved from:
Sprankle, Bob. (October 2009). Voicethread. Urbana. Vol 15, Iss. 1 Retrieved from: http://login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/pqdweb?did=1884218111&sid=3&Fmt=3&clientId=12301&RQT=309&VName=PQD
Voicethread Digital Library. Retrieved from: http://voicethread.com/library/