This is a guest post by Educator and VoiceThreader, Astrid Wilches.
Some years ago, while working on a virtual environment with limited opportunities to interact, VoiceThread gave me the chance to connect more personally with my students. Being able to talk to their peers and teacher created a bond that simply couldn’t be done in the written fashion that the class platform provided. The fact of having an application that could bring students together to discuss a given topic was priceless, so VoiceThread became the tool of choice for all my virtual and distance classes at that time.
As years went by, technology advanced and brought new tools that helped me with different purposes for my classes: some of them enabled cooperation in written texts, others permitted online voice text recording, some others focused on making slide presentations, and a few of them allowed students to exchange opinions. However, it was always clear that the one tool that integrated all the previous features and facilitated interaction, collaboration, and sharing voice messages, video, text, and images was VoiceThread.
When this recent sanitary emergency sent us to full online education mode, VoiceThread regained importance in my teaching endeavor since I needed to adapt the evaluation process of my class moving from quantitative quizzes to a more qualitative method that took advantage of technology and promoted meaningful learning. Since synchronous online exams could aren’t always reliable, I required a process-oriented approach that helps me assess students’ understanding and progression, reinforces autonomy and active learning, integrates content and skills, and encourages significant interaction, something that was achieved through VoiceThread learning portfolios.
An online learning portfolio is a great way to showcase and foster students’ learning because it gives them the chance to redeem themselves by self-correcting their work, and making the effort to improve based on feedback. Unlike exams, where students feel nervous, fail and worry about the grade, an online learning portfolio lets them concentrate their efforts on the process rather than on the final result, gives them the possibility to use their creativity to personalize the content and visual components, puts their computer and language skills to the test and helps them get a sense of accomplishment and ownership.
Using VoiceThread for online portfolios was a great experience because I could connect and interact with students through written and voice messages, and students demonstrated their understanding of the topics from class using varied media such as videos, sketches, texts, pictures and presentations. Unlike grading exams, checking the portfolios was an enjoyable process as I could see the variety of designs, the interesting entries that followed the same instructions but had unique styles and a individual touch that made the portfolio project much more personal. Perhaps, the most significant part was the interaction of learners posting voice and text messages in VoiceThread: it was rewarding to see how well they were using the language, how much emotion they put in their voices to communicate their interest, and how engaged they were posting and replying to peers and the teacher. VoiceThread portfolios was a game-changing experience that promoted gradual improvement and master-based learning.
About the author: Astrid Wilches is an EFL teacher in Bogotá, Colombia. Her passion for educational technology has led her to explore and implement several tools trying to make her classes more engaging and interactive. She has used VoiceThread for presentations, discussions, and online portfolios and is eager to try it out to promote critical thinking, metacognition and other high-order thinking skills. Her main professional interests are m-learning, in-class flipping and gamification. You can find her on twitter at:_ @AstridWilches__