Monday, November 12, 2012

Conversations in the cloud...

This week, I learned about yet another interesting tech tool that can be used for educational purposes in the second language classroom; voicethread. Voicethread is an online tool for collecting and recording conversations that occur around an image or a video. It is something akin to an online discussion board, except that the options for commenting are much more versatile. Not only can individuals type up their comments, they can also voice or video record them. The variety of comment formats creates the impression of a much more authentic and interactive conversation. This week, my classmates and I each  experimented with creating our own voicethreads that we might be able to use with the students in the various settings in which each of us teach. It was interesting to see the variety of topics - from characterization in literature, to Chinese culture, to Spanish verb conjugations - which my classmates chose to create voicethreads about. It was also interesting to see the variety of purposes they had their students use voicethread for.

Alicia's voicethread, for example, was created for the purpose of giving her students a forum for becoming more comfortable using their English speaking skills in front of their classmates, without actually having to stand up and speak in front of the class. Her first assignment for her students was to leave a comment telling what country they were from and to tell about some similarities and differences between their the country or culture they were from and the United States. It seems like this would be a topic of relevance and interest to her students, and as a result an effective way to get them to practice their oral communication skills. Additionally, a voicethread like this could be well suited to building a positive sense of community among learners as they listen to and learn from the unique perspectives each of their classmates brings to the question about cultural similarities and differences.

The purpose of the voicethread Alyssa made for her students, on the other hand, was a lot more narrow and specific. Rather than posing an open-ended question for the purpose of prompting discussion and conversation, Alyssa's voicethread asked her students to give three sentences to demonstrate their knowledge of how to use a specific grammatical tense; the present progressive form in Spanish. A voicethread like Alyssa's could be used quite effectively as an assessment tool after a grammar lesson and in-class practice activities on a specific grammar point. By listening to the sentences students gave in their comments, the instructor could get a pretty good idea of how well students could use the grammar in their speech, without the logistically difficult and time consuming task of conducting speaking tests with each of her students.

While these two examples show how voicethread can be used for the purpose of creating classroom community, helping students develop speaking skills, and assessing speaking skills, there are many other purposes for how this tool can be used with L2 learners or in the L2 classroom.

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