Integrating tech in my lessons has definitely revolutionized my class activities.
It has improved the way student learning is recorded or documented, which in turn has allowed me to give timely and appropriate feedback to students. There are several tools that help me achieve this, but for this post I’d like to focus on VoiceThread.
According to the TPACK and SAMR models, VoiceThread has allowed me to redefine an oral communication assessment by recording asynchronous interactions of EAL students.
Voicethread serves as a great assessment tool for listening and speaking. As an EAL teacher, I often use it to check student comprehension of spoken and written texts we have covered in class. More importantly, I use it to allow students to apply what they have learned in terms of the significant concepts and add their own ideas. In order to move students along the language continuum, I take extra time to come up with questions that make them think at a higher level. It won’t do to simply ask them to recall facts. It’s important to note that this activity is more often used for high beginners and up.
After viewing The Power of Introverts TED talk, I was compelled to make sure I reach all students in my class. During class discussions, I have time and again seen only a handful of students sharing their ideas. The rest usually kept to themselves. Voicethread allows for everyone’s voice to be heard through asynchronous interaction. They listen to a question, they answer it. The real challenge for students is to listen to another student’s answer, paraphrase or say the message in their own words, and then comment upon it.
With this kind of exercise, students show a better appreciation of the instruction THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK. When students learn an additional language, they improve their thinking in the language only when they are given the opportunity. They have to come up with well-thought answers. In Voicethread, it is more imperative that they do this since it is recorded. After students record, they get the chance to listen to themselves to check if they have delivered their message clearly and more importantly if they have addressed the questions. Through peer and teacher feedback, students find out if these expectations have or have not been met. By going through more Voicethread tasks, students become more alert and catch themselves when they are ‘rambling’ or going around in circles.
As a teacher, the thoughts of ‘quiet and shy’ students often grab me by surprise since I have had no idea what they were thinking during discussions. Suddenly, with VoiceThread, their thoughts are ‘out there’ for everyone to hear. After the unit Tiger Mom versus Prince of Bel-Air, students were asked, ‘Was it a good idea for Will’s mom to send him to his aunt and uncle in Bel-Air? Why or why not?’ Their answers on VoiceThread varied. One from a quiet boy: ‘ No…I think she’s not being responsible just letting him go because of a small fight…’ Another student said, ‘ yes…maybe he’d learn new things, be nicer, and work harder.’
VoiceThread recordings of my students through these past years show their level of progress. Best of all, students can access these recordings even years later and compare how they were in grade 6 and how they are now in grade 8, which shows big differences. One can tell how they have improved (or not) in answering questions and providing evidence to support their views. As they mature, I do my best not only to develop their English language ability, but also their critical thinking skills as well. Often, I implore parents during parent-teacher conferences to help in sharpening their child’s critical thinking skills especially in their mother tongue. It may sound counter-intuitive, but studies have shown that skills learned in one’s first language is transferred in the additional language.
If you are a ‘language acquisition’ teacher who wants to encourage all your students to communicate verbally, I would highly recommend using VoiceThread as a tool in your classroom!