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Our VoiceThread Love-in (and something to worry about)

Last Wednesday night I co-guested on Teachers Teaching Teachers with VoiceThread’s co-founders Ben Papell and Steve Muth.  Please listen to this podcast.

Ben and Steve, best friends from junior high, had no idea how viral their project would become among educators and were delighted by the love they experienced in the webcast and in the chat room.  BTW, it is Steve’s family featured on that now famous introductory family photograph–a photograph that they both admit cries, "what was happening?" Steve is the sniffly, crying baby.

"We didn’t really see the education market. . .the embracing of VoiceThread," said either Steve or Ben (it’s hard to tell in a live podcast).  "It was a very pleasant surprise for us."  They are impressed that it was teachersgot it first, and got it in the very first week. 

"We can’t do it alone," said either Steve or Ben, who is "taken aback" by the "nuanced detailed look at why a VoiceThread is a good vehicle" for learning.  "We’re the ones getting a good bargain when we give it away for free. We’ve got ourselves an army. Teachers are "harnessing the synergies" of the tool.

I love Voicethread for its simple, yet elegant ability to encourage collaborative storytelling around powerful images.  I love it for its easy capture of voices and its potential to inspire conversation.  I love its tiny learning curve.  I love it because I can do everything without leaving the interface.  In the webcast Ben and Steve promised further enhancements, including the ability to download VoiceThreads.

The opportunity to chat about VoiceThreads was particularly timely for me.  We are in the middle of two new projects. One involves telling personal stories about photographs (in Spanish) by our Spanish 4 class.  Sara Gibbs, the teacher, is thrilled by the opportunity to have her students tell and share their stories in the target language.  We are focusing here on fluency, precision of language, and developing the storytelling voice.  Another project involves archiving the best of our recent Poetry Cafe. Student poets created posters and read original poems, inspired by research on poetic devices.  We’re hoping to invite comments.  (I’ll post a links to both these projects soon.)

If you are unfamiliar with VoiceThread, take a look, browse using the words "books" or "library."  And, perhaps, add your voice to the following:

Sharon Nardelli’s Reading Olympics
Wes Fryer’s The Haircut
Why I Love Databases

The second reason I was invited to guest on this particular webcast was to share my experience with students blogging the research process.  We discussed our high school template and student work and my work with the senior teachers.  Paul asked about my SLJ blog post and about our rationale for blogging research.

Around 20 minutes into the discussion, Paul asked me to, "slow down."  This is not unusual when I begin to talk.  But I don’t think it was my speed alone this time. 

Paul, a classroom teacher and a host of Teachers Teaching Teachers, asked me, "How are you working with all these teachers as the librarian?  What is the sort of community you set up to make this happen?"

I am finding, more and more often, that many smart, well-meaning, talented folks don’t get what we do. They haven’t seen it happen.

Please listen to this podcast.

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Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza

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