This week my task as indicated in my course calendar is to explore Web 2.0 presentation applications. I scratched my head a bit thinking to myself, isn't that we have been doing throughout this course? The chapter title of my reading for this week was "Media Sharing". Didn't I just do that when I looked into YouTube, Teacher Tube and the like? It all is starting to run together--it is all Web 2.0 isn't it? I am coming to understand that the another use of the term Web 2.0 is as a handy adjective used to describe any kind of web-based tool that is highly interactive and truly mutlimedia.
When I looked into Voicethread I felt like I needed to use the term WEB 2.0 in all caps, bold and underlined. Voicethread shows how far web-based applications have become. They are truly interactive and you can see how the whole idea of software residing on your computer hard drive somewhere is becoming more and more a relic of the past.
I plunged into Voicethread after reading about it in Berger and Trexler's Choosing Web 2.0 Tools for Learning and Teaching in a Digital World. The textbook was just dripping with ideas of what one can do with this application. It was exciting to read but difficult to quite visualize how to carry out these projects in the classroom. As a result, I put all the thinking about the application of this program to classroom learning on hold. I just grabbed the nonthreatening idea of making a presentation (which I knew wasn't a very collaborative or necessarily interactive topic) so I could have a reason to learn the application.
I remember reading somewhere that good technology is transparent. The idea is not to make technology the object of study (which happens far to often in school "computer classes"). I strongly believe this but ironically I also have discovered the only way I can consider the transparency of a tool is, if for a brief time at least, to make it the fully visible object of study. Once I have learned how to operate the tool I am better prepared to grapple with how to apply it and use it in the classroom and evaluate if my students will quickly lose their focus on the tool and really get into the content and concepts they are working with.
Posted below is my first work with Voicethread. It ended up taking way more time than I thought even though it seems straight forward. It took away from my time with other Web 2.0 tools. Is this a sign of low transparency or did I just get sucked in by my interest in the presentation topic. I think the latter is true in this case.
What I found very useful in Voicethread was the ability to give yourself multiple identies. I made a presentation and I was the only commentary. I could create mutliple identities and mimic what commenting would look like. I can see this as a way to jumpstart a voicethread by modelling different kinds input to my students.
Having done my exploration work I was ready to consider more about classroom use. The Digitally Speaking Wiki's tutorial on Voicethread is astoundingly thorough. If you haven't checked it out, do so now.
I think VoiceThread is a must use tool and that with more frequent use has the potential to become more transparent over time.
I have used Glogster a bit but not in the classroom but still was able to inspire a teacher colleague to give it a go. The kids made glogs that were reports on nonfiction books they had read. She didn't give a lot of criteria for the project but the main point was to sell the idea of reading the book to someone else by give clues as to the content and what makes it so interesting or useful to read. As with my comments about transparency earlier in this blog post, it was necessary to make Glogster an object of study for this first project. Kids were pretty wrapped up in the features and trying to figure out how to make thier content fit the features rather than the other way around. Glogster did become more transparent when the kids used a Smartboard to present their glogs to their peers. The kids started to become more engaged and enthusiastic with the content although the visual razzle dazzle was a bit of a distraction for the first bit.
Tool Transparency is Important
The biggest challenge we had was making the entire glog visible all at one time on the screen. We had to do a lot of scrolling. We eventually resorted to using the web browser's zoom feature. This was fine since the image was already enlarged because it was on a Smartboard. Otherwise I find this quite a maddening feature of Glogster. Why don't they change the poster aspect to one that is landscaped and that fits the nature of a computer screen? Have I missed something here? The glog in this way does not have the transparency I would like.
I do love the ability to embed a glog into a web page. I intend to take the idea in Berger and Trexler on page 144, and make a new navigation page for our library that lays out all the electronic resources in graphic form. Here is the Oaklawn Elementary Library Glog embedded.
I am not a huge Glogster fan, I think there are other tools I would spend more time with but I can see why others are making it work in the classroom and beyond.