Monday, March 17, 2014


This week in class, we looked at Voicethread, a site that lets users post video and audio recordings in the place of traditional text posts. While this may seem at first to be a sort of niche idea, the technology can have great impact, especially in my chosen field, history and social science. The ability to layer audio over videos and images (which can be manipulated live during the recording) makes this a valuable tool for presenting information learned in social science. Whether it's narrating  and manipulating supply and demand curves in economics, tracking the process of a bill becoming law in government, or reviewing the complex web of alliances that led to World War I in history, Voicethread is a great tool to produce content of this sort that can be reviewed outside of class time.

One idea that immediately comes to mind is to have students prepare presentations on different events during a given decade. Each group has one event or person to cover, and they have to create a voicethread presentation. Using padlet or another site to collect links to all of the various presentations, student homework could then be to watch other groups' voicethread presentations, possibly responding with recordings of their own, to study for an upcoming test. The specifically multimedia aspect of voicethread, incorporating video recording, audio, and interacting with images, sets it up as a great tool to be used to engage learners of a variety of styles. As time goes on, there's no telling intricate and detailed voicethread presentations could become over time as students become more comfortable with the technology.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Padlet (, a site that lets you create a virtual wall onto which all manner of text, pictures, videos, and the like can be posted, is an incredible tool. My first impression of it was somewhat ambivalent, seeing it as a tool that, while useful, isn't anything new. It just seems to be a minimalist or streamlined combination of a few of the different tools we've seen before. As I used it to take notes on this week's articles, however, I really came to appreciate its effectiveness and utility. Creating new text boxes is as simple as double-clicking, and everything on the page can be dragged and dropped easily. 

In a classroom environment, I think this tool can be incredibly powerful. It's a powerful multimedia notepad that requires next to no training to use, but that can be used even more well by those with training (it includes embed codes and a self-generated QR code). The addition of moderation, allowing the wall's creator to verify everything that's posted, goes a long way toward countering the inevitable problems of internet communication- anonymity leading to bad behavior. A moderator can easily keep the discussion and information being presented on a padlet wall on topic. For small student groups, a wall could be used to organize a project or even to present one by (for example) setting it up as a timeline. It doesn't have a lot of the flashy transitions and effects of powerpoint and prezi, but that's not a bad thing. That simply means it will be easy to avoid the inevitably poor transition and effect choices students have and will always make in those programs. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

From Chalkboards to Tablets II

Reading the second part of the "From Chalkboards to Tablets" series of articles, I was struck by some of the statistics it mentioned. First and foremost, I was very surprised to see that urban, rural, and suburban parents had almost zero difference in their division of attitudes toward increased use of mobile device technology in classrooms. Beyond that, I was surprised to see that a clear majority are inclined in favor of a significant increase in use of technology, given that the older generation historically tends to be resistant to these sorts of sweeping institutional changes. In particular, given that in class we discussed the difficulty in re-contextualizing a device that, for many parents, is associated primarily with distraction and slacking off, I was not expecting this notion to be so broadly well-received.

This resonates with the message of the first article: that there is a tremendous groundswell of support for increased use of modern devices in the classroom. Students and their parents are both really pulling for an increased use of modern technology in the classroom, and many teachers are fired up about the prospect as well. Why, then, are there so often holdups and issues with rolling out a more advanced approach to education?

Differences in how to reach the end goal of a more technological classroom might be a major source of this apparent hesitation. Even in our own class discussions, there have been a variety of well thought out, potentially workable ideas proposed that often end up at cross-purposes. In a situation like this, with such a wide variety of approaches possible to reach a fairly vague goal, different people will find different approaches that work.