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learning.now: at the crossroads of Internet culture & education with host Andy Carvin

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April252008

SlideShare and VoiceThread: Not Your Father’s Film Strip

For those of you who get as bored as I do watching PowerPoints and other passive slide presentations, there’s a new generation of presentation tools embracing interaction, discussion and community building. I’ve been particularly fascinated by the educational potential of two of them: SlideShare and VoiceThread.

I’ve probably given hundreds of talks over the last dozen years or so. And I’ve dreaded many of them - not because I have a fear of public speaking or anything like that, but because of the peer pressure to show presentation slides. Whether you’re using PowerPoint, Keynote or other presentation tool, they have the potential of being dreadfully boring. And if you upload them for others to view, unless you include audio, video or other annotations of what you talked about, the user is left to put the pieces together solely based on the slides themselves.

Which is why I became fascinated by SlideShare, an online service launched a couple of years ago by a startup jointly based in Silicon Valley and India. It was one of the first Web 2.0 sites to try to extend the functionality of slide presentations by giving it online community features. In some ways, it’s similar to what Flickr does for photos (and now video): users can upload a presentation, tag it, create discussion groups around presentations, and invite fellow community members to build upon it.

For example, here’s a PowerPoint I recently used at a social networking talk in Baltimore:

By posting it to SlideShare, users can comment on it and share it with others, embedding a Flash version of the presentation on blogs and social networks. Presentations that were once just for viewing now become the basis of a conversation.

As useful as SlideShare is, it’s really just adding some social functionality to PowerPoints. Another tool takes the level of conversations one step further. VoiceThread allows you to create presentation slides and invite a community of people to annotate individual slides with audio, video or text of their own. It even allows users to post audio notes over the phone; you click the icon that looks like a telephone, supply it your phone number, and the system calls you so you can record a voice message for inclusion in the slide.

For example, here’s a VoiceThread created by Larry Anderson of the National Center for Technology Planning. Larry didn’t create a formal presentation; instead, it’s more of a brainstorm of ways to begin teaching Web 2.0 to educators.

(If the embedded version is too small for you, go to this page for more of a full-screen experience.)

As you watch Larry’s presentation, you’ll see he does it by creating a slide and offering some audio commentary on the particular subject. Meanwhile, the slide is surrounded by avatars of people who have responded to Larry or each other in various multimedia formats. Other users can then make their own annotations and join the conversation.

While neither SlideShare nor VoiceThread really impact the way presentation slides are used in meetings or classroom presentations, they significantly change the way you experience these slides online. No longer a glorified version of an overhead or film strip, these online presentation tools can allow students and teachers to engage in an ongoing dialogue.

Have you used these tools, or similar ones, with your students or in professional development activities? I’d love to learn about your own experiences with them and what potential you see in them. -andy

Filed under : Cool Tools

Responses

I am very much impressed with this information. I feel this will help me with my technology needs.

I agree with your observations of VoiceThread. I recently used it for a class and found several great demonstration presentations on the VoiceThread site. It has great education potential. I wonder if it will catch on.

Thank you, Andy, for sharing the information. I was made aware of Voice Threads several months ago and thought it would be a great tool for my fifth grade students to use for their book talks on the subject of the Holocaust. They have become quite good at creating PowerPoint presentations, so I thought this would take them one step further. In the next week you should begin to see them on the Voice Threads site.
In eduation,
Nancy Jacobson

Any kind of contribution that allows to reinforce conducting a class is welcome and may find its real place. The question is if it cathes on, as my prespeaker stated?

I am collecting examples of how educators are using Voicethread in their classroom or for professional development on a wiki at: http://voicethread4education.wikispaces.com/

My plan is to share these examples with other technology teachers who provide professional development in their schools.

Feel free to add examples or links to resources. Thanks in advance,
Colette Cassinelli
http://www.edtechvision.org

Voicethread is one of those tools that I am totally pumped about! I finally got around to using it with my 3rd graders this spring - alas, too late in the year to do another one - and they enjoyed it so much. I am planning on starting off next year with Voicethread right away. What I like the most about it is that the program makes it so easy for students to collaborate and be involved in one another’s work - even at this young age. I’ve heard people downplay the program because it is simplistic (their opinion), but I think that is precisely why teachers will use it - it’s very simple to use and very easy to show students how to use it.

I’ve provided a link for you to see the ‘one’ Voicethread we made, which was really just a small part of a larger project, but we are quite proud of it: http://ed.voicethread.com/share/142770

My mind is just spinning with possibilities!

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