Little Patches of Ground

Over the last couple of weeks I have encountered a number of excited mentions of the online tool voicethreads. Voicethreads, at its simplest, is a tool that enables audio commentary to be combined with annotation and photographs or other digital images to tell stories. A voicethread also has the additional social dimension that others can contribute to your thread, by adding recorded or written comments.

The potential it seems from what I have seen and read sofar, is limited like many such tools only by how we might choose to use it. Here are a couple of really nice examples of how colleagues have used the tool personally from

John Johnston
Paul Harrington

Reading these threads has lead to an interesting thought or two about how this tool could perhaps be used in combination with or to extend/embed use of the simple Vodcast structure I played with recently in combination with the Tizz's Travels Frame.

A colleague of mine a while back mentioned a project she wanted to develop around the Idea of "My Little Patch Of Ground," Essentially this project would involve students in engaging with a similar idea to those engaged with John and Paul, photographing or originally drawing their favourite places, and features of the landscape and location and writing about them. We originally discussed using Multimedia Authoring Applications and Digital photographs to prepare the material for inclusion in the school website. However Voice Threads and MS Photostory now seem to offer a new way of looking at this project proposal, and one I must take up with my colleague on return to school.

Linking into the wider curriculum, as well as the obvious geographical possibilities, this project has a number of other potential links to Literacy and Citizenship. In the case of Literacy the exploration of visual genre is an exciting possibility, considering how we might use traditional written formats in support of our thread, perhaps through the use of the frame to present and perform poetry as the basis for a textured script, as well as the recieved potential for documentary type presentations and recount development. In terms of citizenship our engagement with our location, has the possibility for identifying and sharing the views of people around us within the context of common experience of a place. Questioning, engaging with and challenging through comparison personal perceptions about our place in space.

In terms of the use of Voice Thread, the completed outcomes are hosted remotely, with code available to embed the project into blogs, and this is a useful element for me, as it has the potential to open the use of class Blog Spaces to develop and share the projects. I do have a current e safety concern, as my last visit to Paul's blog pointed to a worry he had regarding comment moderation on the threads he produces. There are however others not the least of which at the moment is the LA Firewall, and not being at school currently I cannot check whether the widgets that hold voicethreads in place can get through. It woukld certainly be an Irony if having worked so hard to develop these, the students couldn't access and share their work in school. We will also have to consider the ways in which threads are produced, in terms of the visual information they contain, and the texts developed, however this is an exciting possibility rather than a problem, as it is a teaching point that could be used to engage students practically in considering how the projects they develop relate to our e safety guidelines when producing material for publication.

Voice Threads and Visual Literacy.

As part of my podcast/vodcast experiment I have been using MS Photostory and Podomatic, alongside my Blogger trial. One of the affordances of Photostory is an ability to like voice threads add real time voiceovers to the images included. Perhaps a step back is what I need to take at this point. (Ed.. almost a jodaism, a bit of quick editing will fix this! A stepback at this point, what I need to take, is perhaps. Aah thats better.)

In engaging with visual and multimodal texts, as with traditional texts we need real time examples, texts we can share, explore and evaluate, as we would a book. The voice threads above would be useful starting points, perhaps as a stimuls. Working through these, the students could engage in a similar process to that I was beginning to think about earlier. developmentally publishing their "threads" through a literacy context, and as PC users, within photostory. When finished, the "threads" could be exported as Windows Media Video and using a site like Zamzar, the completed texts converted to Quick Time (.mov) files for inclusion in a Vodcast created at Podomatic. The purpose of this is ultimately to create a sense of purpose and audience for the texts developed. In developing this project I might encourage my colleague to create a station at Podomatic called "little patches of ground," to where the vodcast "threads" could be hosted, and linked in to Tizz's Travels, either as a separate page with an embedded widget, or by embedding the widget in an existing section of the site with its back link to the Podcast. Linked to Geotagging this project could also be exciting, in locating the the patches of ground through quikmaps, tagging the map with file names or episodes, and perhaps embedding the map produced into Tizz's Travels or a project blog. This is worth exploring further, particularly whether this map might be embedded in the vodcast station.

While I am whittering, I have been wondering about the possibilities this might have for comparing places through time. I have wondered about the possibilities in the past for recreating visual landscapes, by engaging students with photographs or paintings from the past while trying to frame the same shot as it looks in space today. Our city scapes and landscapes constantly change, and it might be an interesting project to discuss with colleagues around the use of trails and digital media. Wonder how this would fit around the exciting create-a-scape work being done at FutureLab, it is quite similar to this project carried out in the Kings Cross area of London I guess. It would be interesting though to build on this to develop voice thread type presentations that combined student's interpretation of the then and now, on return with their data.

1 comment:

Mr Harrington said...

Simon - thanks for the mention re Voicethread - Steve at Voicethread is very keen on its use in education and has ensured that Voicethreads can be moderated - in a wonderfully child friendly way - you simply allow the curtain to be drawn back on the contribution and it then becomes public.
I think it has emense possibilities from Geography to Literacy allowing for pupils creativity. My hope is that it will be unblocked in school when we return :)