Thursday, February 5, 2009

Musings on Voice Thread and Chinswing

I know I'm a little late in writing this post. And this post does not really represent a formal lesson plan. It is simply a collection of the thoughts I was having about the two tools Voice Thread and Chinswing, mixed in with ideas that I heard from other participants and the moderators of the Enchancing Lesson EVO session.

Of the two tools, I really liked Voice Thread. What I liked:
1) The fact that all participants in the Voice Thread comment around an image or can upload their own images.
2) Ability to leave an audio, text, or doodled message.
3) The opportunity to leave an audio message with a video.

Some uses I see for this tool:
1) Storytelling (I know someone mentioned this already...) I really like the idea of putting up an image and having students tell the story, perhaps each student in a class is asked to continue the story from the previous contributor. A reverse activity could be a summary activity. The students could read a story in class, and then have to re-tell the story using their own words and finding or creating images to go along with the story.

2) Pre-reading prediction activity. Using it for an alternative way to complete a common classroom activity that we use in reading classes: predicting what a story is about based on an image related to the story and the title. This is something that I do quite often in reading classes. Before we read something, an image from the story could be posted to the Voice Thread. As homework, the students would view the image and leave a comment with a prediction about what the story will be about. The reading then would be given in class the next day. In a way, this can build more anticipation about what the reading will be. A follow-up might be to go back and comment on what predictions were accurate and which ones were not.

3) Alternative endings. Another activity I thought about was to give students an incomplete story, a real cliff-hanger. Then, they each have to (or in assigned groups) come up with an ending to the story and present the ending in their own Voice Thread.

Now, about Chinswing. I liked this tool less, likely because I really like the idea of coupling images with text and audio chat. Chinswing reminded me of the Sanako software I used in the language lab with my students in Spanish when I was a TA, except the only audience the students had was me, listening and commenting on their recorded contributions. Basically, the students were given a prompt which targeted specific structures and/or vocab and then they had to speak freely about it for 1-2 minutes. They were not supposed to script out what they would say, but of course many tried to.

I suppose the positive aspect that Chinswing has over software like Sanako that is usually purchased by the institution is the following.
1) It is free.
2) There is potential for a wider audience (if anyone is listening)

My first ideas for this tool were pronunciation practice. For example, in an oral communication class, students would be working on different segmental and suprasegmental elements of their speech. Having raised their awareness of their specific strenghts and weaknesses in class, they would then record responses to a prompt on Chinswing and then be asked to self-monitor the specific aspects identified. I realize this is very general, the specifics would be determined by the course, instructor, and students. Students would also be encouraged to comment not on the pronunciation of their classmates, but on the content of their responses.

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