Using VoiceThread to enhance second and foreign language skills

Kelly Torres, Florida State University

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Abstract

Students are growing up in a digital age where technology is being integrated into all aspects of their life (e.g., education, social). Therefore, educators have become aware that technology may have an impact in student learning outcomes. One commonly used type of Web 2.0 technology that is being integrated into classroom settings is VoiceThread. Educators who use this technology are able to provide their learners an online social networking tool that allows discussions to occur in an asynchronous environment.

VoiceThread activities may be particularly useful for second and foreign language learners since they are provided a forum in which they can listen to information multiple times prior to providing a response (e.g., directions, prompts, readings, classmates’ responses, etc.). Teachers are also provided the opportunity to capture all students’ interactions which can be difficult in a face-to-face setting. Specifically, all students are able to participate in activities and provide a response that helps to demonstrate their level of language proficiency and/or their level of content knowledge. During these types of activities, learners are also provided the opportunity to review and record their responses numerous times before providing their final response.

Educators can also incorporate VoiceThread activities to provide language learners opportunities to practice all four language skills. For example, a teacher could upload videos, lectures, or games (e.g., Simon Says) in which learners are required to provide a written and/or vocal response. Learners are also able to comment on their classmates’ responses and receive feedback from a variety of resources (e.g., teachers, classmates, administrators). Additionally, language learners have the opportunity to practice their language skills outside of the classroom setting. This can be essential for language learners who have limited to no access to the target language in their home or community settings. Through this poster presentation, participants will have the opportunity to view a variety of VoiceThread activities created for language learners. Moreover, to provide a better understanding of VoiceThread, this presentation will provide an overview of how to incorporate VoiceThread into educational settings to enhance learners’ development of all four language skills.

Presenter
Kelly Torres

Assistant Instructor
Florida State University
ktorres@admin.fsu.edu

9 thoughts on “Using VoiceThread to enhance second and foreign language skills”

  1. Thank you for this very informative presentation.
    As you said, Voicethread can potentially be a great tool for enhancing students’ motivation levels. However, a colleague of mine mentioned that a few of his students feel uncomfortable speaking and listening to their own voices on voicethreads, which affects their learning.
    What approach would you recommend to alleviate such anxiety in these students to help them enjoy learning through Voicethread?

    Wid Allehaiby
    Ph.D student in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching

    1. Thank you for your feedback regarding my presentation. Below are several approaches that could help to alleviate students’ levels of anxiety in relation to VoiceThread assignments:

      1) focus assignments on meaning and communication and not grammar
      2) use a variety of ice breaker activities to help students feel comfortable with this Web 2.0 tool
      3) allow students to initially provide written responses for the first few assignments
      4) integrate role-play activities that are engaging to learners
      5) provide constructive feedback on students’ responses
      6) encourage students not to continuously listen to their own posts – once they provide a post encourage students to only listen to their classmates’ postings

      Please let me know if you have any further questions.

  2. Thank you for your feedback regarding my presentation. Below are several approaches that could help to alleviate students’ levels of anxiety in relation to VoiceThread assignments:

    1) focus assignments on meaning and communication and not grammar
    2) use a variety of ice breaker activities to help students feel comfortable with this Web 2.0 tool
    3) allow students to initially provide written responses for the first few assignments
    4) integrate role-play activities that are engaging to learners
    5) provide constructive feedback on students’ responses
    6) encourage students not to continuously listen to their own posts – once they provide a post encourage students to only listen to their classmates’ postings

    Please let me know if you have any further questions.

    Kelly

  3. Thank you for this interesting presentation! I agree that VoiceThread is a great opportunity to get students to talk. However, when working with this tool, have you ever observed that student were hypercorrect or even felt uncomfortable because of the fact that they were recording themselves? I imagine this could possibly make them hypersensitive of their speech, meaning that some of them really wanted to get it ‘right’? If so, how have you addressed this?

    Thank you!
    Stefan Vogel

    1. I’ve worked with several students who expressed their desire to record their verbal VoiceThread responses multiple times. Although the delete and re-record feature helps to reduce some students’ levels of anxiety, other students may feel the need to “perfect” their responses and re-record them multiple times. In order to avoid students recording verbal responses, multiple times, I have instructed to students that they are only able to use the re-record feature 2-3 times per response. I have also recommended to students that they not listen to their own voice recordings so that they are not critical of their own responses. In classroom or lab environments, students can be allotted a certain amount of time to record their responses. This approach can also be useful in eliminating students’ desires to re-record their responses multiple times. Please let me know if you have any further questions.

  4. I was really impressed with the way you mentioned how VoiceThread activities could be incorporated across classrooms globally. I think the ability to connect students who would not otherwise come in contact with one another physically represents a great learning opportunity to those involved. You presented how these activities could break regional barriers and expose students to new vocabulary, dialects and slang that they might not be explicitly taught.
    I find that sometimes slang can be a sensitive topic, often culturally bound, and difficult to teach in a traditional classroom setting. With students using VoiceThread to consult their peers as authentic sources of (linguistic and cultural) information, is there a way teachers can mediate the activity to ensure that the students are staying on topic and being culturally sensitive?
    Best,
    Casey Richardson
    2nd year MAESL candidate
    University of Arizona

    1. One way to teach culturally appropriate slang to students through VoiceThread activities is to provide students videos, PowerPoints, etc. focused on common cultural expressions. The students could be taught the meaning of these expressions and when to use them appropriately. When students use VoiceThread to communicate with other students worldwide, they could be required to create a presentation focused on common slang found within their geographic location. The students could be required to submit their presentation to their teacher for approval prior to submitting it to the VoiceThread link. This approach could help to ensure that the students remain on task and the examples they provide are appropriate for culturally diverse learners. Additionally, teachers could create all VoiceThread links so that they are able to modify/delete students’ posts if needed. If students create their own VoiceThread links, the teacher can require that the student make the link public so that he/she has access to the link at all times. This approach will allow the teacher to monitor all students’ postings for appropriateness. College/university students could also be encouraged to engage in a conversation focused on different cultural expressions and how these expressions may be interpreted by others. This approach could help helpful in informing students of how and when to use different expressions (e.g., communicating with their friends vs communicating with their professor). Students could also be provided an overview of cultural differences prior to completing this type of activity to make certain that they aware of how certain expressions may be interpreted in various cultures.

  5. Thank you for sharing this great idea. I teach Korean but I have never used Voice Thread. For my Korean classes, we meet only one time a week, so I’m always thinking of ways to give learning opportunities outside of the classroom. I think voice thread could be very useful in my classroom environment. I like that it encourages students to use and practice multiple skills. It seems it actually pushes students to produce output in a low stress environment. Thanks for your talk.

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