Overall the project was a good one. Unfortunately, we did not have time to do a rubric. There are many aspects that could be considered in a rubric and I would definitely write one for any future project.
What could have been better?
Let’s just get this out of the way. I made a frustration list that included the following:
At first I didn’t sign up as an educator but I didn’t realize the mistake until I was ready to start making each thread. The limit is only 3 free threads but educators are allowed more. Fortunately, my account was quickly updated. I still need to explore the options on VoiceThread. At first I didn’t get the publishing conditions right. As it is I did not get separate accounts, or identities (I’m still not sure what the difference is) so all comments had to be made through my account. This meant that I had to log in on the computers that would be used by students. I spent time before every class getting this set up. I think all of the difficulties I encountered can be overcome if I can just have enough time to work more with the site.
The sound on the 8 computers that we used was too low so students could only hear themselves if they used headphones. It was an extra step for me to go through when setting up the computers. The very first time some of the mics were not pushed into the socket all the way so some students had to record a second time.
I had asked classroom teachers to supply the student pictures. I thought this would give the teachers a chance to practice using the new bean cameras we had bought for all the teachers. Unfortunately, this did not happen from all teachers so at the last minute I was taking pictures and uploading them. The quality of some of the photos is compromised because of the rush.
There were a couple days when another class needed to use the computers and I ended up going through the set up process twice. When students were actually recording we had two classrooms using the library, about 50 students. Sometimes it worked beautifully. Other times it was very loud. Some students who were writing were distracted and didn’t finish with enough time to record.
There were times when all 50 students were on task and humming. It was a wonderful site to see. I could not have done it without the help of the community cultures teacher. One of the fourth grade teachers gave up one of her prep times to stay when the community cultures teacher had a sub. This was one of the more chaotic times but I am deeply appreciative of the help I had.
The mics worked very well, even in a very loud room. I plan on getting one for every computer because we could have had many more recording at the same time, without a loss in the sound quality.
Computers can be a powerful motivator. Students who had been puttering around suddenly got to work when they realized that they would not be using the computer until the paperwork was done. I’ve learned that preparation is critical for quality online presentations. Students who are not ready on paper are not ready to be on the computers.
One of the special education teachers stopped to tell me how good she thought the project was. Some of her students came back from the library all excited about their recordings so the teacher took time during class to see what the students had done. This gave the teacher a chance to see some of the work her students had been doing. It gave the students a chance to proudly show off. It also might give the teacher an idea for a way to integrate technology into one of her future projects.
I enjoyed watching students who are often very quiet in class suddenly become confident speakers in front of the computer. It gave ESL students a chance to speak in a way that seemed almost private and yet becomes a very public performance. It will be interesting to see if it increases their comfort level when speaking in class.
The project gave us a chance to teach students a number of different skills. Students read books, used atlases, recorded bibliographic information, practiced retelling a story, and gave a public presentation. It was a good example of project based learning and the integration of technology into the project.