Oral practice using VoiceThread


Lesson Idea Synopsis
This lesson aims to engage students in self-directed and collaborative learning using free audio recording and authoring Web 2.0 tools such as VoiceThread (http://www.voicethread.com). One of the main learning outcomes is to improve students’ oracy skills through blended learning in face-to-face and virtual environment. This lesson also offers ICT-based assessment.
Instructional Objectives
1. Students are able to read and record their oral passages fluently, accurately and clearly.

2. Students are able to listen and evaluate their personal audio recordings.

3. Students are able to do small group voice recording.

4. Students are able to evaluate audio recordings of their peers.

Overview
How was the lesson carried out? (Please include level, ICT equipment & resources needed, pedagogy or strategies used, thinking skills taught, if any, duration of lesson, etc)
The targeted students were primary 6 students in a Mother Tongue (Chinese) class. The learning space is a computer lab with 45 desktop computers and headsets with microphone. The whole lesson is inquiry and problem driven – we call it the S.P.A.C.E concept. Total duration of the lesson is about 3 hours (6 periods).
At the very beginning of the lesson, I tuned in with a scenario (S) “My friend did very poorly in oral exam. He is very depressed and need some help”. After a lively discussion with the class, I shared an assessment rubric with the class and posed a problem (P) “How can we help him to improve his oral performance based on this rubric?” After the students brainstormed for ideas, I guided them to ask (A) questions like “How can this method improve his oral?” and “How do we know this method works for him?”. After this discussion, the class came to consensus that we can create ‘VoiceThread Tutorial’ to help our friend.

Next, I assigned a short passage to the students and instruct them to do voice recording in VoiceThread while reading aloud. Since the students have been given hands-on training on the basic use of VoiceThread (http://www.voicethread.com) prior to this lesson, they immediately started audio recording. While the students recorded their reading, I listened to their works and based on the assessment rubric, I picked 1 good, 1 average and 1 poor work for verbal peer evaluation.

The next hour was to get my students to get into small groups of 4 to 6. They will collaboratively (C) record an audio story of an excerpt from a text passage using VoiceThread. This process involved role-playing of different characters and everyone in the group had some lines to say. While the students recorded their reading, I listened to their works and based on the assessment rubric, I picked 1 good, 1 average and 1 poor work for verbal peer evaluation.

After the students completed their audio recording in VoiceThread, I will let the class listen to the 6 selected audio recordings by peers. Each group will evaluate (E) the recordings based on the assessment rubric. At the end of the peer evaluation process, each group shared their scores and explained the rationale of the scores based on the rubric. After this evaluation process, my students and I have a common understanding of the qualities of a good reading aloud.

During the last hour of the lesson, each group got to produce their final version of ‘VoiceThread Tutorial’ which must include audio recordings of both assigned materials. Based on the results of the peer evaluation, each group fine-tuned their reading aloud of passage and role-playing text excerpt by paying extra attention to pronunciation and expression. At the end of the lesson, all groups managed to create their very own ‘VoiceThread Tutorial’ to help their friend improve his oral.

How did ICT value-add to the learning process? How did the use of ICT change the learning and teaching process?
The typical learning process of oracy skills is to engage students to learn and apply the language in daily conversations. While the traditional classroom setting can provide teachers and students interaction, ICT has greatly enhanced the asynchronous nature of learning a language. This lesson has empowered students to create audio tutorials which can be accessed anywhere and anytime. Most importantly, students learn from their peers more effectively with the affordances of Web 2.0 tools.

Web 2.0 tools like VoiceThread has extended students’ opportunities of mastering the language orally by providing them a self-directed and collaborative virtual environment to learn and share. I used to conduct mock oral examinations to listen to my students one at a time. With the affordance of web technologies, I am able to hear my students’ reading aloud even after school. This has greatly increased the effectiveness of evaluating students’ performance and designing lessons to help students who have poor oracy skills. The ‘VoiceThread Tutorials’ produced by students are also great teaching resources!

What were the outcomes? (Benefits to pupils or teachers, re-designing of pedagogy, development of staff, etc)
Based on results of feedback by students, most students enjoyed using VoiceThread to practise reading aloud passages. All students are more motivated to read aloud with VoiceThread compared to the typical classroom reading aloud sessions. Students became more self-directed to improve their oracy skills when they are able to evaluate their own reading and learn from their peers. Using voice recording tool like VoiceThread has empowered shy students to speak up and form personal learning networks with their peers in a virtual space. Some students did audio recording of the textbook passages on their own accord. They also shared their recordings and asked for feedback within their network of friends. For myself, using VoiceThread for oracy training has given me a great alternative assessment tool which is ICT-based and asynchronous.
How did you assess student’s learning using ICT? (Examples of work produced, etc)
Throughout the S.P.A.C.E pedagogy, I constantly assessed students’ learning using VoiceThread for oracy practice. I am able to hear each and every pupil’s reading aloud in the platform and constantly provide feedback for weaker students. This is almost impossible in a traditional classroom environment where only a few more vocal students can be heard. In VoiceThread, I can provide timely feedback in the form of voice or text comments. This informal assessment mode has greatly improve the interaction between myself and my students. In S.P.A.C.E, I am also able to facilitate peer evaluation and this has added an extra dimension to my assessment of pupils’ learning.
What went well during the ICT lesson? What would you do differently next time?
This ICT lesson went pretty smoothly mainly because the students are motivated to create something from their voices. As compared to a typical oracy training session which does not promote the ‘create’ domain in Blooms Taxonomy, using VoiceThread for oracy practice does that beautifully.

I would definitely like to let my students have more autonomy in digital story telling with VoiceThread in the future. I would probably redesign the lesson to allow more room for creativity and facilitate holistic learning of Mother Tongue language beyond preparation for the oral examination.

Will you be conducting this lesson again? If so, when will it be? (E.g., Term 3 in 2010; on-going, etc)
Yes. In fact I have been exploring the recent features in VoiceThread that allows students to make continuous voice recording while they make transitions from one media to another. I will probably re-craft a similar but simpler lesson for a primary 3 class in the 2011 Semester 2.
Which aspect(s) of Self-Directed Learning (SDL) does this lesson highlight? How would the students display the SDL competencies?
SDL Construct:
• Ownership of Learning

SDL Indicator:
• Student sets learning targets for himself/herself.

SDL Activity:
• Students got to apply their oracy skills on digital story telling in VoiceThread. Every student’s audio recording is application of refinement in oracy techniques like articulation, pronunciation, expression and accuracy. Using VoiceThread for voice recording also provides intrinsic motivation for students to improve their oracy skills when they anticipate peer audience and teacher’s immediate feedback.

Which aspect(s) of Collaborative Learning (CoL) does this lesson highlight? How would the students display the CoL competencies?
CoL Construct:
• Effective Group Processes

CoL Indicator:
• When a student works in a group, he/she shares ideas with his/her group members. Everyone agrees on what everyone must do. He/she uses computing tools to work with his/her group members to complete a project.

CoL Activity:
• Students worked in small group and role-played different characters in text excerpt reading aloud session. The VoiceThread platform enables students within the group to contribute and students from other groups to learn and critique.


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