Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Surviving measurement madness

Kratwhohl et al's Affective Domain
Going to a professional conference is like being on fantasy island. If you enthusiastically lose yourself in that special bubble of like-minded people, time stands still and arguments over esoterica assume the importance of life and death decisions. It’s refreshing and relaxing in a weird way that only academics can appreciate. Returning this week from a professional conference my mind thus felt unusually free to loosely connect some interesting dots.

Procrastinating in my return to the daily grind, I picked up the latest issue of Educause which had resided on my desk, unread, for several weeks. I flipped to the back where the essays are and chose “Life 101: A Q& A with Michael Wesch.” Wesch is an anthropologist at Kansas State. In his interview he decries the pre-eminence of SLOs—Student Learning Outcomes. Well-intentioned, he says, but he goes on to say that most faculty have “more profound goals that go unexpressed…” Furthermore, “Almost all faculty will tell you that they are interested in nurturing critical thinking, creative thinking, and problem solving” and these are “complex psychosocial and cognitive-structural developments…not just stuff you learn.”

The next dot is a conversation with a colleague, prompted by a boastful Ball State billboard about job placement, in which she stated that our current formulations of “student success” don’t capture the success stories that she values most. For example, the student who sought a bachelor’s degree not as a path to promotion or a better-paying job, but who just wanted to be able to do his current job better. Or the student who completed her degree because she liked the subject, but continued to work at a Walgreens store for many years after graduation. These students, degree completers who sought self-improvement, who may not have finished in four years, do not figure in our current measures of success. Yet in my view, which I suspect is shared by faculty colleagues, these are the student success stories that we treasure the most. I think these students’ stories are examples of the profound and unmeasured goals championed by proponents of liberal education.

My last dot, and let me say that I am creating a highly abstract work here, one that depends on the reader making the connections between my juxtaposed ideas, is my re-discovery of Kratwohl et al’s 1956 taxonomy of the affective domain. Preparing a presentation for the conference gave me yet another opportunity to reflect on the evaluation study CELT completed three years ago. The alignment of our mission with product-based outcomes (the equivalent of SLOs) still troubled me. How could we be true to our mission while using measures that would show a connection to improvement in student learning? What we are really about is motivating people to change and once motivated, providing them with the support they need in order to implement change. And yes, encouraging them, when things don’t go exactly as planned. It dawned on me that teaching centers operate heavily in the affective domain, and shouldn’t I be using that model to measure the center’s impact? Likewise, faculty can’t make progress with students in the cognitive domain without progress in the affective domain. That’s the connection between the first two dots. So I ask you to consider including affective goals in your syllabus. Use them to develop pre-tests and post-tests to study your teaching. Think about them when you are with your students in the classroom and when you read what they write in online discussions. I find that these are the goals that matter most to educating.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Syllabus Also Rises

By Worth Weller
Continuing Lecturer
Department of English and Linguistics

Much like Ernest Hemingway’s thinly veiled memoir The Sun Also Rises, a syllabus can provide a road map into an instructor’s troubled soul. While it is not clear that many students read their classroom syllabus, it is fully clear even to students that the document carries an imperative with as much moral elegance and nuances as a bullfight: from a distance it is a beautiful spectacle of classroom expectations; up close it is messy and gory.

For example:
  • Late penalties – not only what are they, but left unsaid is the question are you really going to calculate and enforce them (in my case, no: there is a reason I teach English and not math!);
  • Attendance – are you really going to take it and enforce penalties (in my case, I teach online);
  • Discussion etiquette – yes, of course, be polite, but are you really going to read and check each post (nope);
  • Course goals – these can be as poetic as the red cape of the matador gracefully swinging in the sunshine on a hot Spanish afternoon, but do the students care (again, nope);
  • Plagiarism – no matter how you word it, can you really get students to understand in the Internet age that copying and pasting shortcuts learning (thank heavens for Turnitin and SafeAssign; at one time I was not in favor of these, now I see how they can streamline grading and impress students with the gravity of the offense).

Other problematic issues that call up my inner demons include the basic fact that students are always one step ahead of you when trying to set down on paper the rules and regulations of a classroom. 

Have you ever gotten this question for example: “I see that I have enough points now to pass the class; do I really have to turn in the final paper?”

On a related front a syllabus can quickly get out of control and turn into a bulky bureaucratic document the envy of EPA and OSHA officials across the land – I think at one point I had a syllabus that was seven pages long! Even I refused to read it.

One other issue I struggle with is the matter of “tone.” Do I want to sound like the hip college instructor I fancy myself to be, or do I let my more realistic curmudgeonly and scolding feelings emerge?

Like the bullfighter, I find myself dodging and twirling my way through these issues hoping in the end I won’t be gored by a student who finds the weak spots in my syllabus in order to justify their own poor performance.

I can take comfort however knowing I’m not the only one who loses sleep over these concerns, as just this week the New York Times ran a lengthy and eloquent piece on the art of syllabus writing by Princeton professor Christy Wampole (be sure to read the comments section too!). And for more ideas, thoughts and examples about these issues check out CELT’s web page “Syllabus and Course Design.”

Monday, August 29, 2016

When Less Is More

By Worth Weller
Continuing Lecturer
Department of English and Linguistics

With the fall semester fully underway, those of us who teach online have gotten our first round of e-mail from students who say they are “confused.”

I’m never quite sure what this statement means, but I believe the comment most often boils down to a matter of course navigation. For example, at the beginning of last semester I got a very long e-mail from a student who said they (the gender neutral pronoun) had examined my course and found it very confusing and couldn’t see how the assignments and content unfolded. They called the course “vague” and said they didn’t have any spare time to try to figure it all out.

My initial temptation was to be a bit smart-alecky and ask if they had read the course calendar and say that if they had spent more time looking at the course and less time writing the e-mail they might not be so confused. Instead, I simmered down and took a hard look at the course navigation.

One thing I discovered right away was that I had a lot of folders buried within folders. Upon reflection I came to the conclusion that “nesting” material into new folders when not really necessary is just perceived by students as “click-bait”: why go there?

Hand in hand with this discovery was the realization I was delivering a lot of links and files that weren’t really vital towards meeting the goals of the course: more click-bait.

Not long afterwards I came across an article in the Blackboard Blog by Torria Davis, titled “How to avoid a ‘hot mess’ in online course design.” Davis lists five quick tips for streamlining course design and concludes from her own extensive redesign experience that online courses don’t need to “overflow with content to be rigorous and effective. 

In other words, less can be more in online teaching.

Monday, May 23, 2016

NE Indiana Course Design Retreat Advances Student Engagement

Twenty-seven faculty from five northeast Indiana universities met for two days, May 19-20 at IPFW to work on re-imagining their courses with student learning and engagement in mind. George Rehrey, Principal Instructional Consultant with IUB's Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, guided participants through a set of highly interactive processes intended to help them design or re-design courses using a backward course design method. The goal of the retreat was to forge new collaborations among members of the NE Indiana consortium while energizing faculty to champion excellent course design and teaching on their respective campuses. Participants responded positively to a very intense two days of work. Typical of their reaction is this comment, "Designing my course from the "big idea" made my course outline much more relevant and engaging!  I will definitely be sharing my learning with others.Thanks again for a great workshop!"

IPFW's Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching organized and hosted the event. Participating universities included: Indiana Tech, Trine, Manchester, St. Francis and IPFW.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Why You Shouldn't Use PowerPoints in (Most) Online Courses

If you are thinking of updating your PowerPoint presentations, or want a fresh perspective, the resource below shows some common missteps and provides ideas on how to better design slides to work with the human brain.

Why You Shoudn't Use PowerPoints in (Most) Online Courses.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Personalize Teaching with Explain Everything

By Xiaokai (Katie) Jia
CELT Instructional Consultant/Designer

As teachers in the information age, we have access to abundant teaching resources, including online videos, articles, images, and files in various formats. At the same time, we may struggle putting all those wonderful resources together easily. How great would it be if we could have an infinite canvas to display these resources in one place and use them to explain things in different ways? Oh wait! There is an app for that. It’s called Explain Everything.

Explain Everything is an easy-to-use and interactive whiteboard that allows users to draw, type, annotate, animate, narrate, import, and export almost anything. Today, I would like to share with you some ideas for getting started with this amazing app.

Visual Presentation
With the pen tool, shape tool, and text tool, users can present, highlight, and illustrate new knowledge. Objects can be easily moved, resized, rotated, grouped, and even animated with auto rotation. Teachers can manipulate various objects to explain new concepts, relationships, and procedures. Objects can be texts, drawings, shapes, images, videos, documents, and even web browsers. For instance, teachers and/or their students can record math problem solving procedures on screen with voiceover, also known as a “screencast.”

Personalized Learning
Many teachers value personalized learning and individualized feedback. However, it is often hard to do. With Explain Everything, teachers can create learning materials and easily share them with students before the class. Providing feedback to student projects can be simplified by importing files directly into Explain Everything, recording a screencast, exporting the video, and sharing with students.

Explain Everything projects can be shared with and edited synchronously by multiple users. This means students can view on their own screens what their teacher is doing in real time, and collaborate efficiently on one project with their peers. In addition to student collaboration and engagement, this feature enables students with visual impairment to zoom in to a specific part of the project on their own devices.

For more ideas for integrating Explain Everything into your classroom, check 17 things to do on Explain Everything. If you are interested in learning more about Explain Everything with a CELT consultant, please use the request for services link on the CELT web site. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Using EDpuzzle to Engage Your Students

Xiaokai (Katie) Jia
By Xiaokai (Katie) Jia
CELT Instructional Consultant/Designer

Have you ever assigned students an instructional video but wondered if they have watched it? Have you found an excellent online video but wanted to quickly customize it (e.g., add narration, crop it) for your own instructional purpose? Do you want to direct students’ attention to a specific part of a video? Do you want to quiz your students while they watch a video? If you answered “Yes” to any of the questions above, EDpuzzle (www.edpuzzle.com) might be a great solution for you.

EDpuzzle is a free online tool that allows you to fully engage your students, either face-to-face or online, by integrating interactive features such as adding quizzes and comments. For instance, a foreign language instructor can insert quizzes into a video on grammatical rules to check students’ understanding and have them engaged. You can also empower active student learning by having them create their own video projects (e.g., teaching certain topic) and present to the whole class or even the whole world.

The main features of EDpuzzle include uploading/searching for videos, cropping video, adding audio track and audio notes, and adding questions. You can easily monitor students’ progress by viewing their study status. EDpuzzle also automatically grades multiple-choice questions and generates summary of students’ responses for you.

In short, EDpuzzle provides great features for teachers to engage students with videos. All you have to do is to pick a video, add your magical touch, and then track your students’ progress and understanding. What’s even better? EDpuzzle is easy to learn. Check out four short online tutorials from YouTube to get started. If you are interested in learning more about EDpuzzle with a CELT consultant, please request for services online. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Grade Inflation, or How I Learned to Quit Worrying and Love the Bomb

by Worth Weller

I have a dirty little secret.

No, it is nothing about my sex life or drinking habits.

It’s a lot more tawdry than that: I’m thrilled when a student in my class gets a C.

Not that such an occurrence actually happens a lot – I’m even surprised when a student gets a B – but I am elated to see at least one middling grade when I export my Blackboard grades to my spreadsheet for double checking, because otherwise I feel a sense of embarrassment that nearly every student in the class got an A.

I write this blog post now to reveal this secret shame because in just a few weeks the halls of my department will be filled with lecturers and professors dashing from their windowless cubicles to the department office with reams of smudged papers and worried looks on their faces, as the almost palpable gloom of the “grading season” takes over in the final days before administrating class evaluations and turning grades in to the Registrar.

The gloom, of course, is not just attributable to the fatigue of grading – it’s also a manifestation of the fear of, of, gasp, no, not “Jeb!”! It’s much worse than that. It’s the demon that lurks in all our nightmares: “Grade Inflation!”!

Two recent articles in the mainstream media and twittersphere have prompted my renewed attention to this reoccurring, primordial scream. The first, which mysteriously showed up recently in my Twitter feed, is a blog post by Jason Mittel, media and film critic at Middlebury College. Titled “Rethinking Grading: An In-progress Experiment,” Mittel’s blog post describes his distaste for grading and his fear that grades “often work as an obstruction for learning, rather than a motivation, reward, or neutral assessment.” I’ll leave it to you to analyze the article and his remedy, but whether you agree or are aghast with his solution, (he provides a detailed syllabus), his approach is particularly thought–provoking and timely now that the Washington Post just this month came out with a front page article (above the fold!) dissecting recent trends to the grade curve and in a truly Munchenesque twist, arguing that grade inflation may not be such a bad thing.

With a title guaranteed to get your attention – “There’s nothing wrong with grade inflation: Grades Don’t matter anyway. Here’s why” – Mark Oppenheimer, director of the Yale Journalism Initiative argues that employers aren’t looking at grades or GPAs anyhow. In fact, he stipulates that most students at schools like Yale, Duke and Harvard are going to do A level work no matter what approach is taken to assessment, as that level of engagement is what got them into those schools in the first place. “For years, I feared that a world of only A’s would mean the end of meaningful grades; today I’m certain of it,” admits Oppenheimer. “But what’s so bad about that?” he asks.

I don’t have an answer to this question (although both articles make a good case for the authors’ own answers), but I can describe here how I’ve learned to quit worrying and love the bomb, so to speak. I grade with rubrics, which I explain in great detail ahead of each assignment. And I try to keep these rubrics fairly simple and to the point. Writing assignments are boiled down to paragraph focus, development and support (all of which imply a certain degree of critical thinking) along with an introduction that guides the essay and a conclusion that sums it up. Visual Communications assignments are slimmed down to technique, clarity and display of content that shows mastery of the specific concepts. I also don’t spend a lot of time on late penalties (I teach English, not math) and give students the benefit of the doubt about family matters, work and illness, until I lose my patience or the semester gets alarmingly close to the end. (Yes, some students do take advantage, and they are the ones who wind up with that guilty C!)

If a student shows mastery of the concepts I’ve set out and clarified for each assignment, if they have spent the time necessary to prove to me they have reached my own teaching goals, then who am I to say they don’t deserve an A? So if the vast majority of my students get A’s, I am learning (finally) to quit second-guessing myself and enjoy the breaks between classes, feeling good that I have met my own expectations for the semester.

Mittle, Jason. “Rethinking Grading: An In-Progress Experiment.” Just TV, 16 Feb. 2016. Web. 6 March 2016.

Oppenheimer, Mark. “There’s nothing wrong with grade inflation: Grades Don’t matter anyway. Here’s why.” Washington Post 6 March 2016 Web. 6 March 2016.

Worth Weller is a Continuing Lecturer for the Department of English and Linguistics and also teaches Visual Communications for the Department of Communication. He has taught face to face and online courses for IPFW for 16 years.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Discussion Questions that Make Us Think

If a question has a factual answer, it will squash discussion. Once answered, there is nothing left to add. What kinds of questions DO WORK?

  • Give a case, scenario, point-of-view, or problem and ask for reflection, interpretation, analysis, or solution options. Require rationale, logic, or evidence for response.
  • Ask for examples of a concept from personal experience. This allows students to build a repertoire of examples, like "Have you ever been or do you know someone who has been the object of hate speech? If so, what happened? If not, what example do you know from the news? What could decrease the use of hate speech? Why do you think what you have proposed would work?"
  • Ask an "if you were..." question. For example, "If you were in charge of helping out the homeless in Fort Wayne, what would you do? What resources, agencies, or people would you call upon? What do you think would be the strengths and weaknesses of your approach?"
  • Ask for students to explain connections between concepts previously studied and the present course material. Ask for logical explanations and for an answer to the "so what?" question.
  • Provide a video that shows a controversy. Ask students to take a position and give reasons and evidence to support the position. 

For more ideas, visit "Sample Discussion Board Questions that Work" and "Online Discussion Questions that Work."

Friday, February 26, 2016

Is it Metacognition or is it Critical Thinking? (or The Importance of Questions)

by Pam Reese, Assistant Professor, CSD

“What’s the difference between meta-cognition and critical thinking?” That was the question running through my mind at the close of the webinar “Teaching Metacognitive Skills” that I attended on February 17. The presenter said there was “overlap” but I think using some of the strategies that they discussed would help students learn to use critical thinking.
My mind turns again and again to thinking about asking questions. How often do I really ask questions of the students? And more importantly, what type of questions do I ask? Using a revised Bloom’s taxonomy levels, questions can help students remember and understand, but also apply, analyze, evaluate and create. Not only is important to ask questions, but also to plan questions to ask. Clearly, this is the way to ensure that higher level thinking questions are asked. It’s more than just asking questions. How long should I wait for an answer? How to handle when the same one or two students are always quick to answer? A suggestion for this last question was to think of the class divided into sections and ask for the answer from different sections. Ask a question and get a good answer.
Questions are important for students to ask themselves. I believe these prompts for student self-questions goes to the heart of students learning to reflect and beginning to think critically. The presenters shared samples of self-questions in the areas of planning to learn, monitoring learning and evaluating learning. The handout taken from Tanner (2012) listed questions students could ask themselves before, during or after class sessions, homework assignments, quizzes or exams and even the overall course.

I plan to begin improving my use of questions in the classroom—both in number and quality. The first step will begin in planning which questions to ask and then asking them. This will be a process with some questions being better than others, but over time I should have the best questions to ask while teaching different concepts. Wish me luck! 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Critical Reflection Strategies from Dr. Z: Part 3

by Pam Reese

The third and final strategy I learned from Dr. Z. is the easiest to implement. He uses what he calls “RLM” for reflective learning moment. He will sometimes use this during tests or after showing a video clip. Although, wait, on the surface it seems easiest-just call out “RLM”! But on reflection, it may be more difficult.

How to teach what “RLM” means? As I imagine asking it after certain video clips or lecture statements my mind says, “RLM”, (pause) Why----? Should why always follow an RLM? Probably not. The challenge will come in recognizing, or even setting up RLMs for the students.

I use quite a bit of video in many of my classes. Clips from the master clinician website in CSD 449, clips from a DVD of a dozen different therapy methods for speech sound disorders in CSD 321 and documentaries of people with communication disorders in CSD 115. In each class, I feel I want the students to “think more” and “analyze” these clips. I’ve tried asking for “reflections” and making test questions that asked them to evaluate the clips.  For example, in CSD 115 I showed Sound and Fury a documentary about a family of mixed hearing and deaf members who must face a decision about cochlear implantation. It is the best movie I have seen that gives the point of view of deaf adults about cochlear implants, which is very different from the views of hearing individuals. I also show Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter about a woman whose mother is struggling with Alzheimer’s disease. The woman comes to realize that she must join her mother in her dementia rather than arguing with her about reality.

When my students write about these movies, predominantly, they write that the deaf people are “wrong”. It is hard for them to take the point of view of the “other”. When they write about the other movie, they tend to write that a relative, too, had dementia and describe an episode or an experience that they had. Neither response is exactly what I would hope for. Perhaps pausing at certain key points and saying “RLM” would help the students to find the deeper meaning in both videos. I’m going to try this, too, and let you know how it goes. 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Critical Reflection Strategies from Dr. Z: Part 2

A second reflective thinking strategy from Dr. Z was the reflective thinking-writing 3 W’s: What? So What? What next? These W’s represent description, interpretation and outcome. It fits closely to what I already do when I ask students to summarize (describe) and then reflect. Reflect is where they lose it, so what if I said instead:
“Summarize and then add a So what? and a What next? Section.  For So What? think about what was the most important or interesting idea/ How can it be explained? How is it similar to/different from others? In the What next? section think about what you have learned and how it can be connected/applied in the future?”
This simple structure aligns well with that of Gibbs (1998). In that cycle description comes first (What?), then evaluation (So what?) and then an action plan (What next?). The beauty of “So what?” I believe directly addresses a problem that undergraduate students have. They tend to want the right answer to everything and accept anything read as a correct authority. To prepare my students for graduate school, I must help them ask “So what?” and take a step toward evaluating works that we read.

This strategy I can use next week, as my students are beginning to read and discuss and write “reflections”.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Critical Reflection Strategies from Dr. Z: Part 1

I was fortunate enough to hear John Zubizarreta (Dr. Z) at the Lilly Conference in November talk about critical reflections for significant learning. Three particular teaching strategies that he discussed I want to incorporate into classes this semester or in the near future. I plan to write three blogs, one for each of three strategies I learned from Dr. Z. For a little background, first, let me tell you that Dr. Z uses learning portfolios with his students which they keep throughout the semester and turn in at the end as evidence of their learning.

The first strategy is linked to their learning portfolio. At the end of each week, the students complete a Classroom Critical Incident Questionnaire (Brookfield, 1995).  Once copy is turned in as they leave class, and one copy is kept for their portfolios and used to summarize and analyze a record of their responses and propose future learning goals. The questions answered each week are:

  • At what moment in the class this week did you feel most engaged with what was happening?
  • At what moment in the class this week did you feel most distanced from what was happening?
  • What action that anyone (teacher or student) took in class this week did you find most affirming and helpful?
  • What action that anyone (teacher or students) took in class this week did you find most puzzling or confusing?
  • What about the class this week surprised you the most?

To use this strategy, I think I need to begin small. Every couple of weeks ask the students to do the questionnaire. Building to learning portfolios will take a little more effort and planning to use.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

9 Ways to Make eLearning Stick

These events are based on the work of Robert Gagne, who researched and wrote about the conditions that lead to successful learning.

  1. Create an attention-grabbing introduction or provide a puzzle or problem.
  2. Inform learner about the objectives (of the lesson, week, module, course).
  3. Ask questions or guide students in remembering what they already know related to the objectives.
  4. Design each learning activity so that it EXPLICITLY advances one or more of those objectives--this and nothing more.
  5. Coach students in how to get to where they need to go, whether in how they think, study, navigate, or use software.
  6. Create opportunities for students to do spaced practice.
  7. Provide informative feedback on progress from other students, from automated Blackboard responses, or from you.
  8. Assess progress early and assess frequently--always EXPLICITLY aligned with the objectives.
  9. Introduce applications in real-world situations, scenarios, or problems.

Read more at Gagne's 9 Events of Instruction with sample applications to all courses.

Want more? Register for the CELT February 12, Flipping, Dipping, and Dunking workshop.

Teachers Teaching Teachers: PROMPTing quality reflections

by Pam Reese, Assistant Professor, Communication Sciences and Disorders

While I was in my Ph.D. program, courses taught by my advisor always used opportunities to reflect. As an older person, I very much enjoyed these class. Two or three articles would be assigned to read and prepare to discuss. We were also asked to choose one to “reflect” on. I never asked what it meant, and threw myself into reflecting and writing about it. It was one of my favorite activities and I drew connections to past and current events.

When I came to IPFW, I wanted my students to benefit from the same type of activity. I would show a video clip, or assign an article to read and ask the students to turn in a “reflection”. They would look at me blankly, or ask what it was, or even ask for a rubric. This was a breakdown in my teaching. A rubric?  There is no grade for reflecting, no points off for poor reflecting. The grade is for participating in the process, which I believe is an essential component of critical thinking.

I came to realize that my undergraduate students needed some support in learning to think reflectively. My research on the “best” reflection questions led me to the 21st Century Learning Academy and their list of “The 40 Reflection Questions”. While written broadly and not specific to my field, it helped me to organize my thinking. The reflections questions were grouped under broad categories: backward-looking, inward-looking, outward-looking and forward-looking. This framework, I believe, could help my students.

For example, the reflection questions I plan to use in my class on phonological disorders are:

  • How much did you know about the PROMPT method before we started? What else would you like to know about the method? (backward-looking
  • What was especially satisfying to you about the minimal pairs method? What did you find frustrating about the method? (inward-looking)
  • How was your treatment plan different from the others presented? What grade would you give it and why? (outward-looking)
  • What do you need more help with? What is one thing you could improve on your assessment assignment? (forward-looking)

I plan to use specific reflections questions around each assigned reading or project in CSD 321 this semester. My students and I will let you know how it goes. 

The Power of Voice

by Jamie Drake, Continuing Lecturer in Spanish, Department of International Language and Cultural Studies

photo of jamie in front of a map
Have you ever thought about harnessing the power of your students’ voices? Have you ever had students in class that express themselves most effectively through the spoken word? If you answer “yes” to either of these questions, then a relatively new tool may be for you: VoiceThread.

VoiceThread is a web- and app-based technology that enables you and your students to communicate via the spoken word. As an instructor, you can create a thread consisting of a prompt or specific task instruction. The prompt can be an image, a PowerPoint file, or virtually anything else. In addition, you can leave an audio or video message to attach to the prompt before sharing it with your students, which you can do via URL, social media, email, or by embedding the thread in your personal web page. Once shared, the power of voice is unlocked!

The potential applications for VoiceThread are limited only by your imagination. As a Spanish instructor, I have used threads to enable students to “Describe Katy Perry as you see her in this photo” or answer “What do you like to do on the weekends?” in Spanish. The technology is so user friendly that students can deliver their spoken responses using a PC mic, webcam, or their phones, mobile and stationary.

In language courses, this tool empowers instructors and students alike to spend more time in the target language, enhancing listening and speaking. As powerful as this is for what I do, there is an even greater and expansive potential for VoiceThread. Built into each thread is the opportunity to give and receive feedback. When a student adds a message to a thread, you and all other students invited to the thread can consume that message and respond to it if desired, and therefore the creator of the message can receive timely and meaningful feedback. In history, imagine inviting students to respond to Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, or in music, inviting students to respond to the question “Will the Beatles be thought of like Beethoven in 200 years, like Paul McCartney stated?” While specific applications in your discipline would have to be developed, VoiceThread technology can be utilized effectively by any instructor and in any field. It is that flexible.

VoiceThread is easy to get and it is free. Simply point your browser to voicethread.com or access your app store and sign up for a free account. The premium level, which carries an annual fee of $99, allows for the unlimited creation and downloading of threads.

This semester, I plan to use VoiceThread as a vehicle to deliver feedback to students on their writing and speaking in Spanish S112. It’s a new adventure, comparable to an audio feedback journal. How might you be able to use VoiceThread in your courses? Would you like to discuss it? I would love to have others on this journey with me.