Using Voicethreads with English Language Learners

Melissa Tassone

The use of Voicethreads in education is becoming more and more prominent. A variety of classroom activities are focusing on the use of Voicethreads – sharing reflections on projects, commenting on assignments, creating group projects, making contact with the global world, etc. But not only is this product beneficial to English speaking students; English Language Learners (ELL) can find it quite useful as well.

Voicethreads can provide ELL an opportunity to become involved in a classroom through a natural form of communication; talking. They are fun and creative ways to practice oral speaking skills. Students can use threads to become more efficient with the English language by practicing vocabulary and pronunciation. They can practice these skills without the worry of being embarrassed because of a language barrier. ELL can also use threads to introduce their fellow classmates to their culture. They can download images that represent their culture and then verbally explain them to their classmates. This allows ELL to feel involved in the school community and gives other students the opportunity to learn and ask question about another culture.

Educators can use Voicethreads to help ELL better understand the content that is being covered in a class. They can record parts of assignments/discussions so students can listen to the information more than once. This way, they fully understand what is being taught. Students can also share verbal responses to assignments and tests instead of writing everything down. By being allowed to record answers, ELL can focus on the material they are leaning and not how to communicate it in written form.

Besides the fact that ELL will become more proficient in speaking English, another benefit to using Voicethreads will be the improvement of their computer skills. By creating their own threads, students will develop a better understanding of recording material (both voice and video), manipulating tools (microphones and headsets), uploading documents, and, just simply, communicating in the 21st century.

This improvement of computer skills will only come if, and when, ELL feel comfortable using computers. At first, the use of Voicethreads may be difficult for ELL due to the lack of knowledge with this program or the misunderstanding of directions. Here is where an educator or technology skilled classmate can play an important role. Just like all people, ELL need to learn how to use new programs, and if they can be taught the correct procedure, they should find success. It may take a few extra teaching sessions, but with good instructions, notes, and practice, they should begin to feel comfortable using Voicethreads. If individual instruction is not always available, tutorials may be used as well. Some online sites can be translated for easier comprehension, but many of the tutorials use graphics, which may aide in the producing of threads.

Sources:
http://thinkingmachine.pbworks.com/Think%20VoiceThreads
http://voicethread4education.wikispaces.com/
http://ritasimsan.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/the-12-days-of-technology-day-9-voicethread/

Rehearsing Language with Voicethread
ELL students would benefit greatly from using voicethread for projects, both because of being able to rehearse language and because of being able to hear their own speech. ELL students often need extra time to think about their answers and comments. Sometimes class discussions can move too quickly for beginning ELLs to participate fully. Using voicethread or a similar way of sharing their thinking through audio could allow students time to prepare an oral response to something being discussed or worked on in class. By participating in a voicethread, an ELL can have plenty of time to prepare, and therefore can contribute a rehearsed and complete comment to a class project.

It is also helpful for ELL students just to have opportunities to record their speaking and then reflect upon it. With voicethread, students can listen to their own comments after they are recorded. Students can delete their comments and try again if they need to. They can also be given challenges to listen to their comments and do a self-evaluation based on a concept or skill on which they are working. For example, a student could listen to a comment paying particular attention to an aspect of grammar or to their pronunciation of particular words.

Students might need to write down their comments before recording them. Depending on their level of English language proficiency, they may even find it helpful to do some brainstorming in their native language before writing down an English language response and then recording it.

References:
http://www.brighthub.com/education/languages/articles/80204.aspx
http://www.misd.net/bilingual/ELL.pdf