The Follow-Up

I’ve been writing lately about how to use technology to improve student learning, particularly how to improve the basic skills of students.  Well, I followed through and had my students use VoiceThread to work on reading comprehension and summarizing.  They were assigned passages from their text about fascism, communism, and Nazism.  Then, they were to explain those doctrines and record their explanations using VoiceThread.  You can see their work here.  (Close all other windows while watching, or the videos may have trouble loading.)

Keep in mind that they had not received any previous instruction on these doctrines from me; it was their book and their brains alone, so mistakes were made.  Also, you can see they wrote out their responses and read them rather than simply discussing.  For the first time doing this, I thought they did pretty well though.

After having assessed their work, here are some thoughts.

  • Some of the students still relied too heavily on the words in the book rather than their own words.  I need to work on this with them.  How, even if they perfectly understand what the book is saying, can I get them to use their own words to explain what they understand?
  • Now that the students know how to use VoiceThread in this way, I want to add the element of discussion – responding to one another.  The next go around with this, I will require that they not only respond to the prompt I give, but they also must respond to one another in some way.
  • VoiceThread works best if you have no other windows open at the time.  Otherwise, the recordings can get stuck and you are left watching while a video loads.
  • Teacher participation may also help get the discussion going in the future.  I could record my own questions and responses as well.

All in all, I felt pretty good about the results, and I’m looking forward to trying it again.  The assignment was relatively small, they did it for homework, and we went over the doctrines in class.  It couldn’t have been easier, and at the same time, I feel like it was a useful and effective exercise.




  1. Donna,
    I love this idea. As to the question you pose of how to get them to use more of their own words, I have done this type thing in class ( not using voice thread, just as a written exercise) and told them after reading to close their books, then relying on memory alone, write a summary of what they read. They could take notes as they read, then use only their own notes, not the text. I’ve done it with writing assignments by saying, ” bring a notecard with bullet points only” from which to write. This would have to be in class, though, which may defeat the purpose.

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