Wow! That’s all I could think after last week’s exhilarating webinar, Reframing Visual Arts Instruction with VoiceThread. This was the second “Innovator” webinar I have hosted for VoiceThread (I present one sponsored webinar each month for VT). I spent the months of October through February showcasing many of my own VoiceThread teaching practices in the webinar series and each month we received the same question, “I’d like to see more examples of how professors in [insert any discipline here] are using VoiceThread.” So, I ventured out in search of some innovators who were doing cool things with VoiceThread and who would be willing to share their practices with the educational community to inspire their peers and contribute to innovation in higher education.
This month, I was joined by two fabulous educators, Heidi Upton and Tammy Lockett. Check out the full archive of the webinar when you have 50-minutes of uninterrupted time to dedicate and are ready to be wowed! Watch it with a colleague or two for an added zing factor! Oh, and don’t miss the Goody Bag which is filled with loads of fabulous resources.
Here’s what is so fabulous about pairing Heidi and Tammy’s use of VoiceThread in this webinar. Each of them uses VoiceThread in an extremely different way yet each uses it to invent new pathways to teach students and create unique spaces for students to reflect and learn together.
St. John’s University
Heidi Upton is an Assistant Professor at St. John’s University in Jamaica, New York where she teaches Discover New York, a core-curriculum freshman transition course. Heidi is also affiliated with the Fine Arts department where she teaches other core curriculum courses including The Creative Process and Intro to Music. Her talents in the area of performance shine through in the methodology she uses to teach Discover New York. The class engages students in a process of inquiry to explore, understand, analyze, and interpret their city — through walking tours that involve the fostering of critical visual analysis observations. Heidi uses VoiceThread as a multisensory, online fabric in which students upload/share the photographs they’ve taken on their walks and, through voice comments, reflect and analyze their discoveries. In the webinar, Heidi reflected with us about the details that emerge when the students are offered the opportunity to reflect in their own voice, which is so different from writing. She also demonstrated how she thoughtfully scaffolds VoiceThread into her class through a process that involves modeling — she takes her students on a walk, uploads her own photographs, leaves her own voice comments about her photographs, and invites students to give it a try. This low-risk entry point demonstrates the instructional value of VoiceThread to students, allows them to naturally see why the technology is valuable to them in the class (no, it’s not just busy work), and it also gives them an opportunity to try it and learn how to leave a comment without worrying about leaving the wrong answer — bravo, Heidi! Those are outstanding tips for any educator using emerging technologies to teach.
Here is an example of an art walk created by three of Heidi’s Discover New York students with VoiceThread.
Art Institute of Pittsburgh’s Online Division
Tammy Lockett is one of the Lead Faculty members for the Foundations Department at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh’s Online Division. A self-proclaimed, former skeptic about the teaching studio art online, Tammy taught me a thing or two! In the webinar, Tammy demonstrated for us how she uses VoiceThread to deliver a multimedia lecture to her drawing students to support each new module for the course. She embeds the VoiceThread at the top of the unit each time. Her students view the lecture and complete a specific oriented activity (for example, complete a still life drawing that demonstrates one’s attempt to apply the skill learned in the lecture). After the drawings are due, students scan them and submit the digital file to Tammy through eCollege, the course management system used by her institution. She then proceeds to the MyVoice area of her VoiceThread account and edits the VoiceThread lecture. Then she uploads the submitted activities into the “lecture VoiceThread,” dragging slides representing the student work to the front of the VoiceThread. Then she records her feedback on each slide. When students log in, the exact same VoiceThread is embedded in the unit but the first slide is now a student’s work, signalling to them that the critique is available for them to access, listen to, and learn from. Students may listen to the critiques Tammy has shared on any of the students work, just as they would in a group critique in a classroom. View a demonstration of how Tammy uses VoiceThread to records critiques of her students’ work.
And what you see embedded here is a recording of a brief lecture Tammy created using a Go Pro video camera (the type of action camera used in extreme sports that attaches to your head!) and VoiceThread. This is fabulous! I received my undergraduate degree in studio art and when I watched this video, I found myself thinking back to my traditional drawing classes. At first, I didn’t know what Tammy’s intent was when I saw the video — honestly, I kept thinking to myself, “Why didn’t she use a tripod? The jerky movements of the camera are making me nauseous.” Then, about half way through, it dawned upon me that this was her instructional genius! Tammy elected to use the Go Pro camera because it’s affixed to her head and it tracks her eyes as they continuously and fluidly move between subject and paper. This may not seem like a huge deal to someone who has never taken a drawing class — but, trust me, it’s an essential element to master. And, honestly, I don’t think the importance of this skill or the clarity of how it functions in the process of creating a drawing has ever been communicated to me so clearly by a teacher as it has through this video. But wait! There’s more. Watch the VoiceThread and notice that this is more than a video. Tammy uses VoiceThread’s unique ability to let a user play the video while recording a voice comment, pause the video while still recording, and annotate on the video while still recording. This technique enables her to engage the moving image and interact with it — like a ball of clay — sculpting it into the perfect instructional message needed to teach her students. In case you can’t tell, I’m pretty impressed with this one!