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Tell me one thing about... A simple idea to weave VoiceThreads into mLearning!

The final week of the Instructional Design for Mobile Learning MOOC (#idml13 on Twitter) provided participants with an opportunity to explore a range of tools and resources for integrating mLearning strategies into teaching and learning practice.  One of those tools was VoiceThread, which is a cloud-based voice recording and sharing service.  Unlike SoundCloud (see my earlier post), which allows you to record and share a single audio file, VoiceThreads advertises itself as "Conversations in the Cloud."  It allows users to carry on an asynchronous conversation that can include recorded voice and text comments, images, and presentation slides.

I've actually used VoiceThreads before #idml13.  I was introduced to the service by Dr. Terry Anderson with the Center for Distance Education at Athabasca University.  He integrated a VoiceThread activity into the Advanced Research Methodologies course (EDDE 802) of AU's Doctor of Education in Distance Education program.  Dr. Anderson's VoiceThread is available for public view, and continues to expand as participants in each successive offering of EDDE 802 view (and listen to) the comments posted in previous terms, and then add their own.  While the topic (qualitative research methods) may not be of interest to everyone, this particular VoiceThread is worth accessing (you can click on the picture) just to learn from Dr. Anderson's pedagogical strategy. 

The pedagogical approach behind Dr. Anderson's integration of a VoiceThread activity in EDDE 802 is pretty straightforward... you learn more when you teach about a concept yourself.  Anderson gets his doctoral level students to contribute comments about selected research methodology topics, and then everyone in the current and future cohorts can learn from their peers.  What's nice about using this kind of tool is that it gives learners a chance to break away from the traditional research paper assignment formats of typical higher education courses.  They can contribute through an entirely different medium, and are actually forced to reflect a little more deeply about their learning content because they are drawing upon different media and different learning modalities.  Interestingly (for the sake of my #idml13 compatriates), Dr. Anderson's VoiceThread activity represented an excellent example of the integration of mLearning strategies into higher education practice.  My participation in EDDE 802 overlapped with a break between semesters at my institution, and I spent a lovely one-week vacation with my family outside of Brasov, Romania.  I only took my mobile phone and tablet with me... but I was easily able to access the VoiceThread, listen to everyone's comments, and post my own, all while sequestered in a remote ski resort villa!
The final "Try it Yourself" activity for #idml13 was to create and share a VoiceThread resource using our mobile devices.  Reflecting upon my experiences with the VoiceThread used by Dr. Anderson in EDDE 802, I was inspired to create my own relatively simple activity for my own blended-learning courses.  I call it "Tell me one thing about...", and the idea is to forward a link to my students, and ask them to contribute a comment about just one thing that they have learned in my course over the past week.  I don't really care about specific / central topics... I just want to get my students to take a few minutes to actually reflect on what happened in class over the past week (something that can be difficult to get some students to do, especially if there are no marks assigned to the activity)!  I'm hoping that the novel approach will entice at least a handful of my students to participate the first time around.  I'll bring up the VoiceThread on the projector at the start of the next week of class, and use it as a springboard for a brief review of the material that has been covered thus far (and discussion of any misperceptions students may have about the content).  Hopefully, more and more students will be enticed to participate in the weekly VoiceThreads as the term progresses.
I'd love to share how I'm implementing this approach here, but I'm not going to do that for privacy / confidentiality reasons.  I haven't asked my students if it's ok if I make their comments public, and I don't want to either violate their privacy or make them too uncomfortable to participate in this new type of activity.  However, I was inspired to create the VoiceThread linked to the image below to share with participants in #idml13 (and with mLearning enthusiasts in general).  It's my #idml13 take on the "Tell me one thing about..." activity, called "Tell me one thing about... Mobile Learning!"  The Instructional Design for Mobile Learning MOOC ends soon, and this VoiceThread is my way of trying to keep the lines of communication open after the course is over.  My request to participants is simple--add a comment to share one thing (anything at all) that you've learned today about mobile learning.  It can be something about mLearning concepts, implementation issues, instructional strategies... anything at all.  And you can come back as often as you want to share what you continue to learn, and to hear what others are up to!
As #idml13 winds up, I wish a fond farewell to my countless new friends and colleagues from the micro MOOC.  I'm already following a number of you on Twitter and your various blogs... and I hope you'll all follow me (@xPat_Letters) and subscribe to this blog, and my daily xPat_Letters newsletter, so that we can keep in touch and keep learning from each others ideas!

By: Robert Power
Posted: May 9, 2013, 2:54 pm


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