We’re back from vacation and this post has been a long time coming. VoiceThread was meant to be one of our first reviews here at IT Babble, but what can I say? Other things seem to pop up and we’re a kind of a go-with-the-flow type. So here it is. The good, the bad, the ugly (yes there is some ugly in there) and how to use it. So to get all the VoiceThread you can handle, read on past the break.
VoiceThread is a presentation program. Like PowerPoint, Prezi, ZohoShow, or GoogleDocs its main goal is to present information to an audience and put that presentation online, but here is the twist. Not only can you put it online, but anyone who watches the presentation can also leave their own comments, annotations, and even video/audio response for each slide! That is pretty cool. So how does it work?
To create an account is easy. Just go to VoiceThread and in the top right corner you will see this:
Click on that and it will ask you the usual stuff: name, password, email address, and to type some strangely written words for verification. Once in it will take you back to the home page and in the right hand corner you will see your email to let you know you’ve signed in correctly.
Now off to the good stuff: how to create a VoiceThread. In that top menu bar (the one that displays your email address) you will see your choices and one of those is Create.
When you click that, VoiceThread will take you to a very, very simply laid out page. Take a look below.
There is no toolbar, no font choices, no color schemes, no nothing really. All VoiceThread wants you to do is upload some content. The good news is they allow a huge range of content to be uploaded. Check out the list I compiled below (taken from their Support page).
- Image files = JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP
- Video files = Most Quicktime, WMV, and AVI
- Documents = DOC, DOCX, PDF, ODT, XLS, XLSX, and ODS
- Presentation files = PPT, PPTX, ODP, and PDF
- URL option for linking to online
One option that is glaringly missing is linking to YouTube videos. VoiceThread does not support it. They say you can download the video (easy enough) from YouTube and then upload, but linking it directly will not work. In the support page they write the following: Please keep in mind all fair-use and copyright laws when using online content with VoiceThread
This is good advice and I can see the relevance with people using YouTube videos and not crediting their source, but then again, VoiceThread offers the option of linking to an image using a URL. This can allow people to use other content that is not their own and not cite it, so I feel there may be another problem with YouTube videos that VoiceThread is not telling us. At any rate I was disappointed to not see the option.
Despite the lack of YouTube, VoiceThread does offer a ton of other upload options which gives the user plenty of choices when creating their own VoiceThread. Basically you upload your content and it places that content on its own slide. If you’re uploading a presentation, it will recognize that and give each slide its own slide. Clever no?
When I uploaded a PowerPoint into VoiceThread it greatly compressed it and images I had in my PowerPoint looked jagged and un clean. The PowerPoint was also cropped to fit the dimensions of the VoiceThread. While it Also, I uploaded a PNG file with a transparent background and the results looked terrible (not joking check out the picture below).
Once your VoiceThread has all the images and files you want you can view your VoiceThread and add text, audio, or video comments that go along with each slide. To do this select the VoiceThread you made and select Edit from the options menu. From there you can add comments through audio, video, text, or annotations. VoiceThread will record and when someone watches your presentation, they will play exactly when you recorded it. You can even use your phone to make comments. (US or Canada only). You give VoiceThread a number and it calls you. Strange but true people.
When others watch your presentation they can add their own audio, video, annotations to it as well giving others who watch it a little more to think about.
VoiceThread has a free account which lets you make three VoiceThreads for free with up to 50 slides. You can comment as much as you want though on any VoiceThreads. There are other accounts that you can purchase and they have them from the classroom account to the school district account to the well they have lots of choices and their pricing I feel is very reasonable. Here is the individual classroom cost.
There is also a free teacher account (VT Educator) that gives you some special features compared to the free account as you can see.
VoiceThread is not bad. It puts a neat spin on presentations by allowing others to record their opinions or insights right on your presentation giving it a much more communal feeling than say a PowerPoint. It also gives the classroom the power for long distance learning and collaboration with other classes around the world. Something that Prezi, GoogleDocs, ZohoShow can’t really do. I am sure that students from elementary through high could find some use to VoiceThread
As for me, I wouldn’t use VoiceThread in a formal setting though. While I like the idea of the commenting, what it does to images and no YouTube linking are a deal breaker for me. However, I think that using it in my classroom could be a good way of allowing students to comment in a safe, creative way that other students can view and really ruminate. I like VoiceThread, but when I looked at it over a year ago the site seems almost exactly the same. I haven’t seen the growth and change that other sites have encompassed. While the service works, I am worried that other, newer services may quickly out pace it someday soon.