“14 Things that are obsolete in 21st century schools”

The following article was published by Ingvi Hrannar Ómarsson, an Icelandic elementary teacher & Entrepreneur, on his blog, www.ingvihrannar.com.



VoiceThread

One assignment for my research methods graduate class required me to use the technology/website VoiceThread to reflect upon a well-remembered event prior to our current teaching practice.  I reflected upon my experience of a lockdown drill.

VoiceThread is a great technology that allows a user to upload a video, PowerPoint, or most media files and add audio to it, then other users can comment on the video using audio, video, or text.  Audio comments can be uploaded using a phone or a computer microphone.  Additionally, a commenter can pause the video while still continuing to speak and use a pencil tool with multiple colors to draw attention to an element in the video.

From their website:

Voice Threading:

  1. to communicate ideas using more than one of the senses
  2. to connect with an audience in an authentic and simple manner
  3. a discussion that simulates a live presence

It has great applications for K-12, higher education, and business.  VoiceThread would be a great tool to use for a Flipped Classroom or an online class.  There even an app for the iPad that will allow you to create and edit your VoiceThreads.  VoiceThreads can be embedded using an object code (see below) to websites, linked to on VoiceThread’s servers, and sent in an email.  VoiceThread will even post directly to your Facebook or Twitter account if you give it permission to do so.

However there is a major drawback.  It’s a bit costly.  The single K-12 educator license is $79/year.  Have more than one teacher using it at one school?  You can purchase a school license, which starts at $450/year.  Some features cost more while there are discounts for number of users.  However, if you are not affiliated with a school, individual plans start at $20/month.  There are discounts for teams and companies.

So why is price such a big drawback?  There is a free account, but it is so limiting that it essentially allows you to try it out once or twice and then you have to make a decision to purchase a license or not.  Commenting is always free, but uploading your videos will cost you.  Also, the free account limits you to 25MB per upload, which can be a bit difficult if you have a longer video.  While using my free account, the iPad app seemed a bit restricting as well.  I could not use the microphone on my iPad to record audio over a video that I uploaded using my laptop.  Lastly, the free account restricts a user to only 5 video uploads and does not allow you to delete any video.  Thus, you really need to record video using another program and then upload it once it is completely done, if you want to capitalize on the restricted 5 uploads.

Overall: I really like VoiceThread.  I think it would be excellent with a paid account, but the price point is a bit difficult for me as this is a technology that can only be used with itself (you can’t really use it to add an audio comment to a YouTube video; you can only use VoiceThread commenting on VoiceThread videos).

Below I have embedded the VoiceThread I made for my assignment (direct link here).  This specific video was created by first making a PowerPoint presentation, which I then published to video in order to preserve fonts, transitions, and set slide advancement times.  Then, I uploaded the video to VoiceThread.  While I could upload the .ppx file, VoiceThread could not read the fonts, even after I embedded them into the file.  Thus, this video is actually number 3 of my 5 allotted VoiceThreads.  Once uploaded, I then had to use an external microphone to record my voice because I could not get my laptop microphone to work nor could I use my iPad.

Feel free to comment on the video using VoiceThread or in the comments section on this blog entry.

Teachable Moment: George Zimmerman Verdict

It is no surprise that people have been glued to media coverage of George Zimmerman’s trial. Zimmerman had been charged with the second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin. It became a high-profile case due to two facts: Zimmerman and Martin were of different races and Martin was unarmed. On July 13, Zimmerman was acquitted.

I’m not going to analyze the trial, nor am I going to say if the jury was right or wrong. Why? Because I have no authority to speak on the trial. I am not an expert (lawyer, criminalist, judicial journalist, etc.), I was not in the courtroom during the trial, nor was I present at the scene of the crime.

Technology has enabled people to learn about anything at any time. It has connected people and enabled physical distance to not be so important. It has empowered people. Unfortunately, the anonymity provided by technology has been the perfect breeding ground for passive-aggressive behaviors.

In the hours and days following the announcement of the verdict, people took to social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, to share their emotions. Those who felt Zimmerman was guilty were angry a murderer was walking free. Claims of bias were cited most often, from what I read.

We have a jury system for a reason. There was a reason we stopped public hangings. There is a reason that one person cannot be judge, jury, and executioner. That reason is: people had been found to be innocent after they’d been executed. In other words, the jury system is the best system we have created so far.

The take-away is this: respect the process. And if you don’t like it, do something about it.

This is exactly why I became an educator. I respect the field; I respect those who are members of the field. But, I felt there were some teaching methods that were outdated and I had ideas on possible solutions. And instead of passive-aggressively tweeting and blogging about them, I pursued a path which gave me authority to speak about and influence the field of education.

So if you don’t like the jury system, or anything really, and have a better idea, pursue a path that will give you the platform to change it. Otherwise, stay out of the conversation. As the old saying goes, “if you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem”. So, do something about what you feel you could improve and be a part of the solution, not the problem.