The other day I had one of those magic feel-good moments in the classroom that makes it all worth while. We had just finished reading ‘The Witches’ by Roald Dahl as a class novel and I decided to use VoiceThread to allow each class member to give a review of the book for our class wiki page.
For those of you that haven’t yet used VoiceThread, it is something you should definately check out. It’s a program that allows you to have a central image or video, and to then very simply put multiple voices over the top of it. The pictures of the people you record appear around that central image. In the case of ‘The Witches’, I put the book cover as the central picture. Around the book cover are pictures of all my students. When you click on the picture, that particular student tells you what they thought of the book. Fantastic stuff!
Anyway, back to the story. I have an autistic boy in my class who has always struggled with reading, especially out loud to an audience. I have now recorded quite a few podcasts with my kids, and he (along with many others) has steadily improved his reading each time. For this podcast he just nailed it. His reading was smooth and full of expression. He was confident and happy when recording, and was proud of what he had written and very keen to have it put on public display.
When he finished his recording we played it back to him. As we were playing it back his integration aid walked into the room. Her face simply lit up. “Is that John?” she said in shock. When she realised it was, she demanded to have it played back again. On hearing him reading so clearly and with such expression, her eyes welled up and she remarked “I’m going to cry.”
The point of all this is that using technology based activities such as digital storytelling and podcasting is not just about engaging kids with bells and whistles. The technology we use should be there for an educational purpose.
In this case, the use of podcasting to give writing and reading a real purpose, and to allow kids to hear themselves read, is an incredibly powerful tool for improvement. I find that the simple act of allowing students to hear themselves read out loud gives them an opportunity to be self reflective of their reading. They can hear first hand what you may have been telling them they need to improve all year, and in a flash they fix it up.
As a further example, I had another boy that was a very good reader, but when he read out loud he read far too quickly. It was almost as if he was in a race to finish. I would tell him to slow down, but invariably the next time he read he would be a speed demon again! When hearing himself in a podcast for the first time I asked him how he thought he sounded. He said that he had read too quick and it was hard to understand. Since that moment I haven’t had to tell him to slow down with his reading even once.
It’s these amazing results at both ends of the class that make podcasting and digital storytelling such a valuable tool.
Podcasting is now being used by reading recovery teachers to great effect. We are now using VoiceThread with our E.S.L students (English as a Second Language). We look forward to the results!
Has anyone had similar experiences in their classes? Post a comment and let me know. Would love to hear grom you.