Higher-Ed, Studying Abroad in Ecuador, David Thompson
By David Thompson
This VoiceThread is a good example of digital storytelling for the purpose of reflecting on a study abroad experience. While the VoiceThread platform allows for visual appeal through images, it does not detract from the primary goal of storytelling: to listen to the voice of the storyteller and participate in his or her experience. This particular thread demonstrates both the power and simplicity of VoiceThread projects, since the tool allowed my students to create and share digital stories easily, keeping the learning experience of study abroad central and minimizing the technical expertise required to make their stories visible.
The goals of this project were very simple: to have students reflect on how they changed as a result of a study abroad experience and to demonstrate how their skills in Spanish improved. I wanted students to share their stories in Spanish with each other and with an audience of peers at Luther College who are considering study abroad and language immersion.
The students’ digital stories are based on a required journal assignment that they completed near the end of their study abroad course in Ecuador. The assignment asks each student to write (in Spanish) about an experience during the course that changed them in some way. The goals of the assignment are to have the students reflect on how they have changed as a result of their study abroad and to demonstrate how their skills in Spanish have improved.
I compiled digital photos from our trip and uploaded them into a single VoiceThread. An introductory slide made with PowerPoint begins the thread and gives the assignment prompt.
I asked students to share their stories by selecting one photo within the thread and narrating their reflection on how they changed as a result of the course.
The easiest part was compiling the images and uploading them to VoiceThread.
The hardest part, for the students, was developing a story that communicates how they have changed as a result of their time abroad. Some of them had difficulty, as you can hear in the VoiceThread, with using microphones and headsets to produce good quality voice recordings. In my experience, this is one of the greatest challenges in helping students get accustomed to VoiceThread: showing them how to record with microphones and headsets.
Some students are also very reluctant to listen to their own voices, but as a language instructor I’m very grateful for the way in which VoiceThread helps my students become more aware of their speech.
I’d recommend a brief training session with students to show them how to use microphones, headsets or webcams to produce good audio/video recordings in VoiceThread.
I learned that even simple tools require some practice to master them. My goal for the next study abroad course is to have students begin using VoiceThread before we travel to get to know each other and share their personal learning goals with each other. I’d like them to be comfortable enough with VoiceThread to create their own digital story with their own images and commentary at the end of the course.
VoiceThread can be used (and is being used) to do all sorts of reflective assignments in which students comment on their own learning. There are all kinds of possibilities for digital storytelling in VoiceThread.