Virtual Language Labs with VoiceThread

Last Fall, French teacher Denise Brill asked me to help her polish a grant for the Mattawan Public Education Foundation’s Creative Instruction Awards. During a conference session over the summer, she saw what an amazing job a few language teachers in other school districts had done to create virtual foreign language learning labs. She wanted to do the same for her French students, and I was excited to help.

Listening to a full classroom of students speak a foreign language to evaluate them can often take an entire class period, if not longer. Using all that time for assessment eats up instructional time. Ms. Brill wanted to give her students as many opportunities to speak French as possible, while still teaching and pushing forward through the curriculum. That’s where Voicethread comes in! Using the grant money from the MPEF Creative Instruction Award, she had started to build small learning activities (like the one below) that allow her students to collaborate and communicate through the French language in class, or from home. She can then listen to the students’ use of the language at home or during plan time, freeing up her class time for more learning time!

The beauty is that Voicethread isn’t specifically for foreign language learners; it’s a tool for collaborating and communicating through a variety of means; audio, text, and video. It’s a tool for creating shared digital stories, and Ms. Brill has had a positive response from her students. They’re getting more time to speak French, they get to hear how others in class are speaking the language (peer presentation is a powerful learning tool), and Ms. Brill gets more time in class to work on great learning activities! I’m looking forward to where this goes, and what other creative activities come from the use of Voicethread.

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