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One of the things you can do as teachers is find these great free tools and evaluate if you think the paid-level of the product is worth it for you, your school, or your district. That is what happened in our district with VoiceThread.
A Free account has no limits on viewing, listening or commenting via audio or text, and no one will ever need to pay anything to view and comment on a VoiceThread. A Free account does have some limitations on VoiceThread creation and video (webcam) commenting, but you can easily upgrade to a VoiceThread License that offers unlimited creation and advanced features. For information on more VoiceThread solutions, visit the Products page and click on the appropriate selection for you: K-12, Higher Education, or Business.
When my district upgraded and worked out a single-sign on (SSO) for our teachers and students to VoiceThread that is when things started to get really exciting. With a SSO integration people (teachers and/or kids) do not need to worry about another UN/PW. If that might be an issue with your learners there are certainly way around it if you think this tool might be useful to you. If I was using the free version with my students I might try the Gmail trick if student emails were an issue.
The product is a great tool to extend the classroom walls beyond the minutes limited to a subject, the place of learning as only your classroom ,and you as the lone expert. The free version is enough to insert some valued variety into your classroom. In fact, this might be a nice way to try an Open House night for your classroom or a Curriculum Night – whatever your school is into. You might finally reach those poor parents who cannot come in for whatever reason!
Here is an example of a VoiceThread I made with my (then) Kindergartener about some lingering snow to which he was not accustomed. We were able to get several professors from local universities to visit the VoiceThread – a few of them even figured out how to respond:
I taught Earth Science in middle school and there was never a way as easy as this that I could reach out to climate experts at the university level as just emailing them this URL! Imagine the audience this student now expects for his future, harder questions. And I am thankful I will have this & other cool tools to use to help him reach out to *real* experts out there!
Check out VoiceThread’s blog for more exciting ideas. Try both their web and mobile applications – I love having access to VoiceThread via my iPhone.