As anyone who visits this blog from time to time is probably aware, I will be moderating an asynchronous discussion about grading and assessment later this week. The conversation will include several noted authors, including Tom Guskey, Doug Reeves, Kim Bailey, Dylan Wiliam, and Chris Jakicic. We will be using one of the most phenomenal digital learning tools that I have ever come across: Voicethread.

For those new to Voicethread, here are a few tips:

Voicethread is one of the easiest—and most engaging—digital forums for discussions available to educators today. It’s a tool that my students have embraced completely and that I’ve used to participate in conversations with other teachers and experts on Web 2.0, Professional Learning Communities, and 21st Century Skills.

Our conversation entitled “Formative Assessment and Grading: Creating a System of Quality Feedback for Improved Student Learning” will begin on October 6 and end on October 8.

During that time, the authors will be stopping by our Voicethread a few times a day to lend their advice and to answer your questions about the challenges of collecting data, analyzing it, and using it to improve our practice–but the real value in our conversation comes from the collective wisdom of all of our participants! My hope is that we’ll wrestle with challenging topics together for three days—-answering and asking questions, pushing back against controversial ideas, and letting our own preconceived notions be challenged.

The cool part about Voicethread is that there are no set times for participating in our conversation. Far from a full three days of constant interaction, Voicethread conversations allow users to choose when they’d like to stop by and learn.

That means you can stop by as your schedule allows–before school, after changing the baby’s diaper, just before bed–to read comments from other participants and to share your wisdom with the digital peers that join together to reflect on assessment.

It should be a great example of what collaborative dialogue between accomplished teachers can look like–and it should bring out some ideas and issues that affect the future of everyone in education.

To be best prepared to use Voicethread during our conversation, consider:

  1. Creating a free educator account by visiting
  2. Viewing this Voicethread tutorial, which will show you how to add comments to a conversation.
  3. Viewing this Voicethread tutorial, which will introduce you to the idea of Voicethread identities.

You can also practice by adding a comment to one of the following professional development Voicethreads. Some are created by Bill Ferriter and others by me:

You might also be interested in these “digital conversation suggestions” that Bill uses to introduce to teachers and students whenever they tackle new tools:

While commenting, try to respond directly to other readers. Begin by quoting some part of the comment that you are responding to help other listeners know what it is that has caught your attention. Then, explain your own thinking in a few short sentences. Elaboration is important when you’re trying to make a point. Finally, finish your comment with a question that other listeners can reply to.

Questions help to keep digital conversations going!

When responding to another participant, don’t be afraid to disagree with something that they have said. Challenging the thinking of someone else will help them to reconsider their own thinking—and will force you to explain yours! Just be sure to disagree agreeably—impolite people are rarely influential.

If your thinking gets challenged by another participant in a conversation, don’t be offended. Listen to your peers, consider their positions and decide whether or not you agree with them. You might discover that they’ve got good ideas you hadn’t thought about. Either way, be sure to respond—let your challengers know how their ideas have influenced you.

Finally, know that you can always leave questions for me in the comment section of this entry. I’m really excited about our upcoming conversation and want to make sure that everyone feels comfortable with the tool that we’ll be using to interact with one another.

3 thoughts on “Voicethread Tips for our Upcoming Conversation

    1. Erica,
      I’m so happy to hear that you are interested in participating in this opportunity. My best advice is to visit at least once per day to read and learn and share your perspectives, but any time of day or night will be just as engaging as this is not a “live” synchronous conversation. One of the biggest strengths of Voicethread is the ability to have deep, meaningful dialogue on your schedule.

      Hope that helps,


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