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Using VoiceThread as a Tool for Language Learning

ETAP 623 Fall 2009

Project Proposal

Using VoiceThread [1] as a Tool for Language Learning


Design Project Proposal and Rationale

When learning a second language, learners often struggle in several key areas:

  • comprehending new vocabulary
  • mastering pronunciation
  • expressing complete thoughts in the target language
  • fear of not being understood

VoiceThread is a powerful web 2.0 technology that allows language learners the opportunity to interact in an online discussion, while practicing good speaking and writing skills. Practice in the target language is strengthened by interaction with peers and teachers through discussions centered on topics of interest. Because VoiceThread allows participants to respond in oral or written form, this technology supports a multiple intelligence approach to language learning. Time is often an important factor in inhibiting student participation in a traditional classroom because there is not time for reflection when a question is posed. In VoiceThread, there is ample time for students to properly reflect and construct a response before posting to the discussion. This helps encourage participation and builds learner confidence. Additionally, language expression is strengthened because students can correct any mistakes in voice recordings or typed text before posting to the class discussion. Using a visual prompt supported by a guiding question in the target language, students add comments and inquiries based on their level of language ability. This encourages all students to participate irregardless of their level of language competence. Lastly, publicizing a student's production online allows for a greater audience, increasing student motivation and attention to details, while also fostering a greater sense of work pride.

This mini-course is designed for students completing a Spanish III Regents level course where the ability to converse in the target language forms a significant portion of the state assessment. It is believed that the more practice students receive in listening to and using Spanish, the more comfortable they will become in conversation. A high degree of grammar recognition and usage is expected of language students at this stage. Instruction in grammar, although essential, is often dry and uninteresting to many language learners. VoiceThread fills the instructional need for such practice while, at the same time, offering students the opportunity to improve the overall level of their language skills. Very few language learning technologies offer students the ability to practice speaking, reading listening and writing while focusing on one umbrella topic. Using VoiceThread in the language classroom has the ability to improve vocabulary, improve pronunciation, assist students in constructing well-developed responses through reflection, and decreases language use inhibition among students.

Needs Assessment

Instructional Problem

A basic lack of Spanish speaking knowledge and skills prevents most students from actively embracing second language learning. The difficulty arises because learning a second language later in life is different than learning to speak as a small child. The process of informational analysis which develops during the stages of adolescence, makes many students reject the inconsistencies of other languages and label the process of learning as 'difficult'. Because no such linguistic process of discrimination is in place when we teach small children, they readily learn their native language, as well as any others that may be spoken in the home on a regular basis. Teaching a second language to adolescents requires a different approach that allows for total engagement of interest, while providing learning opportunities that incorporate several learning intelligences as outlined by Bloom.

Nature of the Learning Objective

Using VoiceThread web 2.0 technology, this mini course is designed to encourage maximum student interest by allowing students to create class discussions surrounding a topic of interest. The nature of the student learning objectives include:

  • constructing responses surrounding a topic of interest using a series of 4 visuals and incorporating the use of the future tense
  • organize pertinent facts, thoughts or ideas surrounding each image
  • transfer these into the target language, Spanish
  • produce a set of two audio files comments and two text comments, each to accompany one image in their story
  • respond to comments, questions or ideas generated by other students, or the internet community at large
  • summarize any thoughts, new ideas or further questions they may have as a result of the open VoiceThread discussion

Target Learners

  • 30 Regents level Spanish III students (grade 10)
  • mixed learner abilities
  • approximately equal numbers male and female students
  • no native Spanish speakers are in the class

Instructional Context

The classroom is well equipped with the physical and use features necessary for instruction of the mini-course. There is a 25-set netbook cart; each netbook also has a microphone and headset allowing students to record their voices privately, and to play back as many times as they choose without having other students hear. This avoids the embarrassment some students may feel when they have to record their voice. Because the project will be completed in class, all students will have equal access to the necessary technology needed to complete the project successfully.

Problems and Solutions

While addressing the problem of reluctant L2 learners, the issues that arise are many: disinterest, frustration, lack of strong L1 skills needed to transfer to L2 learning (reading and writing skills), and weak verbal skills. And while there are many solutions to engage these students using repetition, games, visuals, music, authentic learning exercises, etc., I choose VoiceThread because I believe it incorporates many of these options into one neatly organized technology tool that is easy to use and fun for students.


  • increase student interest in learning the target language, Spanish
  • create an educational product that students take ownership of and are eager to share with the world
  • reinforce the use of the future tense verb in Spanish
  • transfer knowledge gained on chosen topic from L1 to L2, thereby practicing grammar, pronunciation and presentation skills
  • encourage the exchange of ideas and opinions in the target language surrounding a topic of interest to students

Task Analysis

Course Purpose

The course is designed to increase student motivation and interest in using Spanish in natural conversation, while incorporating the use of the future verb tense. Conversational topics have been selected that are intended to stimulate interest and confidence in Spanish speaking abilities. The use of VoiceThread aids in this purpose because it allows students sufficient time for reflection before leaving comments in a written or oral form. Further motivation is promoted by the conversational interaction with fellow students using VoiceThread.

Performance Objectives

It is intended that, by the termination of the VoiceThread project, students will be able to:

  • recognize and use the future verb tense in Spanish
  • define how VoiceThread works and how to leave comments in written and recorded form
  • construct a lively and interactive class discussion in the target language surrounding the chosen topic
  • utilize good control of the Spanish language exemplified by good grammar,good vocabulary and good pronunciation
  • demonstrate a growth of language ability utilizing the future tense through group conversations

Prerequisite Skills

  • moderate computer skills and abilities
  • ability to select and sequence a series of events represented by a visual
  • content knowledge in Spanish
  • basic understanding of language transfer skills from native language (English) to target language (Spanish)
  • ability to decode, process and respond to classmates in target language (Spanish)in both written and oral form
  • self motivation and positive attitude

Curriculum Map


UNIT 1: VoiceThread and the Spanish Classroom


  1. Students will be able to recognize verb endings associated with the future tense in -ar, -er and -ir verbs
  2. Students will be able to aurally understand verbs spoken in the future tense
  3. Students will be able to use the future tense conjugation in conversation with peers
  4. Students will be able to identify passages written in the future tense
  5. Students will be able to write simple essays using the future tense


Lesson 1: Introduction to the future tense verb endings

  • construction of a fill-in graphic organizer showing the appropriate verb endings for the future tense
  • use of flash cards for practicing future verb tense with an array of verb types and conjugates

Lesson 2: Speaking and Listening practice using the future tense

  • listening practice using authentic materials in the future tense
  • conversational practice using the future tense in classroom conversations

Lesson 3: Reading and writing practice using the future tense

  • reading practice using authentic materials in the future tense
  • writing practice using the future tense in sentences and short essays

UNIT 2: Planning and Producing a Spanish VoiceThread Conversation


  1. Students will examine the structure and functions of VoiceThread 2.0 technology
  2. Students will practice with the various functions on VoiceThread for recording responses
  3. Students will brainstorm, discuss, and collaborate on responses to the questions posed in Spanish on the future of the world
  4. Students will compose individual, written responses to four specific questions using the future tense in Spanish


Lesson 1: What is VoiceThread and how does it work?

  • Introduction to the structure and use of VoiceTherad
  • Exploring the use of VoiceTread in the Spanish Classroom
  • Recording voice and text in VoiceThread

Lesson 2: Brainstorming and construction of a VoiceThread Conversation: Como sera el mundo en el futuro?

  • Constructing a common theme conversation in VoiceThread: Classroom practice
  • Writing responses to questions using the future tense in Spanish

UNIT 3: Generating Classroom VoiceThread Discussions in Spanish


  1. Students will create two voice recorded responses using the future tense in Spanish in response to two specific questions about the future of the world
  2. Students will create two written responses using the future tense in Spanish in response to two specific questions about the future of the world.
  3. Students will assess the quality of the produced VoiceThread as a tool for learning language
  4. Students will create and facilitate further discussion in the class-created VoiceThread by adding more conversational content


Lesson 1: Composing and recording oral responses in VoiceThread

  • producing oral comments in VoiceThread

Lesson 2: Composing and producing written responses in VoiceThread

  • producing written comments in VoiceThread

Lesson 3: Student practice as VoiceThread discussion facilitators

  • classroom assessment, evaluation and discussion of project
  • student-led facilitation of VoiceThread conversation


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