A brief introduction to VoiceThread & micro- teaching

VoiceThread is a cloud-based application that run in your web browser and on almost any internet connection. VoiceThread allows you to upload, share and discuss documents, presentations, images, audio files and videos into a common space for an asynchronous group conversations. Viewers can comment on VoiceThread slides using one of five powerful commenting options: microphone, webcam, text, phone, and audio-file upload. Here is an open Voice Thread entitled 10 Webinar Myths, but the rest of our VoiceThreads will be private and only shared with specific people on the workshop.

Micro-teaching is a teacher training and faculty development technique whereby the teacher reviews a recording of a teaching session, in order to get constructive feedback from peers and/or students about what has worked and what improvements can be made to their teaching technique. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microteaching)

I will be using VoiceThread as a “venue” for a micro-teaching workshop. I’ve decided to use this platform (and not the institutional platform) as it offers lecturers (who were uncertain about letting others see their own webinar recordings) a safe and “mediational space” to externalize their own experience or running a webinar.


Credit: The article that inspired this approach Microteaching in Isolation: Fostering Autonomy and Learner Engagement through VoiceThread.

VoiceThread Instructions

This brief introduction to VoiceThread will should help participants to

  1. Create an account,
  2. Become familiar with the basic VoiceThread interface
  3. Take you through the steps involved with commenting on a video or slide show
  4. Explain how to join a group and
  5. Show you how to create a Voice Thread.

1 | Create an account

1. Go to http://www.voicethread.com

2. Click on “Sign In or Register”

a. Sign in to an existing account or

b. Click “Register” if you are a new user.

2 |The basic Interface

Once you are signed into your account, youʼll see the basic account navigation page. Notice the three important tabs at the top: Home, Browse and Create

Browse: Click on this tab to review all the VoiceThreads ever created that authors have chosen to place in “Browse.” When you create your own VT, you will have the choice to place yours here or exclude it for more privacy.

Create: Click on this tab to create a new VoiceThread. After youʼve created a VoiceThread, it will appear in your MyVoice tab.

3 | Comment on a Voice Thread

Once media has been placed into Voicethread, it works like a slide show. Comments on slides and videos are made directly in the timeline, and you can also respond to comments.

1) Move to the position in the video timeline or onto the slide where you want to comment

2) Record a comment by clicking the plus (+) icon

At the bottom of the slide, you will see a plus (+) icon. Click on this icon to see the commenting options. Choose an option (audio, text, video etc) to respond. With this commenting functionality there are many possible uses, including critiques, reflection, project collaboration, presentations, topic discussions, and more.

4 | How to join a group

Join group that was set up on Voice Thread. Click on the link that has been shared with you. You will see a collection of threads that have been posted. Navigate to the place where you wish to post a comment.

5 | How to Create a VoiceThread

Three simple steps

Create a VoiceThread. Click on the Create Tab to add your media – Powerpoint, images, documents, movie files, PDFs or Excel spreadsheets.

Comment on a slide – Add your own comments to your slides in text, voice, or video format. You may delete your comments at any time.

Share with others. Make your VoiceThread is viewable to others.

In summary

These instructions will introduce you to the very basics of the VoiceThread interface and take you through the simple steps involved with creating and sharing a VoiceThread.

After adding your media (Powerpoint, images, documents, movie files, PDFs or Excel spreadsheets) and adding your own comments to your slides in text, voice, or video format. You may delete your comments at any time, share your VoiceThread to users other than just you (be sure youʼve made the appropriate choices with respect to student privacy) and get the link to your VoiceThread.

Once you have copied the link to your clipboard, you can email it to students or link it on a website or into the LMS. When they click on the link, they will be taken directly to the first page of your VoiceThread.

House keeping

Conferences, seminars, workshops, colloquia often seem to kick off with “housekeeping”. Where’s the bathrooms? Announcement of meal times. What’s the wifi password. Reminder about venue rules. Introductions of attendees. Location for the bus to take you to the social activities in the evening. This is is key orientation information, to help you to navigate an unfamiliar place.

But before a webinar, such basic “house-keeping” instructions are not always as clear as they should be. To remedy this, I put together a Slidedeck (Creative Commons License) intended to serve as inspiration for future housekeeping communications. This presentation allows the event organizor o host to be pro-active when using a platform with group of people who are unfamiliar with the norms and amenities. But instead of only being a list of instructions, it also contains quick questions that can be answered with a number in the chat.

The deck is not only about orientation to the platform. It is also intended to elicit reactions from remote students about the space wherein they learn, their inner state & current tech skills. It can also be used as a discussion prompt about hybrid learning and platform use (e.g Zoom).

Take what is useful. Delete the unnecessary. No specific platform is highlighted. Make copies or change where necessary. Comments are also welcome.

OE Global 2019

Conference Swag I’m back home after a fabulous week in Milan. Spent my first morning back at my desk  scrolling through tweets, looking at OE Global conference photographs (via Flickr) and admiring my new swag. Before ploughing on into December, I’d like to consolidate what I gained from the Open Education Consortium’s conference (26-28 Nov 2019).   

Under the theme “open education for an open future”, Chrissi, Paul, Paula and Lamberto (and all the other members of the hosting teams) put together a conference programme that blended formats (posters, workshops, action labs, lighting talks, presentations and world cafe’s) within the context of a busy university – the Bosiva campus of Politecnico di Milano. Since the conference was held in term time, the very busy programme felt rooted in an everyday reality of students lives. The hallways, common study areas and classrooms were full of young people,  not event organizers and vendors. This setting and programme were grounding and served as a reminder for me to be cognizant of a need for OER to be inclusive and quality oriented for each learner and not only focussed on the worthy wide scale principles that inspire the open work of institutions.


This ongoing and lived reality of students in Milan helped with creating a context for the conference. The students perspective on openness was examined in depth during the first session of the conference by Paula Corti and a panel. In a keynote presentation entitled “Students: Storytellers and creators of their own open futures”, we heard three student’s voices (Trudi, Robert and Guilla) who talked about the difficulties and choices that they had to make when studying. Trudi, for example, told the story about how she was forced to make the choice between buying new glasses or a textbook. Guilla spoke about how she and other students were becoming involved in OER production and open practices and how this had an impact on supporting their learning success. A point that stood out for me was that if students are to be life-long learners, then it is imperative that they learn about “open” in their undergraduate years and understand what this approach enables for their 100 year life-long education journey.

The OE Global Conference really did feel like both a global meeting and community building event at the same time with the combination of grass roots activities and thought leadership at a continental scale. Highlights of the  included the opportunity to make or renew connections with projects and people that I have read, followed and retweeted. I was surprised to note how much of the conference programme was about open in the higher and further education spheres and not that much on open in K-12 education. This has been, in my South African experience, the place where OER projects such as Siyavula, African Storybook and Bookdash have made significant impact in education. 

My presentation was around social publishing, digital reading and mliteracy. There seemed to be lots of conference attendees in the space about open textbooks as well as open access publishing, and I thought that my presentation  [link to be provided] slotted quite nicely with this group. There are too many other presentations to write up, although Chris Rowell does a good job at attempting the above. Below are three sessions from each day that I found interesting, each using a different format.

Day 1: The morning’s workshop, entitled MyMi, billed itself as a collaborative guide of experiences in Milan. The organising team set up a “design-thinking” like challenge to create open knowledge through a set of collaborative and experiential activities. Workshop facilitators set the task of developing an interactive guide to Milan. While doing so, their intent was for us to understand the value of sharing everyone’s knowledge and personal experience and together to build collective knowledge. Apart from the vary obvious point of sharing, the workshop had an alternate agenda and that was to show how you could use CC licensing to create a collaborative experience guide to the city.


Day 2: The evening’s keynote by Cheryl Hodkinson-Williams entitled “The warp and weft of Open Education and Social Justice” was both powerful and gently communicated message for all who are already within the open world. Using shweshwe material as a metaphor, Cheryl unpacked the relationships between open education and social justice and how a thread was woven through the economic, cultural and political dimensions (or warps) of education and the associated implications for OER, OEP and OE Communities as it weaves its way through to create a material form. As she spoke, Cheryl allowed us to “pair-share” about our own open stories and it became apparent that  these three dimensions are inextricably interwoven into our experience. Coincidently, James Glapa-Grossklag’s action lab session the next day was about “zero textbook costs degrees”, subtitled “Improving social justice or just lowering costs”  This action lab was was based upon Cheryl’s framework and gave me time to apply Cheryll’s thinking immediately.

Day 3: The brief 10 minute lightning talk by Karen Meijer-Kline about the library as an open publisher and the way that Kwantlen Polytechnic University library has gone gone about developing open textbooks was both practical and inspiring. Particularly enjoyed the revised workflow and practical advice that has obviously been learned through experience

The good news that undergirded the whole OE Global conference was the announcement of UNESCO’s General Conference recommendations to support the development and sharing of openly licensed learning and teaching materials a day or two before the conference started. Practically, they have highlighted five areas of action for mainstreaming OER. And OE Global has accompanied this announcement with a coalition of partner organizations intended to advance open education globally and support its implementation. We heard the backstory from Mitja Jermol and the 4 years of work involving meetings, consultations, lobbying, drafts inputs etc to get to this point. Well done. Was also very pleased to see Tanja and Anja and a significant presence from the OE4BW community of mentors, mentees and organizers.

OE Global and the time in Milan was week well spent. The organizers, presenters and participants meshed knowledge, hands on expertise, key stakeholders, activists and many varied talents to develop an inspiring and thought provoking event. Despite a long history of promoting “open education” this was my first international conference associated directly with this aim. I’ve returned home energized by people, the exchange of ideas and re-inspired by possibilities for social justice and the development of greater agency among those who teach and are learning.

Finally, a big thanks to the Goethe-Institut for assisting me getting and staying there and to OE Global for their assistance and patience with my conference fees.

The blended learning field guide

I’ve been working with the Department of Education Innovation at Pretoria University to design a “Field Guide to Blended Learning, intended to complement the Blended Learning Self-Evaluation app. The app uses eight dimensions (assessment, teaching and learning strategies, learning activities, content, communication, administration, design and support) as a structure for self evaluation. Academics open the app and work through a set of questions that allow them to self-reflect upon their existing practices, self-identify their own levels within the eight categories and record these results as benchmarks, for future reference.

Challenges and barriers to using blended learning

As I put the field guide together, I referred to a range of blended and online frameworks from other countries, universities and tech organizations. The systematic nature of these frameworks offered inspiration. I was able to slot many of the listed practices into the eight dimensions that I arranged the field guide around.

The frameworks were almost all “instructor” or “practitioner” centred. They addressed common issues and challenges facing course designers or university administrators. While these frameworks were quite comprehensive in their coverage, they missed a key theme. They neglected the day to day self regulation challenges that face a student who does not have the tometabled routine day associated with bricks and mortar campus . Unheard expectations, poor time management, self regulation etc. are acknowledged issues that come with blended learning. But frameworks did not seem to address this.

I took the liberty to imagine ambiguous and ambivalent responses towards teaching and learning. I labelled them, turned these responses into statements, captured the challenges and barriers and then associated these voices with each of the eight panels. Whether it was the passive, distracted, overloaded student, or content tyrant, prepare them for the real world or ban phones lecturers, I articulated “negative” stereotypes and wondered if blended learning had anything to offer those voices.

As I began began to write down common responses, I also wondered “whose” voices should be unpacked? Among students, who should I listen to. Who can tell me what’s working well and not so well? What influences your perceptions of effectiveness? I recognize that it is dangerous to speak on the part of anybody else and assumptions from my point of privilege can be easily made. But I’ve been a part of the research into the effects of #feesmustfall on students. My characters were not intended to be glossy tech stereotypes(like digital natives, net gen etc), but voices from the vulnerable, frustrated, time pressed and stressed. Affected by #feesmustfall and the choices to use digital for course completion.

Much is made about blended learning being student centered. I’m not aware of how our frameworks capture the range of student voices. The contextual realities associated with every blended learning design will vary. There’s no one size fits all approach for guiding practitioners, academics, course designers and students towards quality improvements. But the missing voices, and how the two primary roleplayers (academics and students) might jointly address their unvoiced challenges seem to be a major hole in blended frameworks.

Feesmustfall allowed us to look beyond the glossy stories of technology enabled education. Frameworks, apps and field guides also need to acknowledge the hazards with the benefits. I’m hoping that my field guide allows readers to hear and understand troubling accounts of tech divides or challenges in a blended context. And then find a pragmatic response which allows those constraints to be acknowledged and allow opportunities to attend to these challenges.

Course rollover*

Another semester. A new cohort of students. And for many, a re-run through the once “wired”, but now “tired” online course.  The overturning of a course is usually seen as a quick copy and paste exercise, a brief interruption (hopefully) and then a return to normal service. 

A course rollover does not have to herald another repeat or re-run. A roll-over could be the the opportunity for you to work with an instructional designer and breathe some freshness into your course.

If you are stuck of the tired and stale text under glass, don’t just repeat last years site. Look around for some interesting digital practices. Think about how they might apply to your course site. Take this short quiz and decide whether you want to make a change for the better when renewing  your existing course site. 

Course rollover quiz

Question 1 – Let’s compare: Take a look at your course home page on the LMS and compare it to your home page a year ago. Does it look any different from your current course?

  1. I don’t use the LMS so I can’t see if there is any difference
  2. Wait? Is that the course I taught last year? Don’t recognise it at all.
  3. I recognize that course, its got my colleagues name and photograph in it, but everything else is familiar
  4. It’s a bit like Groundhog day. I’m basically using the same course that I used last year. A few thing have changed, I have made some minor improvements.
  5. My course page on has never changed, but I’d like to know what I can do to spruce it up a bit.
  6. My course page on the LMS will never change. The end!

Question 2 – Let’s be honest: Are any of your list of resources that are on the LMS and see if they are looking a little tired?

  1. I don’t use the LMS,  so don’t have supporting resources on it
  2. The LMS is so clunky. Students are inspired by emerging technologies and I’d like to update tools within my course site
  3. My PowerPoint presentations are looking a little tired. That template background has dated badly
  4. We watched a great YouTube video in class, I’d like to try out some more video ideas 
  5. I have not got many supporting resources on the LMS, but I’d like to change this
  6. I’m happy with my collection of supporting resources. Thanks

Question 3 – Let’s be vulnerable:
Are you nervous about undergoing an online course refresh

  1. I don’t the LMS so the question does not apply to me
  2. Not really, I have done this in other courses and I know that I can make my course better. 
  3. A little! I usually subscribe to the “if it ain’t broken…” philosophy
  4. IF I am informed about what is involved, then I’m happy
  5. As long as I don’t have to throw out all my old stuff. There’s years of knowledge wrapped up in my materials
  6. I am indifferent to your question as I will never need a course makeover


Turn this upside down for the answer


If you are seriously interested in making a small incremental improvement or perhaps a big leap into refreshing your course, then

This is the way that I go about working on a digital course renewal before doing a course rollover

* The renewal of online courses at the end of an academic term is called a”course rollover”.

Social Publishers

Mliteracy – Activity

Instructions for participants

There are several anomalies with children’s published books. These become very clear when English is not the language that is spoken at home.

These 10 positions are intended to articulate some of these incongruities. Each position has a statement at different ends of a continuum. You will select statements that are most true for you and your library community. And then convince others that your position is correct.

For the facilitator

This activity is intended to highlight many of the typical anomalies and challenges facing those who are involved in reading, publishing and stories. Commercial publishers alone are not able to address all societies’ reading needs. Social publishers set out to create reading materials for neglected audiences. Rather than operate on a profit basis, these publishers are driven by a mission. They see their books as a social good, to be directed where they are most needed.

More about Social Publishing

In South Africa, to make story books affordable, accessible and available, social publishers like African Story Book, Bookdash, Fundza, Nal’i Bali and Vula Bula have adopted a range of innovative book production practices. Almost all have digital editions of their books available, formatted in PDF, ePub or as a webpage. Some of these storybooks are published under Creative Commons licences. Sometimes they also have apps available for mobile devices  associated with these projects. Caregivers can freely install these apps, download the different books and store and read them from their mobile devices.

Social Publishing

Scanning Gallery

Mlitercy – Activities

For the participants

In this activity, you will need to download a QR code reader, wander around a gallery of “scan-able” codes that have been posted around the venue, and answer questions in the code scanning worksheet. These questions are based on what you have found on the codes.

After watching a presentation about QR codes, you will be introduced to various social publishing projects and become familiar with accessing information resources via scan-able codes.

For the facilitator

Before the activity, a gallery of scan-able codes needs to be put up around the room.

Participants will need to do the following

Step 1 –  install a QR reader or QR Scanner on their own phone – once they have done this, then they will be able to access websites, apps and other services.
Step 2 – start at the beginning, point their phones at the QR codes and let the scanned code led them to information associated with the code.
Step 3  – Find answers to the question posed on the gallery Q & A sheet.
Step 4 –  Move to the next gallery item, scan code and find answers.After the activity has been complete, the facilitator should allow participants to compare answers and respond to queries if necessary.

QR Code Gallery

Reading routes

Mliteracy – Activities

Instructions for participants

Children’s classics can often be found on the shelves in our libraries. Some are beautifully bound, hardcover books, available on shelves. For many, these classic books are associated with the smell of paper or the rustle of a page being turned. Digital offers opportunities to access certain timeless titles for free.  Books, in the public domain, are no longer restricted by copyright laws.

For the facilitator

In groups of three, participants will

  1. Choose a classic book (see the Public Domain list).
  2. Explore one of the three different routes to these classic texts.
    1. Open Route – locate an ePub reader (either on your device or for download; I recommend the Bluefire reader).
    2. Proprietary route – download Kindle, create an Amazon account.
    3. Reading on a browser route  – choose a browser that allows you the option to read later (Opera or Chrome is best. )
  3. Download and open the e-reader needed to access such texts (the proprietary, open and web reader).
  4. Go to m.Gutenberg.org .
  5. Download the classic book that you chose in step 1.
  6. Open the book in the E-reader you installed.
  7. Answer the ebooks questions for your reading route.

Reading Routes

Hopes & Fears

Mliteracy – Activities

Instructions for participants

You are going to articulate your expectations (both positive and negative) about the introduction of mobile phones into the library. Please select two pictures from a bank of “Hopes & Fears Cards”  and explain how these images symbolize your hopes and fears with respect to the use of mobile phones in the library.

For the facilitator

If you have printed out the cards, then follow these instructions below. Otherwise use the images on the mLiteracy instagram site

Offer a choice

  • Identify a suitable and large enough surface on which you can place the 50 Hopes and Fears cards.
  • Lay all the cards out on the surface table. Remember to spread them out so that each picture is visible.
  • Set out a range of colourful felt tip pens for writing.
  • Give participants a set period of time to pick a card that summarises their hope/fear that they have for the project/issue/challenge.
  • Ask participants to write 1 or 2 words in the space that summarises their hope and fear.

Share & Listen

  • Decide what you want to address first, hopes or fears.
  • Bring everyone together to share their hope/fear. If group is too large then ask people to get into groups and share amongst themselves.
  • Repeat for the opposite.

Hopes and Fears

Credit: Adapted from the  @PolicyLabUK under the Open Government Licence

Share a Shelfie

Instructions for participants

Sharing photographs is a big part of the mobile experience. But transferring photos (or other files) between smartphones can be tricky as it depends on what models and types of smartphones you are using.

In this activity, you are going to share your shelfie pictures. The catch is that these shelfies may only be shown and shared electronically.

You might need to have access to SMS, MMS, WhatsApp, Email, FB Messenger, Instagram, Airdrop, DropBox, ShareIt (or any other platform) to show and share your shelfie with others.

For the facilitator

Depending on the level of experience and goals for the participants, it might be helpful to select one, several, or all of these file sharing and communication applications to practice connecting and exchanging information.