Why Text Discussions Are Not Enough

*This is a guest post by educator and VoiceThreader,  Dr. Scott Taylor.

Internet learning is fast becoming the modality of choice for higher education students. With the advent of Internet coursework must come a multifaceted way to engage and stimulate students. A linear delivery of instruction (i.e. a narrow and restrictive use of electronic communication like email and threaded discussions) will not compel students to apply skills on higher cognitive levels. Attacking all the senses will provide the most meaningful and effective learning environment for those who choose to pursue a higher degree online.

Using technology to foster a multi-sensory learning environment means employing tools that stimulate the ear, the eyes, and the hands. The advent of Web 2.0 and HTML5 opens the door to using web-based materials that have never before been available to online instructors. Now more than ever, people are embracing the different dimensions of learning that enable them to conceptualize ideas in multi-faceted ways. Internet learning should not be seen as a virtualization of the classroom learning environment. It is a whole new way of looking at learning that requires a whole new approach to teaching. It is impossible to replicate the “live” learning-teaching experience electronically and no one should think it can be done. With this resolve, one must plan a semester that has students engaged in project development, different forms of communication with peers, and interaction with the instructor that establishes a strong, nurturing relationship between the student and the teacher.

One such Web 2.0 tool that helps both visual and auditory learners in the virtual classroom is VoiceThread. I have my students use VoiceThread to express their vision  for effective educational leadership. Students tell their leadership “story” by crafting dynamic presentations. The social media aspect of VoiceThread (peers are compelled to leave voice, text, and/or video comments on each slide of the presentation) fosters a sense of community I cannot bring about with “linear” Web 2.0 tools.

VoiceThread can be used in the traditional classroom but should be leveraged to provide online learners with a multifaceted way to engage in the learning process anywhere in the world as if in a recreated classroom environment. Educators have the potential to stimulate learners in all kinds of ways. VoiceThread is surely leading the charge in this area.

* Dr. Scott Taylor has been an educator for over 23 years and has led schools at all levels of public education. He is currently a K-12 superintendent in Kenilworth, New Jersey, teaches leadership courses at Rutgers University and serves on the Board of Directors for the New Jersey School Development Council and the New Jersey Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development. His blog has been recognized by Edudemic as one of “20 Education Administrator Blogs You Should Start Following Right Now.” For more information, go to www.taylorleadership.net.*