Статьи 2011-2012 (раздел)
10.11.11 05:44


Anisoara Pop, PhD








Dimitrie Cantemir University

Targu-Mures, Romania


This paper focuses on communicative opportunities currently emerging in technology rich, networked classrooms. It discusses advantages and avenues for the use of Web 2.0 voice tools VoiceThread and Chinswing/VoxOpop, how they can be explored and exploited in enhancing listening and speaking comprehension of EFL students.

I. Web 2.0 tools

XXIst century instruction has become increasingly porous to technology as it helps students acquire the skills needed to exist in a highly technological knowledge-based society, enhances connectivity and interaction, and last but not least technology-based activities have a genuine communicative purpose and real-life semblance.

Blogs, wikis, podcasts, Second Life applications, Moviemakers, Virtual classrooms, as well as Voice tools bring people together in an environment of constructive communication and aim to enhance student creativity, communication, secure information sharing, and collaboration, which are essential in the process of FL acquisition.

Several other compelling reasons render Web 2.0 tools desirable for the XXIst century class. One such basic reason could be the breaking down of the four walls with Teacher no longer being the center of the classroom, rather these techniques are innovative and able to increase the foreign teacher’s image, audience, self-respect, and confidence. They represent equally empowering phenomena: the teacher speaks not only to their students but potentially share with any student  from the world.

Within the current traditional system "designed for standardization", Web 2.0 tools can meet the demand for individual customizable instruction. They help teachers create effective, individualized learning environments for mixed ability students, making foreign language education more inclusive in reaching the whole range of student abilities and learning styles.

Technology allows language students to practise their oral skills outside the classroom and receive feedback on their performance. Besides, they will learn from other students of the world and will moreover develop autonomy – which is a strategy for life.

Therefore, teachers have to explore and exploit Web 2.0 tools as part of their professional development.

However, while the XXIst rounded EFL teachers implies exploitation of Technology-based activities, there are many schools that lag behind in integrating technology into classroom learning and many just begin to explore its potential and treat it as marginal. Arguments against technology enhanced practice are represented by the excessive overload with information, concern about the technology impacting the students’ learning and teacher’s ability to meet the XXIst century digital standards.

II. Voice Tools: VoiceThread and Chinswing/Voxopop

Using voice in online and e-learning environments has been slowly but surely creeping into the educational landscape for several years now as voice tools are fundamental to language teaching, especially if we teach online or through blended learning. From the raft of voice tools that accompany Web.20 revolution, most commonly employed are Vaestro, VoiceThread, Chinswing ( which has changed into Voxopop while this paper has been edited), and Audacity.

Voice Thread ( has been considered one of the Top 10 Tools in 2008. It was created to re-purpose a commonly used media (PowerPoint) as a springboard for increased student engagement and conversation. To put it differently, Voice Thread takes slide-type presentations to a whole new level: almost any digital media ranging from a photo to a PowerPoint presentation can be uploaded and shared online. Static media (documents, photos, video) can be imbued with recorded sound commentary via webcam, phone, text or audio files that can be shared, whereas images can be doodled on or highlighted for emphasis. Rather than a narrated PowerPoint, VT presentation format effectively reveals the different students, personalities, and ideas which contributed to the projects, a feature which might be called “multiple voices”.

2.1. Similarities

Both Voice Thread and CS/VoP work on similar principles of which “Repetition is the mother of learning” and “Listening to your own voice and the voice of the others “ are the most conspicuous and likely to enhance learning by improving pronunciation, as well as intonation, the range of vocabulary, grammar structures, even creativity and critical thinking.

Another important similar feature the two voice tools share is openness for public commenting. Publishing student work on “the open web” rather than the “closed web” is far more powerful and potentially beneficial for foreign language enhancement. Additionally, being able to share your voice and ideas interactively in a moderated environment is critical for the development of 21st century literacy skills.

 ‘There IS a “big world” out there beyond the walls of the traditional classroom, and inviting others to interact with and provide feedback on the work created by students is an important role for visionary educators and educational leaders in 2009’. (Fryer, 2008)

2.3. Differences

Whereas VT focuses on a central image around which students post responses, the speaker’s image being constantly in front of the listener, CS/VoP – focuses on the sound of the message rather than the image: i.e. there is no visual to help user keep track of what they are going to say and in this CS is somehow similar to leaving voice messages on the answering machine.

2.4. Educational Uses

Both VT and CS can be applied in different foreign language instructional contexts in a continuous degree of complexity from elementary to advanced levels with a whole array of reading, speaking and listening activities involving both grammar and vocabulary elements in three steps that include inputting information, processing it and generating an output (educational uses of Chinswing).

Vocabulary practice starting from expressing an opinion on a certain topic to arguments and stirring debates from most different fields can be accommodated. At university level ESP and Business vocabulary are especially suitable for voice tool practice, from job applications and interviews to negotiations and problem solving simulations.

Speaking activities can differ in the degree of complexity either with beginners reading a text and having it recorded or recording can be preceded by/integrated with writing the text. Teachers can have students introduce themselves, describe themselves, their houses, town, experiences, routines, etc. Alternatively, voice tools can be employed for tutorials to guide students without the teacher being physically there.

A more complex activity would be represented by Class poems and CHAIN STORIES /digitalstories where students are expected to sum up and take the story a step forward.  The element of surprise is present with this type of activity as students never know which way the story will go (voice thread at BaW).

VT Class projects such as GREAT BOOKS where students share a favorite book and receive feedback, can breathe new life into book reports while for ESP/BE, oral presentations  can be made either individually or as  group projects on specific subjects such as: my company, insurance, financial crisis, global warming, etc.

Listening practice can take the form of drawing dictation, a reply to a text or an audio message or can represent a venue for more complex tasks where students take part in real threads on controversial topics: sports events, financial crisis, global warming, etc.

Likewise, Multitasking would involve the presence of  Slides (ss read) +listen to the oral  explanations (listening) and then we have them  react by speaking,  which is crucial especially in  distance learning.

VT can be an assessment tool as teachers can record the correct pronunciation and associate it with an image while students can either doodle on the objects and say and label them or they can also describe and comment on a given image or photo in the target language.

 2.5. The SWOT Analysis of VT/VoxOpop

 2.5.1. WEAKNESSES of the Web 2.0 voice tools can be represented by the fact that all participants seem to be responding to the original poster (OP) or the posted image. To bypass this shortcoming teachers have to make students active listeners by asking them to react to the previous participants’ choices, justify the choices, as well as pose questions themselves. Students have to sign-up in order to participate but the positive side of this is that  setup is easy and quick.

 2.5.2. STRENGTHS.

  • Students always have the opportunity to re-record when not satisfied with their production.
  • CS presents many opportunities to take part in categorized discussions. 
  • The asynchronous nature of VT and VoxOpop is convenient for periods with busy schedule and projects where the team members are in different  locations.
  • Voice tools reduce the anxiety of talking in front of an audience and allow for individual monitoring/feedback and encouragement in ways not hitherto possible.

2.5.3. Basic among the OPPORTUNITIES is the fact that  teachers can have students participate in authentic threads: letting students choose the topic is part of language learning autonomy; Besides, public openness ensures contact with real speakers of the language and therefore the platform of  exposure to different accents: natives, non natives is larger.

2.5.4. A possible THREAT could be represented by the format novelty and the anxiety induced by the new set of tasks to be performed as well as the lack of security features that would prevent certain users from accessing the voice thread.

III. Conclusion

VT are one of the easiest and most engaging-digital forums for discussions available to educators today that can be employed as a storytelling tool, a deep thinking tool, a research tool, an expository communication tool, and even as an assessment tool.

Despite drawbacks of going public XXIst century teachers have to take this risk as having an audience beyond the classroom walls can encourage and motivate students to be more careful about vocabulary selection and second, they can benefit from the comments provided.

The purpose of this paper was to create awareness of the advantages and avenues voice tools offer as well as the warmer teaching-learning experience they foster.

By exploiting voice tools teachers help raise the confidence in the student’s speaking abilities and can reach the whole range of student learning styles. VT and VoP are fun, motivating, user-friendly, and versatile, and represent a venue for engaging asynchronous EFL activities.


 1. Dudeney G., Hockly, N (2007), How to Teach English with Technology, Pearson Longman;

2. Fryer, W. (2008) Moving at the Speed of Creativity,

3. ***Educational uses of Chinswing:

4. *** Enhancinglessons VT:

5. *** Enhancinglessons VoxOpop:

6. ***BAW09:

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