Multimedia Sharing Sites

July 29, 2009

Guilt free at last!!!

Tree Roots

I don’t normally feel guilty about living far away from family, but every time my daughter brings home a story she wrote or piece of art she created, I feel this pang of guilt that she is not able to share it with her grandparents. We do our best to save these treasures and show them off in the summer or when relatives come to visit, but it’s just not the same as being able to share right away and get immediate feedback from grandparents. This exploration of multi media sharing sites has me (and my daughter) giddy, as we now have a means by which she can share her work with her grandparents and they can leave comments in the form of text or audio. Establishing roots for children, which my husband and I feel is essential when you are raising your children in a culture much different from your own, means having your family involved as much as possible. This is just one of the many benefits that multi-media sharing sites offer our students.


the human spirit

Multi what?

Multi media is exactly what its name states: information available in multiple formats. It is considered a mash of any combination of text, pictures, music, speaking, and video. Jason Ohler (2009) describes it as a “media collage.” As technology evolves, so do students’ learning needs, and multi media sharing sites offer students the opportunity to share their interpretations and creations to any audience they desire. There are some fantastic services available that make multi-media presentations easy to create and these sites are engaging for both teachers and students. Glogster, Smilebox, Treemo, Animoto and VoiceThread are examples of this type of on-line services.

Animoto requires that you upload photos and choose music (either your own or from their free use list), and they will do the rest. Animoto gives students who are aural, visual, and/or tactile learners the opportunity to view and represent in multimodal formats. It is engaging, easy to use, and can be viewed by an audience outside the classroom walls.” (McPherson, 2008 ). Sites like Animoto provide opportunities for differentiation as all learning styles can be incorporated into the preparation for an Animoto production

VoiceThread enables a collaborative atmosphere.  You can create a slideshow with voice over and other people can leave comments on each slide using text, phone recording, voice recording, or web cam.  This tool is so valuable for educating students about respecting the perspectives of people all over the world. When creating a Voice Thread presentation, the teacher and student might ask, “How will people of different ages, genders, cultures, geographical locations interpret my presentation?” They can then invite people from all over the world to share their perspective. This is a link to a VoiceThread on the advantages of using VoiceThread to build online communities. While it is not pertinent to the use of this tool in school, it is certainly relevant to the community building we would hope to achieve with our teachers, students, and parents.

If this video does not work for you, please follow the link below.
URL: http://voicethread.com/share/99673/

Smilebox is a neat scrapbooking tool as it allows you to add frames, text, and music to your pictures. With Smilebox, you can create slideshows, cards and postcards ( Dumas, McGee, and Heroy, 2009).  

Glogster, which is a little different from the other websites mentioned above, is designed to help students create posters online. Glogster also makes it easy to email the poster to someone or to embed it in a web site.

There really are so many multi media sharing sites to choose from. The great thing about these media sharing sites is that they are all fairly intuitive and can be quickly mastered.  

How can multi-media sharing sites help us to achieve curricular objectives?

Multi-media sharing sites provide us with a variety of ways to ensure we are successful in achieving curriculum standards and objectives. I believe Lemke (2005) brings up a very important point when he says that information literacy is multi-media literacy. “Young readers would consider us illiterate today if we knew only the printed texts, because for them the inter-textual meanings and cross-references among all these media are essential to their peer-culture understanding and ‘reading’ of these works” (Lemke,2005). Of these literacy skills, we can teach critical visual literacy skills, which are an important part of any Language Arts curriculum. These skills are transferable across all subject areas, which characterizes another aspect of multi-media literacy. Just as multi-media sharing websites allow us to share our learning with people all over the world, we are similarly able to appreciate the creative expression of others.

Using multimedia sharing websites can also be a way to achieve many of the ALA standards. Here are two that I feel are best attained through the use of multimedia sharing sites:

1.1.6 Read, view, and listen for information presented in any format (eg., textual, visual, media, digital) in order to make inferences and gather meaning.

4.1.4. See information for personal learning in a variety of formats and genres.


Our role as educators continues to be to provide students with the skills they need to be able to communicate clearly, regardless of what medium they are using. This is the best time to apply the constructivist theory and inquiry based learning to your pedagogical practices as many students are usually more advanced in the technical aspect of media sharing. The question is, do they have the information literacy skills to use multimedia, construct new knowledge, and clearly communicate those ideas? Now, more than ever, is our chance,“to be the proverbial guide on the side rather than the technician-magician” (Ohler, 2009).

Is it practical?

In Kim Cofino’s blog post on July 6, 2009, she provides 2 excellent examples of class projects presented using VoiceThread. The teacher involved discussed several benefits of using this medium for presentation.

š    Initial attempts can be used for formative assessment.

š    Students used more exact vocabulary.

š    Students worked cooperatively and some students took the role of technology experts.

I found it interesting to see how well this group achieved ALA standard 3.4.1. “Assess the processes by which learning was achieved in order to revise strategies and learn more effectively in the future.” Not only did students reflect on their learning process after the initial VoiceThread, they took it one step further by actually carrying out their new strategies in another VoiceThread where they were given more responsibilities and decision making opportunities. All too often, teachers use a technology once, and don’t use it again. Without reflection and retrying at least once more, there is a lot of learning that is missed.

Practical applications for VoiceThread in education include book trailers, e-portfolios, global projects, project presentations, unit overviews, and field trip reflections. You could even have, with the permission of the author and illustrator, illustrations from a picture book where the author/illustrator explains his motivation/inspiration/explanation  for each page, and the students (especially great for K-1 ) can respond. This would be great preparation for an author visit.

 Another practical use for VoiceThread in the classroom and library is evident in “The Elementary Bubble Project.” This is an interesting example of how Voicethread can be used to teach students (as young as 4th grade) critical media literacy skills. In this project, students were talking back to advertisements through the use of speech bubbles. They were taught to critically analyze advertisements and ask questions like,

 Who is in power?

What is the message here?

Whose voice is not being represented?

They first did this on paper, but could easily take a picture of each advertisement with its bubbles and transfer these to VoiceThread for comments by their peers. In this particular activity, the teacher would have to be careful with copyright issues. Is it okay to scan and paste an advertisement for educational purposes? The teacher would also need to be careful not to endorse vandalism of advertisements and would definitely need to explain that this is only to be done in the classroom with the intent of practicing media literacy skills. I would not make this presentation available to the public because of copyright, but I do feel it would have great educational value.

 For more examples of Voicethreads used in education, check out this digital library.

Glogster gives students a chance to really be creative with poster-making and could be used to promote books or school events.  I wouldn’t recommend using Glogster for every poster you have your students create, but it definitely gives an opportunity to those who love drawing stick men (that would be me) to be able to create something quite impressive. Some examples can be seen at http://jmcgee.glogster.com/LYRC-Elementary-2009/ and http://jmcgee.glogster.com/Books-That-Bite/ . In addition to using Glogster to promote books, students can use advertising strategies to create a poster that supports a persuasive writing piece they have created, and classmates could critically analyze the poster for voice, message, and target audience.

 Having student make their multimedia presentations available for viewing on line creates a learning community among the parents, students, and staff. As Diaz and Fields (Courtney, 2007)  point out about digital storytelling, yet another use for Voicethread, “the shared emotion between teller and listener by a well-told story draws people  together in ways that the unimodal and frequently unedited character of blogs and wikis may not.” Parents and other teachers can be invited to share comments on student work through tools like Voicethread. With regards to its practical applications in an educational setting, this is one of the most practical tools I have learned about so far.

Issues and limitations

An issue we always grapple with when dealing with web 2.0 tools is intellectual property rights. Fortunately, many of the multi-media sharing website creators are aware of this and attempt to be proactive in dealing with copyright issues. Take the terms of use policy for Animoto for example. This policy is quite lengthy, but does seem to cover its bases with regards to what you are and are not permitted to do with the Animoto videos. To promote respecting copyright laws, they provide free music and photos right on their site.

The TEACH Act (Section 110[2]) allows teachers to read aloud stories and poems and record these performances using digital media… as long as it is for teaching purposes. Carrie Russell (2009) suggests that these presentations are made available on a password protected school site, so that it is not accessible to the public. I suppose in this case, you wouldn’t want to make an RSS feed available or upload to Teacher Tube/iTunes.

 McPherson (2008) recommends teaching students safe online behaviors as pictures uploaded to Animoto could potentially be viewed by a large audience. Teaching safe posting practices in context is the most effective way to help students become responsible digital citizens.                                

 Some of the limitations with these tools include

š    a need for high speed internet

š    Animoto does not have an editing tool for final touch ups. In fact, the terms of use state that you are not to modify the final product in any way.

My journey

When I first approached this topic, I was a bit intimidated. I have not had much experience with multi media presentations…although I did ALMOST use Movie Maker once. This learning process was very exciting for me and definitely one I will pursue, as I see so many applications in my personal and professional life.

I began first with animoto. It seemed a very straightforward 3 step process. After taking some pictures of our library, I simply had to upload 12 pictures, choose a song from the free use library, and click on finalize. The video was sent to my email address in less than one minute and voila…I was able to embed it into my blog. I REALLY liked that there was absolutely nothing confusing about this process. I have applied for the free educators membership, so that I can create longer videos, but I have yet to hear back from Animoto about that.


In case you are unable to see the embedded video, here is the link:


Voicethread really appealed to me, and it is a tool that I will definitely use in the library. So, I decided there’s no time like the present to learn how to do this. I dug out a picture book my daughter wrote in Grade 2. This story was one that I thought was hilarious because it was all so tongue in cheek. If you knew my husband, whose name is Jeff, the same name as the main character in the story, you would realize that the main character has been created in the spitting opposite image of my husband. In her illustrations, my daughter also reversed roles with her father as he became the naughty child and she became the caring parent. I really wanted our parents, brothers, and sisters to be able to fully appreciate the humor with which my daughter writes. My introduction to VoiceThread has provided that opportunity. I began by scanning each page and taking pictures of each page, as I was not sure of the required format for pictures. The scans worked well. I used an MP3 player to record my daughter reading her story continuously, then made her read it again, stopping after each page. I wanted to be armed with everything I might need after she went to bed. Turns out, you can’t upload an audio file unless you have a premier account. I ended up needing her to re-read her story into the microphone. She didn’t mind though, as she was quite proud to be able to share her story with her family in Canada. Click on the link below to see our VoiceThread. Feel free to post comments if you would like.



Final thoughts on multimedia sharing sites

Lemke (2005) points out that, “All communication is multimedia communication,” so it makes sense, therefore, that learning involves multimodal (music, diagrams, actions, voice) media. We now have all the technology we need to make learning an interactive experience that can be shared with others all over the world. As long as we remain the guides on the side, students will be able to use web 2.0 tools to enhance their learning experiences and to become more information literate.



 American Library Association (2007). 21st Century Learners. Available at http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards

 Courtney, Nancy (2007). Library 2.0 and Beyond, Innovative Technologies and Tomorrow’s User. Libraries Unlimited; Connecticut. 129-139.

 Dumas, E., McGee, J., & Heroy, P. (2009, Spring2009). Views and News. Louisiana Libraries, 71(4), 31-33. Retrieved July 29, 2009, from Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text database.

 Gainer, J., Valdez-Gainer, N., & Kinard, T. (2009, May). The Elementary Bubble Project: Exploring Critical Media Literacy in a Fourth-Grade Classroom. Reading Teacher, 62(8), 674-683. Retrieved July 29, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.

 Hargadon, S. (2008, October). Web 2.0 Smackdown. School Library Journal, 54(10), 23-23. Retrieved July 29, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.

 Lemke, Jay (2005). Towards Critical Multimedia Literacy: Technology, Research, and Politics. From Handbook of Literacy & Technology, v2.0. Eds. McKenna, M., Reinking, D., Labbo, L. & Kieffer, R. Erlbaum (LEA Publishing).

 McPherson, K.. (2008). Mashing Literacy. Teacher Librarian, 35(5), 73-75.  Retrieved July 28, 2009, from CBCA Education. (Document ID: 1502965521).

 Ohler, J. (2009, May). New-Media Literacies. Academe, 95(3), 30-33. Retrieved July 29, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.

 Russell, Carrie (2009 April). Lights, Camera, Action! Is it fine to film folks reading picture books out loud? School Library Journa,l 55(4), 20

Another site to check out:

I found a cool site called Kid’s Vid http://kidsvid.altec.org/index.htmlwhich helps students walk through the process of creating and publishing content.  that looks very user friendly and might be worth trying out when creating multimedia presentations with students.


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