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Last updated by Jill Hammonds


Standing up and presenting may not be a love for all our students, but engaging in conversation certainly can be, and yet only a small amount of time is set aside in many classrooms to engage in conversation.  Perhaps part of this is because we are less able to capture this style of learning, making it less tangible to monitor or self review.  If we were able to offer the students the choice between a written test, and a shared conversation with one other student as a way of assessing their learning, I wonder what your students would choose?  And what would we prefer to assess at home in the evenings?  I know I would prefer to play a short audio file than sit trying to decipher handwriting.

Today's tools offer us this opportunity, so students can capture their learning and their understanding of that learning in conversation, and then peer or self review both the content and the success in delivery.  Equally we can consider these as a means of students demonstrating understanding.  However (as with presenting) teaching, practice and review are important to increase effectiveness.  If you simply sit students down facing each other and say "have a conversation about . . . ", results are not likely to be great on the first round.

So, what makes for a good conversation?  Here are some things that you will need to consider in structuring a lesson:

  • Having an interesting topic for discussion
  • Taking turns in talking
  • Being an active listener and responding in a way that shows you have heard what the other person said, and have something to add, acknowledge or debate
  • Being well prepared with your information so that you can demonstrate understanding
  • Sharing anecdote as a way of adding to your conversation
  • Using visual aids to support your conversation
  • Asking questions to get greater clarity

Now think about how you are going to manage thse conversations in a busy classroom

  • What will be an appropriate space for the conversation - sufficiently quiet to hear and record?
  • What technology will you need to record the conversation and be able to replay for further learning and/or assessment?
  • Where will you store the audio recordings for further use or as part of assessment?  Do you need to consider parental permissions if embedded online?  Is your network adequate for easy direct capture or upload?
  • Do you want to capture just voice, or do you want to capture body language, eye contact, supporting visual aids etc?

Once you have worked through these considerations, what are the tools that you can use?  Here are some that I have found, and then here is a link to a discussion where you can add other tools that you have found useful.  Be sure to check it out as people are already adding their tool favourites and saving me adding more to this page - I just love the power of collaboration.

Recording tools within any word processing or presentation programmes.  These are often overlooked as a very simple way of capturing recordings and they have the added advantage of being able to supplement text and to be filed easily - no fancy high speed internet connection required.  Generally these are accessed via an "Insert" menu.  e.g. Insert -> sound -> record sound
Insert sound      

Record sound

Follow the commands and save.   


Podcasts and Minicasts using http://podomatic.com

Create your login, and then go to Make a podcast or New episode and the box that appears is pretty self explanatory.  Create the title and a brief description of your podcast, Click on the Audio/video tab and choose "Record using a microphone", add any photos, assign tabs so that it can be found in searches and then publish.  Once published you can embed the podcast in a class blog or wiki etc.

Make a podcast in Podomatic

Voki - Make your own avatar at http://voki.com

Create a Voki

This tool is more suited to presenting a single voice presentation but what a challenge for more able students to work out how to create a conversation between two avatars.  For the rest, they can use this tool to practise their own talks and then graduate to other tools that can have multiple characters.

Puppet Pals and Sock Puppets are two apps for conversation between characters.  Most students will have little trouble working out how to use the app, but obviously you need to allow time for experimentation before they are used for capturing conversation or dialogue.

Puppet Pals








Sock Puppets