Random Thoughts

Just in time learning

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(Cross Posted on techlearning.com/blog)

As a technology support person at my school, my job is to help teachers with both the how and the why of technology. The vast amount of tools available for use today on the web makes it virtually impossible to know it all. Although I continue to research and use new tools, trying to know everything that is out there is overwhelming. Therefore, I choose where to learn and what to learn in the hope that I can stay one-step ahead of the teachers at my school.
When that doesn’t work, I rely on ‘just in time learning’: often learning something only when there is a need to know it.
With the number of tools available on the web today and only so much time for me to research and learn about them, I have to rely on some help. Many tools I may even know about, but do not have the time to investigate their educational potential. This is where teachers who are early adopters come in to play within our school. Sometimes they come to me and show me the cool things they are doing with a new tool that I might have overlooked.

Case in point: Kate Thornburn, one of our art teachers, has been constantly looking for ways to help her students reflect and share their art on the web. She uses the school’s Flickr account to upload their pictures and she uses a blog as a place for students to reflect. Last year, she had students record conversations with each other as they reflected on a piece of their artwork. I listened to the podcasts last year and found myself captivated by the conversations students were having. This year Kate took it to the next level by having students create a VoiceThread where they discussed their artwork. Using VoiceThread, students were able to draw and explain their thinking right on the piece of art for all to see, and were able to share that art/thinking with the world.

After seeing Kate’s use of VoiceThread, other teachers started talking about its use and came to me for support. I knew of VoiceThread, but up until this point, I had no need to learn how to create one. However, the need is there now with one of our science teachers wanting students not to just write out the scientific process in a lab, but take pictures of the experiments and have a conversation around what they learned. A debrief of sorts about their experiment as a group. In order to support this teacher, I found myself needing to learn how VoiceThread worked.

So here is my first ever VoiceThread. Over the Chinese New Year holiday, my wife, mother-in-law, and I flew to Cambodia to visit the ancient temples of Angkor. I have created a digital story of what I learned, what we saw and this will hopefully allow you to also see the power this tool holds for learning, conversations, and sharing.

Swain, Jon (1995). River of Time. London, UK: Random House.

Ray, Nick (2005). Cambodia. Lonely Planet.

Albanese, Marilia (2006). The Treasures of Angkor. Turin, Italy: White Star Publishers.

[tags]voicethread, techlearning[/tags]

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Pingback: Media Districts Entertainment Blog » Just in time learning

  2. Pingback: Art Blog » Just in time learning

  3. I can guarantee you that more than half the kids in the UK wouldn’t know the difference between DC and State! And how enterprising of this young lad to “sell” his knowledge! I can understand your dilemma around the use of child labour, and there is always the additional worry that there is an adult in the background taking the money that the children make.

    One night, many years ago, I came out of the theatre in Bloemfontein (South Africa), to be confronted by a snotty-nosed kid aged 5 tops, selling newspapers shortly after midnight. I bought one from him, as did every other person in my party, only to later see him being relieved of it by a very dangerous looking man. One of the braver men in our group yelled at him to leave the kid alone, whereupon the man pulled a knife.

    So you wonder whether the money is actually making a difference to the lot of the child or not.

    I guess, at the end of the day, you hav eto do what seems right at the time and hope for the best. And if (as in your case) you have been advised that this is a helpful practice…

    Nice to finally hear your voice, by the way!

  4. If we miss the “why” and our teachers miss the “why” then we’re left with no impact on student learning. As I read your article and Ryan’s, I found myself thinking about all the W’s – who, what, where, when, why as well as how – and felt that each of those needed a little more definition as a way of continuing to think about this. So, to keep this short, I wrote about it on my blog. I think by defining each of these as clearly as possible, we can provide teachers with better support for the use of technology in their classrooms.

  5. Pingback: Have you tried Voicethread? « The TechKnow Blog

  6. コールズ・マシュー Reply

    Mr. Scofer,

    Hey like the photo’s. They are pretty amazing. Of course having reverted back to slow-speed internet the audio was very slow coming.

    Always nice to hear about your adventures.


  7. Pingback: Learning With Technology at Who dares to teach must never cease to learn

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