Articles › Visual/Perf Arts

Higher Ed Aztec Art by Janice Robertson


This VoiceThread shows what can happen when VoiceThreads are woven into a 500-level graduate/undergraduate seminar on Aztec Art, and everyone has the ability to see what everyone else is doing--a surprise ending turns out to be a game-changer.


The VoiceThreads within this seminar project are not supposed to function in standalone terms as presentations, they hold conversations--open within the framework of the seminar.

Students created their own VoiceThreads. They were open to "viewing" and "commenting" by everyone in the seminar from start to finish. Owners could extend "editing" privileges at their discretion.

Two in-class computer labs were conducted in conjunction with this assignment. The labs created opportunities for students to collaborate with each other, with me, and with Art Reference Librarian, Cheryl Costello, on research questions that occurred to them as they were working on their VoiceThreads. Cheryl also followed the VoiceThreads online--and added another dimension to the labs by bringing print books from the library that students might want to consult--this was a big hit!



Another cloud application: MediaThread, solves a problem raised by students in conjunction with this project: They want VoiceThread's collaborative, conversational and brainstorming environment. They want VoiceThread's tools for enaging directly with visual material. Without giving any of these things up, they also want to be able to connect the dots and "write" linear text in order to hone their ideas.

MediaThread is an open-source platform launched in Fall 2010, and under development at Columbia University. It establishes links with: (a) institution specific media sources, such as ARTstor (according to the holdings, affiliations and subscriptions of a given institution), and (b) public media sources, such as YouTube and Flicker. Within this linked network, MediaThread enables users to annotate, tag, organize--and "write" about the linked media--that's the "thread." Embedded in the electronic "thread" of text are "links" that open multimedia sources in adjacent windows--so the thread produces "hypertext." MediaThread also offers an complete range of options for sharing and collaborating along the way.



Feedback on the last day of seminar and in the final written essays was especially striking. One student reported that, when we switched from VoiceThreads to the written essays for the final assignment, she all of a sudden "felt isolated"--heads nodded throughout the class, and a rousing discussion ensued. Another student grappled with VoiceThread experiences in the final essay, concluding that:"After reverting to paper writing...I realized the benefits inherent in VoiceThreads and understood the barriers formalized papers have in analyzing visual objects. I really would like to see VoiceThread being used in other art history classes to bring out ideas that might be hidden by traditional classroom conventions."

The VoiceThread