Three-pronged VoiceThread Discussion Strategy: Providing Rigor, Differentiation, and Sense of Community During the Pandemic

Concurrent Session 2
Streamed Session Research Equity and Inclusion

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Brief Abstract

In an online graduate course, VoiceThread was utilized to reflect on course readings. The strategy used is made up of digital powerups (Thurston, 2019), a guided self-connection section, and expressing what they learned from their peers.
A qualitative content analysis of student reflections using this strategy supports these claims: 1) The digital powerup strategy provided an opportunity for rigor and differentiation. 2) The guided approach of the ‘connect to self’ section balanced and complemented the open-ended nature of the digital powerup section. 3) Structured peer takeaways led to a sense of community. 4) The graduate students preferred the three-pronged discussion strategy to other models they have used before.



Dr. Fatemeh Mardi is an engineer and Project Management Professional. Her passion for teacher education led her to a Master’s in TESOL and teaching certificates in math and elementary education. She earned her Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning from University of Missouri, St. Louis with a focus on instructional technology. At UMSL, she completed a postdoctoral fellowship in STEM education. She teaches educational technology, math education, and curriculum & instruction at the graduate level. Her research is focused on enhancing student online learning experiences and determining the impact of online course design on learning. She is interested in finding ways to integrate skills needed to be a ‘literate citizen’ in this century (technology, writing, global awareness, growth mindset, and computational thinking) into course content. Dr. Mardi draws from her transdisciplinary academic background and multicultural competencies as an instructional designer at Missouri Online, at University of Missouri System.

Extended Abstract

Presentation sections:

A. Showcasing the VoiceThread discussion (10 -12 min)

  1. Digital Powerups: What they are and how I designed the three related to the online curriculum leadership course.

  2. Connect to self: Why it is important and how I connected each of the weekly learning objectives to this changing question.

  3. Peer takeaways: What it is and how it made the discussion more authentic.

  4. Student creations


B. Student perspective of VT discussion  (10 -12 min)

  1. Two survey questions 

  2. Rigor and differentiation student quotes

  3. Balance between DPUs and ‘connect to self’ student quotes

  4. Confirmed learning, perspective taking, and sense of community student quotes


C. Participants practice using VoiceThread (10-15min)

  1. How to comment on slides

  2. Brainstorm ways to use DPUs in their context

  3. Brainstorm ways to build in course objectives to discussion questions

  4. Share experiences of how to get students to read what their peers post