The 20th ESP conference ‘The eMagic of Learning and Teaching’
Amsterdam 11 March 2006
Web in de Klas - Voicemailboard
How to enhance CSCL-projects with Asynchronic Speech?
Peter van Rees
Erwin de Vries
Introduction by Alessandra Corda
How to enhance CSCL-projects with Asynchronic Speech?
Who are we?
Peter van Rees – Application manager at the University of Groningen
Erwin de Vries – teacher of German at Willem Lodewijk Gymnasium in Groningen and
freelance translator for German. I also write course books for secondary schools and higher
Since 1998 we have been running a sound recording studio with a focus on educational audio
called Studio de Lat, working for major educational publishers in the Netherlands, and
participating in a European network of similar studios.
What’s a voicemail board?
You all know what a discussion forum is. There are plenty on the internet, and they all deal
with written content and to a certain extent allow for adding other content such as images and
emoticons. Our voicemail board allows you to record spoken content, in addition to written
content, images and such. We will show you some examples later on.
You don’t need any additional software on your own computer; a modern browser with
commonly available - and free - plug-ins such as Java and Flash is enough. To record your
voice you’d need a microphone, and of course for playback you need a simple speaker set or a
The recordings remain available on the server, and can be played back at any time you
choose. This also means that these audio files can be downloaded as mp3 files to your hard
disk, or reused in an electronic learning environment or a website, or sent by mail etcetera.
It’s also possible to download play lists of the recordings at forum, thread or message level,
for example as a pod cast, an RSS feed or an mp3 play list.
Since November 2005 we’ve used the voicemail board at school, for various purposes such as
specific language exercises, conversations, and one of the most spectacular applications:
dialogues between Greek and Dutch students. We’ll continue with this example.
Voicemail board and school exchange
On the picture you’ll see Fotini Karagiauri. She’s a teacher of German at the Second
Piramatiko Gymnasium, Thessaloniki in Greece. We met during an exchange project called
Mediterrania, organized by the Goethe Institute. This project consisted of students sending
each other letters. From these letters the students had to deduce in which country and city the
fellow students live. At that time these students where from the second grade (13 or 14 years
old). Especially with Fotini this project continued beyond the exchange program, and we
exchanged far more than the compulsory 4 letters.
After we developed the voicemail board, we conceived the idea of a school exchange with
this medium. Although Fotini lived in Greece, I thought of her because of her enthusiasm for
the teaching and the use of the internet.
We developed the ‘Wer bin ich’-project (who am I – where do I stand), with the aid of
Alessandra Corda. The purpose of this project was that students had to recognize each other
on a photo. At first we did this for the fourth grade students (15 to 16 years old), and currently
we’re conducting a similar assignment with second grade students.
Step 1: students introduce themselves according to a set of criteria (example Dimitris and
Step 2: they listen to the introductions and ask for more details
Step 3: they describe themselves on the photo and the counterpart tries to find them on the
Here you’ll see a video of Bianca, who’s recording a message for a Greek student.
As you can imagine, this is a motivating and challenging way of dealing with language
learning for students and teacher.
Now we will show you some other uses of the voicemail board for language education.
1 Answering machine: students leave a message on the answering machine of an imaginary
native German. This person then responds, and the students in their turn reply again.
2 Route directions: a map of a city center is shown, and a stranger in town asks for the
directions to a certain building in this particular city. The students now have to give route
directions to this person.
3 Prepared telephone calls: Students respond by phone to a job advert in a newspaper.
They have to make an appointment for a job interview with the other person on the line.
Both roles are played by students of the second grade in their first year of learning
Integration with other media
As you might have seen already, the Voicemail board has several options to integrate
multimedia. The examples are
Text: the text editor allows you to enter text, copy/paste text and layout this text with text
decorations, colours tables, lists etc.
Image: we’ve already seen some examples of using images in the text message. The images
have to reside on the internet.
MP3-Sound: you can integrate any mp3 on the internet in the text editor. This mp3 will then
be shown in an embedded player on the voicemail board. In this example you’ll hear the
beginning of a fairytale.
Flash Film: Just like mp3 you can integrate flash video in the text editor. This video will be
shown in an embedded video player on the voicemail board. In this example you’ll see a TV
item about a pop group from former Eastern Germany.
External links: and of course you can link to anything on the internet, such as a wmv or mpg
Demonstration with attendees
We would like to do a small demonstration with one of you. Would you like to give it a try?