We didn’t create Adobe Voice specifically for education. But, since its release on iPad last year, educators and students alike have flocked to Voice, showering it with praise and awards along the way.
Sidebar: If you haven’t used Adobe Voice yet, you should, and quickly. Voice lets you communicate, share, tell a story, or just express an idea, using your own voice and supporting imagery and background music. And Voice makes your creation look good, with cinema-quality animation and transitions, and simple sharing.
I’ve been working with middle-school students who have been using Adobe Voice for everything from casual “What I did this summer” type presentations, to science fair explanations, to pitches for volunteer groups, and more. Kids find Voice to be intuitive and fun, which means that they actually use it.
What follows are some thoughts and notes on how Adobe Voice could be used in educational settings. These are not hard-and-fast rules of course, the reason we want kids using tools like Adobe Voice is that it encourages them to express themselves creatively, and at some level, strict rules stifle the very creativity you’re trying to encourage. That said, consider the following:
- Adobe Voice is great for just winging it, add some content, toss in another page, change a layout, find an image … yes, winging it. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, freeform experimentation is a good thing, and the lack of plan and structure can help foster creative expression. But at the same time, learning how to set goals, and defining steps to achieve them, is a really critical communication skill, and one I want kids learning. I’d not want students creating detailed outlines for each page in their Voice projects (if they never see Word’s outline mode ever, I’d be ok with that, too). But I do encourage them to perhaps create the last pages first, forcing them to define what the message is, what they want viewers to take away from their work, and then fill in the pieces needed to get there.
- An extension of this idea is that Adobe Voice projects can help students understand that when trying to make a point, less is often more. Another critical communication skill is knowing how to get to the point, learning how to focus on what you need to get your idea across and not on what may be distracting. Voice makes it really easy to insert and remove content, preview the result, and then tweak further. I like to challenge students, asking if specific pages or images or ideas help make their point or not. Any decisions must be their own, but the Voice authoring process is a great platform for this discussion.
- Related is the risk of teachers being overly prescriptive. I hated when my teachers insisted on a certain number of pages or words. Actually, to this day I object when my publisher asks the same (I just turned in a book manuscript that came in about 20% shorter than I had expected because that felt right, and I was not going to add content to satisfy a contract in a way that would dissatisfy readers, and thankfully, my publisher agrees). The important thing should be the creation itself and how successfully it imparts its message, and if that can be accomplished in fewer words and less time, great. I like to give students a window, a duration range rather than a specific target, balancing not being overly prescriptive with encouraging them to avoid extraneous verbosity.
- Voice, as its name suggests, is really intended to share the presenter’s voice, both figuratively and literally. Most Voice presentations do indeed have a voice track, the presenter talks, and page content supports the message. But some students will find this format uncomfortable, and so I encourage them to only talk when and if they want to. If imagery and background music delivers the message without a voiceover, so be it.
- Talking about imagery, Voice provides access to lots of it, and I’ve seen students spend so much time browsing for images that they never get to the core presentation and message. This is another opportunity for skill-building, this time relating to pacing and planning and prioritization and managing deadlines. I encourage students to find an acceptable image, even a good one, and then move to the next page. When the project is complete, if there is enough time, they can easily go back and swap out assets to improve the experience.
- Also related to imagery and assets, I encourage students to make their presentations their own. I like then taking pictures with the iPad to include in the projects. I suggest putting their own faces on the title slide. I encourage them to draw and include those images, too. I want them to create an experience that is uniquely theirs, and Voice makes that easy to do.
The truth is, many of these ideas are not Adobe Voice specific. But Voice provides a catalyst for students to create and for educators to encourage that creativity, and I’ll keep sharing these observations as I learn them myself. If you are using Voice in the classroom, please share, too.
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