Google Voice Again

7 Jan

I started texting for the same reason most guys do anything, I met a girl. After a date one night I got a text the next day saying she had a nice time and enjoy our evening out. I texted back, warily, because I knew this exchange was costing me about thirty cents as I did not have a text plan. Five hundred texts later, I knew it was time to look into a texting plan.

I mentioned in previous posts about using Twitter as a means to text students via fast follow – a great feature worth reading in you have time – now I want to talk to them directly.  I was hesitant to give them my phone number directly, so after a discussion with several friends, I took up Google Voice. At the time I had to be invited, so after I was accepted, I dove at the opportunity. It was an easy process, I already had a Google account, I got to choose my own phone number (and there were a lot of options) and I was done.

The first lesson I did was to have my kids call in and leave a voice mail response to a question about one minute in length. I gave the kids the question in advance, I then recorded the question again in my voice mail box. So I wouldn’t be bothered, I set up the phone so it would not ring my cell phone but go directly to voice mail. I gave my students two days to complete the task. When it was done, I had 32 out of 32 students who had recorded around a one minute answer. The voice mails are saved online as an audio file so I can download as an Mp3. All of my students now have the chance to hear themselves talk – which made some very nervous after the fact. And, I had transcripts of each phone call underneath the audio file.

Along with hearing from each student, I also had the chance to work on my student’s soft skills. Each one of them now could hear wht they sound like on the phone, and some knew they had to work on their speaking skills. I had a few who thought they couldn’t do it, but in the end, everyone has a phone (there was one in my room which two students used, there are no excuses on this one); and the voice recognition software keeps getting better so the transcriptions are pretty good as well.

Along with Twitter, this gives my kids another way to contact me. At the start of each school year, I have each student text me and I store their number. When I do get a text, I instruct my students to include their name, so a text may read, “Mr. Soeth, this is Abby, I had a question on the HW.” It’s a great time to teach my students how a text may change if you are contacting an employee or boss vs. a teacher or best friend and how what you type makes a big difference.

I use Google Voice with Group projects. I have questions I put up, as I am walking the room, if kids have questions or if they need help I have a designated texter who can reach me. Questions are answered in the order they are received (customer service humor). Also, about ever 10 minutes or so I can see if a question has been answered and I know if my kids are on task. I can’t be at every group, but this is a great way to see where they are at on the assignment and keep tabs. Additionally, if I have a designated texter in each group, then I should only see one phone out.

My kids can create podcast like assignments using my Google Voice number. I can have them call and record for as long as necessary working off their script. We can then include that dialogue on a project, assignment, or in any other area necessary for the task at hand.

Lastly, for anyone who does not text (which is many of my teacher friends), you can now text from the comfort of your keyboard. You can send and receive texts right on your computer opting out of anything landing on your phone. Plus, texts are saved, so if you are worried about how media is interpreted or if your district is strict about who is sending messages to who, you have an ongoing dialogue saved online that documents any and all conversations.

For more info on cell phones, Google and other services, check out my podcast Leadership Isn’t Funny. You can also check out my other posts on Evernote 2 and my Top 10 with Evernote which is another great cell phone resource for taking notes and staying organized. I also have a couple of more posts on Google Voice that are worth check out such as my Top 10 and my first post on Google Voice.

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