I recently spent the afternoon with some enthusiastic teachers at the Mercer Island School District who are prepping for the start to the school year. One of the sessions I presented was an introduction to Google Apps for Edu with a focus on classroom application.
One of the tools I referenced was Google Voice – a free yet powerful web interface for an phone number that can forward to your personal phone numbers, record voicemail, and make smart routing decisions based on rules that you manage.
I love the ability to give families & students a way to contact me without revealing my personal contact information. The other killer feature for me is that any voicemail can be downloaded or embedded as an mp3 with a couple of clicks:
As I tend to do when in a room full of talented educators, I introduced the tool then opened the floor for a conversation of potential applications. As usual, their ideas were much more interesting than mine:
- Students on a field trip phone in their responses to leading questions rather than sit on the floor in a museum scribbling a reflection on a worksheet.
- Use their cell phone to interview someone and then collect the file from Google Voice to embed on a website.
- Students call in to record their pronunciation of a vocabulary list. The teacher can check the work at their convenience rather than try to listen and offer feedback to each student within a single class period.
- Students call in to offer status updates on group projects.
- Students call in, each reading aloud a single chapter from a book or an original poem. The results are then downloaded and dragged into Audacity or Garageband, where they can be stitched together to create an collaborative audiobook.
As with so many Google tools, Voice lowers the barrier of entry and encourages students to create. These readily available tools, combined with the creativity of student and teacher minds, can evolve into something memorable.