Education is about communication, but few educators are willing to hand out their personal mobile number. With Google Voice you don’t have to. When you go to Google.com/voice you can set up a new number with Google. It will ask you for a forwarding number. This must be an actual landline or mobile number in the US. (You can turn off the forwarding once you are set up.)
With Google voice, incoming calls can forward to multiple numbers; say ring your home phone and mobile phone at the same time. Or you can turn off the forwarding and have all your calls go to Google Voice. All voicemails get transcribed and sent to your Gmail address. Text messages also go to your Gmail.
As a teacher, I love that my students can call or text me anytime, and I will see their messages in my Gmail. If a student sends me a text message I can reply from Gmail and the student will get the message as a text.
On the voicemail side I love that I can record multiple outgoing voicemail messages and save them to switch between them later. The transcribed voicemails tell me how long each message is. I can add notes to a voicemail and even forward the message to another teacher via email.
I’ve even used Google Voice as an assignment. When my students wrote a short letter recently, I had them call my Google Voice number and read their letter into the voicemail. (The voicemail time limit is a very generous three minutes.) I wanted to be sure my students finished their assignment and I wanted to hear them read. We rarely have enough time in class to adequately address speaking and listening standards, so Google Voice can help with that.
I went into my Google Voice settings and recorded a new outgoing message asking students to read me their letter, after first clearly stating their name and period.
I made sure my students had my number and told them to call me that evening and read their work to my voicemail. I told them to call before 9:00pm, not because the calls would disturb me (they don’t forward to my real phone,) but because I want them to learn to meet deadlines.
Most of my students called, and had clearly practiced reading their paper before calling, as I had encouraged them to do.
I listened to their messages with my gradebook open in another window. As I played each message I could enter the student’s grade (most got full credit just for following through on this,) and listen to them read at the same time.
I didn’t listen to all of the messages in full. Most were between two and three minutes long, but I could pretty easily assess their fluency in the first thirty seconds. The transcript I could see on my screen told me the student had read their entire letter, so as soon as I had added a note with the student’s name and entered their grade, I moved onto the next message.
Google Voice lets you communicate with your students and their parents in ways that are convenient for everyone. All the messages are saved in your account, so you can go back to them anytime. You are going to want to add Google Voice to your bag of educator tricks.
Read more about ways I integrate literacy and technology on my personal blog http://whatdoyouteach.blogspot.com/