Google is one of those companies that is both ubiquitous and sneaky. Those involved in the world of EdTech know just how useful their services can be, but many teachers float along unaware of how much Google can do for your classroom. We’ve talked here about the basics of Gmail, Google Docs, Google Forms, and more. Today I’m introducing Google Voice, and giving a peek into the many possibilities it can provide for your classroom.
What is Google Voice?
Google Voice is a dedicated phone service that can ring any phone you’re on (no multiple numbers to save or remember), save your voicemails online, let you listen in live when people are recording a message for you, and perhaps most importantly for our uses: transcribe voice messages!
What’s the deal with transcribed voice messages?
When someone calls your Google Voice number, Google uses its voice recognition technology to convert the words into text. When you log into Google Voice, you have the option to either read the messages, play them out individually, or both. Google Voice will also send the messages to your mail, so you can check what was sent to you wherever you are.
Why do I want that for my students?
Even the most dedicated teacher is likely wary about giving out their phone number. With Google Voice, you get a dedicated phone number and then you can set all calls to automatically go straight to voice mail. Everything gets transcribed, and you can check it all at your convenience.
Now imagine the power of having a student talk out their ideas as an alternative to writing them every time.
If you want your students to summarize, reflect, or just share some ideas, giving them the chance to physically voice their thoughts may be something that they’ve never experienced before in the classroom setting.
How do I set up Google Voice?
Let’s take a look:
Looks great – what’s the catch?
There had to be a catch, right? While Google Voice is free and incredibly convenient, there are some data issues that may be of concern.
- The phone number that they’re calling from is visible. You need to check and make sure that having access to their phone numbers is kosher in your school, district, and state. There are privacy laws and guidelines. If you wanted to get around this, you could assign that the students call you from a school phone before they go home.
- All spoken information is recorded and transcribed. Depending on your level of conspiracy theory engagement, this may be a big issue for you. I have some concern about this, but also believe the content of your calls and assignments should not be an issue for most people.
How else can I use Google Voice?
There are a lot of ways you can encourage your students to use Google Voice in order to ease the transition into some of your assignments. Here are a few ideas:
- Short Classroom Speeches: Make students record a rehearsal of their speech or a sample before they actually give the speech in class. You can use this to give feedback without taking away from the surprise for all the other students.
- Surveys: Ask your students opinions on classroom or lesson content. Though they’re still speaking to you, they might feel a little more free to express themselves if they’re not looking you in the face.
- Gamification: If you do any gamified processes, consider making a call part of the assignment. When students call in and leave a message, you can respond with a text message that unlocks another clue or assignment.
- Highlight Best Responses: Google Voice has an embed function, so you can plug in the audio right into your blog or LMS. If someone is doing a particularly good job you can use it as a praise system and/or a way to highlight what you may be looking for in the future.
Once students get used to recording their voice for assignments, you may find that they speak more confidently. This can lead into using other great technologies that may have slightly higher barriers to entry than just a simple phone call. They may become more comfortable working with voice recording programs at school such as VoiceThread, or may even become interested in some highly audio-centric work such as podcasting.
As a writing teacher myself, I am not trying to discourage the use of writing – far from it. Rather I hope to encourage you to think of mediums of communication in and out of your class that you haven’t opened yourself or your students up to before. Give it a try, and let me know what you think in the comments!