Monday, January 13, 2014

Google Apps for Education Part 5 - Google Voice

What is Google Voice?

It is a phone service that comes free as part of your Google account. You can create a new number to make and receive phone calls, receive voice mail, and receive and send text messages. This is a great way to enhance communication with your students and their parents without giving out your home or cell phone number. In addition, there are numerous features that integrate with your Gmail, like getting an email any time you received a voice mail or the ability to play back the voice mail from your computer.

Why is Google Voice so great?

Google voice also transcribes the text of the voice mail. This allows you to keep an organized record of all your communication with students and parents. Moreover, voice mail messages come into an inbox so you can easily share the audio and text with others. But most importantly, in an era of over connectivity, Google voice allows you to strike a balance between being connected and over connected. You can give students a cell phone number and have it ring on your cell phone, home phone, office phone, all of those phones or have it sent straight to voice mail.

What does it look like? How do you set it up?

CLICK HERE to watch a screen cast on what Google Voice looks like and how it works. But imagine you had a number that can ring on your cell phone, or you can call from your cell phone but the receiver sees your Google Voice number and not your personal cell phone number. You can even make and receive phone calls from the Google Chat box in Gmail. You can also send and receive text messages from your cell phone that look like they are coming from your Google Voice number. Once again, you can send and receive text messages from you computer.

Some other cool features include the ability to have different voicemail messages for different groups of contacts. For example, you might have one message if a student calls you, but another message if a parent calls. If you have your cell phone and office phone connected to Google Voice, you can switch a call midstream. While talking on your cell phone via Google Voice, just hit the star key and your office phone or your PC through Gmail will ring and you can pick that phone up, hang up your cell phone and continue your conversation uninterrupted.

Google Voice is a great tool for any teacher who wants to hear from every student. Perhaps you teach a text based class where an important skill is for a student to learn to read or to translate another language. You can create a recurring assignment where the student has to call into the Google Voicemail and read you the text. You can then login to Google Voice and listen to each of your students. This is an application that most teachers could utilize to enhance their classroom. If you like this idea, I would recommend you get started and try it out. If you like it, you might eventually graduate to a slightly more comprehensive tool called Voicethread. I will write about that in a future posting. In the meantime, give Google Voice a try with your students; it can help you engage “all” of the students in your class.

Video Tutorials
1.  Google Voice Tutorial for Educators

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