Free Technology for Teachers: Google Voice on My Syllabus – Texting Encouraged

Original Post: Google Voice on my Syllabus

The first day always has me handing out my syllabus in each class. This year I have put my Google Voice number at the top of my syllabus with a note for students and parents to “please text me if you have a quick question.” From my Google Voice inbox I can reply to text messages and the other person never sees my real cell phone number. Furthermore, it’s free for my to send text messages back to anyone who texts via my Google Voice number.

This YouTube playlist walks you through many of the other Google Voice features.

On a related note, Wes Fryer recently wrote a post with detailed directions on how to send text messages from a Google Docs Spreadsheet.

Applications for Education
One of the reasons that I have put my Google Voice number on my syllabus this year is because I know that students are much more likely to text a question than they are to email me with a question (nevermind call, that’s so 20th Century). The other reason is that I am hoping parents too will prefer the text option over the calling option because I am notoriously slow at checking the archaic voicemail system at my school (I think it still uses actual cassette tapes). If I’m at my computer I can provide almost instant responses to my students’ questions.

Caroline’s Comments

If you’ve never heard of Google Voice, you’re not alone. It’s one of those Google nuggets that hasn’t been around all that long and in the beginning was invitation only. Now anyone can get an Google Voice account as long as you have a Google account. You are given a phone number where you can receive both text messages (no multi-media) and voice mail, both of which can be forwarded to a personal phone number of your choice – or not. It’s great for those times when you don’t want to give someone your phone number, but they need to get a hold of you.

But what about its use in Education?

The first time I heard about using Google Voice in Education was from the ACTFL Teacher of the Year, Clarissa Fletcher of Dunwoody High School, when she presented her uses of technology to the World Language Coordinators in my state (Georgia). I have a Google number, but for some reason never though about how it could be used in the classroom. That’s probably due to the state policies that restrict student cell phone use in the schools.

However, Clarissa’s use of Google Voice didn’t call for her students to use their own cell phones in school. Her own ways of using this tool included responses to assignments, asking questions about assignments, and having students call in to provide oral answers to questions for grades. Most kids these days have cell phones, and by providing a way for her students to text and call her (without giving out her own personal number), she was able to provide a whole new means of communication between herself and her students and a new means of assessment.

Byrne’s post on his own use of Google Voice provides another means of providing a communication bridge between teachers and students and parents. For our Title I schools, they are required to document their contact with parents, and this would be just another possible tool they could implement to increase school to parent communication.

What I really love about Google Voice, aside from the fact that it is free, is the ability to listen to voicemail on the computer! We aren’t to the point yet where we have VOIP telephone systems so the ability to check voicemail from a computer is far more efficient and timely when it comes to responding to parents and students alike.

Be sure to read the blog post by Wes Fryer who has written detailed directions on how text messages can be sent from a Google Docs spreadsheet. That’s next on my list to read!

Since we have Google Apps in our school district, you can get a Google Voice account through your Google Apps account. Don’t have a Barrow Google Apps account? Check out the Barrow’s Google Apps tab on the 21st Century TIPs website.


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