First draft: Voxer

posted Mar 11, 2016, 9:05 AM by Miguel Guhlin   [ updated Mar 11, 2016, 9:05 AM ]

DRAFT #1 - Creating Engaging Opportunities for Teaching, Learning and Leading: 4 Voxer Case Stories

by Miguel Guhlin


“May I audio record you reading your story?” I asked a 6th grader at a San Antonio middle school. As I unlimbered my iPhone, I said, “We will post the audio recording with your story on the web.” Earlier that month, I had spent some time working with students on their writing. The title of his story is, How the Skunk Got His Bad Smell. In the past, I would have reached for an audio recorder--there are many available for iOS and Android devices--but this time, I decided to try a new, versatile app called Voxer. In this piece, we will explore several incredible uses of Voxer to enhance student publishing, connect teachers, and live professional learning.



Explore This: What is Voxer?

Not familiar with Voxer? Voxer styles itself as a walkie-talkie app with push to talk feature that makes it possible to have just-in-time asynchronous conversations. Simply, you connect to someone--who also has the Voxer app on their device, or is accessing it via the Web--by pushing a button on the screen, then speaking. Your audio/text/video is added to a “chat” where others can listen/view and then offer their own thoughts. It is drop-dead simple, and quite easy to get started with.  Get it at www.voxer.com. You can also listen to this audio recording explaining what Voxer is and how educators use it.


While you can customize your username, organize chats with people with the free version, you will definitely want to get the Pro version. The Pro version allows you to recall audio/video/text messages that you have sent, as well as manage group chats better. And, you can save chat contributions indefinitely. View chart outlining differences Free and Pro version.


Case Study #1 - Enhancing Student Publishing

"The minute kids think their work will be published, they take greater pride in the result," says editor Susan Meyer (Read source). I have to agree with Susan’s observation. In my own 6th grade classroom, writing for publication and audio production proved intensely motivating for them. Selection_002.png


Apps like Voxer allow a teacher to quickly collect photos AND audio collections of student(s) reading their pieces. By going to the web version of Voxer (web.voxer.com), you can save pictures, video, and/or audio to Dropbox or to your computer. In the case of How the Skunk Got His Bad Smell, I saved the student’s audio recording to my computer, then put it in a GoogleDrive folder, then shared the “Anyone who has the link” so that it looked like the screenshot included here.


Summary: In brief, use Voxer to audio record students performing their work, photograph their written pieces or performance, save it to your cloud storage of choice (e.g. GoogleDrive, OneDrive, Dropbox), then tweet the link out or add it to a blog entry.

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Case Study #2 - Connect and Enhance Teacher Support

Conexiones, my new Voxer chat, ” I pitched the idea to the bilingual/ESL director, “is a way to facilitate just-in-time teacher support.” She liked the idea because dual language teachers are scattered at various campuses, and they often have to come up with fresh ideas on their own. Using Voxer presents another way that teachers can garner support from each other, even when separate across time and space. Of course, there are many other tools like Appear.in, Blab.im, and, of course, Google Hangouts (note links lead to examples of their use or more information) that can be used. Voxer represents one choice that is mobile, can begin with audio or text then scale to short video clip.


Summary: Build bridges with Voxer communications, aiding idea, lesson planning and sharing between between islands of innovations that many single content teachers find themselves on.






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Case Study #3 - Create Meaningful Learning Opportunities

“When we view ‘sharing’ as something that both supports and pushes us to be better,” writes George Couros in Innovators’ Mindset, “the big winner will always be our students.” The quote came from a picture capture on a mobile device, then shared via the InnovatorsMindset Voxer Chat, a mostly audio, text and pictorial conversation. Participants are reading Couros’ book then sharing their reflections. For me, it stimulated “Voxflections,” a portmanteau of two words--”Voxer”+”Reflections”--that I’ve begun having while driving to or from work.  edcampvoxer.jpg


In addition to book studies, you can join ongoing education-focused conversations on a variety of topics. Some Voxer chats to begin with include #tecsigchat, New Teachers to Voxer (#n2tv), and #edumatch. These range from “slow chats” with 2-3 recordings per day to “fast chats” with 50-100 contributions per day. Have fun as you explore meaningful learning opportunities. In December, 2015, I had the opportunity to participate in edcampVoxer, an unconference event that took place entirely online using Voxer. What a phenomenal professional learning opportunity!


Summary: Like Twitter, there are many Voxer-powered educators sharing meaningful learning. Unlike Twitter, these learning opportunities rely on audio to provoke and enhance professional learning, anytime and anywhere.


Case Study #4 - Tapping into Students’ Collaborative Potential

“Greater access to technology and computer-assisted learning can be effective in engaging English Language Learners’ (ELL)motivation, developing writing and editing skills,” said Dr. Roland Rios (Ft. Sam Houston ISD) at TCEA 2016 State Conference (are you a member yet?), “and tapping into the collaborative potential [technology].” At our presentation, Dr. Roland Rios and I had the opportunity to introduce a roomful of TCEA members to Voxer. Participants learned how to use Voxer, then quickly recorded ideas for how to use Voxer in their teaching and learning situation.


Some tips that were shared included in the presentation, Using Voxer in the ELL Classroom:

  • Enable ELLS to “learn new vocabulary best through extended discussion with their classmates after reading or between multiple readings” (Source)

  • Model use of vocabulary and pronunciation, as well as video in Voxer to provide non-linguistic cues.

  • Encourage students to record interviews with native English speakers and then share their summary. Record interview to “MyNotes” in Voxer, then students can practice summarizing. When summary is complete, they can “forward” their audio recording to the large group chat. Save audio recordings to cloud storage (e.g. GoogleDrive, Dropbox) for publishing as a podcast in the class blog.


Dr. Rios and I recommend following these steps to create a class Voxer chat:

  1. Create a teacher account to use on Voxer.

  2. Have students create their accounts using the Voxer Web (rather than their own mobile devices) so they can quickly register without providing a phone number.

  3. Start and name a chat with at least two students.

  4. Use the button (built-into Voxer) to copy and share the URL. As a bonus tip, use a URL shortener like Tinyurl.com, Bit.ly to get a friendly URL to share. Then drop that short web address link into the QR Code Generator of your choice.


Summary: Enabling learners to collaborate and share ideas on academic work can yield powerful benefits. Voxer can facilitate that sharing in a way that’s mobile and accessible.


Sidebar: Voxer Tips

  1. To protect yourself, have students create accounts via the Web to eliminate use of their phone numbers.

  2. Have students change Voxer usernames to match any naming convention you already have in place.

  3. Always start a chat with everyone that needs to see the whole chat. If you add someone after you’ve started the chat, they will not see what was said prior to being added

  4. Record video by flipping your device sideways from the main Voxer window. When done, you will be able to drop the video into the chat.

  5. Like Voxer and plan to facilitate more chats? Get the Pro account!


Conclusion

Whether you are a classroom teacher seeking to share student performances online, an educator focused on lifelong learning that is relevant, timely, and matched to your needs, or engaged in collaborative uses of technology to enhance your work, then the Voxer is one of several mobile apps you can use.


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