Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What is Google Voice?

In response to my last post, I have received numerous questions about Google Voice. So, rather than answer everyone individually, I thought I would write a quick post. (I don't want to grade these tests and projects anyway!!)

Google Voice is a website through Google that allows you to create a dummy number that is linked to your cell phone (I am not sure if you can use a landline). The website is www.google.com/voice . If you already have a gmail account you can use that, if not, you have to get one. Now, I do not remember exactly how to do the initial setup, but I know it was easy. My advice- make sure when you create a number, it is a local number. Last year, I set up a phone number that spelled the school and my name, which I thought was brilliant. However, it ended up being long distance which was the occasional problem. You can change the number (it costs $10), but instead, this year I just registered with a new email (shhhhh...don't tell!) and created a new number that is local, but doesn't spell out anything cool.

Basically I am using the Google Voice as a voicemail service. I record a new message every Monday, and the students have until Sunday night to respond. Then, I change the voicemail on Monday and we begin again. I grade the students fairly leniently. It is a 25 point assignment. 10 for demonstrating they understand the prompt, 10 for content/grammar/pronunciation and 5 for length. I require the messages to be 45 seconds to 1 minute in length. I encourage the students to call and say something, even if they don't understand the prompt, and depending on what they do, I give them 10 points.

Now, I realize that many of my students listen to the prompt together. Many listen multiple times. They talk about what the prompt says and some even ask me if they are right. To this I say, Hooray!! They did a listening 10 times to figure it out!! Woo hoo!!

I also realize that students write down what they are going to say and read that. Well, they are thinking about the grammar and vocabulary. They are still practicing their speaking. So, again...WOO HOO!!!

As for themes for the voicemails, I try to make sure that three out of five during the (five week units) are somehow related to the unit we are studying and then two on "every day" topics like current events, Homecoming, etc.

As I have mentioned in other posts, making sure I get listening and speaking done in class is something I really struggle with, so worst case scenario, using this, I know that they have done some. To be honest, I have yet, in the almost two years I have been doing this, have every student do the assignment. But, the vast majority do it, because as a weekly assignment, it really adds up if you skip it every week. It is also wonderful at conferences because kids have no excuses for not doing it. They have to take responsibility for getting it done when it fits into their schedule. And, yes, if they have time during my class, I let them do it in class.

I hope this helps all of you. Please feel free to comment and ask questions.

**Another good point someone emailed to me- In the settings, you need to set the "do not disturb". That will keep your phone from ringing when the students call the Google Voice number.