About a month ago, I decided to try out Google Voice for my classroom. I wanted a way for students to continue to get help and ask questions outside the classroom. I honestly didn't think this would work because most students that I have taught haven't seemed to care much about their homework or overall grades. In my class last year, I taught students that had very little support at home to further their education. I would only have a couple parents show up to meetings and would never have e-mails or phone calls about their child's grades, whether good or poor. Even though I am teaching in another high-poverty school district, I went ahead and gave it a try. I opened an account that had the same area code as the town I teach in, that way it wouldn't be long distance to call or text. I set it up and made a practice call to see if it would work the way I had hoped.
I wrote my number on the board and directed students to put it into their cell phones or write it down in their math binders. I informed them that this was my business number and that they could call or text questions to it when they weren't in school. I also reminded them that it was to be used only as a resource for the class and that no questions were to be asked after 10:00 p.m. I explained to them that if they were having difficulty on homework and couldn't figure out how to get started or what step needed to be next, to text me with the worksheet along with the problem. They were shocked that I would give them a number to text. I told them that I was serious about them succeeding in my class and that I would enjoy it very much to give them help at home. I did this because most of my students' parents haven't graduated high school and lack the ability to help their child with the homework assigned.
So far, in the past month, I have had 23 out of my 65 students text me. When they text, I make them send me their name so that I can save them as a Contact in my account. One girl text me 57 times in a single setting because she had been out sick for a few days and missed a handful of lectures. She would ask the question and then I would reply with the first step (what is 3x-4x?). I would then wait for her response and reply accordingly. It was a great feeling as a teacher that this student would take the time to do homework as long as she had some outside help from the teacher. It actually made my night!! I've also had students message me when they finish a chapter in their Cognitive Tutor so that I can put it into the gradebook. Some will text me to see what is due the next day or what we will be working on due to an absence they will have because of extracurricular activities or illness.
I keep the messages in a folder labeled Algebra I in case I ever need to reference it. Also, I keep them filed for administration viewing. If an administrator would like to view something that has been written, it's easy to just pull up the conversation and allow them to read it.
What I really like about the Google Voice is that it transcribes the voicemails that are left by students. Sometimes I don't have time to pull out my phone and listen to a voicemail. However, I do have time to open up my account and read the message. I can reply to it immediately through a text or wait until I have some free time to return the call. I am very happy that I can have the account sync with my personal cell phone, allowing my Google Voice messages to be forwarded to my phone. I'm also able to reply to messages from my personal phone without my number showing, just the Google Voice number. This is great because I could be out grocery shopping and still be able to help students with questions they may have.
I hope that even more of my students will take advantage of this tool while being outside of the classroom. It is something that I'm very pleased with and will continue to use in years to come.
Let me know if you use this tool and how it's working for you!!!