Trying professional development “walkie-talkie style” with Voxer

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Voxer makes professional development feel like a walkie-talkie. It gives voice to the people and ideas you connect to. (Sketch by Matt Miller)

Do you remember when Sprint announced its “push to talk” technology? Everyone wanted to use their phones as walkie talkies (even if they didn’t know how to keep the volume low enough so everyone in the room wouldn’t hear!).

Voxer has made that concept new again, turning iOS, Android and Windows phone devices (and more!) into free walkie talkies. When communicating in this app, users can send instant voice messages, text messages (with clickable links) or photos through the app. Leave a Voxer conversation open on your device and you’ll hear voice messages come in as they happen, making almost-real-time communication.

I’m still a Voxer rookie (even though one person claims Voxer is “so last year”), as are many others, I believe. I first used it several years ago to connect with a friend I met in Mexico City on a mission trip. We both spoke each other’s languages pretty well, but if there was a communication breakdown, it was nice to be able to switch from voice conversation to text and vice versa. Plus, Voxing was much cheaper (free!) than calling on the phone.

I had touched bases with colleagues from time to time in Voxer, and the thing I loved about it was the ability to hear their voices. In social media, we’re so tied to the written word. Hearing other people’s comments in their own voice is so personal. You can hear the nuance of their voice, the background noise and other audible clues that go unnoticed when reading.

Recently, I decided to try a Voxer chat. (Actually, I decided to try three of them, which may have been overdoing it! That’s kind of my style, unfortunately.) There are several public Voxer chats anyone can join (check out the list at http://bit.ly/eduvoxlist). These are conversations that many people are a part of and can add comments to at any time. These are really cool because you can have participation from people all over the country and world.

Some of my experiences with Voxing:

  • I had a hard time keeping up at first. (OK, I still have trouble keeping up.) People add new messages in Voxer chats all the time. It’s kind of like Twitter or Facebook in a way because it keeps going even when you’re not connected. The difference is that Voxer reminds you of how many messages you’ve missed, making me feel like a Voxer slacker! Heather Guack suggested that Voxer chatters not feel guilty if they don’t hear every message. It’s OK to tap “Mark all played”, removing the notification saying how many messages you haven’t seen/heard. “At first I was like, I’ve got to listen to every single one,” she said. “Then I realized, ‘Nope, if I’m too busy, just hit ‘Mark all read’ and just move on with your day.'” (Click here to hear Heather say that on Voxer!)
  • Hearing people’s voices excited me and creeped me out a bit. This might make me weird, but I caught myself delaying checking my Voxer feeds because I would hear other people’s voices. (That’s strange because it’s one part of Voxer I really love!) I felt self conscious listening in front of others if it was playing out loud on the speaker. (Would this bother you? Let me know in a comment below!) I got over that by switching to listening through my phone’s earpiece or by using headphones. Becca Bailey of the EduMatch Voxer chat said she could sympathize but has changed. “I love being able to play my Voxer and know whose voice I’m hearing without having to watch the screen,” she said. “There’s something about that connection that you can have with the educators that you’re talking and collaborating with and you can hear the influection (in their voice).” (Click here to hear Becca say that on Voxer!)
  • It took a lot of time to keep up with — until I figured it out. Part of my problem was listening to every vox all the way through. And I was listening to them in regular speed. Sarah Brown of SatChat, EduMatch (and practically every other public Voxer chat out there!) suggested I play them at 3x speed. Since then, I can hurry through lots of voxes in no time.

I’m still not an expert at using Voxer. I only post (via text or my voice) occasionally and do a lot more listening than talking. I’m hoping that if I keep with it, I’ll get better at it, develop some relationships and find a new dimension in professional learning and sharing.

Some great links for anyone interested in trying Voxer:

Have you tried Voxer? What were your experiences? If you haven’t, why will you or won’t you? Please share in a comment below!

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9 thoughts on “Trying professional development “walkie-talkie style” with Voxer

  1. I guess I’m missing the point of using Voxer to hear the nuances of one’s voice, if you’re then listening at a 3X rate, in order to speed through….????

    It sounds like one more way to feel behind…..sigh! (Though that “sigh” would have been quite dramatic on Voxer!….You’ll just have to take my word for it!)

    • I’d say if you want to enjoy hearing people’s voices, I wouldn’t go at 3X … and if you want to hear lots of ideas quickly, I would do 3X. You’re not missing any point — it wouldn’t make sense to try to do both. I don’t think I was trying to imply that.

      If it feels like something else to make you feel behind, then maybe you shouldn’t try it — or maybe try it to communicate with a single person. The last thing I want to do is suggest things that make people sigh!

  2. I started on Voxer back in January. It has totally revolutionized my teaching and how I get PD. I basically have PD available on a daily basis at my fingertips. I have become friends with a small core of PE teachers on voxer and we speak to each other daily about what we are teaching, our struggles, our passions, and sometimes just make each other laugh.

  3. Grate post!!!!!Voxer has changed the way I search for professional development. I won’t repeat all the tips that I learned as they are in the notes, but another one of the other key suggestion made was to try and use the voice option as your primary means for sharing.