Ditch the paper, call in assignments with Google Voice
If I really want to “ditch that textbook” and teach with less reliance on it, I need to ditch my traditional paper assignments, too. At least from time to time.
In the past, as a high school Spanish teacher, I have assigned all sorts of writing assignments. They range from the straightforward “write 10 sentences that …” to simple stories to personal descriptions and anything in between.
I’m aspiring to better writing activities, and I think Google Voice has helped me do that.
I saw the potential greatness of Google Voice and wrote a series of three articles on it:
Now that I’ve assigned, collected and graded multiple assignments through Google Voice, here’s why I’m impressed with it more than I ever was:
Assignments don’t feel like homework. My common Google Voice assignments from my Spanish classes are the “make a one-minute recording of …” using the grammar and vocabulary structures we’re currently working on. (Here’s an example of a student call.) I give them a little time in class to prepare their recordings so I can help them craft something that sounds good. If they use their time wisely in class, all that’s left is the call. Homework with their beloved cell phones. It’s great.
Listening and grading is a breeze. Google Voice voicemails handle like e-mails. They’re listed neatly on your Google Voice account dashboard. It’s easy to manage playback of calls. Plus, the voicemail transcription feature can be SO handy for going back to remember a specific part of the recording without having to re-listen to it.
(About the transcription: I’ve learned that Google Voice doesn’t speak Spanish, so when it tries to transcribe foreign languages, it’s hilarious. Here’s an example.)
Options are endless for the audio files it creates. My mind is spinning with ideas on how I could use the mp3 files of my students’ voices. (I would want to get their permission before using them, of course.) I want to create a radio call-in show where those files are spliced in like talk show callers. I could incorporate a goofy host voice and some sound effects and it could be a really fun assignment to listen and respond to.
It breaks down the socioeconomic divide. I teach in a rural, low-income school district. We are blessed with great technology in the school, but many students don’t have access to it or the Internet at home. But practically everyone has a phone of some sort. This incorporates a level of technology even if students can’t afford the latest gadget.
Essays make my students groan. They’ve done a million worksheets. But phoning in assignments is new territory for most of them. It engages their brain in a different way than a writing assignment.
Give Google Voice a shot. If you do, write us a comment below saying how your first assignment works. Even if you don’t, comment with how you think it would or wouldn’t work in a classroom.