I was a Voxer skeptic. Some of you are shaking your head in agreement, thinking you too cannot believe you ever doubted the power of Voxer. Some others might be wondering what Voxer is exactly? Still others might have heard of Voxer, but are Voxer virgins, not sold on the usefulness of this tool for professional development. If you aren’t voxing, here’s why you need to start!
What is Voxer?
Voxer is an app for your phone. It allows you to send messages, photos, and record yourself talking. These messages are called “voxes.” You can send your messages to a person or a group that you’ve formed. There is a free version and a paid, upgraded Pro version. You can send your vox when it is convenient to you and listen to your messages at your leisure. Likewise, the recipients of your messages listen when they are able to, on their own schedule.
How is Voxer useful to teachers?
In her blog post, “Deepening Professional Relationships Through Voxer,” Victoria Olson writes, “Today, Voxer is a part of my everyday life as an educator. I am part of a number of one-on-one and group conversations that discuss everything from educational technology uses in elementary settings to collaborative conversations about edcamp organization. The best part is that I can listen and interact with these groups anytime that I wish to. Sometimes, I listen to the group voicethreads in their entirety, treating it like a podcast that I listen to on my commute. At other times, I pick and choose which conversations that I want to be a part of, just like I did on Twitter.” Victoria also writes, “Groups of eager teachers naturally stumble into rich conversations regarding pedagogical philosophy, social issues, the design and refining of lesson ideas, and the stories that make teaching the adventure that it is! Voxer has provided us with a simple platform to share those ideas and makes it easy to connect with our colleagues, even if they’re on the other side of the world.”
My Voxer Story
Like Victoria Olson eloquently explains, Voxer allows all of us to have discussions with teachers near and far. I have Voxer conversations with colleagues from across the country and close to home, too. I began my Voxer experience after a fellow Long Island teacher and Twitter friend, Kristen Picone, convinced me to give it a shot. We were talking about our teaching over Twitter messenger, back when they still limited you to 140 characters even for private messages. Kristen said that it would be easier to communicate via Voxer. I was skeptical about the whole thing- why would I need to talk? Isn’t it just easier to type? What’s the point?
But, much like Jerry Maguire, she had me at hello! From the first Vox, I could see how nice it is to match a voice to a picture and words on a screen. Voxer personalizes the relationships you have been developing with teachers in your Professional Learning Network (PLN). When you listen to a vox, it can feel like having a chat with a friend. It helps you really listen and think about what the person is saying and then when you reply, you have to be mindful of what you are saying. Just as writing is often discovery for me, talking over Voxer allows me to get to a new place in my thinking by sharing my ideas aloud. Voxer has lead to many “Aha!” moments.
The One on One Vox
My Twitter third grade friend from Wisconsin, Aliza Werner, is another person with whom I regularly chat over Voxer. Aliza has so many ideas on helping third graders love to read and she has generously shared so much with me. Through Voxer, I ask her questions about minilessons, organization, and strategy. We share resources, celebrations, and talk each other through the more challenging days, too. Aliza and I just started having our students connect using Voxer in preparation for the Global Read Aloud Project. Each class gave clues about our state to the other class on a Voxer thread. Different from a Google Hangout or Skype, Voxer allowed the class time to research where the other class was located, based on the clues they heard. We are also planning on using Voxer to share our thoughts about Fish in a Tree as both classes listen to the story for The Global Read Aloud Project.
The Small Group Voxes
A few months ago, the remarkable Susan Dee, a literacy coach from Maine, formed a Voxer group to discuss writing about reading at the third grade level. The group expanded to include two fifth grade teachers as well as literacy consultant extraordinare and The Educator Collaborative Book Ambassador, JoEllen McCarthy. Jason Lewis, Aliza Werner, Kristen Picone, Susan Dee, JoEllen McCarthy, and I talk about “all things literacy.” The conversations around reading levels, spelling, scheduling, and more have been rich and helped confirm and sometimes challenge ideas I held. We are from 4 different states, but the distance means nothing in our Voxer conversations as we struggle with the same issues and help each other problem solve.
Another small Voxer group that has supported me and inspired me is my #cyberPD group. After taking part in #cyberPD this summer, several of us branched off to a Voxer group to keep the conversation going about Digital Reading: What’s Essential in Grades 3-8. Additionally, I was in a Voxer group to share International Dot Day ideas. This helped fuel my excitement for celebrating this day with my class.
Learning from Classmates and Learning from Colleagues
Voxer has become one of my favorite professional tools. Two Writing Teachers is one of my favorite communities of educators. I think it’s time for worlds to collide!
Drumroll please…..I am proposing a Two Writing Teachers Voxer Book Club! Our first selection will be Learning from Classmates: Using Students’ Writing as Mentor Texts by Lisa Eickholdt. I’ve been wanting to read Lisa’s book since it was reviewed by Stacey in May. Reading Tara Smith’s post about student writing as mentor text confirmed that this is a book that elementary and middle school teachers can both readily discuss. LIsa Eickholdt has generously agreed to be part of our Voxer Book Club! I think it will be amazing to be able to ask the author herself questions and get the behind the scenes look at how certain lessons went.
If you are interested in participating in our Voxer Book Club, your first step will be to purchase Lisa’s book. Next, if you are not already on Voxer, you will want to get the app and create a Voxer username. (Mine is ksokol167) Please email me (email@example.com) your name and your Voxer username if you want to be part of the discussion. I will create a schedule for the chapters we will read and discuss and email it to all the participants. Please let me know by October 8th if you are interested! Our discussion will start the week of October 12th.
And so, we end where we began: I was a Voxer skeptic and I’ve seen the light! Voxer is an incredible tool for teachers to connect and share their stories. I hope you will choose to be part of our Voxer Book Club, and as we Learn from Classmates, we can learn from each other.