Archive for June, 2010

Every Educator Needs Google Voice

June 29, 2010

Google recently opened its Voice service to all comers.  I’ve been using Google Voice for a little over a year, and I’ve recommended it many times to friends and colleagues.  Google gives you a new number, a unified voice mail box, and control.

I give my Google Voice number to everyone.  I put it on my syllabi, I list it on my resume, I hand it out on business cards, I share it in workshops, and I even post it online.  My Google Voice number is (501) 303 MOIX.

I have my Voice account set up to announce callers.  This feature is optional.  What happens when someone calls my Voice number depends entirely on their Caller ID information.

If it’s a new number…
the caller is greeted by “the Google Voice lady,” is asked to speak their name, and then hears ringing.  If the call is not answered, it is sent to voice mail.

If it’s a caller who has already given their name before of if their number appears in my Google Contacts list…
the caller simply hears ringing.  If the call is not answered, it is sent to voice mail.

Depending on who is calling and the time of day, some, none, or all of my phones ring.  When I answer, I hear the name of the caller and a list of options.  The primary options are to take the call or to send the caller to voice mail.  If I select voice mail, I still have the option to listen while the message is being recorded and break in if necessary.

Why is this a service that all educators should seriously consider?

Documentation
By default, all Google Voice activity is logged.  Dates, times, recorded names, and call durations are all easily accessible.  If someone sends a text message to your Voice number that you reply to, both the incoming and outgoing messages are preserved.  Voice messages will remain in your account until they are deleted, and thanks to the text transcriptions they are searchable by keyword.

Control
Giving your home or mobile number to parents provides them with a means to contact you outside of work hours, but sometimes people call at the strangest hours.  By defining the times that you will not take calls you control when calls go directly to voice mail.

Consistency
This falls into two categories.  First, if all of your contacts know to use your Google Voice number, you will avoid a situation where your private home or mobile number “gets out.”  People will soon find that the best way to reach you is through the new number.  Second, you can consolidate your GMail and Telephone contacts using Google’s comprehensive contacts system.  Create and manage only a single copy of everyone’s information.  If you use a smartphone, you can even sync Google Contacts back onto your mobile device.

In the end, Google Voice has many handy features that you can only appreciate once you’ve started using it.  Voice lets you initiate phone calls and text messages right from your browser.  If you are on a call that you picked up on your home phone you can quickly and quietly transfer that call to your mobile phone by pressing *.  If you are “in the zone” and need to hold all calls, you can enable Do Not Disturb which can be configured to turn itself off after a duration you choose.

Using voice is not without its challenges, though.  If you are out and about and want to place a call using your Voice number, you have to dial into that account and then key in the number to call.  Alternatively, you can use your phone’s mobile browser to initiate the call, but it still takes some effort.

Head over to http://voice.google.com and set up your account.  It’s free, and they let you pick your own number.

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Pimp My Curriculum

June 9, 2010

Did you read about Montgomery County, Maryland schools partnering with Pearson to sell their new elementary curriculum?  The district gets $4.5 million:  $2.25 million flat plus another $2.25 million as an advance on profits from future sales.

Montgomery school officials, in turn, will open their classrooms to prospective customers and speak on behalf of the program at Pearson’s request. The company will have final say over content, although Montgomery schools will retain control over it in their classrooms.

Pimp My School

Much of what I do as an educator is built on an open community of professionals who borrow and share.  This will certainly put an end to that sort of thing in this district.  In all of the media coverage surrounding the issue I have yet to hear the opinion of any teachers in the district.

I look on skeptically…

School’s Out For Summer! School’s Out Forever!

June 1, 2010

As educators, we are often told how lucky we are to have two months off work in the summer.  We are told this by people who have no idea what educators do over the summer.  If you are out of school now as I am, enjoy a little time off before you begin the real work.  If you are just finishing up your year, hang in there!

For many, the end of the school year and the hot months of summer are when “the professional development” is “administered.”

As a 21st Century Educator, my professional development is an ongoing process.  From staying in touch with my PLN, working on my graduate degree online, and attending or presenting at conferences, to having departmental meetings and conducting inservice workshops, the professional development cycle does not begin or end for me in summer.

Here is a snapshot of my summer plans

National Park Community College Retreat
For three days this month I will be attending the Summer Institute for Adjunct Faculty at the Rockefeller Center.  The Winthrop Rockefeller center in Morrilton, Arkansas, that is.  This will bring together approximately 20 professionals who are adjunct instructors at NPCC to help align our efforts with the mission and goals of the institution.  I’m looking forward to this retreat atop Petit Jean Mountain!

Arkansas Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Preconference
I will again be presenting at the AASCD Technology Preconference.  Although I was scheduled to lead a session on Discovery Education‘s many products (streaming media, assessment tools) that are available to all teachers in Arkansas, it looks like the agreement that made the tools available will be coming to an end.  Instead, I will be introducing the participants to Prezi, an innovative presentation tool.

Go Paperless with Free Google Tools Workshop
In partnership with the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts, I will work with 15 educators from across the state who are interested in integrating Google tools into their schools and classrooms.  This workshop has been described fully on this blog before.

ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock was chosen again to host the EMBHSSC.  This two-week program designed to expose middle school students to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.  Carl Frank and I will be teaching the technology components of the problem-based, interdisciplinary curriculum.

University of Arkansas at Little Rock High School Research Program
Since 2006, I have worked with UALR on this program that aims to provide high school students an opportunity to be mentored for three weeks by UALR faculty in a research setting and to assist students in making sound decisions regarding pursuing education beyond high school.  The HSRP was highlighted in a recent edition of the Computer Science Teachers Association CSTA Voice.

In addition to attending or presenting at these programs, camps, and workshops, I will also be preparing for my first year as a Computer Information Systems Instructor at Ouachita Technical College, keeping up with my PLN, and finishing my graduate degree.

Two months off in the summer.  I hope your summer months will be as fulfilling as mine promise to be!