Fast forward to spring of this year as Cathy Mere, Laura Komos, and were beginning to discuss #cyberPD plans for the 5th annual summer learning event. It was suggested we try using Voxer to communicate and make plans. Voxer is the best of messaging: live or recorded messages, texts, and attachments. Communicating was quicker and more convenient. Our planning was that much more efficient as well.
Through the #cyberPD conversations this past July via our Google Community, blog post reflections, and Twitter chats, Voxer was mentioned again and again as a tool to keep us connected and learning together. During our end of the book study Twitter chat, many teachers were interested in beginning a Voxer group that focused on continuing the #cyberPD discussions. Thus, a #cyberPD 2.0 Voxer group was created.
This summer our #cyberPD group read and discussed Digital Reading: What’s Essential by Bill Bass and Franki Sibberson (NCTE, 2015). The authors centered their current thoughts and learning about digital reading around three essential anchors: authenticity, intentionality, and connectedness.
I quickly discovered that Voxer is an authentic learning tool that allows me to intentionally push my thinking about digital literacy through connecting with other educators and learners.
Bass and Sibberson define authenticity as “keeping reading a meaningful experience that extends beyond the classroom” (p.13). Voxer has allowed us the opportunity to continue discussing our #cyberPD book study in an authentic way. We all responded to the reading through blog post reflections and in the Google Community, but the connection through Voxer pushes us in our thinking to learn beyond the allotted 140 characters on Twitter or the non-interactive comment on a blog. It’s yet another way to communicate, but I believe adds a more personal touch. Hearing a voice (and lots of laughter) is as close to face-to-face as you can get!
My #cyberPD 2.0 Voxer group understands the importance of digital literacies and is purposefully planning to share digital texts and tools with our students this next school year. We are able to share our thoughts about collecting and managing resources, creating a “hub” classroom website, and questioning how to go about starting digital portfolios. Our conversations are flexible and shift focus depending on a need, a question, or plain curiosity about a digital text or tool.
We intentionally created a safe environment to openly share ideas, links, documents, or to ask questions and seek answers. We didn’t need to set ground rules or expectations, but there is a common respect and understanding that we are intentionally growing in our profession to meet the needs of our learners. Voxer allows us to make intentional decisions about our purposeful planning with the support and clarity that we seek when making changes in our classroom.
It’s important to note that we are all in different places in the journey of a balanced digital literacy classroom with varying access to devices. Yet, our #cyberPD Voxer group is a community where we can encourage each other to try something new with a little advice, share a celebration or successful attempt, and support new learning. We are intentionally sharing our decisions about implementing digital texts and tools because we clearly understand the intentionality of each member in the group.
I have “met” many amazing educators through #cyberPD. We learned from each other through reflections and comments on a blog post and briefly talked during a Twitter chat. However, we didn’t want the discussion to end and thought there could be more to our discussions. Enter Voxer: A messaging tool that will allow for the continuation of the back-and-forth and give-and-take during a natural conversation.
Taking the next step and connecting on a more personal level using Voxer has allowed me the opportunity to feel more connected with a group. We were already connected by reading a common text. We currently share a common goal: learning to embed digital text and tools into our classrooms without feeling overwhelmed! We all have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share to support each other in our learning. Furthermore, sharing our thoughts and ideas provides us with some accountability that we will follow up or follow through with a task or idea.
Of course, my #cyberPD 2.0 Voxer group has already discussed the possibilities of utilizing Voxer with our students as well. Providing students yet another option for authentically sharing their thinking and learning. But that conversation continues ...
I am always amazed when my learning grows: layer upon layer of deeper and deeper thinking. Voxer has allowed the digital reading conversations to continue and my learning to continue to grow. A special thanks to my #cyberPD 2.0 Voxer group and for continuing the #cyberPD conversations!
“When technology is used in a way that authentically enhances the work of the classroom, the students achieve and acquire another layer of learning -- and enjoy the experience and process more deeply.” (Bass and Sibberson, p.34)
Additional Voxer Suggestions:
- Free version of Voxer app is sufficient -- so far!
- Keep the group size manageable (between 3-7 voices)
- Change the “Tap to Talk” in Settings
- Start a group chat and invite others (search for Voxer usernames)
- Check and respond when you can through voice message, text, or attachments
- Start a Voxer notebook to jot down ideas, thoughts, and questions to help remind you when leaving your response
- Read more about setting up and using Voxer by Angela Watson: How Voxer Changed my Personal and Professional Life
Michelle Nero is an elementary reading specialist in a northwest suburb of Chicago and has been teaching for 15 years. She is passionate about encouraging all readers to find that book to fall in love with reading. Michelle is more importantly the mother of twin daughters, who are excited about starting their school adventures this fall in kindergarten. Michelle shares more of her thoughts on her blog at Literacy Learning Zone and you can connect with her on Twitter at @litlearningzone. She also loves co-hosting the annual #cyberPD learning event ... where the conversations continue!