Sam, a student reporter for our school newspaper, asked me to name my favorite Web 2.0 applications for an article on technology last year. Google Voice, Google Docs and Voicethread were the first tools that came to mind. In this series of blog posts, I want to show how versatile these tools are for the World Language classroom, and why teaching your students to use them will have a big payoff all year long.
Google Voice doesn’t have a learning curve for your students. You simply explain your assignment, give your students your Google Voice phone number, and have the students call in. In January, I mentioned how I used Google Voice for individual assessments and partner work. I have added some variations on these activities since that post.
My students practice pronouncing vocabulary terms for homework. They will call in and repeat the vocabulary. Although this is a very basic assignment, it helps me figure out what words I need to emphasis and practice from a pronunciation perspective.
Another homework assignment my students can chose to do is to call Google Voice and re-define a vocabulary term in Spanish. I will then download the call and use it as a listening activity in class to practice or to review for a quiz. Please listen to Ali’s example to hear how this works.
My students take partner activities a lot more seriously when they have to record the activity on Google Voice. Skits and dialogues are done on Google Voice on a regular basis, because I save so much class time by having all partners perform at once. I will then grade the assignment during my planning bell, when I can fully concentrate on assessing my students’ oral work, and not be distracted by classroom management issues.
From time to time, I also have students call in some of the textbook’s pair work. They are much more concerned about doing the activity well when it will be recorded than when I am informally walking around the room listening to them.
My student’s enjoy hearing each other more than the book’s listening activities, so when I have a very strong oral activity, I will also download it, and create listening comprehension questions about what the student said in their recording.
This year I am using the “add contact name” to their phone number. When I log in to my Google Voice account I can tell exactly who called and at what time. I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner. If you haven’t set this up yet, it is quite simple. Right by the phone number that called in is a blue “Add”. Click on it and enter your student’s name. Every time that student calls you from that phone, you will see his name by his message.
Another reason why I am such a Google Voice fan, is that I can give my students direct feedback by texting them (if they call from their cell phones). If the activity is done in front of class, I tend to give my students positive feedback, because speaking in front of peers in a Spanish can be intimidating. However, it a student is repeating the same mistake over and over on a Google Voice message, I can simply send a quick text from my computer, and give the student constructive feedback without embarrassing her in front of her peers.
This year I want to finding ways to use Google Voice for informal and unscripted conversation practice. There is a 2:30 minute limit on each call, so I haven’t successfully come up with an activity that gives my students the think time they need at this level to record a spontaneous exchange. If you have any suggestions, please share! I’m always looking for creative and efficient ways to assess speaking skills.