Collaboration as a method of learning has been part of the fabric of education for years. However, in the past, professional learning networks (PLNs) were mostly limited to face-to-face interactions within school buildings, districts, or, in some cases, conferences, but with the technology we have now, our connections are limitless.
One way educators are connecting today is through Voxer, an app to use on your phone, tablet, or computer. It lets you interact with other users via text, images, and voice recordings. What makes this tool distinct from other messaging apps is its “walkie-talkie” voice-messaging feature. Start by holding down the orange circle button at the bottom of the screen to record your voice. Your message is called a vox. Once you let go, your message will automatically send. This feature allows users to record instantly and send audio messages to individuals or even groups. Sometimes tone gets interpreted differently with just text (or in an email), so hearing someone's voice allows me to interpret the tone and the passion behind their words.
More Productive Conversations
I have used many social media platforms and researched many others while writing this article. I found that the education groups in Voxer are the most active because like-minded people verbalize their thoughts, share their experiences, and offer support! Having time to listen and then process and reply gives you more time to reflect and respond, unlike some fast-paced Twitter chats. Because most people on Vox use the app on their phone, you can listen as you go and don’t need to be stuck to your screen to interact with connections.
My first introduction to Voxer on a professional level was through a book group. You usually think of a book group meeting in a library and sitting in a circle or at someone’s house over snacks talking about a book. A book study is a perfect use of the app—that was true before the pandemic, and it will still be true after. I’m currently involved in two book groups that allow me to read, connect, and learn. The hosts share prompts, and participants contribute. The shared accountability is motivating, and it’s fun to meet new educators and share my thinking. We all stay at the same pace, keeping the information from each chapter fresh in our minds. But outside of book clubs, there are several uses for the app, such as collaborating on initiatives and swapping resources.
5 Reasons to Try Voxer
1. It allows you to engage on your time. I love Twitter chats. However, I have missed a week (or many weeks), have forgotten, or simply could not fit it into my schedule. When you use Voxer, the conversation is not in real time. You’re able to listen when you can and reply when you have time. I often use Voxer during my commute. I joke with my connections, “It’s like my podcast, but I can participate.” We never have enough time, but you can be efficient by turning nonproductive time into learning, reflecting, and connecting opportunities.
2. It showcases the power of voice. Enthusiasm, excitement, difficulty, and other emotions are easier to hear and understand when delivered with our own voices. I also know I have fat thumbs; how many autocorrects have you had to text again?
3. It’s user friendly. The app is easy to navigate through once you’re working with it. It doesn’t have as many buttons or icons to decipher as other apps. You can turn notifications on or off to customize your experience.
4. It’s courteous. You don’t have to disturb a contact by calling them for something minor. You don’t have to let the phone ring and then wait through their voicemail recording.
5. It’s efficient. You can share more talking on Voxer than if you were typing. Plus, you can get your whole thought out without being interrupted.
So, how do you get started?
- You can create an account by downloading the free app on your phone or by visiting the official website.
- Once you are signed up, choose a username and upload a photo so that others can easily recognize you.
- When your profile is complete, Voxer automatically shows you a list of all your contacts that have Voxer accounts. You can start voxing with them, create a group chat for multiple friends, or invite people who aren’t yet on Voxer to join.
Discovering educators or educational groups to join on Voxer is not as straightforward as in other social networking sites. Unlike the situation with traditional social media platforms, you can’t just search for a keyword or hashtag and request to join the group. Finding groups on Voxer requires some endurance and perseverance.
Tips for finding education groups on Voxer:
- One place to discover Voxer education groups is on Twitter. Search @eduvoxer or #eduvoxer or just @Voxer. They often post listings of education groups.
- I have referenced a spreadsheet I first saw published by Karen Corbell, Heather Gauck, Sarah Thomas, and Anibal Pacheco on their blog. This is a fantastic resource for anyone looking to join or start a Voxer group.
If you can’t find a group that interests you or you want to dip your toe in the Voxer pool first, create your own group. It’s an excellent way to keep in touch with people you met at a conference or connections with common interests. Pull in connections from your building PLN and online connections to have conversations. It’s perfect for people who want to connect and chat but don’t have time to do so face-to-face.