Technology Integration

Using Voxer to Streamline School Communication

March 17, 2015

Editor's Note: Sheilah Jefferson-Isaac and Bilal Polson, both assistant principals at Northern Parkway Elementary, contributed to this post.

Voxer is described as a free app that combines the best of voice, text, and photo messages into a high-tech walkie-talkie, creating a powerful, modern, personal and team messaging tool. As the administrative team at Northern Parkway Elementary School in Uniondale, New York, we've found that Voxer has served as a simple yet effective way to improve the following administrative practices.

A Communication Tool

School administration can be very fast paced and detail oriented with many decisions, big and small, made throughout the course of a day. With one principal and two assistant principals, the amount of information that we have to consume can be quite overwhelming. We've found Voxer invaluable in helping us to stay connected and communicate more effectively during the school day. As soon as there's a decision that another administrator needs to know about, we no longer need to schedule a meeting, craft an email, or even send a text. Voxer provides an opportunity to leave a detailed message that can be retrieved by the rest of the team when time permits.

It also allows us to engage in a more reflective practice with time to consider a response instead of providing immediate feedback. Whereas in the past, we had to carve out time for all three administrators to be in the same place at the same time, we've found that sharing, discussing, and even debating ideas via Voxer has cut our meeting time down from 4-6 hours to 1-2 hours a week, allowing us more time to collaborate with teachers and communicate with students.

A Relationship-Building Tool

As administrators in a school with over 760 students and 100 staff members, we recognized that, in order to continue meeting the day-to-day needs of our students and staff, we had to establish and enhance relationships with key stakeholders throughout the school and district. This year the administrative team has met with fellow district administrators (any time that we can get them alone for a minute) to introduce them to Voxer. Too often we see our administrative colleagues for short amounts of time (at district meetings, staff development, and/or in passing) and rarely get to check in on how they are doing. Voxer has allowed us to reach out for a quick hello, to ask questions, share information and news, and update colleagues on changes of plan -- and (on rare occasions) share our frustration. What has been most satisfying is that, no matter where we are physically, we are only a vox away from being connected.

A Tool in Lieu of Meetings

Have you ever attended a meeting where everyone who was supposed to be there wasn't? If so, then you know that inevitably the information will have to be repeated. It's a very real challenge getting administrators from the various schools and offices to meet in one place. Voxer has allowed us to be strategic not only in when we schedule meetings, but in who needs to be "present" for what. We have established a series of chats with colleagues that allow us to disseminate important information as soon as it's ready to be shared. We don't need to rely as heavily on face-to-face meetings for sharing and reviewing information. Whether we're voxing with our Director of Mathematics to discuss the new math program or with our Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction about professional development ideas, communication and collaboration have been greatly enhanced.

Previously, if we needed to share information or seek an answer, our recourse was limited to an email (one of dozens and dozens that we all receive daily) or phone call (that would almost always go to voicemail). Now we send a vox, and our director has an archived message that is readily available at the push of a button. We found that the majority of voxes we send have a turnaround response time of less than 15 minutes. Our teachers very much appreciate the prompt reply to their curriculum-related questions, and we appreciate not always being caught up in lengthy phone conversations with our colleagues.

Next Steps

In moving forward as a school community, a next step for us is to expand on our use of Voxer with the Northern Parkway staff. We are excited to see that a few of our teachers have jumped on board. Now the goal is to support them in collaborating as teams to further strengthen their professional relationships and their relationships with their class families, and to maximize their professional growth together.

(In fact, while writing this post, we used Google Documents and Voxer from our own homes to collaborate and share ideas.)

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