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3 innovative ways to connect with parents via cellphone voice service

4 min read


We all know we can use a cellphone to make calls, but few realize all of the innovative ways simple calling technology can help us in building the home-school connection. If you know how to pick up a phone and dial, then it’s time to take it up a notch and learn about free and easy resources that will help you coordinate and connect with parents in powerful and exciting ways.

1) iPadio

Wouldn’t it be great to have a weekly podcast for parents? While the idea sounds good, when we think of podcasting, it often seems confusing and hard to put together. Not so with a phonecasting service such as iPadio. All you need to know is how to dial a phone number and speak. Then, boom! Your phonecast is published and can be shared via website, blog, e-mail or text.

Teachers can use iPadio to bridge the home-school connection by wearing a basic headset that comes with every cellphone and recording mini lessons with iPadio. This is great for students who were absent and need to catch up, for students who need a lesson review and for parents who are wondering, “What did my child learn in school today?” Teachers could even record several mini lessons in advance of a unit and let students flow through at their own pace.

Students could be brought in to help create phonecasts that share school news, upcoming events, students of the month or celebrated student work or teacher success.

2) Voki

With Voki, you can share a message using an animated avatar that talks using your voice, recorded from your phone. You can design the avatar’s appearance, add voice and get an embed code to pop it into any Web 2.0-compatible site (wikis, blogs, Facebook, websites) or even an old-school PowerPoint. The avatar moves and speaks based on what you say.

Because Voki is easily embeddable, school staff often use it to record introduction messages for school websites. For example, special education teacher Kim Gill has embedded a Voki.

Not only does Voki provide a fun way to share information with parents, but you also can capture anyone’s message with a cellphone. This means once you set up Voki up on a computer, you can hand a phone to a student, teacher or principal to capture powerful words and ideas to share.

3) Google Voice

Contact is key. Our constituency wants us to be accessible. However, 24/7 access isn’t always possible, and it shouldn’t be. Chris Casal, technology teacher and tech coordinator at P.S. 10 in Brooklyn, N.Y., uses his Google Voice number daily to keep the parent-teacher line of communication open as well as serve as a point of contact to all members of the school community.

Google Voice is free. If you are a Google Apps school or have a Gmail account, you can get a Google Voice phone number. You can create a Gmail account for free if you don’t have one.

This can be useful for connecting and coordinating with parents by acting as your personal secretary. Google Voice transcribes messages, allowing you to skip messages from callers you don’t want to hear from and inviting you to eavesdrop as a message is being left. Record yourself! Leave yourself a Google Voice message to capture a recording with important information for parents. That message can be e-mailed or texted to parents. With Google Voice, you can easily share messages with your school administrator. Rather than explaining to your principal a message from a concerned parent, Google Voice lets you forward the audio message and transcript via e-mail. Nothing is lost in translation.

So, what do you think? Could some of these resources help in building the home-school connection where you work? Which ideas seem successful, or which have you experienced as successful? Are there challenges or concerns that are in the way of you implementing these ideas?

Lisa Nielsen (@InnovativeEdu) has worked as a public-school educator and administrator since 1997 and is the author of “Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning” and The Innovative Educator blog.