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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, Peter DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. Former superintendent Michael Nelson is a frequent contributor. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Voxer: I Get It Now!!!

By Peter DeWitt — June 24, 2014 3 min read
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One of the benefits of blogging is we can put an idea out into the universe and hear back from readers. Sometimes those readers will let us know that we are wrong and why they disagree with us, while other times they show support for our ideas. If we can’t learn from others while we are blogging, there is no reason to blog.

I typically question everything. It’s a curse. It doesn’t prevent me from moving on with a decision, but I need to question something before I act upon it. Maybe I’m just not that spontaneous but we have so many issues/suggestions/silver bullets coming at us in education, that I want to make sure I think before I act. I need evidence before I buy into the next big thing.

So I question lots of issues, tools, reform, etc. through this blog.

The other day I blogged that I didn’t understand Voxer, which is an app you can download to your Smartphone. It acts like a walkie-talkie and provides users with the opportunity to interact with others who use the app. As much as I tried to use it, I just didn’t get it, so I wrote about it hoping someone would respond.

And respond they did...

Although some readers agreed with me and shared in my lack of understanding, far more told me the benefits of using it. The truth is I use Voxer but not as much as I use other social media tools like Twitter and Facebook. I was on Voxer because it was the new shiny thing in my life, but I quickly lost interest. However, over the past 48 hours my mind has quickly changed.

It started with an important student-centered Tweet...

Teacher Sara Edwards Tweeted to me that she used Voxer with a selectively mute child who would communicate through the tool before she was ever able to communicate face-to-face. That alone began to sway me.

And then I received a practical Tweet. Kyle Calderwood Tweeted that Voxer is the go between app where a message is too long for Twitter but short enough that you do not need to do a Google Hangout. That makes perfect sense.

And then I heard from my PLN. Tech Guru Tom Murray, who is a huge fan of Voxer, told me through a Voxer chat that he uses it to communicate more with people in his PLN. He said that sometimes a Google Hangout isn’t relevant because people can’t schedule a time to talk, and some topics are not appropriate for Twitter.

I like that.

It’s How You Use It

On Monday morning I went for a walk to clear my head and start my week with a bit of peaceful calmness, and I took time to listen and engage in a Voxer chat. Yes, I brought my phone because I wanted the perfect work-life balance on the walk. There were a couple of conversations going on.

In one, we talked about the importance of communicating with one another, especially during stressful times in our careers. It made me think of a Voxer chat a few weeks ago where a few school leaders and teachers in my PLN were sharing the positive and negative side to teacher evaluations.

A chat on Voxer can bring people together and help build camaraderie among people who cannot always get together face to face. And it is a two-sided conversation. One person talks and others respond and then offer their own questions. As much as Voxer seems like it can be all about monologue, when used correctly it actually builds dialogue.

In the End

The reality is that I could not get Sara Edwards’ Tweet out of my mind. She uses a technology tool to communicate with a child who normally wouldn’t communicate. It helped build a bridge, and now the student is talking with a teacher that she clearly trusts. Sara went an extra mile to build a bridge of understanding.

Tools such as Voxer can do that. If used appropriately, it helps build stronger connections with people, whether they work in the same school, or are separated from coast to coast. As I negotiate my way through the tool, I will admit that I cannot take the time to listen to the strand of 186 individual conversations going on in a few of the chats. However, the one I took part in on the morning walk certainly helped me see that I was wrong in my approach to Voxer.

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The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.