Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Volley - Video, Audio, and Text Messaging for Learning

Disclosure: Volley is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

At the end of 2021 an old friend from the early days of Free Technology for Teachers introduced me to a new conversation platform called Volley. I liked it so much that I included Volley in my Best of the Web 2021 webinar. So now that you know I’m excited about it, let’s take a look at what Volley is and how it can be used in school settings.

What is it?
In my webinar last month I described Volley as “Flipgrid meets Slack.” But that description doesn’t accurately convey all that Volley does.

At its core Volley is a mobile and desktop application for video messaging with members of a group. However, those who are camera shy can use Volley without turning on their cameras. You can use Volley to record and share screencasts without turning on your camera. Additionally, Volley offers options for audio and text messaging. And if you’d like to have a conversation about a document, you can share the file with others in your group. To add a little fun to your Volley conversations, use the library of GIFs to interact with members of your Volley groups.

One of the features of Volley that I really appreciate is that a written transcript is automatically generated for every video and audio message. The transcript is great for making the conversation accessible to those who have difficulty hearing what is being said in a Volley conversation.
 
How does it work?
To get started using Volley you need to install it on your mobile device (iOS or Android) or on your computer (Windows or Mac). Once you’ve installed the app, sign in and you’ll be welcomed with a video introduction from Volley’s CEO, Josh Little. You can reply to Josh with a video or audio message, if you’d like.

You can organize conversations on Volley into spaces. A space allows you to gather people together in one place. Within a space you can create channels (which are open and discoverable) and conversations (which are private and invite-only). You can create as many spaces and invite as many people as you want. By default you’ll have a space named after you (mine is Richard’s Space and you can join it here) and you can create as many additional spaces as you want. In short, think of spaces in Volley as classrooms or groups. Channels are conversations within a Volley space. For example, I created a Volley space for my Junk-free January challenge and within that space I created three channels; daily support, random, and welcome.

Watch this short video to see how Volley works.



How can it be used in educational settings?
The education page on Volley’s website suggests a handful of ways that one might use Volley for educational purposes. Before I even saw that page I thought that Volley could be great for extending classroom conversations and for providing a support or an academic help forum for classes. 

In Volley you could create a space that all of your students in a class join. Then within that space create channels labeled “academic help” and “continuing classroom discussion.” Use the academic help channel for students to post questions and answer classmates’ questions about assignments, tricky concepts, or anything else that they need assistance with. The screencasting capability of Volley could be very useful when trying to answer some of the questions in that channel. Likewise, the file sharing capability could be handy when students simply need another copy of a rubric or assignment description.

A “continuing classroom discussion” channel in your classroom Volley space could be great for giving students the opportunity to participate in discussions even if they weren’t present in class. Additionally, students who didn’t get enough time to talk during a class discussion would benefit from being able to share more of their thoughts. You could also use this channel as a place to post exit ticket prompts for your students to respond to. Here’s a list of some of my favorite exit ticket prompts.

In this short video I demonstrate how to create academic help and continuing classroom discussion channels in a Volley classroom space. 



In the context of professional development, Volley could be a great solution for schools. Tech coaches and instructional coaches can use Volley to create online spaces in which faculty members can ask questions and participate in discussions about best practices for using technology in their classrooms.

Here’s a little video I made to show how I’d set up a Volley space for professional development.



Another way to think about using Volley for professional development is to have a principal or other school leader could create a Volley space for staff. Then within that space create channels according to grade level, subject area, or any other criteria for professional learning communities. Teachers can then share what’s working in their classrooms or ask for advice in an area they need help with (I’d stay away from discussing specific students). You might even just have a “random” or “fun” channel for team building.

Get Started!
For high school, college, and professional learning settings, Volley has a ton of potential for good. I’m excited to see more teachers use it. And if you just want to try it yourself before inviting your class or colleagues, join me on Volley and ask me a question or just say hello.

Consider This Tech Tuesday Planned! - And the Next One and the Next One...

I'm clearly not good at self-promotion otherwise I wouldn't have released an ebook right before the winter break when most people aren't thinking about everything but professional learning opportunities. But I did it anyway. So if you missed it in the last couple weeks of December, my new ebook is titled 50 Tech Tuesday Tips and you can get it right here

To create 50 Tech Tuesday Tips I went through more than 400 editions of my Practical Ed Tech Newsletter and picked out the 50 most popular and useful ones. I then did some editing and put all of them into one new ebook. Watch this video to see some of the highlights of the ebook including:

  • What to do when a web app isn't working as you expect.
  • Building your own search engine.
  • How to create green screen videos.
  • Improving instructional videos. 
  • Streamlining email management.
  • Creating educational games. 
  • DIY app creation.
  • Podcasting tips for teachers and students. 

Get your copy of 50 Tech Tuesday Tips right here!

No, this ebook isn't free but the tools that feature within it is free to use. Creating something like this takes many, many hours but reading it can save you many, many hours. Purchases of 50 Tech Tuesday Tips make it possible for me to create other free resources like The Practical Ed Tech Handbook that I update and give away to thousands of teachers every year.

Monday, January 3, 2022

How to Create and Publish Your First Podcast

If you're looking for a new classroom project to try in 2022, give podcasting a try. Recording and publishing podcasts is an activity that can be done equally well in in-person, online, and hybrid classrooms. And thanks to tools like Anchor, it is easier than ever to record and publish your first podcast. 

In this new video I demonstrate how to record and publish your first podcast by using Anchor. Besides its ease of use, one of the reasons that I like Anchor is that it includes a built-in library of transitions and sound effects to use in your podcasts. (The video also includes the debut of the new flannel shirt that was given to me at Christmas).  



Applications for Education
If you're wondering what your students can talk about in their podcasts consider the following topics.
  • Current events
  • Q&A with "experts" on a topic like video games, sports, or hobbies. 
  • Book talks
  • Weather reports
  • School news
For a list of questions that students can use while interviewing someone for a podcast, take a look at the Great Questions list from Story Corps

How to Record and Embed Audio in Google Docs

Last Friday I published a video about all of the things that can be done in Google Workspace when you have the Mote Chrome extension installed. The latest of those things is the ability to record audio and embed it directly into your Google Documents. When you do this you're able to play the audio without having to exit the document. This is a huge improvement over simply including a link to a hosted audio file in your doucment then having to listen to it in a separate browser window. 

Watch this short video to learn how to use Mote to record and embed audio into Google Docs. By the way, Mote calls these "hypermotes."


Applications for Education
I can see this being a useful tool for students who are learning a new language to record themselves and then get some feedback from you. For example, you might write a short monologue in Spanish for studnets to read aloud and record. That recording could then be made and inserted into a Google Document that they share with you so that you can listen to their pronunciation. 

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Add Audio to Almost Anything in Google Workspace

One of my absolute favorite new tools in 2021 was a Chrome extension called Mote. With Mote installed you can add audio comments to Google Docs, Google Classroom, and Google Slides. You can also use Mote to add audio to Google Forms and insert audio into Google Slides with just one click. Mote also lets you record audio messages to share directly in Gmail and or via QR codes. All of those things are featured in this Mote compilation video that I put together earlier this week. 


Applications for Education
As I've been saying since the first day that I tried Mote, the thing that I like the best about it is ability to give students feedback in your own voice. There's a comfort in hearing feedback instead of just reading it that a lot of students benefit from. That's especially true when the feedback is being provided to students who might struggle to understand your feedback when they're just reading it instead of hearing it.