Parent contact is one of the easiest ways to make a positive impact on student engagement. Every educator knows (or should know) that when parents are kept in the loop concerning student behavior and grades students perform better and have less discipline problems.
There are always barriers to parent communication but Google makes it easier. Any user with a school Google Account could have their own phone number specifically desginated for parent contact. This means that teachers could call any phone in the United States for free from their computer (or any other computer for that matter). All it requires is an Internet connection and a Google Account. In this post I will share how using Google Voice will save the educator time and provide valuable documentation that can be used to meaningfully and conveniently connect with parents.
Click here to install the Google Voice plugin. This software is required for any computer that you want to call from.
There are two ways to access the free telephone located in every Google Account. The first way to make telephone calls is directly in Gmail. The phone is located in the chat window. Follow the steps below to access your telephone.
- Click the telephone in the chat menu to reveal the phone dialer shown in the screenshot below.
Notes on the phone dialer. The account balance of ten cents USD is misleading for education customers. That only means that Google has given you a credit ten cents just in case you wanted to make a call outside the US. This is a FREE service, don't worry.
- Dial any number in the United States, area code, first and press call.
It is that simple.
Keep in mind that you must have a microphone and speakers for this to work. All Apple and Chromebook computers have them built in. A cheap pair of headphones with a mic works wonders for PC’s.
Registering a Google Voice number
If this is your first time to access the telephone in Gmail you probably have not registered a number with Google Voice (also free). If you call from Gmail without registering a permanent number, then the caller ID will display a random number Google assigns non-registered Google Accounts. The downside to this is that parents do not know who is calling. Most of the time it is an area code from California, which really confuses the parents I contact from Arkansas. To make the number permanent, you must register your Google Account at voice.google.com. This leads us to the second way to access the Google Voice service. Follow the steps below to access Google Voice
- Go to voice.google.com to reveal the getting started box.
- Choose “I want a new number”
- This will allow you to have your own number that students or parents may call. If your are signed out of your Google Account, Gmail will answer for you and send you a transcript and voice mail in an email. This opens up possibilities for a student homework helpline or office hours. For example, students may have a particularly difficult homework assignment. The teacher would give the students her Google Voice number (that is ok because it is officially for school use) and sign in for a predetermined time, if students want help they can call the teacher during the time. (Google Plus would be better but not every student has Internet access at home.)
After you complete steps 1 and 2 Google will ask you to choose your own phone number. Be mindful of the area code because parents are likely not going to answer a call from Alaska.
Many More Features
There are many more features that can be accessed by using Google Voice that are not available when teachers are just calling from Gmail. However, after you register your account with Google Voice calling phones from Gmail will have your personalized number. By accessing voice.google.com teachers may record phone calls, send text messages and a host of other features.
Check out this parent call log that can be shared with your principal to keep an accurate record of phone conversations. This is a Google Spreadsheet. Have it open when you make a call to record who you talked to and what student. Use the notes section to document what was said.
To find out more about Google Apps for Education please check out my book: