Tag Archives: affinity spaces

Move over Twitter, I kind of love Voxer now

Ok, maybe the title of my post is a bit of a misnomer, for those of you who know me and my Twitter addiction.  I really do love Twitter as a platform for connecting, sharing, and learning.  BUT, I have to say, that Voxer, the walkie-talkie app that seems to have been taken over by the Education world, has become my new favourite affinity space.

James Gee (2004) defines online affinity spaces as “the virtual places where people interact to promote a particular shared interest or common goal…They include a range of different online spaces, such as websites that promote particular kinds of fan fiction writing, online games, social networking sites, knowledge building sites or sites catering to the interests of particular professions or workplaces” (Jones & Hafner, 2012, page 116).

These spaces often develop their own culture as the participants are often from diverse cultures and backgrounds, age groups, and genders (Jones & Hafner, 2012).  Voxer definitely fits the bill.

What is Voxer?

Voxer is literally a walkie-talkie app which allows participants to talk in real time (if people are on line at the same time), send a text, a picture, and now even a video.  Messages, not listened to in real time, are stored on your device and can be listened to when you are in your car, getting ready for your day, or instead of watching re-runs on television.  There is a Pro version that allows you to recall messages and personalize groups, but the free version of the app is available in iOS, Android, and online and has suited me just fine.

Why Voxer?

Voxer really allows for more intimate community building than Twitter, Linkd’in or Facebook.  This is because there are no character limits, but especially because when you hear someone’s voice and intonation as they speak, despite the fact that you’ve never met this person face to face, you feel as if you really know them.  There is also an immediacy to it if a person is online at the same time as you are as you can have a conversation as if you are on the phone.  Not to mention that when you hear a person laugh, cry, or squeal with excitement (all of which my Voxer group has endured from me), you can’t help but feel you know them.

My #Edumatch Voxer group: A mosaic of cultures and Religions

I belong to an Edumatch voxer group created by Sarah Thomas.  One of the most fascinating aspects of this group is its diversity.

During one chat session, we learned that we had the following religious denominations represented: Buddhist, Muslim, Catholic, Jewish, Lutheran, Mormon, and Presbyterian.  I’m not sure why the issue of religion had never come up before, but it was really neat to know that despite our very different religious backgrounds, our common interest in education, and meeting the needs of our learners trumped anything else.  Rachel Pierson shared a similar poster to the group which I modified below.

A Muslim, a Jew, a Buddhist, and a Catholic walked into a coffee shop. They ate and drank and had a good time. It's not a joke. It's what happens when you are not a jerk. (1)

We are also diverse in terms of geography.  At the time of writing, I am the only active educator from Ontario in the group, but we have almost every state in the United States represented, as well as having members from the Philippines, Ghana, and Brazil.  For me it has been fascinating to learn about what teaching and learning looks like from those various perspectives.

How is this Professional Learning?

Voxer as Level 2 EdcampI really only checked out Voxer because I had attended a virtual EdCamp on MIT’s Unhangout platform this summer and Matt Frat told me that Voxer was a Level 2 Edcamp.  This is because, I soon discovered, discussions about technology, teaching practice, assessment, professional learning, etc…happen organically and on a per needs basis.

Our Voxer group has one commonality:  we are all educators.  But because of the range of expertise and grade levels within the group, the knowledge base is incredible.  We are constantly sharing resources and ideas.  We challenge each other’s thinking and we support each other’s “eduwins”.  There have been several times when I have been stuck with a technical issue or needed an opinion about an idea or a tool that would work best for my needs and I’ve gotten a response almost immediately.  Shout out to Christy Cate from Texas, Craig Yen from California, and Justin Schleider from Jersey, who have been in the right time zone when I am in desperate need of assistance on more than one occasion.

But I could literally each of these Edumatch Rockstars  have been cheerleaders, resource sharers, confidants, and advice-givers over the past few months.  I feel as though I have known many of them forever and yet I’ve never met a single one of them in real life.

How to get started

  • Download the app on iOS, Android, or create an account online.  On your phone you will automatically see any contacts who have the app show up on your phone.
  • Twitter seems to be a common conduit for Voxer chats to begin as Voxer groups can act as a continuation of a twitter chat.  You may have seen references to Voxer groups on Twitter without realizing what that meant.
  • Because Voxer groups are closed groups, you need to be invited to a Voxer chat by a current member or if you are really adventurous, you can start your own and invite a few friends with common interests or who teach the same grade.
  • Check out these resource videos created by Justin Schleider on how to use Voxer.
  • Tammy Neil also has some great resources on using Voxer for PD. Her post, Anatomy of a Voxer Chat is helpful, but feel free to check out her website for lots of other great ideas and posts.

Here is a list of the Educational Voxer Groups curated by Sarah Thomas, Karen Corbell, and Heather Gauck which will provide you with ideas about how Voxer is being used by Educators already.  Just contact the group leader if you are interested.

Drawbacks

I would say the only drawback to being a part of a Voxer group would be time.  Fostering a community (whether online or offline) takes dedication and time.  Because I feel I know these educators so well, I feel terrible when I don’t check in,  but more than that, I truly miss the camaraderie, the learning, and the support when I’ve been away for a while.  There are, however, only so many hours in a day, so our rule is “no guilt”.  We check in when we can and need to and everyone is welcoming when you do come back after a hiatus.

Other Resources

Voxer, My new summer love! by Valerie Lewis is a great post about Voxer.

Amy Heavin also has a great post, Find your Tribe on developing a PLN using Twitter and Voxer.

Voxer is definitely not for everyone.  And it may not be right for you right now.

What questions or experiences do you have with Voxer? Would love to hear about them.

References:

Jones, R. H., & Hafner, C. A. (2012). Understanding digital literacies: A practical introduction. London: Routledge.