A key element of my privacy project is the study of some apps, with a specific lens being trained towards their privacy policies. I want to go beyond an appreciation of what the app can do, and delve into the implications of their data collection practices. With my budding understanding on how big of a conversation this is, the collection and storage of potentially confidential and personally identifying, is this an app that I should think twice about using?
Enter Voxer, the “Walkie Talkie App”
So, why choose Voxer you ask? Honestly, I didn’t know the app existed until I had a conversation with Bill Fitzgerald, a professional contact suggested to me by Alec Couros. He mentioned Voxer as an example of an app that has good pedagogy, but not so good data collection policies. “Perfect,” I thought. Now I can get a barometer for what a worst case type of scenario can look like. Knowing his concerns, what do I do? Register for Voxer, OF COURSE!
For this first part of my review, I will focus on introducing the app. I will briefly describe what it can do, and discuss some of its potential for supporting education purposes.
What is it? First, let us begin with a description of the app itself. Voxer is an app that is centered around facilitating communication. In some ways, it appears to be a feature heavy messaging app. On their homepage, it seems geared towards a professional contexts. It features the ability to easily run chats with as many as 500 people.
But there is a heavy educational slant with this application as well. An article on Edutopia by Brian Sztabnik, advocates for the potential of Voxer to be transformative in our classroom:
Feedback: Benefits include helping the teacher to provide meaningful feedback to students, and to easily share that same feedback with parents. I can see the potential for this right away. It’d be nice to pass along corrective feedback in a context like guided reading, right to parents. Then they could hear it and try ad reinforce it with their child at home.
PLN: The article also talks about its potential to facilitate communication with PLNs. Without actually having tried this, I can hypothetically see how this could work. One of the major challenges for our schol division directed PLN time is that the participating teachers won’t see each other for months at a time. My own PLN met in early Fall, and we haven’t seen each other since. If we had all set up accounts on Voxer, and exchanged contacts, I could see it helping us to keep in touch rather easily.
Voxer can easily be used to help group teachers together for a variety of different purposes. An educator reviewed their experience with Voxer for edtechreview: “With a variety of backgrounds in education and technology, all of us seemed to work in positions where there’s a tendency to feel “alone” … We loved Voxer so much because we could hear each other. We heard passion, excitement, disappointment, frustration, a variety of feelings that are hard to translate through written word. Immediately, the dynamics of how we communicated and what we communicated evolved..”
In this Youtube video, Ashley Hurley talks about how she uses Voxer with her across the nation PLN:
Flipping the Classroom: The article also included a testimonial from a teacher who was using it to help flip their classroom, to a degree. He uses the app to pose questions to his students on a book they are reading, and students would respond to the prompts as they were working at home, or wherever they were. “My students would have rich conversations about the novel well into the night, creating one unified class beyond the four walls of the classroom.”
Registration: To begin with, let’s talk about installation. When registering, the first thing I notice is that it immediately asks for some pretty identifying information.
Since this is a messaging app, I wonder if it is going to be internet based, or running through my phone service somehow.If it is internet based, why would it need my phone number? Anyways, I fill it in .. After setting up my account, I notice that the app connects to my sms contacts and recognizes six people I know are already registered with Voxer.
Paid vs Free: TO note, there is a free version and paid version. The paid version costs 30 US$/year. It boasts features such as: voice to text transcription, unlimited storage (free version deleted messages after 30 days), message recall, administrative controls for chat groups you run … goes without saying that I tuned out the paid version benefits and went for the free version…
First Try: I decide to bug my LRT partner and send her a request to join me on Voxer. She accepts, clearly waiting by her phone for any text from me, and we take some friendly potshots at each-other. I want to try the voice function and send her a quick hello. This is what it looks like:
My LRT sidekick and I will try and use this for communication over the next little bit. I’m not sure if this will stick, but it theoretically does actually address a perceived need of ours. We do both run very packed schedules of support groups and push-in classroom support as well. We sometimes have trouble finding eachother, or the time to talk to eachother, as things come up during the day. This might be a way of us letting the other know how things are going, or asking questions in less cumbersome ways than writing out an email or dialing a phone call.
Coming up in Voxer Review – Part 2!
I have started to comb through the privacy agreement and will discuss red flags, and how those red flags might potentially dampen enthusiasm for use of this app. Especially with students.
Thanks for Reading!