As with any new or pseudo-new technology, many of us love to make use of what works liberally and in most circumstances, this is absolutely awesome. But as many of us also know, despite our love for these new tools, striking a balance is essential.
This is definitely the case with Voxer, a walkie-talkie app that is getting lots of use in the connected education community. Admittedly, hearing the voices of our distant colleagues adds a level of personal connection that Twitter or Facebook lack, but it can also be easily overused and overwhelming for some.
I enjoy Voxer more in small groups of two to four tops as it seems most manageable with only a few people chiming in at sporadic intervals. This way, it's easy to keep up with the conversation without letting my obsessive tendencies take over.
Something I've noticed is that when the little numbers on my smartphone start to grow, I feel compelled to look. Whether it's my email or now Voxer or other apps like Timehop. And seeing double-digit messages that need to be listened to is daunting.
(I've tried shutting off the notifications, but this ends up being harder because when I do remember to check in on the app, I have way too many to listen to).
And despite wanting to be a part of the conversation, I find when there is too much conversation, I check out quicker. I start using the "mark all heard" button so that the numbers go away and then I'm less inclined to catch up on the sometimes hours of listening I have to do.
So how can Voxer continue to be an awesome tool without disrupting our lives too much, I have some suggestions:
If it could be typed instead of spoken, sometimes that's preferred. Especially if it is 10 words or less. Then I can get in, read the text respond quickly, and get rid of the little number without feeling left out. Plus, if I'm in a space where it would be inappropriate for me to listen to the message, I can answer quickly without being disruptive.
When speaking must be done, consider your thoughts before you hold down the button. The wait time pauses and umms, take up a lot of time and make people less likely to listen and maybe even annoyed.
Be mindful of the time that you're speaking. It's okay to have a lot to say, but consider breaking it up into multiple voxes, preferably no more than two minutes apiece. Even two minutes is sometimes hard to listen to when you're on the go.
Although it is awesome to introduce yourself at the beginning of a voxer conversation, if you're voxing repeatedly with the same person or people, it's okay to skip the introductions. Your name appears with your avatar next to each vox and it saves a couple of seconds of listening.
If you're in a group chat and a side conversation inadvertently ensues, it's okay to start a side vox with just the person involved. This way the other members of the group don't have to overhear your semi-private conversation and/or waste time listening to stuff that doesn't really include them.
Be intentional with your voxes, especially in groups. Remember this is still people's time and many of us have a hard time balancing it. Speak when you truly have something to share, not just to do it. Respect the time of the people in your groups.
Avoid redundancy and repetition as one of the benefits of Voxer is that you can replay a vox and therefore don't need to have the same information more than once. The listener can easily flag the important message by highlighting the heart and they can back to it as much as needed.
If you reference links or other resources, drop them in the vox, it makes it easier for everyone to follow along. This works for pictures and also for links.
Short video can be used, but recommended only for smaller groups of four or less unless the group is specifically put together to develop better videos together.
Always take an extra second before you start to vox to make sure you are voxing the right person. It can be a little embarassing for you and confusing to the listener if the wrong person gets a vox meant for someone else. This of course is true for texting as well. But accidents happen, so just be apologetic. If you have a pro account, you can actual recall mistakes.
Consider where you're doing the voxing. Sometimes speaking in crowded rooms makes it hard to hear or understand what is being said. This is also so if voxing with the windows open in the car or with the music turned up. Try to have a conversation in a quieter setting.
Voxer is a versatile tool and it's bringing great people together, but we still need to be mindful of what and how we're using it.
What are some tips you have to share that would make using Voxer even better? Please share
This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in August of 2016