For a While now I’ve been thinking of different ways that students can have asynchronous voice conversations outside the classroom. I’m convinced that this would help a lot of my adult learners to improve their English more quickly, as IMHO it’s the short, weekly exposure to a foreign language that they get in traditional 1.5 hour lessons that is holding them back. If they could get online a couple of times a week and take part in an asynchronous conversation, a bit like an oral blog, I’m sure that it would help them to recall more vocabulary, create interest in what they are learning and give them a focus for their studies.

I wrote a while back about a great called Evoca. But it is a bit labour intensive, requiring the Evoca account holder (the busy teacher) to manually embed the code for any replies they got to their voicemails if they wanted to share them with the rest of the class. This led to me not using Evoica that much after first discovering it.

“Get A Buz,” despite it’s silly name, provides bloggers, MySpace users, and in general anyone with a website to include a voicemail type of widget, that would allow a teacher, or one of the students, to start off a discussion. Other class members can then listen in their own time to the discussion and then add their comments. All of this happend automatically, with the teacher only having to upload the code to the blog once, and then they can simply follw the discussion and reply to their students wherever relevant.

Here’s an example of a “Get A Buz” plugin below. Click on the “Hear My Message” to listen to my recording, then please feel free to leave me a reply too:

The things I like about “Get A Buz” are:

  • It’s a great way to get students speaking L2 outside the classroom. This will be really valuable to them IMHO.
  • It’s pretty straightforward to use. As long as you know how to embed a bide of HTML in your blog page you can use it.
  • Once you have set it up, it “Just Works” there is no need to perform ongoing maintenance on it.

The things I don’t like are:

  • You only get 3, free “Buzzes” per account. This means that you can’t start new discussions over and over again without either paying, or re-registering.
  • With large classes the conversation threads could become a bit lost and it might be difficult to follow who is following who.
  • It’s not possible to get rid of one “pre installed” introductory voicemail which is essentially just an advert.
  • Most Importantly, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of notification / RSS feed etc to let the teacher and students know when a new comment has been left. This could be a a bit of a pain if the teacher has to check the site for new messages.

All told, I think Get A Buz is a cool little tool to use, especially as it’s very straightforward to set up. If anyone uses this, or any tools like it, leave me a comment to let me know what you do with it. I’d love to exchange teaching tips!

Seth.

Update: Be aware! Get a Buz allows you to create up to three different personalised “greetings” for your voicemail, but each and every voicemail player will record and play the same messages.

In other words if you want to use Get A Buz with more than one class of students, make sure you get several accounts with Get A Buz and use a different account with each class. Otherwise all your messages from all your different classes will become mixed together as one (as has just happened to me!)

Seth