What is Google Voice? For us in Canada, it means that you can log into Gmail and make phone calls to any phone in North America for FREE. You can make international calls as well, and the rates are fairly good ($0.02 per minute to the UK). Being the cheap person that I am, my parents will be happy to hear that I'll be calling them more often now, rather than making them phone me. Now, for the moment, we cannot receive calls in Google Voice, only send them. Over time, we will most likely be able to get a Google number, just like they have in the US, but we'll just have to be patient and wait for those advanced features.
To set it up, you first need to have a Gmail account. If you haven't jumped on the Google bandwagon yet, I suggest you do by going here. Then head over to Google Voice here, sign in, and install Google Voice. Afterwards, you can head into Gmail and click on Call Phone, located down on the left-hand sidebar.
This will create a telephone-like popup, allowing you to place a phone call to any phone.
To utilize the service you will need some kind of microphone, whether it is built-in or through an external device (you can get microphones at the dollar store). Make sure you click on Settings in the top-right corner, select the Chat tab, and choose which device you want to use for your microphone.
Now what does this have to do with education? At first sight, very little. However, Google Voice has a few educational applications that I can think of, especially if you are utilizing the video call feature (didn't mention that part, did I?).
You could use the service to connect experts with students that they normally wouldn't have access to. If students are learning about aquatic animals or habitats, connect with a marine biologist and broadcast the call through your computer speakers and Smartboard. Students will have the opportunity to ask the experts questions and make real-life connections. Connect with people local to your area to learn about your community's history, or with a new Canadian to hear about the differences between Canada and their homeland.
Do you have ideas? Add them in the comments section below: