A newly acquired mobile resource from Google called GrandCentral works in a similar fashion to the recently canceled PrivatePhone. While GrandCentral is currently in private beta form (you can request an account), I have a feeling that it will soon become widely available. GrandCentral allows you to get a new private number (for free) in your area code. This private number will go directly to GrandCentral's voice mail account or you can have the number ring any (or all) of your phones. For example it could ring your cell phone and landline at the same time! The fact that the number is NOT your real cell phone or landline number is fantastic, so teachers do not have to give out their private numbers to students or parents, but they still have a way to be contacted. Additionally since the number is a local area code, students who do not have cell phones, can call in to the number from their landlines and complete audio assignments and quizzes without charge.
In GrandCentral's online voice mail you can retrieve messages (as audio files) and you can assign specific greetings to specific callers. This is an excellent feature if you are giving a verbal assignment and would like students to "speak" their assignment (such as an oral quiz in a foreign language class or a "think-a-loud" after reading a chapter in the class novel). Also, you can record any phone call at anytime (this is a great feature if you have a difficult call with a parent or student and you want to document what has been said). This is also a nice feature for student's doing interviewing or even podcasting.
At GrandCentral there is another feature called ListenIn, where you can listen to why a caller is calling (for example why a parent or student needs to talk with you) before deciding to pick up the call. This could help teachers better prepare for a conversation with parents.
Teachers can assign different ringtones to different groups of people. So they know when students, parents, or their friends are calling without even having to look at their phone.
GrandCentral could be useful not only with oral homework assignments and quizzes, but also with parent and student communication. I can't wait for this resource to go public!
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