Review by Polly Conway, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2013

Voxopop

Voice-based message boards good for speaking practice and discussion

Common Sense Says:
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Grades
8-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: It's easy to set up Talkgroups and propose discussions, and kids can practice for speaking in real-life situations.

Cons: Many of the public boards haven't been updated in years.

Bottom Line: Whether they're learning to analyze text or get practice speaking, Voxopop offers students a solid way to start a dialogue.

This type of voice-based message board could be a good way to get kids with writing challenges, literacy issues, or learning difficulties to communicate in a different way. Conversations are created verbally, and kids can share feelings, opinions, and ideas without being under pressure to write them all down. Also, Voxopop is an excellent tool for language-learning teachers, both world language and ELL. You could assign students a series of practice conversations within the site, ask them to dictate a text for reading-fluency practice, or have them ask and answer each others' questions in another tongue.

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Voxopop is an online message board system that uses voice instead of text. Its forums are called Talkgroups and can be created by anyone, including teachers, to talk about any subject. Talkgroups can be public, private, or invite-only. The site's design is a bit cluttered and contains some advertising; finding the recording tool might take a few tries, but once you've found it, you'll know where to go.

Anyone can explore and listen to public discussions, but only users who have created an account can contribute. Teachers can choose to make discussions private. When you create an account, you'll also be able to set up email notifications so you'll know when others contribute.

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Since the advent of real-time, video-chat forums like Google Hangouts and Skype, tools like Voxopop don't fill the same void that they used to. You have to record your message, then wait for others to respond. This may not fit for a heated political discussion, but could be just fine for a slow-paced chat or in-depth literary analysis. Plus, the ability to record and play back could also work well for language learners, a speech or class, or any other time a student needs to prepare and perfect a verbal presentation. Most members use Voxopop for language practice and learning, and it seems to work well for this.

However, the site isn't kept up very well, and there are some problems: At the time of this review, the browse/search function doesn't work due to "technical issues," and the blog hasn't been updated since 2011.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
3

It's a cool idea in theory but not as engaging as, say, a regular teleconference, where people communicate in real time. However, this could be great when classes can't get together at the same time, and personality can shine through.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

The depth of learning depends on the quality of discussion here, but there's potential at the very least. Having to vocalize opinions about subject matter should help kids with communication skills as well.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

A brief help page is available, and more detailed problems are addressed in a troubleshooting forum. Discussions are saved under a user's profile and can be replayed any time.


Common Sense Reviewer
Polly Conway Classroom teacher

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