Free Technology for Teachers: Volley

Disclosure: Volley Advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

At the end of 2021, an old friend from the early days of free technology for educators introduced me to a new chatting platform called Volley. I loved it so much that I included Volley in my Best of the Web 2021 webinar. Now that I know I’m excited about it, let’s take a look at what Volley is and how it can be used in school settings.

What is that?
At my webinar last month, Volley was described as “Flipgrid meets Slack”. But this description does not accurately convey everything that Volley does.

Volley is essentially a mobile and desktop application for video messaging with group members. However, those who are camera shy can use the Volley without turning on their cameras. You can use Volley to record and share screenshots without turning on the camera. In addition, Volley provides options for voice and text messages. And if you want to have a conversation about a document, you can share the file with others in your group. To add a little fun to your Volley conversations, use our library of GIFs to interact with members of your Volley groups.

One feature of Volley that I really appreciate is that a typed text is automatically generated for each video and audio message. The text is great for making conversation accessible to those who find it difficult to hear what is being said in Volley’s conversation.


How it works?

To start using Volley, you need to install it on your mobile device (iOS or Android) or on your computer (Windows or Mac). Once you install the app, sign in and you’ll be greeted with a video introduction from Volley’s CEO, Josh Little. You can reply to Josh with a video or audio message, if you wish.

You can organize conversations on the plane into spaces. The space allows you to bring people together in one place. Within a space, you can create channels (open and discoverable) and conversations (which are private and only supported). You can create as many spaces and invite as many people as you want. By default, you will have a space with your name (My space is Richard’s space and you can join it here) and you can create as many additional spaces as you want. In short, think of spaces at Volley as classrooms or groups. Channels are conversations within a plane space. For example, I created a plane space for the trash-free January Challenge and within that space I created three channels; Daily, random, and welcome support.

Watch this short video to see how Volley works.

How can it be used in educational settings?
The education page on the Volley website suggests quite a few ways one can use Volley for educational purposes. Before I saw this page, I thought Volley could be great for expanding class conversations and for providing a support or academic help forum for classes.

At Volley, you can create a space for all of your students in the class to join. Then in that space, create channels named “Academic Help” and “Ongoing Classroom Discussion”. Use the Student Academic Help Channel to post questions and answer peer questions about challenging assignments, concepts, or anything else they need help with. Volley’s screen recording ability can be very useful when trying to answer some of the questions on that channel. Likewise, the ability to share files can come in handy when students simply need another copy of the rubric or assignment description.

An Ongoing Classroom Discussion channel in your classroom can be great for giving students the opportunity to participate in discussions even if they are not in class. In addition, students who do not get enough time to speak during the class discussion will benefit from being able to share more of their ideas. You can also use this channel as a place to post exit ticket claims for your students to respond to. Here is a list of some of my favorite exit ticket prompts.

In this short video, I show how to create academic aid and continue classroom discussion channels in Volley Classroom.

In the context of professional development, Volley can be a great solution for schools. Technical and instructional coaches can use Volley to create online spaces where faculty members can ask questions and participate in discussions about best practices for using technology in their classrooms.

Here’s a small video I created to show how I prepared an airplane space for professional development.

Another way to think about using Volley for professional development is to have another principal or school leader who can create a flying space for the staff. Then in that space, create channels according to grade level, subject area, or other criteria for professional learning communities. Teachers can then share what’s working in their classroom or ask for advice in an area where they need help (I’ll stay away from discussing specific students). You might even have a “random” or “fun” channel for team building.

Get started!
For high school, college, and professional learning settings, Volley has a lot of potential for good. I am excited to see more teachers using it. And if you just want to try it out for yourself before inviting your class or classmates, Join me in Volley And ask me a question or say hello.

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