Last week I signed up for a free Google voice mail box, and I already cannot imagine life without it. The best feature is that Google offers voice mail transcription. This means that whenever I receive a voice mail, I am sent an email with a transcription of the message that I can read. The transcription isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough to get the gist of the message and to determine if the message is just an FYI, something I need to attend to right away, or something that I can deal with once I finish a few more things on my to-do list. Google Voice has many other features including the ability to utilize a Google phone number that will hunt you down by ringing your home, work and cell phones when you receive a call. I don’t want to be that easy to reach, but I do love the convenience of the voice mail transcription service. When I “read” my first voice mail message it occurred to me that this could be a huge time saver in the classroom where we are now expected to be in regular contact with parents via phone and email in addition to our teaching duties. With Google voice, you could quickly glance at your computer during passing period to determine if there were any urgent voice mail messages. You could also read and delete messages or email a response to a parent that called with a simple question or request. The only snag for classroom use is that right now Google Voice only works on direct-dial phones. This means that if your classroom line is an extension, you can’t connect a Google voice mail box to it. Of course, knowing Google they’ll figure this problem out soon. To find out more, go to the Google Voice features page here.