School Closure Tech Help

I’m in Washington and our schools are closed on Tuesday through April 24th. We use Google Voice but I need a number that I can post for the public so students or parents can call and it can go to whoever is on call that day. Google voice will only let me have one cell phone in there. Other ideas?

Most of my staff have Chromebooks-suggestions for headphones or a microphone that would best best for them to hold virtual meetings with students?

One person has a MacBook Air - different recommendations for that computer?

Anything else we should consider tech wise to send people home? I am going to have them practice Monday and we’ll try to buy anything that they need to be successful at home.

Any suggestions are welcome. Thanks!

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You can link other numbers to Google Voice and then set Voice to ring that number so it can answer. I have multiple cell phones linked to Voice, are you looking in the correct part of the settings?

I have no recommendations for headphones or mics. Use whatever is available.

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Here is an opportunity for those in this community to step up with some ideas that can help support schools, students, and parents, as response to this pandemic ramps up.

Sounds like you need a virtual PBX system that can be set up to route calls to a changing receiving number. Will school system pay for that, or does it have to be free? Hopefully companies providing this sort of service will step up and offer short term solutions not requiring annual contracts.

You might want to look at a virtual meeting solution, like Zoom, but I think these may get overwhelmed quickly, and may not support 24/7 use.

Also, with more places closing schools, tech solutions may result in a “toilet paper” response for tech equipment required to support this effort. Using what one has to hand may become necessary very rapidly. Most devices we use such as Chromebook, MacBook Air, tablets, and Smartphones, can handle online communication with or without special headsets and microphones, so be prepared to tell people to use what they have, even if it is the built in microphone and speaker, or the earphones sitting in the drawer.

Again, I hope you get some useful inputs here.

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Think outside the box. Use the kids to help. AV squad?

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Also make sure that people do not take a phone call from someone claiming to be from tech support and they need access to their computer. Scammers are already trying this using public info about companies and any person info you posted.

Make sure they have the phone number for tech support and to call them, do not accept a call since even the number could be spoofed.

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Keep in mind that a Chromebook is basically a Chrome browser built into a dedicated piece of hardware.
Anyone using other hardware (MacBook Air, Windows PC) can install the Chrome browser, sign into a Google account, and participate in anything you are setting up via the Chromebooks.
It appears you can access Google Voice through the Chrome browser if you keep the Google Voice tab open, and enable notifications.

There is a Google Voice forum at https://support.google.com/voice/community?hl=en
Post your query there. Some of their answers seem to be useful.

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We use Google Voice but I need a number that I can post for the public so students or parents can call and it can go to whoever is on call that day.

I think that you should be able to do what you want via Google Voice if you use the Hangouts app as opposed to adding multiple cell phone numbers via Google Voice. It will use VOIP instead of POTS. The downside is that you’ll have to share the Google Account credentials with everyone who is onc all.
https://support.google.com/hangouts/answer/6023920?co=GENIE.Platform%3DDesktop&hl=en

This should do the trick. https://www.amazon.com/HyperX-Cloud-Stinger-Comfortable-Noise-Cancellation/dp/B01L2ZRYVE/ref=sxin_2_ac_d_rm?ac_md=0-0-aHlwZXJ4IGhlYWRzZXQ%3D-ac_d_rm&crid=HFRNT2MC66O7&cv_ct_cx=hyperx+headset&keywords=hyperx+headset&pd_rd_i=B01L2ZRYVE&pd_rd_r=f8f755b1-8d50-4c39-b8c2-0bb077fa28a4&pd_rd_w=RfGqz&pd_rd_wg=X6KsJ&pf_rd_p=ec111f65-4a46-499c-be78-f47997212bd0&pf_rd_r=1JEXFNMT4C3NSJX78557&psc=1&qid=1584231054&sprefix=hyper+x+h%2Caps%2C151
Any existing pair of headphones + the laptop’s built-in mic should do the trick in a pinch - especially if people WFH in a relatively quiet environment. A USB Headset is a USB headset. They are platform-agnostic. Just make sure that the laptops in question have USB-A ports. If they are USB-C only, you’ll have to get one of these -
https://www.amazon.com/Syntech-Adapter-Thunderbolt-Compatible-MacBook/dp/B07CVX3516/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=usb+c+to+usb+a+adapter&qid=1584231559&sr=8-3

Anything else we should consider tech wise to send people home? I am going to have them practice Monday and we’ll try to buy anything that they need to be successful at home.

Zoom is now free for schools https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexkonrad/2020/03/13/zoom-video-coronavirus-eric-yuan-schools/#2de92bef4e71

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I may be confused as to what you want to do. Also, please forgive the fragmented answers. This is the way my mind works.

You already have a Google Voice (GV) number, but you don’t want to publish it publicly. You want to set up a new number the school community can call? As I understand GV, you cannot add a new GV number to the same account.

Creating a new Google Voice account would allow you to have 2 numbers, current one, and community one. BUT, and it’s a big but, you cannot include any of the linked phone numbers (the ones GV forwards calls to) that are already linked to a GV number (Google says. so, not me). So that means all the people receiving calls through your current GV account could not receive calls from new account number.

One solution could be to create a Skype number (small monthly charge) and set that number up to forward to your GV number. You publish this number to the community. You then control who on your linked numbers in GV receives calls each day from within your GV settings. And if the Skype number gets too much attention from spammers, change the Skype number.

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I’m not sure if this is too complex of an option for a temporary solution, but maybe check out RingCentral. What you want is a feature called “hunt”. Presumably they have the ability to edit the hunt list online (well I hope they do.) That way you can have as many numbers as you want/need, and it will ring them in sequence until someone answers. This video may help explain: https://getvoip.com/blog/2012/08/08/ringcentral-call-handling-call-hunting-setup-video/

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I was going to suggest a Skype number, but that’s been mentioned. You can log onto that on whatever phone or Chromebook that you need.

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Keep an eye on this page (they will be updating it as others offer their services)

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If you’re still looking for solutions, here are some thoughts: The best answers won’t be free, but should be low cost.

  • Phone: RingCentral as @PHolder said is a good idea (small cost). Another option is Phone.com, which may be a little less. These services just forward a number to another number. GV wants numbers tied to individuals, so you can’t easily rotate the numbers. Also if you add a mobile number to a GV account that’s already used by another GV account, it deactivates the number from its original account.

  • Headsets: I normally look to theWirecutter.com for recommendations on hardware I’m not all that up on. BT headsets they recommend are all >$200. But they have older recommendations for USB connected headsets around $45; read the section on The Competition.

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