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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Become a Ringleader: Teaching with Text Messaging

When I started experimenting with text messaging, I would text this student or that student, usually one or two at a time. Once I got all my seniors' numbers, though, I decided to try a broadcast. During my class, second period, I talked with the seniors about a variety of topics, so I thought I would follow up on one topic in a text message to all of them.

During third period, I thought of some points I wanted to make, so I gave them a blast. It turns out that the coordinator of our academy has all the seniors during third period. Around the midpoint of her class, every student's cell phone went off, almost simultaneously! She cried out, "The ringing! The ringing!"

After she climbed down from the ceiling, she called my classroom and gave me a dressing down. By the end of the period, though, when she came over to my classroom, she had been thinking about the potential of being able to contact every student at once. To her credit, instead of chewing me out, she walked in with lots of questions about how it worked.

Now, I regularly "ping" our students with updates on schedules, assignment reminders, even wake-up calls, and they answer with questions of their own. They even send me messages regularly to let me know what they are up to. My phone vibrates, though, so I never get "the ringing!"

Comments (26)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Holly M's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
Personally I think that this is rediculous. There are numerous things wrong with this. One, have you ever been to an inner-city school? Not every child has a cell phone!! What happens to those students? Are they just left out? The next thing that I saw was the disruption to other teachers classrooms. I personally feel that cell phones going off in class is very disrespectful. The last thing I would like to mention is the preparedness of the teacher. If you can't remember to tell students what you want to in class, then you need to prepare more!
ron smith's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
Jen, that is a fair point, and I have had students say that they either had to pay for texting or it wasn't offered on their plan, so I don't text them. You are right, most of the kids' phones are paid for by their parents, so that might a concern. However, I was just at the Verizon store (just now) and I asked what texting without a plan costs: two cents to receive and eight cents to send. So, if I send each kid 100 text messages in a month, it might add $2 to their bill. If they answer me 25 times, it would add another $2. Most of the kids have unlimited or some huge number of texts allowable in a month. No student is compelled to give me their number, but since I freely give my cell number, my home number (most of my kids have spoken to my wife), it seems to me that they trust me with theirs.
ron smith's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
Chris, There has been quite a hub-bub over phones in school. I can tell you that I teach in a VERY public school, Hollywood High School in Los Angeles, and that the policy of the school and the district (LAUSD, 727,000 students) has been rather fluid. They have decided that students may carry phones, but may not use them in class. In general, I don't want to be texting anyone in class, either, but I have texted (is that a word?) them and vice versa when there was something important. I have had teachers ask me what I am doing, and when I explain, they seem very receptive. As for acountability, I think Anthony (above) addressed that nicely. Remember at the beginning of the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, where one of the gang members challenges Butch to a knife fight, but Butch says they have to discuss the rules first? Harvey's response is, "RULES! In a knife fight?" Well, as I have said elsewhere, I will use any means, fair or unfair, to get my kids to succeed. If I have to hold their hand once in a while, I'll do it! A friend of mine said it best. "We should arm each child with every cognitive weapon they are able to carry and wield."
Courtnie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
I find this idea to be very benificial to the students who take part in this. Despite the fact that not all students are equiped with a cell phone, the number is decreasing continously. It gives the students no reason not to be fully prepared for class, and also gives the teacher satisfaction of knowing that his/her students are receiving the up to date information reguarding the class. Although this is something I can see more of in the future, I personally feel that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. Like I stated earlier, not all students are equipped with cell phones. As a student myself, who attended high school since the text messaging era, I can personally say that it is quite distracting. Students are going to be constantly messing with their phone and losing attention in class. Also, students can be messaging friends, but say that they are communicating with a teacher, and pay absouletly no attention to the class. Another key factor is when the bill does come in. I know that most students, expecially younger ones, are more than likely not paying for their cell phone bill and text messaging is not a cheap addition to the bill. The cost is going to be most likely a great chunk of pocket change for the parent and this, in return, is going to cause major issues.
Jennifer Cox's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
I think that text messaging students has its ups and downs. Yes, you can text the students up-dates, wake-up calls, what ever. But, parents would not appeciate the children using cell phones in class when they are supposed to be learning. Some parents would not understand the use of the cell phones and only see cell phones as a nuisance and a way for students to do something other than be in class. If you let the students have their cell phones in class, they will more than likely use them during class time. Other teachers and principals will become upset and angry about the situation with cell phones. In my high school we were allowed to have our cell phones on us but they had to be on silent and we could not get them out during class time.
ron smith's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
Holly M- I TEACH at an inner-city school! Hollywood High School is a facility built for 1800 students that has 3000 students. My kids live in the hood, but their minds live on MTV. In a world where kids have $200 sneakers, a cell phone is a minor expense. Secondly, I'm not sure what you consider disruptive. One of my professors at Pepperdine likes to say, "Be practically unreasonable." That's what I want to be. The public school system has not done such a great job in the past few years, so it's time for new ideas. I always want to be a subversive force, pushing the envelope. I want my kids to see that somebody is willing to go out on a limb for them.
nikeisha's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
hi, i am doing this essay at school on whether or not cell phones should be allowed in class. after reading your article i found that cell phones can be a good use in the classroom and should be allowed. your article showed me the good points of having cell phones in class while all the others i have read have showed me the bad points. thank you for the article.
mercedes's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
I live in Philadelphia and I go to Simon Gratz. My school is crazy and so are the students...... Well any way, to get to the point I do believe that cellphones should not be alllowed in schools. I dont think that some of the students are mature enough to handle being allowed to bring their cell phones to school. Those who are not makes it mad for the rest of the students. In my school cellphones are not allowed and we have metal detectors to make sure that no one will be able to get them in the school. Like that makes a difference. Students still find ways to get their cell phones in the school. Before they walk into the building I witness some of the students putting in their panties,and in there shoes. The metal detectors were a waste of money because it seems as if they dont even work. I have also witnessed students calling other people out side of the school because of something that they got into with another student so that they could come up after school and help them fight. This eventually lead to a big fight in front of my school all because this girl called someone up to the school to help her fight. CRAZY RIGHT!!!!!!!!!!!!
just me's picture
Anonymous (not verified)
I think it is a really good idea to do that. My school thinks they are a distraction so i am doing a persuasive essay on it but don't now what to say. I think it is cool because when a student wants to ask another student a quesyion they can by simply sending them a text message.
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I believe that sending a text message to students is a valuable tool after school hours when students aren't otherwise available (like down the hall!). The whole conversation is somewhat.... can't think of a word. First there is a message from someone who doesn't use capital letters and very little punctuation. Other messages use the word "text" as a verb. I think I'd love sending text messages and using this form of communication when just a FEW rules are established. I think that, just as in the first message, when people fail to use punctuation and capital letters in a text message, they think it's OK to do so in other forms of communication. And while it may be nice to be able to send a message in the text message form of shorthand, misspelled words, shortened words and acronyms are not appropriate in all other types of communication. I guess what I'm afraid of is that if we allow the use of cell phones and text messages in EVERY aspect of our lives, our language, writing skills, and grammar will suffer. "Hey, if texting is cool, I can write (or even talk) that way anywhere, anytime!" JMHO!

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