Become a Ringleader: Teaching with Text Messaging | Edutopia
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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!"

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Samantha Meemken's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Very interesting article. I can see how text messaging like that can help students be more accountable for the assignments and feel like they are engaged. How do you keep in touch with the students who don't have a cell phone?

ron smith's picture
Anonymous (not verified)


That some kids don't have a cell phone is a problem, albeit a shrinking one. Usually, I know who doesn't have a phone and who their friends are. I alert their friends to make sure that the phone-less get the word. The kids always talk to each other, so this has never failed.

Chris Herron's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have read your article (and the subsequent responses) about the use of cell phones in class (and your first post on this subject - A pencil is a word processor). I want to congratulate you on your forward and progressive thinking in this matter. I am currently a student in a teacher ed program. I am always looking to find new and creative ways to integrate technology into the curriculum I am developing. I do have a few questions/concerns about the use of cell phones though, and nothing about cheating on tests.
My first concern that I was thinking about while reading the pencil one, was addressed somewhat in this article. The idea that texting would take place while students are in other classes or even other social settings that deem cell phones inappropraite (ie movies, church, funerls, etc).
Another concern is that by texting them reminders about assignments being due, aren't we making students less accountable for their personal actions regarding dead lines. I just feel like the students should be responsible for knowing when an assignment is due from the syllabus or in class mentions.
My next question is about the general implementation of this idea. Your coordinator was receptive to the idea, and the fact that you mentioned an academy leads me to believe it is a private institution. In my experiances from public schools, cell phones are on the "attempting to be banned" list. Has anyone else here been able to persuade their public school principals that this is a good idea?

Again thank you for the excellent idea.

Audrey Hammel's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Does the school not get mad that the students have cell phones on in class? I know the school that I attended would not allow us to take our phones to class, and if we do they will take our phone away. How does your school feel with students having cell phones? Is this even an issue?

Anthony's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I don't feel that texting assignment "reminders" will make students less accountable. I am a mortgage consultant and my computer "reminds" me about the meetings and appointments I have scheduled. I think one misconception of high school students is that they don't have any other responsibilities outside of school, let alone the six different classes they have. Many students play sports, have jobs, take care of an elderly grandparent, watch their younger siblings or any number of other activities during the week. Most adult professionals have some sort of reminder system to keep them on track, why not students? Teachers should be looking for ways to help their students succeed and pass along little tips on how to stay more organized. Most students leave school with very little practical knowledge. If it took a teacher thirty seconds to send a text message to all his students reminding them of assignments due and upcoming tests, the excuse "I forgot" becomes non-exisitent making students more responsible and accountable. Then the excuse becomes "I just didn't care," which at least is honest.

Jen Nelson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

While you idea is very unique, I feel that there are several disadvantages to this use of technology. Text messages cost money to receive and to send. Most students do not pay their own cell phone bills so this would create a useless cost for the parents. Students may also not want to give out their personal cell phone number to their teachers. I know that I only give out my cell phone number to close friends and relatives and I would be annoyed by several text messages/voicemails from my teacher.

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