Text message is the new e-mail.
Ask students if they have an e-mail account. If they do, chances are they’ll tell you that they rarely check it and it’s full of e-mails they haven’t read that they don’t really need.
If you want to reach students where it counts, get to their cell phones.
There are lots of places for sending and receiving text messages (i.e. Google Voice and Celly).
As a teacher, the one I have used most and am most comfortable with is Remind 101. Here’s why:
Setting up an account and creating classes are easy. It’s just as easy for students and parents to join your class to receive messages.
Once you’re in, there’s so much you can do with Remind 101 or any texting service. Here are some ideas:
1. Deadline reminders. A project is due. There’s something students must bring to class this week. A quick text reminder goes a long way to making it actually happen on schedule.
2. Quotes. A well-chosen quote can go a long way to inspiring students. It can get them thinking about content before class starts. Just think of how classroom discussions could go with some of the legwork already done.
3. Link to YouTube. Smartphones account for 70 percent of the teen cell phone market, according to this CNET article. Teens generally love watching YouTube videos. Use one of YouTube’s shortened URLs under the “share” tab to send them something entertaining and educational.
4. Link to an article. If you find that perfect article that can pique students’ interest and provide educational value, text it to them. If they have some free time, that’s extra learning for your class for free! Again, think about using a shortened URL (I like using Bitly or TinyURL) so it all fits in a text message.
5. Extra credit question. If this fits your educational philosophy, extra credit is great motivation to be signed up for class text messages. It’s also great motivation for students to do research for your class when they don’t have to — the holy grail!
6. Something to think about. Giving students a question or societal problem to ponder in their downtime — posed at the right time — could yield very interesting (or comical) ideas.
7. Kudos to students. They love praise. When they deserve it, if we can broadcast it to their classmates and others on your list, the boost in morale could last a long time. Praise in-class — and out-of-class — successes. Praise little things and big things.
8. Kudos to entire classes. If test scores for an entire class were excellent on average, give them a digital pat on the back. If parents are on the list too, it’s even better to praise in front of them.
9. Link to a photo from class. Create a class Flickr account (as long as it’s within school rules, of course) and upload photos from your class, from the hallway outside your class or from school events. Then send a shortened URL (again, Bitly or TinyURL) of it to everyone on your list. It’s a great way to build classroom — and school — community.
10. Quote of the day. In #2, we quoted famous people. In #10, we quote students. Or teachers. Or the principal. Use discretion here, and you know your “constituents” best, but this could be a lot of fun.
11. A “this day in history” fact. Whether you’re a history teacher or not, interesting historical facts are fun. Send a quick one to students to interest them. Search “this day in history” in a search engine for lots of options.
12. A “by the numbers” fact. Find interesting statistics that relate to your content area and send them out. Or send the fact without the number to see if anyone can guess the number.
13. Something about you. This also goes far in creating community in your classes. Students are generally very intrigued about their teachers’ real lives. Give them some details or some glimpses into your life. The more transparent you are, the better — to an extent!
14. A student “guess who” contest. Gather details from every student and send a text like this: “Blond hair. Green eyes. Loves Indiana basketball. She has 2 siblings. Who is it?”
15. A poll question. Poll Everywhere allows you to set up poll questions online for anyone to answer. It generates a link to the poll, which could be texted to your list. Ask them for their opinions about class or topics you cover. See who they think will win the big game. Then report back in class later.
16. Jokes. There are so many great math jokes. Other content areas have them, too, but to me, it seems like math jokes are the best. Share content area-specific jokes (appropriate ones, of course!) and your students will appreciate them.
17. Interesting school news. Pass along interesting, relevant, exciting school (or district) news to students — especially the type that they might not find out about otherwise. Everyone likes to break news!
18. Field trip updates. If you’re on a field trip with older students and many have cell phones, use text messages as a reminder of how much time is left or interesting things that they might want to check out. If you have a list of parents, send updates of what you’re doing on the trip, giving them instant access to what’s happening.
19. A question from an upcoming test. If you’re willing to divulge a question from your next test, this could be a great motivating factor for students to be on the list. Use this as a hook to get them to sign up and then you’ll be able to send them whatever you need — or want.
20. Anything interesting and relevant. As long as it’s entertaining and connects to your class or school, there’s a good chance your students will appreciate it. But be careful not to overdo it. Don’t send too many messages, and don’t use it as another method to cram more classroom facts down their throats. They’ll unsubscribe and you’ll lose your new avenue of communication.
What other ways could you use text messaging services with students? Which of the above is the best? Leave your ideas in a comment below!
Interested in having Matt present at your event or school? Contact him by e-mail!
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