Monday, December 6, 2010

10 Tips for Using SMS in the Classroom

There is an increasing use and ease of access to cellular technology in the classroom.  Our students are pros at using text messages to communicate with friends.  Why not turn this into a proactive solution to communicating with students in and out of the classroom.  Remember to get your students information at the beginning of the year.  Do they have an unlimited plan?  Can they accept and send MMS messages?

I understand that not every student has access to text messaging, but chances are they have a friend who does that might let them use their phone.  Always require students to tell you their name and class period in a reply message so you know how to organize the SMS you receive.  If students have an iPod touch, there are several free text messaging apps available to download as well.  If all else fails, provide an alternative for those students.

Some of you might get complaints from parents, and that should be expecting, but share with them this simple statement: "If your kid is going to text, wouldn't you prefer them to text for school?"

1.) The most popular use is Poll Everywhere.  You can create a poll and students use their cell phones to respond to the poll and it updates responses in real time.  The free account keeps it anonymous, so be cautious with the questions you create.

2.) Use a site like Wiffiti and have the student's SMS appear on a screen similar to a bulletin board.  The messages appear real time and you can really enhance your discussion.  This might be a great tool for students who are afraid to speak up.  Be mindful though that students can put in anything and you might not know who it is, so use cautiously and with trustworthy students. 

3.) Create Groups and email students reminders to complete homework assignments, study for test, and work on projects.

4.) Testing is not going anywhere, so it would be a great idea to send your students some messages before testing encouraging them to do their best and eat a good breakfast.  Sometimes it is the little things that make all the difference.

5.) Offer extra credit assignments.  Text students extra credit assignments at night.  Teachers always have those kids that always ask for extra credit.  Let them know that this is the method for extra credit.  You could make it as simple as asking a question and getting the answer in a reply.  You could go above that and create a whole new assignment and share it via SMS.

6.) I like to watch the news every night.  I like to know what is going on around the world.  Our students, not so much.  Encourage students to watch the news and let them know that you will be sending out extra credit questions related to the news: What is the big picture with __________?  How might this impact the United States/your country?  How does this relate to _________________ that we talked about _________?

7.) Share a picture MMS and have students reply with what they think the picture means, or their thoughts on the picture in 160 characters.  Get creative with their "writing."

8.) On the same note, have students quote famous speeches, books, movies, music lyrics, but in SMS text.  It truly is a whole other language, might else well use it to teach concepts that are more important than the usual conversations students are having.

9.) Share a link to an article for students to read.  Have students respond to the article in class the next morning.  You might also have them respond via SMS that night to see who is doing the assignment that night.

10.) Create a contest with your students.  Ask a question and the first student or first 5 students to respond get bonus points on a test.  You could do this multiple times throughout a day or weekend, but always at different times.

What ideas do you have?  There are several out there I am sure.  You can find more general ideas about cell phone implementation by reading the blog by The Innovative Educator who had several post at the end of November about Cell Phones in Education, I highly recommend reading those entries.

It is time to embrace what they use all the time.