Thursday, May 31, 2007

Using Text Messaging in the Classroom

I think my cell phone, or more aptly, my Blackberry is attached to my body. It's the one thing I have with me 24-7. Yes, I practically sleep with it. And no, the person on the other side of the bed doesn't think too kindly of my Blackberry beeping in the middle of the night. But I can't help it. I feel disconnected without it. It's my connection to the outside world.

I was wondering if others felt the same way about their cell phones as I do. Mostly I wondered about my students. People are always saying that our students are tech savvy, digital natives, socially connected on the web. Well, I don't see it. In my online class this summer, only half of my students gave me a cell phone number when I asked for one. Is it possible they don't all have cell phones? And when I introduced the TextMarks widget to them on the course blog, not one was interested. However, I just discovered I have two subscribers! Yeah!

A TextMark is a keyword you select that people can text message to 41411 and receive a custom response from you. Users can also subscribe to your TextMark to get updates and alerts.

Below is an example of the widget:

The widget allows for people to type in their cellphone to subscribe to my TextMark. The widget also shows the latest update. The way I'd planned to use text messaging in this class was a way to update students 1-2 daily about new posts to the class blog and other class announcements. For instance, we just had a horrible start to our summer session because Blackboard was not working properly. Students couldn't get in to see what was going on in the class. To keep students on task, I started putting content on the course blog. Once I got a good chunk of stuff on there, I'd add a TextMark alert saying it was now available on the blog. I also sent a TextMark alert saying when Bb was going down and when it was going to back up.

Another good use for this service is to alert students to a particularly good discussion that could use some more input. And if students are subscribed, how can they forget about your class when they're getting daily texts? Just one or two; I don't want to be annoying. :-)


Mary Jane said...

I'm constantly amazed at the new software programs you find and put to use.
Logging into your account is always an educational experience.
I've been cycling and running (jogging) every other morning about 6am since I don't do well in heat. I ride on the Rio Vista bike trail, which is about 10 miles when covered twice.
Blackboard will be another challenge for me. I haven't had a formal training session yet, but when I was clicking around, I tried out the podcasting piece. I was able to link old podcasts into Blackboard. Too bad, I haven't got my courses fully up!
Mary Jane

Karen said...

I offered to send text messages to students last semester, but the students in my on ground class weren't enthusiastic at all. Bummer! One student said he didn't want to get a reminder about a writing deadline when he was out partying on a Friday night, and several noted that they paid for text messages. I'll try it again in the fall. I got very positive feedback when I sent reminders to their email accounts, but there are a lot of students who don't keep up with their student email, something else to work on in the fall. So many challenges!

life with my computer said...

I enjoyed reading these blogs on text messaging as they add yet another dimension for me as a teacher - I will just now be adding texting to my online course as another communication option (let you know how it goes).
I just completed my blog today about texting in the classroom to increase social networking ( and I am interested if this blog continues with more texting ideas. I will add this blog to my blog contacts so my readers and students (future teachers) stay up to date too. Thanks!.
E. Robinson

Chris Chisholm said...


I heard a radio program about using text messaging to instruct students. So when I searched the web for teachers using texting yours was one of the few that came up. I started using TextMarks and I shall see how it goes.


Chris Chisholm

Anonymous said...

Dear Alisa,

I am an visiting assistant professor of Education at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida. I have begun texting my students since a good number of them agreed to accept texts. I am interested in pursuing texting in practice and research. Thank you for your blog and for letting me know about Textmarks. I have subscribed and look forward to learning more about it. However, I just got messages saying Keyword TEXTING doesn't exist so I suppose I am already on the learning curve.

Steve Rios